Building a new house in the Northeast: What heating system for cost and efficiency?
Hi – we will be building a new approx 2000 sqft modular home in Zone 4 Marine / Zone 5 (think its the 4 Marine).
The builder has recommended standard fiberglass wall insulation, says because it’s modular it will be tighter than stick-built, but can upgrade from new code with Upgrading to R 49 in attic (from R 38) and adding R7 rigid foam on outside. I understand that this is still short of the pretty good house standards, but it might be up to the code plus. We will also probably finish the basement with plenty of insulation (although how much is plenty).
House will have windows facing South-west, with first floor dark wood(ish) floors.
The builder recommends an “ultra-high efficiency” propane furnace and multi zone 3-ton AC. He does not recommend HRV system. We talked about getting house tighter and he said that the spray-foam insulation is quite expensive and would require whole-house HRV. I had thought this might be a more cost-effective way to keep house warm, so now I am confused.
Obviously, since we haven’t built anything, can’t perform load testing, etc. But this should be the tightest home we have ever lived in by far. We are scared of having dry furnace forced air heat, but being warned off the radiant floor heating by the builder (b/c expense) and this site. I originally wanted geothermal, but I don’t think we can afford it.
Our current home is leaky >60-year-old colonial with radiator. Newest home we ever lived in was tract-home built in 2000 in the south, but that one had (probably electric) forced air that was very dry. We had a very comfortable radiant floor in a very small cinder-block house in the the south, but I have learned from this site that the floor was so toasty probably because the insulation was so poor.
I think we could probably put in cold-climate air-source heat pump instead of the furnace and conventional ac, for about $3-4k more, but it will still be forced air. Does it have to be mini-split for cold climate? I expect that a gas fireplace in the great room can also provide much of the heating needs.
I expect that we probably will use the A/C system much less frequently than we will need heating. We are going to have ceiling fans to reduce the AC need as much as possible.
We can’t afford this as it is, but we don’t want to start on building something that’s not comfortable. So I guess our main question is for cost-effective, comfortable heating, as green as we can (not) afford. I just feel like we are fighting an uphill battle to try to be green here. Any advice is welcome.