• HVAC

    • Can I use the ducts from my existing AC system to condition another space: new room added, garage, back patio?
      Spaces that get added onto a house, such as a bonus room in the attic, generally shouldn't be conditioned using the same, existing AC system. The reason: if the system was sized properly there won't be enough excess capacity to handle that additional space. It will reduce the airflow going to the other existing spaces and the result will likely be inadequate cooling/heating for all spaces. For spaces such as a garage or screen porch: those spaces are outside the normal "boundary" of the home and should never be conditioned by the AC system from the home. In many cases, it may put the home under an extreme negative pressure scenario and the side effects of that could be dangerous to the occupant's health. Additionally, as mentioned above, it simply draws air from the other areas that will suffer from the lack of air.
    • How can I air condition my garage?
      The best solution, in our opinion, to air condition a garage is by a wall-mounted mini-split. They're cost-friendly and operate at a very low $-rate. They can be installed as low as $4,500 and can be as much as $10,000, depending on the size and complexity of the installation. They will also heat the garage in the winter. And they now are generator-friendly and have easy-to-connect plug-ins on the outside!
    • Do we install mini-splits?
      Yes, HPHS does mini-split retrofit installations. And their versatility, reasonably affordable cost, and low operating cost make them an amazing addition to spaces where your central HVAC system isn't adequate: home offices, bonus rooms, garage apartments, man-caves, party rooms, garages, and many more.
    • How can I improve my indoor air quality?
      To improve indoor air quality you have to understand what's contributing to the unwanted indoor "pollutants" and study each and every part that touches them. First, if outside pollutants are entering the home figure out where they're getting in and seal them. If the pollutants are being created from within the home (cooking smells, humidity, etc.) figure out the strategy to remove them, filter them, dilute them, or ALL OF THE ABOVE. There are countless Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) devices sold on the market, some are amazing at their effectiveness and do have merit; however, some are quite expensive, require yearly maintenance, and/or are ineffective at addressing your specific needs. So don't be fooled by sales techniques; if you have a specific need or unidentified problem seek professional assistance. As much time as we spend inside our homes, it's one environment that is worth every penny spent if it actually works.
    • Why would I want to install a whole-home dehumidifier?
      If the indoor moisture levels are higher than the current HVAC system can remove it may be wise to invest in a whole-home dehumidifier. They're especially good at removing indoor moisture during the "shoulder months" when there's not much need for heating or cooling. Additionally, with the high humidity levels we see in the Houston area it's definitely not a bad investment. But other factors (listed above) shouldn't be ignored when trying to combat high indoor moisture levels. HVAC operation, ductwork, and the insulation strategy of the home should all be addressed and improved as part of the overall strategy.
    • What does a whole-home dehumidifier cost?
      A whole-home dehumidifier installed can range from $2,500.00 - $7,500.00, depending on the size and complexity of the installation. They range from 70 pints per day to over 250 pints per day. The size appropriate for your home depends largely on the amount of moisture you're needing to remove. Factors that affect indoor moisture: how "leaky" your home's walls, ceilings, and floors are, how many showers are being taken daily, how many occupants live in the home, the type of exhaust fans you have, and what type of HVAC system do you have. All of these should be considered if looking to purchase a dehumidifier.
    • Do I need to replace the ductwork when I change the AC?
      The ductwork is the single most overlooked "component" of an HVAC system. We look at the ductwork equally as critically when we evaluate a system's performance. It's as critical as good tires and brakes on a car, something all car owners can relate to; however, a lot of contractors avoid the conversation over ductwork because they're either not equipped to handle it, they don't understand it, or they feel the client won't justify the cost to address it. But it's the delivery network all the air travels thru and shouldn't be overlooked or undervalued. Addressing the duct system may be an improvement you can make if the current system isn't totally dead. And our financing division will handle equipment, ductwork, and insulation upgrades - not only equipment.
    • Do I have to replace the ENTIRE AC system at once?
      The equipment package is made up of (3) components: condenser (outside), the coil, and the furnace. For those houses without gas, the equipment is only (2) identifiable pieces: condenser and air handler. The air handler houses the coil but a layperson wouldn't notice that by looking at the piece in the attic. No, there is no requirement to replace ALL pieces at once. There are, however, a couple of rules that must be followed: 1) The condenser (outside) is rated for either R22 or R410a and that's the only type of refrigerant it can operate on. If a system is currently R22 and the system is leaking and warrants replacement, the coil will need to be replaced at the same time. If a condenser fails at about 8 years (as an example), the coil has had 8 years to weaken and a condenser (only) replacement may operate at higher pressures and force a rupture of the coil, suggesting that any condenser replacement 4-5 years or older would suggest a coil replacement as well. The furnaces generally function much longer than the other two components (condenser and coil) so they're not necessarily replaced at the same intervals. But technological improvements keep making new systems operate at much less cost and the newer technologies may require a full-package replacement.
    • How much does and AC system cost to replace?
      The cost to replace an equipment package depends on many factors, including size/tonnage, features of the equipment, difficulty in the change, and what / all that's included as part of the change. Many times, the old system was operating on R22 refrigerant and the new system will be operating on R410a refrigerant. Changing refrigerant requires either a chemical flush of the old line or the old line to be completely replaced. The old line may / may not be the size the new system operates on, therefore it may need to be replaced anyway. The ductwork system is comprised of (2) plenums (supply and return) and those are likely not sized according to the new equipment or are in such bad condition they warrant replacement. To replace a coil & condenser (only - no furnace) could be as low as $6,000.00. To replace a full equipment package (all 3 components) in a challenging attic could top $20,000.00. But $10-!5K to replace all three components is quite common. Ductwork improvements are generally additional and can sometimes be as much as the equipment package - but vitally important to performance.
    • Which is better: filters at the grilles or a central media filter?
      1" Filters installed at the return air grille have been the most common for decades. But be creful of which type you select as some are so "good" at their filtration they can create unwanted side effects on your AC system. In more modern homes it's become more common to install a 4-5" pleated media filter at the equipment rather than at each return air grille. The 4-5" pleated media filter can trap and hold more particles than 1" filters and reduce the frequency at which they need to be replaced. For that reason, the pleated media filters have become very popular. The media filter can be retrofitted to an existing system in most cases.
    • What's the BEST brand of AC?
      We've focused on Trane, Mitsubishi, and RUUD equipment as we feel they're the best for our approach to high-performance homes. By focusing on only three brands we are also better able to have our Technicians and Sales Team learn the unique features of those pieces of equipment, get better support from the manufacturers by showing a bigger commitment and have a better chance of having access to the equipment when we need it.
    • Does High Performance Home Systems do Commercial AC?
      We do SOME commercial HVAC, primarily only light commercial that uses systems like residential equipment. On rooftop package units we work on units 10-ton and under.
    • Does High Performance Home Systems do service as well as New Construction?
      Yes, HPHS does service & repair in addition to their Preventive Maintenance Packages.
    • How can I extend the life of my AC system?
      The very best way to ensure longer life and fewer costly repairs are by performing routine maintenance. Twice a year is generally sufficient for most systems; however, we have clients that opt for either a single service interval or 4 times per year, depending on their budget and willingness to change filters. Filter replacement is the most critical part of routine maintenance.
    • How long should my system last?
      There are only rules-of-thumb for this: we're currently seeing condensers being replaced at the 15-year point. But much of that is forced by the extremely high cost of R22 refrigerant. At about the 15-year point many systems have "sprung a leak" in the refrigeration line or coil and the high cost to recharge the system warrants replacement. The furnaces, however, are lasting 20-25 years. But there are many efficiency improvements on equipment that actually suggest it to be a good financial investment to replace systems at 15+ years old. Additionally, there are frequently rebate incentives offered during summer months, through local utility companies, for replacing systems prior to complete failure.
    • How many tons of air do I need?
      Each house will have its own special "mix" of conditions that determine the amount of heating & cooling needed, including, but not limited to floorplan orientation (N,S,E,W), the size and type of windows, the size and type of exterior doors, the type and quality of the insulation, # of occupants in each room, where the home is located, the desired inside temperature. When properly measured and identified a Manual J can be done to calculate the amount of air needed room-by-room and the HVAC & ductwork can be sized accordingly.
    • What's a "ton of air" mean
      A "Ton" of air is 12,000 BTU's. Simply put, a 4-ton condenser is capable of removing 48,000 BTU's (48,000 / 4 = 12,000) of heat.
    • What's the "square footage per ton"
      There is no established "Square Foot Rule". Years ago, when energy code standards hadn't been established, the industry saw a very common ratio of "500 square feet per ton" of AC. That simply meant a 2,000-square-foot house would require a 4-ton AC system to keep it comfortable. But with many improved windows, doors, insulation systems, etc. we routinely see results much higher, pushing the 800-1,000 square feet per ton. But many criteria go into the analysis for this, called a Manual J. The Manual J tells us how much "tonnage" will be needed to properly heat & cool home to today's standards.
    • What's the difference in brands of AC?
      Most brands of AC today are all well-made. They will all have periods and varying levels of warranty failure; however, the long-term reliability of an HVAC system comes from proper installation and routine maintenance. Even the best brand, whomever you feel is best, will fail due to a poor install or lack of maintenance.
    • What brands do we offer?
      For service ad repair we can handle just about any brand; however, for our new construction, we primarily install Trane, Mitsubishi, and RUUD.
  • Insulation

    • How much insulation do I need?
      How much insulation you need depends on may different things: how much space is alloted for the insulation, what's the difference in temperature between the inside vs. outside, and what's the interior space being used for? For example, if you're trying to keep a wine room at 50 degrees and one of those walls goes to the exterior of the home, it should receive more insulation than the other 3 walls that face the interior of the home. Ideally, you should install more insulation on a wall facing the West sun than the walls facing East. And a ceiling with a hot attic above it should receive more insulation than a floor over a crawlspace. If you're thinking about Energy Code requirements, the Residential Energy Code specifies minimum R-values for our Climate Zone.
    • Is spray foam dangerous?
      Sprayed polyurethane foam is only dangerous if not installed properly. The installer should be trained and utilize all the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) the manufacturer requires. Once sprayed and cured the foam is inert and no more off-gassing should occur.
    • Is spray foam the best insulation?
      Spray foam isn't "the best insulation" unless you feel the most confident in it. There are merits to spray foam insulation that other insulations cannot tout. For example, sprayed polyurethane foam seals as it insulates, it inherently adheres itself to its substrate (the surface you apply it to), and certain formulas are vapor impermeable (stops moisture). These are specific characteristics that most of the other insulations cannot claim.
    • What's the best kind of insulation?
      There are certain types of insulation that are better at insulating in specific conditions; however, it's an unfair question to ask "which one is the best?". For example, it's fair to ask "which insulation offers the highest R-value per inch?". It's fair to ask "which insulation is made from the highest recycled content?". And we have the answers to most any question you might ask about insulation, let's just stick to the questions that aren't matters of opinion (only).
    • What is R-value?
      R-value stands for the Resistance to heat transfer. The higher the R-value the better insulator it is. For example, an R-30 insulates better than an R-13.
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