Demand a Right-Sized A/C Unit for Your Home. Bigger Is Only Better for the Contractor.

When it gets hot in Texas, it gets really hot. We have a climate in which air conditioning is required practically year round. So, when you’re in the process of buying or building a new home, it’s important to make sure your A/C unit is correctly sized and matched to the home’s specifications. Why is this important? Simply put, an A/C unit accounts for about 50% of your home’s utility bill, but more critically—it accounts for 100% of the home’s comfort. A home with an oversized unit will not only consume more electricity than needed, its occupants will be plagued by uncomfortable clammy interiors with other long-term operational problems from poor humidity control. If you want to make sure you are not a victim of the “Bigger Is Better” sales pitch, here’s what you should know.

Understanding What Determines Right-Sizing of Air Conditioning Systems

In the U.S., the Air Conditioning Contractor’s Association of America (ACCA) produced a protocol for calculating the heating and cooling loads of a home in order to determine the correct A/C system needed for a specific space. Known as a “Manual J,” this protocol takes a scientific and mathematical approach to accurately match the size of the A/C with the home’s required load calculations. A Manual J is absolutely more accurate than the rules of thumb that many contractors use, such as “1 ton of air conditioning capacity for each 600 square feet of living space.” These rules of thumb—especially bad rules of thumb—grossly oversize the A/C unit.

While a “Manual J” is required by code officials in order for a builder to get a building permit, the sad truth is that it is not their job to ensure the Manual J is correct. Even the builder may not know if the Manual J developed for his or her home is correct. Too often, everyone trusts the HVAC contractor who is the one responsible for developing the Manual J, which determines the correct size of the air conditioning unit. A/C units are sold by the ton—the bigger the unit, the more costly the system. One ton can cost about $1000, so you can see that making sure the A/C unit is properly sized can have huge payoffs—even before you learn about all the benefits you will enjoy and all the headaches you will avoid when the A/C is properly sized.

A home’s heating and cooling load is determined by its design. Many factors are considered, room-to-room, when calculating these loads using special software: square footage, type of windows, type of insulation, and climate zone are only a few examples. It is a time-consuming job and probably why most HVAC contractors use rules of thumb instead, or worse, just use the default information on their software, which mostly likely does not reflect your home’s specific characteristics. These “inaccurate defaults” result in “inaccurate outputs” and produce an inaccurate Manual J that incorrectly requires an oversized A/C unit. It may be good for the HVAC contractor, but not for you.

Why You Don’t Want an Oversized HVAC System

Believe it or not, 40% of all US contractors admit that they are likely to oversize the equipment as a result of skipping Manual J calculations. They assume that a bigger A/C system will be able to accommodate any need and therefore should work fine. In other words, they believe that bigger is better. It’s also much easier for them to guess or use rules of thumb instead of taking the time to accurately do the required Manuals J, S, T, and D.

Aside from paying too much for an oversized A/C initially, there are other operational problems to be aware of if your A/C is too big.

More Expensive: At $1000 per ton, a larger (capacity) A/C system costs more to buy. Like poor “miles per gallon” of a car with an inefficient larger engine, an over-sized A/C will get poor efficiency and your utility bills will be much higher than necessary.

Increased System Wear: To be efficient, an air conditioner should run for longer, even cycles rather than for short bursts of cool air. An oversized unit will short cycle – this means it will start up and shut down more often. The constant “on and off” operation will increase the wear and tear of your equipment, resulting in a shorter life span and expensive repairs.

Poor Circulation: A/C units that are bigger than necessary do not run long enough to create good air circulation. A common problem is that some rooms will be too cold and others will be too hot. A right-sized unit will run for a longer period of time, allowing for good air circulation that helps to maintain even room temperatures.

Improper Humidity Levels: With a right-sized air conditioning system, the longer running time actually helps to remove the humidity in your home. On the other hand, with a larger system in which air circulation is low, your home will feel sticky and clammy. Indeed, your humidity levels may be higher, so you crank the system up. This will only add to the humidity problem and increase your electricity costs, as well.

Moisture and Mold Issues: An over-sized A/C unit does a poor job of removing humidity out of the home because it cools the space quickly and shuts off before it can do so. The long-term result is a variety of moisture and mold issues throughout the home.

Ensure Your New Home Has the Right-Sized HVAC Equipment

The good news is that there is a way to be sure that your A/C unit is sized correctly to produce extended runtimes, control humidity, eliminate moisture problems, provide even temperatures, and use less energy—it’s called a BUILT TO SAVE™ certification for
new homes.

A home that receives a BUILT TO SAVE™ certificate has been inspected and tested by an independent, third-party energy rater who guarantees that the home has complied with the requirements of the program. And one of the key components of the BUILT TO SAVE™ program is that the home’s HVAC system be right-sized and properly installed.

The Manual J documents provided for homes enrolled in the BUILT TO SAVE™ program are collected in the pre-construction stage of the program and studied by an energy rater who compares the data entered in the Manual J report with data from the home’s floor plans and other data collected from on-site inspections. A home with an oversized A/C unit cannot qualify for the BUILT TO SAVE™ program. Don’t take anyone’s word that your A/C is properly sized. Ask for guaranteed proof—ask to see the BUILT TO SAVE™ certificate.

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© 2017 RGV New Homes Guide & Across Media Marketing, LLC.

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to RGV New Homes Guide with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Windows Are Walls Too—They Just Need Different Insulation

Just because you can see through windows doesn’t mean they’re not part of your walls. In fact, because it’s much harder to insulate windows effectively, your home’s windows can have an even bigger impact on your air conditioning costs. The size of the windows in a home, the number of windows, and whether or not they face directly into the sun have a direct impact on your home’s ability to be energy efficient. Here are some basic but important energy-saving window design facts you should consider.

Install Fewer and Smaller Windows

One of the biggest features of windows is their ability to allow daylight into your home. They also let you enjoy views of children playing and nature outside. Yet, having more windows may significantly increase how much money you pay for heating or cooling costs every year. You may therefore want to consider having fewer and/or smaller windows in your new home. For instance, if you reduce the total glazing on your home from 20% to 10%, you could reduce your cooling and heating costs by up to $500 every year.

Choose North-Facing Windows

Where your windows are located in your home will also impact how much energy you use to cool your home. Windows on the west side will add the greatest heat gain and thereby the highest cooling costs. North-facing windows receive the least amount of sun, so choose to install more windows on this side of your house. Carefully planning on which sides you add windows can cut your energy costs by $90 every year.

Shade Your Windows

Regular, low-efficiency windows will allow a lot of heat into your home. You can reduce this effect by shading your windows. Options include exterior overhangs, awnings, shutters, grills, roll-down shades, canopies, and shutters. These can often be motorized and controlled remotely and/or on timers to ensure the maximum benefit during the hottest hours of the day. Planting trees and shrubs outside of your windows can also provide a beautiful way to block sunshine from reaching your windows.

Interior shading can also reduce how much you need to use your air conditioner. Consider installing heavy drapes, shades, curtains, or blinds inside your home. These strategies are especially useful for west-facing windows. Most of these options are manually operated so you will need to remember to draw your blinds and curtains during daylight hours to prevent heat gain.

As you can see, there are many shading options. Depending on which you choose, you may be able to save up to $250 every year with strategic designs for your windows.

Compare Window Frame Construction

How well your windows resist heat transfer depends in part on what materials are used to construct the frames. Consider the following choices:

Aluminum frames: These are very strong and lightweight. Aluminum is also low maintenance. However, traditional metal frames transfer heat really quickly, which is something you don’t want in our climate in the Rio Grande Valley. If you need to choose aluminum for safety reasons, make sure you select a model that has a thermal break – this is a plastic strip that is installed outside and inside the frame and sash to prevent heat transfer.

Vinyl frames: Usually made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), vinyl frames are very easy to care for. They require no painting and won’t rot like wood. They also transfer heat less quickly than metal frames. However, if you select this option, choose a model that is filled with insulation to increase their energy efficiency.

Wood frames: This type of window frame is better at insulating against heat transfer. However, wood requires a lot more maintenance. It can expand and contract in response to changes in weather, is susceptible to pests and rotting, and will require painting.

Add Energy-Saving Glass Features

The types of glass and how the glass is treated will impact how much energy you save, too. The following is a brief list of glazing features to consider and discuss with your builder.

Double panes: At the very least, make sure all of the windows in your new home are double paned. That means they will have two panes of glass separated by an air gap. This will cut your heat gains and losses by 50% and save you a lot on cooling costs.

Gas fills: Add a layer of insulating gas between your panes of glass. This can increase the window’s energy efficiency dramatically.

Tints and low-emissivity coating: Glass can be tinted to prevent certain types of light passing through. Similarly, a low-emissivity (low-e) coating can be added to windows to reduce heat gain and loss. Both options can lower cooling costs as well because they lower the U-Factor. When well-designed, these features will not impact your view.

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Follow us on instagram for a daily dose of beautiful new homes in the Rio Grande Valley! Click here: @RGVNewHomes

© 2017 RGV New Homes Guide & Across Media Marketing, LLC.

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to RGV New Homes Guide with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Rio Grande Valley | Leading Builders

Much like the “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval,” a BUILT TO SAVE™ certification means that the home has been inspected and tested by a licensed, independent third party rater who guarantees that the home will perform better than a similar home built only to minimum code requirements. On-site visual inspections and specialized testing equipment are used to verify and guarantee that the requirements for certification are met.

At a time when most companies focus on cutting costs and building to minimum standards to maximize profits, builders constructing high-performance homes certified by the BUILT TO SAVE™ program focus on investing more—not less—to build homes that are superior in every way. A home certified as a high-performance home features the following:

Better indoor air quality; tighter construction with enhanced air sealing; correctly-sized HVAC system; consistent room-to-room temperatures; more comfort; more durability; less maintenance; and a better resale value. Most importantly, a BUILT TO SAVE™ certified home will save you money on utilities every month.

Today’s smart home shopper is aware that the cost of a new home is not just the initial price of the home, but rather the total cost of homeownership that includes the home’s performance and its long-term utility costs.

Smart shoppers know to look beyond the “lipstick” of a new home—the designer light fixtures, exotic granite countertops, beautiful wallpaper—and other cosmetic items that many mistake for quality construction. A smart shopper will appreciate that what is behind the walls—what cannot be seen—is more important in determining the quality of construction in a home. With a BUILT TO SAVE™ certificate, buyers can relax with the peace of mind that comes from knowing that a third-party rater inspected the home before the walls were installed.

Homes certified in the BUILT TO SAVE™ program are given a Certificate of Registration and a certification label, which can be found on the electrical panel box in a home. If a high-performance home label isn’t there, there’s no guarantee your home is energy efficient.



  1. Affordable Homes of South Texas, Inc.
    500 S. 15th St. McAllen, TX 78501 NMLS# 346848
    956.687.6263 | |

  2. DH Construction
    (956) 778-0212

  3. Divine Custom Homes
    (956) 467-1111 / (956) 212-8273

  4. Esperanza Homes
    (956) 380-6500

  5. Innovative Construction
    (956) 929-6198

Follow us on instagram for a daily dose of beautiful new homes in the Rio Grande Valley! Click here: @RGVNewHomes

© 2017 RGV New Homes Guide & Across Media Marketing, LLC.

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to RGV New Homes Guide with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Tight Construction = More Energy Efficiency & Comfort

typical home has a half-mile of cracks and gaps around the home’s envelope, including windows, doors, and numerous holes within the framework from plumbing, lighting, electrical wiring, and ductwork—yes, one half-mile. A loosely constructed home with all these cracks, gaps, and holes, results in a drafty and uncomfortable interior that is open to pests and outdoor pollutants which contaminate indoor air.  More importantly, the poor construction results in higher monthly utility bills.

Tight construction—considering the home as a system—must be applied to the various components and systems that work together. This “whole-house” approach to tight construction means that the home will breathe properly with mechanical ventilation to eliminate mold and mildew issues that would otherwise occur.

A tight building envelope—walls, roof, windows, and foundation—means the home will be more energy efficient and provide a more comfortable interior, eliminating colds drafts in the winter and keeping hot air outside in the summer, along with dust and bothersome pests. A tight building envelope means enjoying peace of mind in knowing your family is breathing clean air inside the home.

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So how do you know if your home has tight construction?  The only way to know for sure is to look for the BUILT TO SAVE™ certification. A home that has received this certification has been inspected during construction by an independent third party, and tested upon completion using a blower door test and a duct leakage test that determine the leakiness of the home. Air is blown into the home and then forced out of the home using specialized equipment and diagnostic software to make sure the home meets strict guidelines for compliance.

The BUILT TO SAVE™ program is designed to ensure that the required R-value of insulation was used as appropriate and that it was installed properly. Particular attention is given to areas that may allow hot air from the attic to enter the home.  Recessed ceiling light fixtures, outlets, and other areas that allow air in and out of the home are properly sealed. Areas that produce moisture from condensation, such as a bathing tub along an exterior wall, are inspected to make sure waterproof material is used along the wall to prevent mold and mildew issues.

For effective airtight construction, the heating, cooling, and ventilation systems must be designed and sized properly for the particular size of the home.  The BUILT TO SAVE™ program requires builders to provide an ACCA Manual J and a Manual S (Air Conditioning Contractors of America), which will specify the correct size and equipment to use.

Don’t wait until you move into your new home to find out if your home was built using tight or loose construction. Don’t wait for mold to form or bugs to crawl in and out of cracks and crevices.  Look for the BUILT TO SAVE™ certification, which means you will enjoy a more durable and comfortable home with better indoor air quality, lower utility bills—and a higher resale value.

© 2017 RGV New Homes Guide & Across Media Marketing, LLC.

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to RGV New Homes Guide with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Quality Built Homes



Once new homes are completed and are open for showing, it may be too late to know for sure if they are quality-built homes. Yes, you will be able to see the finishes of the home, and you will be able to see differences from home to home in details like enhanced materials, and luxury touches like granite countertops, designer ceilings, and showcase light fixtures. But the measure of real quality is what’s behind the walls. Here’s what you should ask about.

The Foundation Stage
The foundation is the most critical part of your home because any mistakes made at this point will only get worse as construction progresses. Adding more rebar to the slab may be worth the extra cost because if the foundation fails, it will be costly to repair. Make sure that the proper time was given to let the cement cure and that it wasn’t cut short to accelerate the production schedule. It would be good to ask if a qualified engineer certified the cement mixture and foundation pouring.

The Framing Stage
This stage is when you begin to see the shell or the skeleton of the home, including walls and roof. There are some areas of the home that require treated wood according to code. Pressure treated wood should be used all the way around the exterior walls where wood rests on the foundation. The reason is that cement absorbs water and over time, if not treated, the wood will absorb that water, creating mold and other water damage issues. Some builders ignore using treated wood where it rests on the foundation in interior walls to save money even though the same principle of water moisture applies.

If plywood or oriented strand board (OSB) sheeting is applied to the exterior walls of the home, look to see if it rests on the foundation where water can accumulate after a rain. It shouldn’t because it will soak up water like a sponge. What about the roof decking? Did your builder use radiant barrier decking which reduces attic temperatures by about 30% and costs only a couple of dollars more per sheet—paying for itself in less than one year with utility savings?

Find out if your home is in an area in Texas that requires windstorm inspections. If it is, the framing stage will have to follow more stringent requirements. The purpose of a windstorm inspection is to determine if the home’s construction can withstand strong winds, such as those present in a hurricane.

Rough Plumbing and Electrical
After the framing and roofing is complete, plumbers and electricians come in to put in pipes and wires. Many holes will be drilled into the studs. In a home that will be completely insulated with spray foam, filling those holes with a can of spray foam is not that important here, but if your builder is using batt or other fiberglass insulating material, it is critical that those holes be covered up. The same goes for receptacles for outlets, light fixtures, and switches. All those small holes and cracks add up to huge costs in energy bills and add to the discomfort of your home.

Heating & Cooling Systems and Ductwork
Your air conditioning system should be sized correctly for the size of your home (see page 28). It should be customized for the square footage, the number of rooms, the number of windows, and so on. This is a mathematical problem that requires figuring out what the load calculations are and then deciding what unit is the right size and type for your home. The ductwork should also be designed and tested to make sure it supplies the right pressures to ensure room-to-room comfort throughout the home. Sounds logical, right? You would be surprised how many contractors oversize the AC unit using the “bigger is better” concept.

Insulation Installation
The type of insulation used in your new home is not as important as whether or not it was installed properly. The most expensive insulation is spray foam, but it is one of the best along with Insulated Concrete Forms. Spray foam is also more forgiving in its installation since it covers even the smallest holes. Batt and other fiberglass insulation is less expensive but it requires more work—like splitting the insulation to put part of it on the back side of the electrical wire along a wall and the other in front, or cutting it to fit around electrical receptacles. That way, the insulation retains its shape—and its R-value. It’s sad, but not everyone installs insulation that way because it takes too long to do it right.

So How Do You Know If Your Home Was Quality Built?
If you were not present when the above phases of construction were performed to see for yourself, you have two choices: (1) take the builder’s word for it, or (2) look for the BUILT TO SAVE™ certification. A home with a BUILT TO SAVE™ certification has been inspected (during construction) and tested (after completion) by a third-party home energy rater licensed by the Residential Energy Services Network. You can be sure that your home was not only quality built, but you will also be sure that it will outperform a similar home built to code by providing more energy efficiency, more comfort, better durability, tighter construction, cleaner indoor air, and a better resale value. You’ll have a BUILT TO SAVE™ certificate in your hands to prove it.

© RGV New Homes Guide & Across Media Marketing, LLC, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to RGV New Homes Guide with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Bigger is not Better… It can actually be worse when it’s an air conditioning unit.



Making sure that the cooling (and heating) system in your new home is sized correctly is most important in humid climates such as in the Rio Grande Valley.  The size of the cooling system has a direct effect on the efficiency and comfort of a home.  Much like the way a car in stop-and-go traffic gets inefficient mileage and suffers more wear on its components, an oversized cooling system will cycle on and off, causing poor humidity control, a shorter life span of the unit, and increased costs in utility bills and maintenance. Aside from higher utility bills and reduced comfort in the home, an oversized unit will also have a higher initial price tag.

Unfortunately, in a large-scale survey, almost 40% of contractors revealed that they purposefully oversize the equipment. One reason these respondents gave is that “customers demanded it.”  The myth that “bigger is better” prevails because it seems like it would make sense. But it does not, if one understands how building science works.  A cooling system that is not sized correctly will “short cycle.” What that means is that because the home cools quickly, the compressor will not run long enough to remove the humidity in the home, resulting in uncomfortable, humid, and sticky air in
the home.

How can you be sure that the unit in your home is sized correctly? The best solution is not to take anyone’s word for it. Look for a BUILT TO SAVE™ certified home. Homes that receive BUILT TO SAVE™ certification have been inspected and tested by a third-party home energy rater who reviews the home’s floor plans and the documents (Manuals J and S) that determine the actual load calculations and the correct size of the system required for the space. The entire HVAC system, including ducts, are inspected and tested for compliance. The home energy rater provides a written guarantee that your BUILT TO SAVE™ home will be more energy efficient and more comfortable than a similar home built to minimum code. Plus, the rater will make sure that the HVAC system that goes into your new home is sized right and will not be bigger than you need, and will certainly be better!

© RGV New Homes Guide & Across Media Marketing, LLC, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to RGV New Homes Guide with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

8 Steps To Reach Your New Year/ New Home Resolution.


A Checklist for Choosing a Home That Lasts.

The New Year is a great time to set goals for improving your life.  Whether the goal is to lose weight, to stop smoking, or to start a new career, it’s the season to set positive intentions and turn last year’s “would have, should have, could have” to “Yes! This year, I am going to!”

So, what’s on your New Year’s agenda?  Do you have a New Year’s resolution to buy a place to call your own, that dream home you have always wanted?  Well, the year 2017 is a great time to consider building or buying a custom new home that meets your needs…and dreams.  If your goal for 2017 is to become the proud owner of a new home, we’ve got the checklist to help you invest wisely.

1) Get Pre-Approved for a Loan First
Before you start looking at floor plans or speaking with contractors, you need to know your buying power. This means going through a financial review and getting approval from a lender for a specific amount. This will save you the disappointment of looking at homes outside of your price range. It also shows you’re serious about making a purchase.

2) Research Financial Assistance Programs
There are many programs available that help you become a homeowner faster. Each program has different qualifications you need to meet, so do your homework. You might be surprised to learn you could qualify. As a Texas resident, consider looking at as one potential option.

3) Be Realistic About What You Can Afford
In addition to the amount the bank approves, you need to factor in how much you can spend on a monthly mortgage payment. This means thinking about other expenses, such as how much money you need to live on each week for things like groceries, entertainment, and other necessities.

4) Know When to Splurge and When to Save
One thing to watch is the upgrade costs as you build your home. Be sure to ask about the base price and how much additional features will add to your total price. You want to weigh the value of upgraded fixtures and flooring options to how long they will last. In other words, will the extra money you spend save you down the road from having to replace, say, a carpet or floor that wears faster, but costs less initially.

5) Don’t Just Go for Code – Go for Better Than Code
Just because a house is built to code doesn’t mean it will perform well. Homes built using basic building codes are often less efficient to operate and more costly to maintain. In addition, shoddy quality could invite issues like dust and mold that will make you sick. So work with a BUILT TO SAVE™ (BTS) or ENERGY STAR® builder. These contractors will build above code, ensuring your home will save you significant money in energy costs. For example, a BTS builder will consider cooling options that work in the Rio Grande Valley. This includes having a right-sized air conditioning system, windows, and exteriors that protect against heat gain, and so on.

6) Estimate Resale Value
Take a look not only at the value of your home as you purchase it, but at what comparable homes by this contractor are selling for on the resale market. If possible, visit a house built by a company you are interested in that’s up for sale to get an idea of how well the workmanship holds up after the home has been lived in for a while. Remember that homes with energy certifications like BUILT TO SAVE™ generally provide a higher resale value.

7) Choose the Right Community
In addition to building a home to meet your needs, how do you choose a community in which you want build? There are many points to consider:

Lot Size:  Are the yards big enough?
What’s Nearby: How close is this location to your workplace? How good are the schools? Can you get to shopping districts, hospitals, and other places easily?
What Does the Community Offer: Is there a community center or pool? How about parks and recreational activities?
Homeowner Association Costs: How much are the fees for being a member of the community? What do they cover? Will this fit into your budget?

Check out our new comprehensive New Home Communities Guide where we break down all of these factors and more to help you quickly identify the right development for your new home. See pages 33-36.

8) Have Your Home Inspected by a Professional
Hiring an independent, professional home inspector has saved many people from moving into a home that has substandard workmanship. It is much better to have someone who advocates for your best interests to evaluate your home carefully and point out features that need to be fixed before you close the contract. Once you’ve signed, any existing issues will become your problems to fix.

Hopefully, the checklist here will make it easy for you to realize your new home in the New Year.  Use it to ready yourself for finally making the dream of a brand new home a reality.  Because, “Yes, this year, 2017, you are going to buy a home!”