DESPITE HAVING A WIDE variety of upgrade options during the home buying process, the typical consumer gets shut out of the HVAC system decision. “Buyers have been choosing appliances and faucets for years but never get the option to choose the HVAC,” says Mike Barnes, sales and distribution manager for national builder sales at Fort Smith, Ark.–based Rheem/Ruud Air Conditioning. This is a lost opportunity for buyers as well as builders, says the company.

Help is on the way. Rheem recently released to its more than 320 builders the “Better Home Planning Guide,” a new Web-based tool that aims to help builders work with home buyers to evaluate potential product upgrades to the HVAC system.

Buyers will have the option of choosing products from a “good, better, best” format but will also be able to upgrade the system. Builders will be able to demonstrate to buyers, in real time, potential monthly savings and how the decision affects the mortgage.

The benefit to the buyer is clear, but what's in it for you? More efficiency, lower operating costs, and more money, according to Barnes. “Our primary objective [for] our customers is to help them sell houses as fast as possible—and for more money,” he explains. “With this tool, they will be able to do that.”

In addition to the design center version of the guide, home buyers may also access the tool from home using a password and pin number. That way, they can explore options for themselves, the company says. For more information on the planning guide, visit