A full retrofit and renovation of this home's heating and cooling system was only half the battle in providing a comfortable and efficient indoor environment.
There’s an old saying that the reward for good work is more work. Tim Bruce, owner and founder of General Air Conditioning, San Antonio, TX, knew there would be something special about this project right from the start, simply based on the way it came to him.
“It was a chain of referrals,” Bruce says. “The homeowner, Carolyn King, was referred to us by someone who had been referred by someone else. So that means several people with whom we had done business put in a good word for us, and that’s always nice.”
The homeowner had heard from several co-workers how happy they were with the work General had done at their homes. “Three people at work had used General and were very happy with them,” King says. “They told me how great General was, and that they were very customer-service oriented.”
Turning a System Around
King’s 2,170 sq. ft. home, which was built in the mid-1970s, had comfort problems related to airflow issues. The furnace was located in a closet on the second floor of the two-story home. The air would blow up, then turn 90 degrees to feed the upstairs rooms and 180 degrees to feed the downstairs rooms. Couple this arrangement with badly leaking ductwork, and comfort problems were a given.
“Several of the rooms in the home were uncomfortable: the two upstairs bedrooms and converted bedroom/gamming room, as well as the master bedroom located downstairs,” Bruce says. “The thermostat was located in the family room on the first floor and the ceiling in that room opened up to the second floor balcony. The entire lower area had to be overcooled to get some level of comfort in the upstairs rooms, driving up the cost of the monthly utility bills.”
Bruce and his team provided a high-efficiency comfort system, renovated the ductwork, and installed a three-zone zoning system. Part of the installation involved abandoning the furnace closet and moving the equipment to the attic in order to provide a properly sized supply and return ducting system, as well as to make room for the zone dampers and controller.
All of the ductwork in the home was removed and replaced with R-6 insulated ductwork. The leaking and severely undersized return-duct system was abandoned and sealed off. The old system had a 542 cfm leak, pulling dirty and humid air into the home. Bruce, who is certified by the National Comfort Institute (NCI), used NCI test procedures to measure a leak rate of 15 cfm in the renovated system.
“The old system was leaking about one-third of its airflow,” Bruce says. “If we had just used the same duct system and tried to wedge a new furnace into the closet, Carolyn wouldn’t have been any better off. She definitely wouldn’t have gotten the results she wanted.”
In addition to providing King an outstanding comfort system, General Air helped her participate in the local utility’s rebate program and the City of San Antonio’s Energy Credit, which is available to homeowners whose homes achieve a 15% savings in utility cost based on energy modeling.
“The City of San Antonio and CPS Energy required a pre-test of the home by a third party to determine if the HVAC system was in bad enough shape to qualify for grants and loans to make improvements, and another test upon completion of the work to verify home performance,” Bruce says. “Based on that, the homeowner was able to qualify for 10-year, low-interest financing and receive more than $2,500 in local rebates and credits, as well as fall under the current 2013 Energy Tax Credit retroactive to 2012 purchases.”
“This was another example of Tim’s commitment to customer service,” King says. “I found out that the city offered a financing program if I worked with an approved contractor, and he went out and got approved for me. So now I have two happy kids who can control their own rooms, and by the time all the rebates were said and done I got 25% of my money back.”
Don’t Fear The Cheaper
Bruce says the lesson for HVAC contractors to take away from this project is that although many homeowners say they want the lowest price, what they really want is the best value. “Don’t be afraid to put your best system out there for customers to consider, regardless of price,” he says. “This wasn’t a ‘cheap’ job, and I’m sure none of the other Quality Home Comfort Award winners are, either. These are quality projects with a very high value. Homeowners will appreciate that.”
Products Key to Success
• Trane XL16i two-stage air conditioner
• Trane XV80 two-stage, variable-speed gas furnace
• Trane cased cooling coil
• Trane TZONE 950 thermostat
• Trane remote indoor temperature sensors
• Trane zoning panel
• Trane Perfect Fit media air filter
• Johns Manville 1.5-in. R-6 ductboard
• Price aluminum return grilles
The Installation Team
• Clara Santillan
• Victoria Sanchez
• Sarah Walraven
• Tim Bruce
THANK YOU, SPONSORS
Contracting Business.com extends a special thank-you to our sponsors, who, through their vision and generosity, helped make this year’s Quality Home Comfort Awards possible:
WHAT ARE THE QUALITY HOME COMFORT AWARDS & HOW TO ENTER
In 1991Contracting Business.com magazine created the Quality Home Comfort Award program to recognize the very best in residential HVAC comfort system design and application.
COMFORT, QUALITY, and SUSTAINABILITY are our foremost requirements (This includes energy savings and indoor air quality as important parts of the overall consideration). UNIQUE IDEAS and PROBLEM SOLVING techniques are equally important. And start-up/commissioning procedures are key to the successful entry. Judging will be done by a panel of leading residential HVAC contractors.
Mail entries with sample photographs of good quality to Terry McIver, executive editor, ContractingBusiness.com, 1300 E. 9th St., Penton Building, Cleveland, OH 44114. OR, USE OUR ONLINE ENTRY FORM: found here.