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Question DetailsAsked on 11/2/2017

We are building a new house that is 2400 sq ft w/ a 13seer a/c unit our builder is charging us $5000 to make 2zones

We are building a brand new home 2400 square-foot ranch with a complete finished basement insulated drywall paint a drop ceiling and carpet the home will have a +95 efficiency furnace 13 seer AC unit our builder wants to charge $5000 to convert the system to two zones is that worth the price?

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1 Answer


I would ask your local building code inspector - in many areas, assuming this is a 2 story home, it has to be 2 zones by energy efficiency code.

Otherwise - on new construction he is ripping you off, but he knows he has you over the barrel because you can't bring in a competitor while the house is being built, so as most nationwide builders do, any changes or additions after the contract is signed even though the change does not require any "rework" or changes to completed work they gouge you on the price. Some seem to have a $3000-5000 minimum on any substantative change.

Who did the HVAC design - your architect (who should have put in 2 zones for that size house regardless of code requirements), or the builder (who designs to minimal builder cost) ?

My thought - why have a 95% efficient furnace and then waste energy with over and under heated/cooled parts of the house, especially since it sounds like the basement will be a substantial part of your active living space. I suspect you will really regret it (again assuming this is going to be used as effectively a 2-story house - basement and ground level both hevily used). I would get a third-party HVAC vendor quote on adding a second zone there AFTER the house is transferred to you - with say 2 or maybe 3 vents in the basement running off one duct. Then you could take that as a retrofit, or the $5000 from the builder. If the builder just "happens" to find out a competitor is being looked at to do the job after the sale is complete, that might also bring his price down.

One other option - especially if the basement was included in the design heating/cooling load - is adjustable louvers on the basements vents, so you basically rob the desired amount of heat and cooling from the upstairs through those vents. If this is essentially one large area (or only one room with frequent living space use) you could use manual control vents in any ancillary rooms, and later have a thermostat-controlled louver vent installed on the one feeding the main basement living space for commonly $500 ballpark range for one motor-controlled vent or motor-controlled damper in the duct branch leading to the downstairs vent - commonly a bit cheaper if installed close to an easy place to tap the power for it from.

Not seeing the precise layout, but if the basement heat is tapped off the same duct runs as the upstairs rooms, I would be expecting more like $500-1000 range for separate basement control (assuming the ducting is run in the drop ceiling in the basement), assuming it is not closed in yet. For a separate zone running from the furnace, assuming it is sized to handle the basement heating/cooling load OK, probably more in the $1000-2000 range assuming the walls/ceiling are not closed in yet.

One other thing - I would ask to see the ACCA calculations or computer program printout, to see if the basement was even included in the heating/cooling design - may be they did not include that so in that case your furnace/AC will be undersized for such an addition, and you may be into a chronically uncomfortable basement. Commonly an unfinished basement would not be included (not necessarily right, but that is the way it is), but a finished one is definitely "living space" so has to be included in the heating/cooling load and design.

Answered 2 years ago by LCD

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