With interest rates at all time lows, and given the compelling and encouraging trend toward energy efficiency and green products in the new homebuilding market, there really has never been a better time to buy a brand new home.
New homes offer attractive features: bright, big windows; fresh, clean designs; modern, family-oriented layouts and, of course, all the latest technical elements such as thick blankets of insulation and carefully controlled air leakage. Dig a little deeper and you will learn that there have also been some remarkable advances in the mechanical systems that provide for the comfort needs of new home buyers.
The heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in modern, high-performance homes have undergone a transformation from what you may remember as that big, noisy sheet metal beast in the basement to being an integral part of a safe, healthy, controlled cozy living environment for the busy family looking for a peaceful oasis at home. You really owe it to yourself to consider carefully the options available in what might best be described as the "heart and lungs" of the home.
First, the energy efficiency of heating and cooling equipment has increased by about 30 per cent over the last decade or two. Virtually all new homes boast furnaces with efficiencies of at least 90 per cent, and the most progressive homebuilders will be offering equipment that squeezes up to 96 per cent of the available energy out of every dollar you spend on energy.
More remarkable, these new heating systems are able to maintain that efficiency throughout the entire season. New variable output technologies allow furnaces to adapt to changing weather to ensure you get just the amount of heat you need to keep your family comfortable throughout your home. Even better, variable output furnaces employ a breakthrough fan motor technology that cuts the electrical consumption of your gas or oil furnace by as much as 60 per cent. These new fans are much quieter, last longer and provide an even flow of conditioned, filtered air year round.
Similarly, a new generation of air conditioning equipment is ideally suited to new homes. The "seasonal energy efficiency rating" (SEER) of new air conditioning systems is up 30 per cent as well over the last decade. The latest Energy Star rated AC systems have a SEER rating of 14.5, a 45 per cent improvement over commonly sold AC units just 10 years ago. Combined with the new variable speed fan motors in the furnace, advanced cooling systems effectively suck humidity out of the air. This means no more sweaty, sleepless nights and damp, musty basements in the summer time.
Finally, be sure to ask your new home builder about the benefits of a "fresh air machine," known in the industry as a "heat recovery ventilator" or HRV. These devices can be described as the mechanical lungs of your home and have become the appliance of choice for builders who want to ensure homeowners are getting a steady supply of fresh, filtered air in the home. These devices are a Canadian technology that in the past was reserved for only the most advanced, energy-efficient homes. Now they are a critical part of a healthy indoor environment. Homeowners now have control over the air their family breathes without having to worry about opening windows on cold, wet or hot humid, smoggy days.
These are just three of the exciting new HVAC options available as you research and identify features of your new home. Be sure to ask your builder about other options available, such as zoning, smart thermostats and controls and other technologies that will enhance the safety, comfort, health and durability of your new home.
For more information to help you to demand the best in your new home, go to the Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Institute of Canada website, www.hrai.ca.