HVAC Professionals: Think efficiency first

When you sit down with your contractor, be sure to consider the environment into which the HVAC system will be placed.

Is your home in a warm, humid climate, or are you subjected to brutal winter conditions? Where will the system be installed? Think about space requirements. It's not enough to consider space for the unit itself. Some system components may have clearance requirements to avoid the buildup of heat or moisture, and there also must be adequate space for a service person to move around the unit if it needs repair or maintenance. Remember that changing the air filter regularly helps to keep furnaces working properly, so the filter location should be easily accessible.

What size unit is appropriate? Units that are too small can't efficiently heat or cool a home. But HVAC systems can be too large as well. That can lead to homes not being kept warm or cool because of the time it takes to engage the system, or an unnecessary increase in energy bills because of an overly large system.

Are there areas in your home that have varying needs? For example, a two-story home with a finished basement may have an overly warm second floor while the basement is too cool. In that case, consider zone controls, which allow you to turn the heat off on the second floor and redirect additional heat to the basement, where it's needed. The same can be done with air conditioning in .

Where will you have the thermostat and control systems installed? Your HVAC system is only as good as the thermostat that monitors and controls it. Where that thermostat is installed plays a major role in the system's efficiency. Ideally, the thermostat should be on an interior wall, away from windows that let in considerable sunlight, other heat sources and major airflow (heat or cool air vents). The thermostat should not have open space behind it, which can affect its operation as well, but should be enclosed and protected from dust and airflow.