PATH - A Public Private Partnership for Advancing Housing Technology

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HVAC Design

The key to improving your HVAC is a shift in the design process of your home. By bringing the mechanical contractor into the house's design process (or doing the Manual D® yourself) you can design a more easily installed and energy-efficient HVAC system.


1. Install HVAC equipment and ducts in conditioned space. Design ducts to ensure proper air distribution according to Air Conditioning Contractors Association's (ACCA) Manual D, rather than often inaccurate and inefficient rules of thumb. Properly sized ducts can reduce initial costs and operating costs.

2. Properly size and select the HVAC system using ACCA's Manual J® and S® - the industry standard for residential load calculation required by most building codes around the country - to ensure the system achieves maximum efficiency through properly sized equipment. Oversized air conditioners are not only more expensive to purchase and operate, but also do not remove as much water from the air as a properly sized system. Also, place the plenum in a central location to minimize duct lengths - this lowers material and operation costs.

3. Locate the outside condensing unit to ensure that the exterior walls or other features do not block airflow. Also, keep the unit out of direct sunlight.

4. Reserve space for ducts in the home design. Dedicate chases within the floor plan for efficient, conditioned air supply, rather than installing ducts around the structural frame. This shortens the duct runs and speeds duct installation. Include air returns for each room (except bathrooms) or install transfer grilles between rooms to promote adequate airflow.

5. Install trim-able open web trusses or floor structural components that leave room for duct installation within the floor assembly. This allows you to run ductwork and other utilities without cutting structural members.

Content updated on 8/4/2006

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