Heating, Ventilating & Air Conditioning

Heating, Ventilating & Air Conditioning

(Commonly referred to as HVAC)

Solar Heating

Sunlight becomes solar energy when it is transformed to heat. No matter where you live, it may be practical to use at least passive solar heat. Solar energy can provide hot water as well as heat for the home. Passive is solar energy produced without the aid of any mechanical means.

These include, but are not limited to, south-facing glass, masonry walls, and solariums. These are relatively inexpensive and may fit in with your design. Active systems are more effective but can be expensive. They require solar collectors and storage systems. The collectors themselves require unobstructed southern exposure. Talk to your local building department and HVAC contractor to find out if solar energy is a viable alternative in your area. If your situation warrants further research, visit your local library.

Other Heating and Cooling Systems

The most widely used system is Central Forced Air. Both hot and cold air is forced through a series of ducts by a blower attached to the furnace. The air enters the living space through registers on the floor usually located near windows and doors. Heating and air conditioning use the same ductwork and blower. The central system can get its energy from natural gas, oil, propane, or electricity.

Today, natural gas is the most cost-effective, followed by oil. Keep in mind that the A/C condenser will still run on electricity in both cases, and electric bills can get quite high in summer. If you live in a northerly climate you will also want to attach a humidifier to the furnace. It will add keep the humidity at a comfortable level in winter when humidity levels drop dramatically in heated spaces.

An optional electronic air cleaner will help remove dust, pollen, pet dander, bacteria, tobacco, and cooking smoke more effectively than disposable filters.

Another heating system is hot water. Here the water is heated in a gas or oil-fired boiler and then circulated by pipe to radiators placed in the living space, or through coils that are installed into the flooring system. A separate air conditioning system would be required, usually window or through-wall units.

A heat pump is a good choice for a central heating and cooling system but only if you live in an area that does not drop below 20 degrees Fahrenheit in winter. It is a very energy-efficient system and also uses the same ducts for heating and cooling.

Electric baseboard heat is another choice. It is inexpensive to install but very expensive to operate. It is most often used in apartment buildings because of the low installation cost, and because the tenant will have to pay the electric bill!

A zone control system requires one heating unit and one cooling unit for each room. The advantage to this is that you can heat and cool selected rooms to different temperatures, thereby saving energy by not heating or cooling spaces that are not being used at any given time.

The key to determining which system is best for you is to determine the operating costs of these systems in your area. Your friends, neighbors, and HVAC contractors can be a great help. You will likely find that one particular system is the most widely used and efficient for your area.

My choice would be a heat pump if the climate permitted, (20 degrees or above in winter). In colder climates, a gas-fired central forced air with a central humidifier attached provides great comfort and efficiency.

Try to locate your mechanical equipment where the noise of operation does not disturb the people living there. (Such as yourself!). It is also preferable to locate the water heater fairly close to the master bath, insuring hot water without waiting.

Your HVAC contractor should provide all materials and equipment necessary for these systems as well as venting ducts for bathroom fans, range hood, and dryer vents. Be sure they are licensed, bonded, and insured.


Everyone enjoys a fireplace on a cold winter night. Your decision on whether to have one will probably be based on aesthetic appeal more than heating efficiency. Unless you have an ample supply of free firewood and live in an area that seldom gets below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, a fireplace will seldom pay for itself in saved heating costs.

A functional masonry fireplace and chimney should cost about $6000 for a single-story home. You can probably install a metal, wood-burning prefabricated fireplace with a framed chimney for about half that.

In either case, you can get gas-fired simulated logs, which are clean-burning, insect-free, have lower operational cost, look nice and you don’t have to chop wood. They also provide more heat because the damper remains closed. The only downside is that they are imitations.

Kitchen Layouts

Kitchen Layouts

A Few Thoughts on Kitchens

Below are some sample kitchen layouts. They have work triangles drawn between the sink, range, and refrigerator. In a convenient kitchen, the total length of the three legs of the triangle should not exceed 22 feet, and the dishwasher will usually be within the triangle, next to the sink.

You will notice that some of these designs are far more convenient than others. You will need to balance convenience with the overall design of your home. You should also try to leave at least 42″ between an island or peninsula and any other counter, and preferably 4 feet or more, especially if there will be an appliance door that swings into that area. There should be at least 3 feet of counter between the sink and the refrigerator. You can learn more about kitchen tapware choices at https://tileandbathco.com.au/collections/tapware

A built-in desk is a very handy item in the kitchen. A pantry is a necessary item.

A large island or peninsula with an eating counter is especially convenient if you have room for it. They are invaluable if you entertain a lot. In this case, you may find it helpful if your guests can access the refrigerator without disturbing the all-important cook.

It is desirable to be able to see where children are when you are in the kitchen.


You will never have too many cabinets in your kitchen! Towel storage is needed in or very near each bathroom.

When you have decided on the type of layout you would like, shop for your kitchen cabinets. Wherever you find what you are interested in, such as a home center or cabinet distribution outlet, their sales, and design people will be glad to help you design your kitchen, and usually your bathrooms also.

Many have computer programs set up so that you can see what your kitchen will look like and they can print them out for you, generally at no charge in the hope that you will buy their product. You do not need to commit yourself at this point, so try to find the best deal you can. You should not actually buy cabinets until you have room to put them in. Until the kitchen actually exists, you could conceivably change the size or shape of it for a variety of reasons.

You can go through this process either before or after designing your home. Most people will design their home first, and then take the floor plan to the cabinet outlet, where their design people will fit various cabinets into the space that is available. They will typically do the same for the desired appliances, whether they deal in them or not.

Of course, if you now decide you need a bigger kitchen, you would have to change the blueprints. For this reason, you may want to verify the size of your kitchen before laying out the rooms of your home design, by tentatively deciding on a cabinet layout first. Either way, the kitchen is the most used room in the house and should receive a lot of consideration in the planning stage.

Cabinets are typically manufactured in 3-inch increments, so you should not have a problem fitting them into almost any space. Because of the wide range of sizes available, and the many configurations, including corner units that you can use, it is seldom necessary to go through the extra expense of custom-built cabinetry.

Bath Facilities

The same consideration should be given to your bathrooms, especially the master bath. Not only will you use it daily, but if you should sell your home in the future, prospective buyers will give it close scrutiny, as they will intend to use it daily. In today’s market, a master bedroom with a private bath is almost considered a necessity.

When designing kitchens and baths remember to include an exhaust fan of the appropriate size for the room. These fans must be vented to the outside and not to attic space.

A final note for this page, do not order countertops until after the cabinets have been installed. Only then should they be measured and ordered.