Who can you trust in the construction industry? We have all heard the stories of renovation projects gone bad. We also have all heard of that contractor that was wonderful to work with from friends and neighbors. Then you hear from someone else that they did not have the best experience with that same contractor. There is a world of information that can easily be found with a google search on construction industry related topics – some more accurate than others, but all written with the same sense of confidence. What is right? What can you believe? Who can you trust?
I got a call last week from someone that “heard I might be able to help.” They are working on getting their existing home more comfortable and they care about their carbon footprint. This led them to get quotes to replace their heating and cooling system from multiple contractors. The existing gas furnace is still working, but is coming to the end of life and may or may not make it through another season. Their cooling strategy currently is window air conditioners and opening up windows on nice days. One contractor said they should certainly replace the existing with another gas fueled unit. Even when expressing concern about their carbon footprint the sales person spoke with confidence that it was the right solution to stay with gas. Another contractor spoke with confidence that the mini-split wall mounted units he was proposing was the right solution and the best fit for an older home. The cost of this system was higher than the gas fired unit, but it is more efficient, well maybe, how can you tell when each uses a different fuel source? The first contractor had provided some information about these “mini-splits” not being able to keep up in our cooler weather months so that cast doubt on this being a viable system at all. The clients then did some web research to try to sort through all the options and found even more information, but nothing to give a clear path forward. Who can you trust in the construction industry? One salesperson seemed to cast off the carbon concerns and promoted staying the course and the other seemed to have innovative solutions, but the internet (and competition) cast doubts on the solution. How does a home owner know which is the right solution for their home? How do you evaluate something that seems like it is apples to oranges for performance, carbon footprint, and costs?
It is difficult to provide just one right solution as a home is the most complicated machine you will ever own. There are so many factors to consider from cost, preference, carbon footprint, how long you will be in the house, solar potential of the roof, insulation in the house, goal comfort levels, equipment sizing, duct locations……. Homes are complicated and there are lots of opinions. I did have a chance to talk through the options with them. I did not weigh in on costs, because we all have budget and all of these systems will work to make the house comfortable. If there is only one that fits in the goal budget then that is the best solution. The questions / points to consider I presented were about carbon, insulation, indoor air quality, and lifespan of equipment. I tried to provide good balanced information that could be used to decide to spend a little extra on a system to improve any or all of these ideas. I gave a priority list for the options and ranked them in order of what I would do if it were my house.
A brief summary of my thoughts – knowing I have not shared enough information in this post to fully articulate my conclusions – are as follows.
- Replacing a gas fired unit with a same size gas fired unit is a safe solution to improve your efficiency (new units are more efficient than old units). You don’t know what the long term impacts of a gas fired unit will be on your pocket book or the environment. However, the unit will last for years and it will be more efficient than the existing older unit.
- Replacing with a super efficient mini-split – ducted or not will certainly reduce your carbon footprint.
- Replacing with a ducted mini-split system can improve air quality.
- Adding insulation could reduce the size of any of these units. Making your old house air tight could lead to the need for fresh air being introduced to all of these systems.
Who can you trust in the construction industry is a difficult question. We all have a bias. The two contractors obviously want their system they proposed to sound the best. The clients want the best system for the budget, function, and to address their comfort and carbon concerns. If you find yourself in this position, call me. I will work hard to earn your trust. I am not able to tell you the best value, but I can give you some valuable considerations to make while looking at the finances allowing you to make an informed decision.