Helpful? 3

Smallest ERV unit vs. RecoupAerator

We have a small home (1320 sq ft) in SW Wisconsin, and we are bermed into the hill and using a tight envelope with passive solar, high thermal mass and radiant floor heat (that we may not use very much).

We are going to put in the ductwork for an ERV because of what I've read about air quality and our concerns about humidity control.

I need advice because most of the units are much larger than we need (e.g. RecoupAerator) but have higher efficiencies and lower energy use. I have found the EKO by Venmar but that is only in the HRV model. We have found Broan or Venmar make a small unit that is better sized for our home, but runs on 50 to 150 (Max) watts.

Does anyone know of a smaller unit that has the lower energy use, or do you think the larger unit would be cost-effective in the long run?

Asked by Anonymous
Posted Wed, 07/28/2010 - 12:51
Edited Wed, 07/28/2010 - 15:24

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44 Answers

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1.
Helpful? 3

Sheri,
Either an ERV or an HRV will work to ventilate your home; I wouldn't get too caught up in the differences between ERVs and HRVs if I were you.

The UltimateAir RecoupAerator 200DX ERV draws 40 watts to deliver 70 cfm.

The the Venmar EKO 1.5 HRV only 13.5 watts to deliver 40 to 80 cfm, while the Fantech VHR704 HRV draws between 35 and 40 watts (I don't have the airflow data in front of me).

You might also consider the inexpensive Panasonic FV-04VE1 WhisperComfort ERV (23 watts to deliver 40 cfm). The WhisperComfort costs $300 and requires minimal ductwork.

Answered by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor
Posted Wed, 07/28/2010 - 14:11

2.
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Sheri,

In a small, tight, very efficient house, installing ductwork for a central ventilation system may be excessive and unnecessary. The Panasonic unit requires minimal ducting but it is quite inefficient in a cold climate.

All of my superinsulated houses use only Panasonic bathroom exhaust fans on programmable 24-hour timers with passive make-up air inlets (Aldes Airlet 100). Since the bath fans are required in any case for spot moisture removal, it is simple to use those highly efficient fans with their minimal ducting for whole house ventilation, coupled with strategically located (bedrooms and living spaces) passive inlets.

Additionally, an exhaust-only ventilation system is the only option that maintains negative pressure in the entire house when it's running. Negative pressure prevents any possibility of the exfiltration which causes condensation in the winter months (but requires a radon-proof basement and no air flow from an attached garage).

Answered by Riversong
Posted Wed, 07/28/2010 - 14:32

3.
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Check out ProAir.ie

Answered by Niall
Posted Wed, 07/28/2010 - 16:07

4.
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thanks for your answers. I have read many of your posts on ventilation on this site, and now realize that there are no stock answers (unfortunately!) However, we are trying to keep our energy profile as low as possible -- mainly by building a small house -- which seems to be the thing that most people don't do so there are few answers for a small footprint. We have one story --an open floor plan - literally one big living/kitchen space with a bedroom on the north side (bermed) separated by an earth block wall that is open about 2 ft on the top. We have one other bedroom/office. And a small (300sq ft) basement for utilities and some storage. We are going to have a small woodstove by the earth wall for winter cloudy days. Obviously, we would love to not have to put in ductwork for an HRV with only ~ 40 cfms using the formula. Especially because everyone is telling us we also need a kitchen hood, bathroom fans and dedicated air supply for the woodstove. so, wouldn't that be an exhaust only ventilation system? And why would you need inlets if you are going for exhaust only? sorry I am so confused by all this...help is needed.

Answered by sheri
Posted Thu, 07/29/2010 - 23:11

5.
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Sheri,

The entire purpose of the ASHRAE requirement for whole-house ventilation is to guarantee a minimum exchange of air to maintain a healthy indoor environment. Additionally, in a tight house, particularly a small one, indoor humidity levels will rise into the danger zone without regular air exchange.

So, in addition to a mechanism for exhausting stale and humid air, there must be some avenue for fresh air return, either through a heat-recovery system or simple fresh air inlets. If the house is very tight, then insufficient air can be drawn in through the envelope to replace exhaust flow and there will be no way to control where air leaks in.

If you were going to burn the woodstove most of the winter, then it could be the "exhaust fan". But, in a highly-insulated little home, you won't be running the stove enough to create enough air exchange - and, as you're already aware, you should have a dedicated combustion air supply to prevent backdrafting of the stove.

So, as I suggested earlier, the simplest system is to install a 24-hour programmable timer in parallel with a demand switch on a quiet, efficient bath fan (Panasonic is the best), and set it for enough hours per day to get an average of 40 cfm (e.g. an 80 cfm fan running 2 hours out of every 4). And then install four Aldes Airlet 100 fresh air inlets 6" below ceiling level, one in each bedroom and two in the open living space, as distant as possible from the bath fan to create cross flow.

Answered by Riversong
Posted Fri, 07/30/2010 - 00:06

6.
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wouldn't those 4 fresh air inlets bring in cold winter air?

Answered by sheri
Posted Fri, 07/30/2010 - 20:07

7.
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wouldn't those 4 fresh air inlets bring in cold winter air?

Of course. That's their purpose. Cold FRESH air.

But they are designed to allow fresh air in only when there's negative pressure in the house, such as when an exhaust fan is running, and limit the flow to 5-20 cfm deflected up to the ceiling where it will mix with warm air. They have mylar reed valves that limit air flow from external positive pressure, such as a gust of wind. They also have open-cell foam filters in the duct sleeves to control dust and insects and further limit airflow.

Or you can pre-warm the air by installing a centrally-ducted HRV, which is far more expensive to install and requires regular maintenance.

The choice is yours. I've been installing this passive system in super-insulated houses for more than 20 years and have never been able to justify the cost and complexity of an HRV.

Answered by Riversong
Posted Fri, 07/30/2010 - 20:28

8.
Helpful? 1

thanks so much- I really appreciate all the great posts that you both have given to this forum, (Martin- your energy musings are really are good resource). I've been reading some of your other posts on ventilation issues and it is starting to make sense. given our small home and open plan, yours is a very appealing idea that we will pursue. I checked out the panasonic and they have some very low energy use (DC) exhaust fans.

Martin - if this was your house, would you be ok with an exhaust only?

Answered by sheri
Posted Sat, 07/31/2010 - 01:05

9.
Helpful? 3

Shreri,
Exhaust-only systems work well in small houses like yours. They are simple, inexpensive, and dependable. Be sure to get a Panasonic fan.

If you've read other ventilation blogs, you know that Robert and I disagree on passive air inlets. Robert likes them and installs them; I believe they are unnecessary and sometimes counterproductive. But even if you follow Robert's advice on passive air inlets, your system will work fine.

Answered by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor
Posted Sat, 07/31/2010 - 05:48

10.
Helpful? 1

thanks so much guys! I really appreciate that those of you with actual experience are willing to share. I have read the rationale behind your differences of opinion and appreciate your thoughtfulness. (Now we just have to find a kitchen hood that doesn't suck every molecule of air and we'll be on our way!)

P.S. Martin - It was interesting reading your blog article on heating a small home. We haven't moved in yet but already are thinking the in floor radiant was overkill, especially because now everyone is trying to sell us $$ systems to heat the water for it!. there just aren't enough truly green folks out there helping average budget folks think these things through. This winter, Ii guess we'll find out if we really need it.

Answered by sheri
Posted Sat, 07/31/2010 - 14:55

11.
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Sheri,

While it's true you can heat a small, very well insulated and tight house with almost anything, if you're pouring a slab-on-grade, I feel it's foolish not to install PEX - even if it's not initially hooked up to a heating source. You don't get a second chance to install the radiant tubing in concrete, and it's also much easier to install it in a wood-framed floor at the time of construction. The materials are inexpensive, and almost any hydronic heating equipment - including solar thermal or a woodstove coil - can be later attached to supply uniform, comfortable heat.

You may not feel a need for central heat at this point, but as you age it becomes more of a necessity than a luxury. If you read my article on passive solar slabs in the April/May issue of Home Power magazine, you'll see that I believe (contrary to some) that a solar thermal mass floor and a high-mass radiant floor make a good match, as the radiant heat tends to even out the passive solar heat in areas not in direct sunlight.

Answered by Riversong
Posted Sat, 07/31/2010 - 18:05

12.
Helpful? 1

Have downloaded the article and will read! We are hoping that the floor needs little input, but we are looking into solar thermal b/c the inspector requires backup to move in. Thanks again for your resources.

Answered by sheri
Posted Sun, 08/01/2010 - 21:57

13.
Helpful? 5

I have to register a disagreement with Mr. Riversong as well. over the last 20 years the cost/benefit of HRVs and ERVs vs exhaust only systems has been questionable at many points. Not least of which because for years ventilation codes were laughably oversized. However, energy costs have risen and probably will rise again. ERVs and HRVs with low power drawings (like the ones already mentioned) exist. exchange efficiencies have risen greatly. and full ducting has benefits other than simply energy efficiency; you get fully controllable levels of fresh air in all rooms in a home, and help with thermal redistribution in the home as well. Also, properly designed systems will replace the bath fans he notes as requirements, so there is a cost savings offset in saving those fan units.

I've designed both types of systems , but these days in any real heating climate I do not see exhaust only as a wise choice. Just an inexpensive one. ERV/HRV systems are typically about twice the cost of exhaust only variants and more work to put in. but with 40 watt power draws and exchange efficiencies in the 80's and 90's, and the lack of additional negative pressure on a home (which typically suffers from too much negative pressure already via dryers, stack effects, and combustion appliances) they have some significant benefits. I've never considered negative pressure to be a positive design feature.

In wisconsin, your mean winter temp is somewhere around 12 or 15 degrees. if we assume a 65 degree home, that's a 50 degree difference for easy math, october through march. 180 days x 24 hrs/day x 25 CFM x 1.08 x 50 dt = 5.8 Million BTUs/winter. If you have natural gas in a 90% boiler/furnace, you're at around 70 CCF or therms/winter. And that's best case, other fuels are more expensive almost everywhere. I'd estimate a simple payback period of approximately 5-7 years or so, assuming electrical draw is a wash or close to it, at something like today's energy costs.

That's hardly unjustifiable, especially with the additional benefits involved.

Answered by NRT.Rob
Posted Thu, 08/19/2010 - 19:44

14.
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Thanks for weighing in Rob. I'm not sure what you are getting at with the data on BTUs/winter. Could you clarify? What is the comparison referring to?

Also, an EKO HRV is 10 times more costly than a pansonic fan (not 2 to 3 times) and that is without the ducting, plus ducting is difficult for us given our northern and western sides are bermed (concrete). So, financially and practically, it is a difficulty and we need to be convinced that it is really necessary (our HVAC and home designer did not believe it was). Thanks again for weighing in.

Answered by sheri
Posted Sat, 08/21/2010 - 10:44

15.
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Sheri,

I don't think your inspector will consider solar thermal an acceptable "back up" system. What he really wants. to see is a primary heat source, which solar can never be.

Check out the Panasonic ERV which can be found online for as little as $280, and needs very little ductwork.

Answered by Kevin Dickson, MSME
Posted Sat, 08/21/2010 - 12:24

16.
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Sheri,

What Rob is saying is that if you draw cold air into the house, you'll need to heat it up somehow in the depths of winter. By his math, you need to provide 5.8 million BTU of heat to warm up the incoming fresh air throughout winter, in addition to the regular heating load of the house.

You can either use your house heating system to provide this heat, a dedicated tempering system on the incoming cold air, or a HRV/ERV unit to transfer the outgoing heat to the incoming cold air.

If you're simply exhausting warm air, you're basically blowing heat out. If you've paid to heat that air up, it's nice (and efficient) to try to recover some of that heat in some situations with a HRV/ERV. While a HRV/ERV unit costs more, you often recover that additional cost in just a few years due by not simply blowing heat out of your house.

Answered by DAN
Posted Sat, 10/16/2010 - 21:06

17.
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NRT. Rob,

You can "register a disagreement" but you should at least base it on accurate numbers.

The average heating season temperature (Oct - Apr) for Madison WI is a little over 30°, and the HDDs are only 7500 (a milder climate than where I am in north central VT). So the average delta-T is more like 35°.

Secondly, the volumetric heat capacity of air is 0.0182 btu/cf·F°, not 1.8 which overstates the heat loss by a factor of 100. So, even using the 7 month heating season I averaged above, the heat loss from ventilation at 25cfm continuous (which is inadequate for most homes, but that's the number you pulled out of your hat) would be 210day x 24hrs/day x 60 min/hr [you also forgot to convert cfm to cf/hr] x 25cfm x 35° x 0.0182 btu = 80,262 btu, or less than 50 ccf of natural gas - about $100/year.

A reasonable price to pay for fresh air and health. And, since the HRV might recover 75% over the heating season and has operating and maintenance costs as well as the higher equipment and installation costs, the payback might be something on the order of 20-25 years.

If you don't understand the benefit of uniform negative interior pressure in a heating climate, then you'd better review your engineering books. All houses in a cold climate will have stack effect pressure differentials, with positive pressure in the upper levels (typically the upstairs ceiling) and negative pressure in the lower levels (typically the basement). A "balanced" ventilation system does not change this pressure differential, except in so far as the incoming cold air gets warmed and expands and occupies more volume than the exhaust air, so it may enlarge the positive pressure zone. Positive pressure causes exfiltration, and exfiltration causes condensation, and condensation causes moisture accumulation, and moisture accumulation causes mold and decay and invites wood-boring insects.

If the entire house is under negative pressure, there can be no exfiltration. Infiltration of cold air can not cause condensation. Additionally, an exhaust-only ventilation system with passive make-up inlets - like a fully ducted system - puts the fresh air exactly where it's needed and also allows some minimal passive ventilation even when the power is out in the dead of winter.

Hence, not only less expensive and simpler to install, operate and maintain, but also makes the house both more durable and healthier.

Answered by Riversong
Posted Sat, 10/16/2010 - 22:17

18.
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Correction: the formula yields 48 therms which is, as I indicated, about 50 CCF of natural gas.

Answered by Riversong
Posted Sat, 10/16/2010 - 22:20

19.
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Another suggestion: You can duct or locate a passive air supply behind the refrigerator to preheat cold incoming air.

Answered by Cb
Posted Thu, 12/09/2010 - 18:13

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This thread like so many seems to push the reader to take sides.

I would love to finish reading an interesting thread and feel a list of proper and improper solutions was at the end, apparent to all.

Keeping the dream alive.

Answered by aj builder, Upstate NY Zone 6a
Posted Fri, 12/10/2010 - 16:03

21.
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AJ: Sides? That is interesting. All I see is information being presented, backed w/ a little math. If any "sides" are being implied, it seems to me that it would be the usual ones: Do you want to spend more money now, or spend it a little at a time, over a longer period? I'm glad these folks are putting out the numbers; numbers don't have sides. There are always options, not sides, IMO.

Answered by John Klingel
Posted Fri, 12/10/2010 - 16:36

22.
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I see options John like you do. But often I see a debate ended less clear instead of more clear is all I am saying. I appreciate your thoughts on the matter. HRV discussions are now to be with us forever, glad this thread is up. Entrepreneurism will I am sure bring us many more solutions that don't involve the $5,000 a typical system today costs.

13.5 watt HRVs... I like that number. Panasonic's $300 cost is hitting a home run too. Be nice to see an HRV that had both- 13.5 watts and $300.

Answered by aj builder
Posted Fri, 12/10/2010 - 19:19

23.
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AJ: Roger that. Sometimes the options are almost overwhelming, and, yes, by the time I get done reading various places, I wonder what I learned for certain. I guess you just keep reading and thinking until you are satisfied that what you are planing is at least intelligent. Sometimes here, like anywhere that science is discussed, I feel that some of the debates are almost starting to split frog hairs. I know that some of the cats on the hearth.com site are absolute (admitted) fanatics, so if one gets close to their setup, they are doing real well. How many standard deviations above average does one go before one says "Enough" ? Do I have a positive ROI for 14" of EPS under my slab??? Etc. But, were it not for folks pushing the envelope, the envelope would be just sitting. j

Answered by John Klingel
Posted Sat, 12/11/2010 - 03:18

24.
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What a great--and informative--thread.

I've been in the planning stages of a new home for awhile now, and look to be moving forward by year's end to build a small (1,197 sq ft), well-insulated place in Maine. I've been leaning in the direction of an UltimateAir RecoupAerator DX200 system for awhile now, but just wish they offered a HEPA filter option due to some pretty bad seasonal allergies I've got. I've got a couple questions I hope folks may be willing to answer for me:

1) If I were to opt for a HEPA (MERV 16) system instead of a MERV 12 system, what types of additional contaminants would such a system be able to filter out of the incoming air?

2) Would 7 to 8 air exchanges per day be sufficient to keep the air in a home (with just two occupants) optimal?

The UltimateAir RecoupAerator (MERV 12) system would be capable of 70 cfm @ 40 watts, costing around $4/month here in Maine to run and producing approximately 10 ½ air exchanges per day. The HEPA option (MERV 16) I’d also consider—the Venmar True HEPA HRV 1.0—would run at a rate of 50 cfm and 110 watts, costing around $10.85/month and producing about 7 ½ air exchanges per day . The latter would be a noticeable jump in cost to run, but would offer a higher level of air filtration. So I’m also wondering:

3) What factors should one take into account in determining which system would be the best long-term investment? Is there enough of a health benefit from a HEPA system to justify the additional expense? Are there other variables that I’m overlooking?

Thanks for any input!

Litawyn

Answered by Litawyn Eco-House
Posted Fri, 02/03/2012 - 23:09
Edited Fri, 02/03/2012 - 23:10.

25.
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Litawyn,
1. Your planned ventilation rates seem high to me. The old ASHRAE rule of thumb was 0.35 air changes per hour (about 8 air changes per day). The new ASHRAE 62.2 rule of thumb is 7.5 cfm per occupant plus 1 cfm for every 100 square feet of occupiable floor area. (For more information on ventilation rates, see Designing a Good Ventilation System. You might also be interested in reading HRV or ERV?.)

2. Concerning your question about the differences between a MERV 12 and a MERV 16 filter ("what types of additional contaminants would such a system be able to filter out of the incoming air?"), the answer is: the higher the number, the smaller the particles that are filtered out of the air. Whether there is any need for you to filter extremely small particles from the air is a question for your doctor, not a question for a building science forum. Most of us live very healthy lives with no filtering at all.

3. Your last question -- "Is there enough of a health benefit from a HEPA system to justify the additional expense? " -- is once again a medical question, not a ventilation question.

Good luck.

Answered by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor
Posted Sat, 02/04/2012 - 06:13

26.
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Martin:

Thanks for the input. It's much appreciated. It appears my planned ventilation rates are in line with the old ASHRAE rule of thumb, which would be 47.5 cfm in my particular situation.. With the new rule of thumb however, the requirements for the home drop to just 27 cfm. I'm curious why the radical shift with ASHRAE's recommendations? And short of going with a Panasonic FV-04VE1 WhisperComfort Spot ERV, would there even be ERV/HRV units that would run at 30 cfm or less?

I will check out the other threads you've referenced in case answers may be found in either. Thanks again.

Litawyn

Answered by Litawyn Eco-House
Posted Sat, 02/04/2012 - 08:36
Edited Sat, 02/04/2012 - 08:38.

27.
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Litawyn,
The rates established by ASHRAE 62.2 were not a radical shift; that standard was the very first residential standard in the country. It differs from the earlier 0.35 ach standard because the earlier standard was a standard for commercial buildings, not homes. Most homes have low occupancy compared to commercial buildings, and therefore require lower ventilation rates.

If an HRV has a low-speed ventilation rate that is too high for your desired ventilation rate, the standard solution is to program the HRV to operate for only a certain number of minutes per hour. If it operates for 30 minutes per hour, the ventilation rate will be cut in half. Most HRVs and ERVs have controls that make intermittent operation possible.

Answered by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor
Posted Sat, 02/04/2012 - 12:25

28.
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Martin:

This may be a dumb question, but might it not cost about the same to run an HRV continuously on its lowest setting than to have the system running for 40 minutes every hour and flipping on and off 24 times a day? Isn't there some kind of a spike in electrical usage every time, say, a light bulb is turned on? If so, all things being equal, I'd rather pay to have a system running on low 24/7 than to have it cycling on a timer two dozen times a day if the net expense of each is going to be about the same.

Any ideas?

Litawyn

Answered by Litawyn Eco-House
Posted Sat, 02/04/2012 - 16:29
Edited Sat, 02/04/2012 - 16:33.

29.
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Litawyn,
Q. "Might it not cost about the same to run an HRV continuously on its lowest setting than to have the system running for 40 minutes every hour and flipping on and off 24 times a day?"

A. No. Turning the HRV off saves energy -- two ways: you don't spend electricity running the two fan motors, and you don't have all that conditioned air blowing out of your house. The less time you run the HRV, the more you save. When you leave for work in the morning, turn it off.

Answered by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor
Posted Sat, 02/04/2012 - 17:24

30.
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Martin:

Thanks for the clarification. It's helpful.

I work from a home office, so I'm home most of the day. But I will make sure the system is shut off when I'm not home.

Litawyn

Answered by Litawyn Eco-House
Posted Sat, 02/04/2012 - 17:54

31.
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I am so confused. HRV, ERV, exhaust fans, integrated supply ventilation, humidifier, dehumidifier???

We are planning a tight ~2,000 sf home, first level 1,500 sf living, kitchen, dining plus master and master bath, laundry room;, second level offices, bathroom and a bonus (storage/guest room) (we both work from home).

The reality is that in upstate NY is that the winters are cold and dry (I need a humidifier in my bedroom at night) and the summers are hot and too humid. There are only 2 of us, we cook. we want air conditioning since we are home all day.

We plan on having solar thermal & radiant heat on the first floor (slab foundation) supplemented with a gas boiler or hot water heater. We want to use our wood stove too. I hate the way ductless mini-splits look but will consider them upstairs for supplemental heat and for air conditioning for the offices and guest space.

What is the most cost effective system to keep the air fresh and the humidity up in the winter and down in the summer? How should we cool the first floor in the summer? Am I right that the fresh air system (ERV or HRV) has to be ducted separately from an A/C system? We can locate a mechanical room centrally if need be.

Answered by Elizabeth Kormos
Posted Mon, 02/13/2012 - 19:20

32.
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Elizabeth,
Don't confuse space heating and cooling with mechanical ventilation. Here is more information on ventilation: Designing a Good Ventilation System.

A well designed tight house should never require a humidifier.

Answered by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor
Posted Mon, 02/13/2012 - 19:49

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Hi Martin,

I read the article. Are you saying that although both a mechanical ventilation system (ERV, exhaust fans, etc) and an A/C and a hot air system, which works through the same ducts as the A/C in my current home, all move air around a house; they need to be separate systems with separate ducting?

It seems intuitive that the systems would somehow be integrated to maintain both the proper temperature and humidity. What am I missing?

Answered by Elizabeth Kormos
Posted Tue, 02/14/2012 - 16:45

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Elizabeth,
If you already have forced-air heating and cooling ducts, it's possible to use the same ducts for distributing ventilation air. It's not ideal -- dedicated ventilation ducts are preferable -- but it's possible.

Answered by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor
Posted Tue, 02/14/2012 - 17:23

35.
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Hi Martin,

My existing house has forced air heating and cooling. We are currently planning a new highly insulated and sealed home with radiant heat on the first floor (slab foundation) and probably mini-splits on the partial second floor where our offices and a guest area will be (master will be on the first floor). If I understand your advice the best system for adding A/C to the first floor and ventilation for the whole house would be separately ducted systems? Are there other alternatives systems I missed? My budget is limited.

Answered by Elizabeth Kormos
Posted Wed, 02/15/2012 - 10:54

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Elizabeth,
If you are planning to heat your home with in-floor hydronic tubing and to cool your home with ductless minisplits, it sounds like your home will not have a furnace or any forced-air heating ducts.

Therefore your ventilation system will have dedicated ventilation ducts that won't be used to deliver any space heat or cooling.

Answered by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor
Posted Wed, 02/15/2012 - 11:40

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There actually are times that a home does requires a humidifier, specifically if you've got a root cellar in your basement where you're planning to store succulent vegetables like beets, collards, broccoli, Chinese cabbage, carrots, turnips, radishes, rutabagas, parsnips, Jerusalem artichokes, celery, salsify, celeriac, parsley, Brussels sprouts, leeks, or kohlrabi. These all require a cold space that is ideally kept at 35-40F and at around 90-95% humidity. That's why you find them in the refrigerated section of the produce department being misted every ten minutes or so. Potatoes, apples, pears, grapes, and a number of other fruits and vegetables should be kept cold and stored in the 80-90% humidity range.

Proper attention does need to be made to the design of one of these root cellars so that it's kept thermally isolated from the rest of the house, the humidity contained, and the space well-ventilated to the outdoors. Otherwise you're asking for a nightmare. By the way, a high-humidity root cellar is distinct from a low-humidity root cellar where things like onions, garlic, pumpkins and squash should be stored. A cold pantry is another bird altogether. These two articles (1 & 2) are good resources and help flush out these differences.

Litawyn

Answered by Litawyn Eco-House
Posted Thu, 02/23/2012 - 02:45
Edited Thu, 02/23/2012 - 03:11.

38.
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Litawyn,
My home has a high-humidity root cellar, and has for 32 years. It is not "well-ventilated to the outdoors."

Root vegetable storage season here in Vermont lasts from October (harvest season) until early May. That's winter. If my root cellar were well ventilated to the outdoors, every vegetable would freeze. The whole point of the root cellar is to create an environment that protects the vegetables from freezing. So I seal it up carefully to keep out the cold air.

I would never use a humidifier indoors, even in a root cellar. The humidity in my cellar comes from its dirt floor. This method has been successfully used for hundreds of years, and I see no reason to change it.

Answered by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor
Posted Thu, 02/23/2012 - 07:00

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Martin:

No one's suggesting that you personally should change anything.

Also, when I said "well-ventilated to the outdoors," I didn't mean to imply one doesn't monitor the vents. They're there to be used as needed and could easily be managed with a temperature-controlled damper. You've got a traditional root cellar with a dirt floor; I'm building two root cellars beneath my house as part of a new construction, each over an uninsulated concrete slab with a central drain so they can be hosed out as needed. Both cellars will be thermally isolated from the house around it. The larger cellar will maintain humidity levels between 80 to 90%; the other will be kept between 60 to 70%. Comparing our systems though is like comparing apples and oranges.

You get your humidity from your dirt floor; I'll get mine (in the more humid cellar) from a portable humidifier, which would only run as needed. Neither of us is right in our approach, neither is wrong. They're both perfectly acceptable solutions.

Here's a Mother Earth News article that addresses the necessary ventilation system for root cellars being built within a basement [without a dirt floor.] These two images (1 & 2), although small, address what I'm talking about.

Litawyn

Answered by Litawyn Eco-House
Posted Fri, 02/24/2012 - 03:15
Edited Sat, 02/25/2012 - 00:56.

40.
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It seems nothing is straight forward..... here is my issue. Gilroy Ca area... Yes, we have great weather....goldilocks... not to hot, not too cold, not too humid, not too dry... so whats to complain about?

Most systems seem to be design for Heat or Cold dominant climates...so being in the middle its is hard to determine with any decisiveness as you don't want to add unnecessary equipment if not really necessary..... especially since CA Title 24 energy requirements are already is very expensive to meet.

The house we are designing is about 4700 sf, single story, slab, R30 walls, R40 ceilings.. not quite PH but tight. HRV/ERV is Required so with all the debate on central ducted vs individual baths our solution becomes even murkier.

Add in that there is no NG and propane is very expensive, we will have a 7KW PV to take up as much slack as possible. So if anyone is familiar with this climate and has some cost-effective solutions I am all ears.
Marc

Answered by marc nehamkin
Posted Tue, 02/11/2014 - 22:14

41.
Helpful? 0

Marc,
I think you forgot to ask a question.

Maybe your (unasked) question concerns ventilation? It sounds (perhaps) as if you have decided to install an HRV or ERV, and are looking for some "cost-effective solutions."

Perhaps you can ask a specific question.

Answered by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor
Posted Wed, 02/12/2014 - 05:07

42.
Helpful? 0

Martin,

We have no choice but to install one or the other. My questions:

1. In this climate, which is best ERV vs HRV?
2. And the same one everyone else, how should I tie this into the 4 bathrooms... central or individual... the more I read above, the more confused I became as each case had some level of rationale.
Marc

Answered by marc nehamkin
Posted Wed, 02/12/2014 - 13:20

43.
Helpful? 0

Marc,
I don't think it matters very much whether you choose an HRV or an ERV. Here is my article on the topic: HRV or ERV?

You will save money if you use your HRV to exhaust air from your bathrooms (compared to installing individual exhaust fans in addition to an HRV). Most people who use HRVs to exhaust air from their bathrooms are perfectly satisfied with this approach.

The question about bathroom exhaust fans in homes with HRVs comes up every now and then here at GBA. Here is a link to a recent thread on the topic: For a house using an HRV, is there a good plan for ventilating both bath and toilet room (separated)?

Answered by Martin Holladay, GBA Advisor
Posted Wed, 02/12/2014 - 13:50

44.
Helpful? 0

Thanks Martin that was helpful. I need to check if t24 requires separate bathroom fans, if not the central with booster sound like an cost-effective/efficient solution.

Marc

Answered by marc nehamkin
Posted Wed, 02/12/2014 - 15:52

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