When planning any major construction project, whether building a new home or adding on to your house, you’ll obviously want a total breakdown of the estimated costs. Unless you’re on an unlimited budget, you may need to cut out certain things from your original plan or go with less expensive options. This is why having a breakdown of the various costs is essential as it makes it easier to determine what things are absolutely necessary and which areas you might be able to save a bit. Breaking down the costs also makes it easier to compare estimates to ensure you’re getting a good deal. Today we’re going to look at HVAC systems and what percentage of total construction costs they typically account for.
How the Type and Efficiency of an HVAC System Impacts Its Cost
When planning any construction project, you should always count on the HVAC system to be at least 3 to 5% of your total budget. However, this is really just the minimum for a basic HVAC system that meets all relevant code requirements and without any bells and whistles or advanced features. This price range would typically be for a standard central cooling and heating system with HVAC units that only meet the minimum energy-efficiency requirements. If you wanted to upgrade to units with a higher energy-efficiency rating or add extra features that aren’t required by building codes, your HVAC system could end up being 10% or more of the total construction cost.
New Construction vs. Renovations and Additions
If you’re having a new home built with a central HVAC system, HVAC will generally always account for a higher percentage of the total construction cost than if you were remodeling or putting an addition on your home. In this case, you’ll need to factor in the cost of having the system professionally designed as well as the costs of purchasing and installing new HVAC units and ductwork.
When remodeling, you may need to make slight changes to your HVAC system such as having some of the ductwork moved. However, if your ductwork is still in good condition and your HVAC units are working correctly, HVAC will only be a small percentage of the total cost.
Your total HVAC costs will typically be higher when putting an addition on your home. You will typically need to have ductwork run through the addition unless you’re planning on heating and cooling the new area with a ductless mini-split system. In most cases, you will also need to upgrade to larger HVAC units when adding on to your home, but this depends on the size of the addition and the size of your current units.
The only way to know for sure is to have an HVAC technician calculate exactly how many BTUs are needed to efficiently and effectively heat and cool your home and then compare this to the total BTU output of your current units. This is important to ensure that your current units aren’t too small as this will lead to both higher energy costs and a decrease in your home comfort.
Type of HVAC Unit and System
The type of HVAC unit or units you choose will obviously also be an important factor in the total cost of the system. For instance, the total cost will generally always be higher if you have separate heating and cooling units like a furnace and air conditioner. If you were to instead opt for a heat pump, the costs would be less since the same unit can heat and cool.
The specific type of unit is also important. Single-stage or two-stage air conditioners and heat pumps will be cheaper than installing a variable-speed AC or heat pump. This is because these units also need to have a variable-speed blower, which will always be more expensive than a standard single-speed blower.
A Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) HVAC system will be even more expensive. Although VRF systems still provide central heating and cooling, they are different than other central HVAC systems. Most HVAC systems use a single air handler to circulate air throughout the building’s ductwork.
VRF systems are different as they don’t require ductwork and instead send hot or cold refrigerant to multiple air handlers located throughout different parts of the home. While the upfront costs for a VRF system will always be quite a bit higher, it will typically be the best option in the long term if you can afford it. Compared to standard central heating and air conditioning, a VRF system will often lower your energy costs by 50% or more.
Zone Control vs. Standard HVAC
Another factor is whether you’re installing a standard central HVAC system or a zone control system. Zone control systems are always much more efficient as they make it so you don’t need to always heat and cool the whole building. However, the costs of a zoned HVAC system can be quite a bit higher since you need to have separate thermostats installed in each zone.
How Climate Impacts HVAC Costs
The local climate can also have a major impact on HVAC costs. Total HVAC costs are typically a bit lower in Texas and other warmer climates than they are in the Midwest for instance. In the Midwest, you would need a fairly large AC to deal with the summer heat and humidity as well as a large furnace to combat the freezing winter weather. While you will usually need a larger air conditioner in Texas than if you lived in a cooler climate, your heating system obviously won’t need to be nearly as robust.
In Texas, you also have the option to instead use a heat pump for heating and cooling. This isn’t always possible in colder climates since heat pumps often freeze up in cold weather and aren’t all that effective when the outdoor temperature drops below a certain point. In most cold climates, you would need some type of supplementary heat source if you wanted to use a heat pump.
Another option is to install an electric furnace or even electric baseboard heaters as these are usually quite a bit cheaper than a gas furnace. While these types of electric heating will use more energy than a gas furnace or a heat pump, this isn’t as big of an issue in Texas since you typically won’t need to run your heating all that often.
Air Sealing and Mechanical Ventilation
Another factor to consider is whether your home needs a mechanical ventilation system like an energy recovery ventilator (ERV) or heat recovery ventilator (HRV). Many local building codes require mechanical ventilation in most newly built homes. This is because new homes tend to be much better insulated and better sealed, which means ventilation is required to prevent the air from becoming too stale and to keep the humidity level from being too high.
If you were simply putting an addition on an older home, you usually would need to add a mechanical ventilation system. Old buildings typically have enough gaps in the structure that mechanical ventilation isn’t necessary since air can constantly flow in and out of the building.
San Antonio’s HVAC Experts
At Beyer Air Conditioning & Heating, we specialize in designing and installing full HVAC systems for new construction projects and custom remodels. We install a wide range of different HVAC units including heat pumps, furnaces, air conditioners and VRF systems, and our technicians can also help if you need any HVAC maintenance, repairs or indoor air quality services. For more information, give us a call today.