TORONTO, June 6, 2013 /CNW/ - When it comes to that new dream home, love can be blind. Buyers are often willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars on luxury upgrades such as tile floors and marble countertops, while ignoring the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems that make the house comfortable.
And this limited view can, in a worst case, turn your dream into a nightmare.
"A home is usually the largest investment in a person's life. Yet most buyers don't even think about the HVAC system. They just assume that things will work properly. Sadly, some find out that's not always so," says Warren Heeley, President of the Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Institute of Canada (HRAI).
"If you're concerned only about what the house looks like, you've probably lost sight of the fundamentals. You need to check out the mechanical systems as well, or you could end up owning a gorgeous home that is unpleasant to live in," warns Karen Somerville, President of Canadians for Properly Built Homes (CPBH).
Industry and consumer groups join forces
HRAI and a small group of allied heating industry associations have joined forces with the consumer protection group CPBH to raise public awareness about the problems - and solutions - related to poorly performing HVAC systems in newly built homes. (Click here to read the industry associations' joint statement.)
According to CPBH, heating and cooling troubles are among the most commonly cited problems in newly built homes, and can include: extreme temperatures (house is too hot or too cold), significant temperature variances (in different parts of the house), stale/stuffy air, poor ventilation, extreme humidity or dryness, and health issues related to indoor air quality.
The building code does NOT ensure home comfort
Newly built homes are supposed to meet the building code, and purchasers therefore assume that their HVAC will deliver the proper level of home comfort. Wrong on two counts.
First, the building code sets minimum standards to ensure safety, but there is nothing requiring a minimum level of comfort. HRAI, CPBH and other organizations are lobbying government for improvements in the building code that would raise HVAC standards, but this is a long process.
Secondly, measures to ensure comfort in the home will only be achieved if home buyers protect themselves and place specific demands on builders.
So what can new home buyers do to ensure that these systems have been properly designed, installed and commissioned?
Here are some steps you can take to protect yourself
- Have your lawyer include a clause in the purchase agreement indicating that you want the right to have the HVAC inspected (and tested if necessary) by your own independent HVAC expert, before the drywall is put up, and if you are not satisfied with the HVAC system, you can get out of the deal. If the builder will not include such a clause in the agreement, think twice about proceeding.
- When thinking about upgrades, remember to invest in home comfort and efficiency. These might include:
- a higher efficiency furnace fan motor (know as an "ECM" or electronically commutated motor)
- sealing the air ducts (leaky ducts are a major factor in home comfort issues)
- having an air balancing test conducted (this will tell you if the air flow in the home is adequate)
- an air cleaner
- a humidifier
The above should cost no more than $3,000 and will pay back the investment in a few short years.
- Before taking legal possession of the home, ask the homebuilder for copies of the following: the report of the municipal building inspector, confirmation that the air ducts have been sealed, the air balancing report, and a report called the "heat loss/gain calculation" which is used in determining the proper size of the furnace for the home. Have your independent expert review these reports with you.
The Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Institute of Canada (HRAI) is the national trade association for manufacturers, wholesalers and contractors in the Canadian heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration industry. HRAI-member companies provide products and services for indoor comfort and essential refrigeration processes. HRAI has over 1,350 company members, including over 1,000 contractors, across Canada. Go to www.hrai.ca for further information.
Canadians for Properly Built Homes (CPBH) is a national, not for profit corporation dedicated to healthy, safe, durable, energy efficient residential housing for Canadians, and is the only organization of its kind in Canada. Working for consumer awareness and protection, CPBH is run by a volunteer Board of Directors and is supported by a volunteer Advisory Council of industry experts and other key stakeholders. CPBH earned "partner" status with the Canadian Consumer Information Gateway (Industry Canada). Go to www.canadiansforproperlybuilthomes.com to learn more.
Image with caption: "The Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Institute of Canada (HRAI) (CNW Group/The Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Institute of Canada (HRAI))". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20130606_C5862_PHOTO_EN_27626.jpg
SOURCE: The Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Institute of Canada (HRAI)
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