Choosing the right HVAC system for a multi-family home

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Summary: Learn how to choose the correct HVAC system for your multi-family property.


  • What HVAC system rating should you go with?

  • Are HVAC maintenance agreements necessary?

  • How should you budget for an HVAC system?

We’ve all been there, haven’t we? We stare blankly at the innumerable HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system options available like a single stage, multi-stage and true modulating with lack of information about each of them.

The task of choosing the perfect HVAC can be daunting and overwhelming, especially if it is the first time purchasing one for your property. With all the different options and ratings, you might find yourself slightly confused and exhausted when the time comes to make your pick.

With the different types of air heating and cooling systems available,  pick wisely as your choice for a heating and cooling system for your home is a long-term investment. It is imperative you make the best judgment and consider all angles of your situation.

We have put together a few pointers for you to keep in mind while shopping for your brand-new HVAC system. You can use these tips to better understand your options for purchasing or replacing your HVAC system:

1. HVAC Ratings

The first step while diving into buying a new HVAC system should be to check the ratings and how these ratings will further impact the comfort you seek at home. Especially for a multi-family home where you need enough power for multiple units and the comfort of tenants is a priority.

a)    AFUE (Average Fuel Utilization Efficiency) – The efficiency is measured for gas and oil-fuelled furnaces. A quality furnace lies between 78% to 98.5% efficiency. What does a 78% AFUE rating mean? It basically means that your system can convert 78% of the fuel which will heat your home, and the remaining 22% will be sent out through the chute.

b)    SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) – This is a standard rating given to measure the efficiency of heat pumps and air conditioners. A higher SEER rating means the system is consuming less energy and it has a lesser impact on the environment. The ideal rating should be somewhere between 13 and 30.

c)    HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor) – This is used to measure heat pump efficiency. It is like the SEER rating, where the higher the HSPF rating the more efficient and cost-effective the system. The ideal rating should be somewhere between 7.7 and 13.  

Speak with an HVAC specialist to determine the best option for your property. The specialist will be able to determine the best fit based on the size and provide HVAC maintenance tips for homeowners.

2. Total Cost

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There are two things you will have to consider when purchasing a new HVAC system. First, the initial price of the system. You should ensure that you purchase an affordable system that fits within your budget. Compare prices and understand what you are getting with the purchase. Does it include equipment, install, warranty, and/or a maintenance agreement?

The second point to keep in mind is that an HVAC system is a long-term investment and will require long-term upkeep. The long-term costs include operation, maintenance, parts and lifespan of the product. You will find that high-efficiency systems have a high purchase and installation cost, but you will incur fewer expenses in the long run which make them a cost-efficient choice. There may be certain rebates or incentives available when you purchase a new system.

3. Contractor

It is very important that you find a contractor who can properly install your new HVAC system. If the system has been improperly installed, there could be a lot of wasted energy through the system. This holds true for even the most efficient systems sold in the market. What are the traits of a good contractor?

a)    The contractor will know how to size your HVAC system for your multi-family accurately.

b)    The contractor will identify and fix any pre-existing problems in your home that would affect the system.

c)    The contractor will properly install your HVAC system with correct understanding as well as implementation.

Since your system will require periodic repair and maintenance it is best to deal with a local HVAC service provider. Local vendors will give you great peace of mind knowing that when something goes wrong help is close by. Local contractors who live in the neighborhood can come at the earliest to help solve any issues with your HVAC system.  

4. Size

It is critical to size your system perfectly. Too large, the system will have to cycle on and off causing a good amount of wear and tear on the system. Too small, your multi-family will be either too hot or too cold with your system running all the time. With improper sizing, your bills are sure to skyrocket! Your HVAC contractor can help you with calculating how to size the system correctly. When it comes to HVAC systems, bigger doesn’t mean better.

Your new heating and cooling system is a major financial decision and investment. Choose the right HVAC system to suit your needs. The above tips will point you in the right direction for your HVAC decision.