Green Mechanical Systems
Green Mechanical Systems Save Water, Deliver Clean Air, and Lower Utility Costs
Bird's eye view
Over its lifetime, a house and its occupants use a huge amount of energy and water. Good mechanical systems can help conserve
Using less water and energy is good for the environment and public health and lowers the cost of living in a house. The energy and water used by a home over its lifetime dwarfs the amount used to build it, so efficient houses can have a very lasting effect.
In a tight, super-insulated house, mechanical systems need to be sized right. Green homes have efficient equipment to provide heating, cooling, and domestic hot water. Ideally, heating and cooling equipment will rarely even operate.
Green plumbing systems use a water-conserving layout, waste-water heat recovery, and gray water recovery. Clothes washers and dishwashers, if any, are highly efficient.
Rather than relying on a leaky shell for "fresh air," green homes use mechanical ventilation to deliver fresh air and take away stale air. There's no mold in a green house because the moisture level is right for people, wrong for mold.
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MECHANICAL SYSTEM PARTS
All of the systems can work together to use less energy
The mechanical systems distribute water and energy. If the design is thought-out, the mechanical systems will perform very efficiently, so they won't waste as much energy as regular systems. Mechanical equipment works most efficiently in a tightly sealed, well insulated house.
There are several ways to cut energy use — air-conditioning equipment, appliances, lighting systems, even plumbing layouts can save energy. The mechanical system offers a lot of possibilities for improvement:
Efficiency first, renewable energy second. After the envelope is tight and the demand for power has been cut down, some homeowners may want to consider the installation of photovoltaic(PV) Generation of electricity directly from sunlight. A photovoltaic cell has no moving parts; electrons are energized by sunlight and result in current flow. panels, solar water heaters, or wind generators. In most cases, however, energy conservation is far more cost-effective than energy generation.
Save water by building the right system
There are several ways to ensure that mechanical equipment helps save water:
Clean air comes with a tight house, no fumes, and good ventilation
For a green building to have clean indoor air:
The building's shell must be as airtight as possible.
Combustion devices, such as the furnace and gas water heater should be power vented or sealed combustionCombustion system for space heating or water heating in which outside combustion air is fed directly into the combustion chamber and flue gasses are exhausted directly outside. to avoid backdraftingIndoor air quality problem in which potentially dangerous combustion gases escape into the house instead of going up the chimney..
Indoor finish materials that outgas harmful fumes should be avoided.
The building's ventilation system must exhaust air from rooms with sources of air pollution.
The building's ventilation system must provide and distribute adequate amounts of fresh outdoor air.
WHAT'S RIGHT WITH THESE PICTURES?
The interior surfaces promote clean air:
• Wood floors are easy to clean.
• No carpet for dust mites to colonize.
• Low-VOCVolatile organic compound. An organic compound that evaporates readily into the atmosphere; as defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, VOCs are organic compounds that volatize and then become involved in photochemical smog production. paint.
• Solid-wood furniture (not particleboard).
• Range hood is vented directly outside.
Fresh air throughout the house:
• Cathedral ceiling with ceiling fan moves air between floors.
• Return-air grille is located centrally.
• Transfer grilles above the bedroom doors allow air cycling when the doors are closed.
ABOUT GREEN MECHANICAL SYSTEMS
The primary job of the mechanical system is to deliver comfort to people: warm air, cool air, hot and cold running water. Mechanical system parts include everything that has pipes, wires, or ductwork.
Green mechanical systems don't waste energy or water and they keep the indoor air fresh. They do all of that because they're designed to work in well-insulated and tightly built houses. Mechanical systems aren’t independent stand-alone systems; the design of the plumbing and electrical systems and the type and size of the HVAC(Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning). Collectively, the mechanical systems that heat, ventilate, and cool a building. system depend on a range of factors including the building envelopeExterior components of a house that provide protection from colder (and warmer) outdoor temperatures and precipitation; includes the house foundation, framed exterior walls, roof or ceiling, and insulation, and air sealing materials., the climate, the size of the house, orientation, etc. Even with a tight, efficient envelope, a structure won’t reach its efficiency potential unless the mechanical systems are chosen and installed properly.
Give equipment a chance to work efficiently. Air conditioners and air-source heat pumps have outside heat exchangers that rely on a free flow of air. When the equipment is boxed in by a small enclosure or trapped behind dense foliage it won't work as well.
Base equipment choices on ACCA manuals, not estimates. Some HVAC contractors, especially those who have been in business for a long time, may be tempted to size heating and cooling equipment by educated guess. Over-sizing equipment is common. Systems should be designed with the help of three essential guides from the Air Conditioning Contractors of America: Manuals J, S and D. They cover heating and cooling loads, system size and duct design, respectively. Systems that are designed with these calculations in mind will run more efficiently and save energy.
Computer simulations are another option for calculating cooling loads.
MORE ABOUT GREEN MECHANICAL SYSTEMS
Mechanical system parts
Mechanical systems consume energy and natural resources during the lifespan of the house, so your choices should be guided with an eye toward conservation.
Heating systems keep people comfortable in winter, heat water, and do so efficiently. The type of heating system can be based on the type of space to be heated, the climate, and available fuels.
Cooling systems are optional, but when specified must be properly sized to insure that the system operates efficiently. Green choices include ceiling fans, whole-house fans, or evaporative coolers. Houses that include air conditioning should choose energy-efficient systems that use refrigerants like R-410a that don’t have the potential to harm the ozone layer. Oversized equipment doesn't operate properly in a tight house, resulting in cold, clammy air.
Mechanical ventilation. Insulation, windows, orientation, and shading affect mechanical equipment performance and operating costs. To keep a living space healthy, however, a house with a tight envelope needs mechanical ventilation to bring in fresh air and expel stale air, humid air, or air filled with contaminants. Greener ventilation systems include heat recovery.
Plumbing systems include both water supply and waste water; most opportunities for improving performance are on the supply side. Use low-flow fixtures to conserve water and in arid regions especially consider plumbing the system to use gray water for irrigation.
Electrical usage can be reduced by selecting efficient appliances and lamps, reducing phantom loads, and incorporating day-lighting strategies that reduce the need for artificial light. Once these measures have been performed, photovoltaic(PV) Generation of electricity directly from sunlight. A photovoltaic cell has no moving parts; electrons are energized by sunlight and result in current flow. modules or a wind generator may be worth considering.
- Don Mannes/Fine Homebuilding
- Daniel Morrison / Fine Homebuilding
Oct 7, 2012 8:59 AM ET
Oct 7, 2012 8:31 AM ET
Apr 23, 2012 9:02 AM ET
Apr 23, 2012 6:12 AM ET