GBA Logo horizontal Facebook LinkedIn Email Pinterest Twitter Instagram YouTube Icon Navigation Search Icon Main Search Icon Video Play Icon Audio Play Icon Headphones Icon Plus Icon Minus Icon Check Icon Print Icon Picture icon Single Arrow Icon Double Arrow Icon Hamburger Icon TV Icon Close Icon Sorted Hamburger/Search Icon

Community and Q&A

ERV recommendations

Trevor Lambert | Posted in Mechanicals on

Hi, I need to make a fairly quick decision on an ERV. The house build is many months behind schedule, and the builder has fallen off the map so it looks like this part of the project I may have to contract out to someone else. Before the builder disappeared, we were in line to get a Jablotron Futura (formerly Air Pahoda). They really pushed this brand, and I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t do any research in ERVs, so I don’t even know for sure it’s any good (we were told by them it’s the best, the reasons for which I didn’t delve into, again to my discredit). So with other options available, what would be some good choices? The house is about 2400 square feet on two levels, passive house design with in floor heating. There’s also passive ground loop, basically just three long coils of poly pipe buried 4 feet below the slab, which needs to be integrated into the ERV setup to pre-condition the air. I have no idea if that’s standard for an ERV, or that was a particular feature for which the Futura was originally chosen. Other than that, the obvious considerations are operating cost, recovery efficiency, noise, automatic balancing, etc. Getting several options would be great, since I’m sure not all will be available in my area (Southwest Ontario).

GBA Prime

Join the leading community of building science experts

Become a GBA Prime member and get instant access to the latest developments in green building, research, and reports from the field.

Replies

  1. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #1

    Trevor,
    There are only two ERV manufacturers that support the use of a buried glycol loop: Ultimate Air and Zehnder. Those are your two choices.

    For more information, see Using a Glycol Ground Loop to Condition Ventilation Air.

  2. Trevor Lambert | | #2

    Thanks for the info. So you are saying that the unit my builder was going to install isn't even compatible with the ground loop that he installed?

  3. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #3

    Trevor,
    The last time I checked, the Air Pohoda distributor in Colorado (Daryl Jacobson) had closed up shop, and the Air Pohoda was no longer available in the U.S.

    I have never heard of the Jablotron Futura.

    The Air Pohoda is (or was) manufactured in the Czech Republic.

  4. Trevor Lambert | | #4

    According to my builder, he is the sole supplier of Jablotron in Canada (I can't remember if he said the US as well, but I think he did). All evidence points to it being the same company as Air Pahoda. I found a test report from a third party (ETELAB), listing the customer as Air Pahoda, with the same address as what the Jablotron website lists. The model they tested was listed as Futura.
    https://www.jablotronlt.com/en

  5. Trevor Lambert | | #5

    Just some new info I discovered. The Futura does not directly support the use of a preconditioning loop. The builder was going to install a separate radiator, pump and controller. How smart that is, I don't know. I've had to fire him anyway, for unrelated reasons. I would say that for all intents and purposes, the Futura is not available anywhere in North America.

  6. Lance Peters | | #6

    It would make sense to use the ground loop if it's already there. Pre-conditioning intake air would work with any ERV, but would be a custom installation.

    We are building a 3000 sqft house in Ottawa, the ERV I'm looking into most is the Panasonic Intelli-Balance 100. It's reasonably affordable, very efficient, and has nice pressure balancing options. Should you decide to use it without pre-conditioning your intake air, the cold climate version works very well even at low temperatures and has a relatively unobtrusive defrost cycle.

    Of course there are many many ERV options. Deciding on one shouldn't be too difficult, just make sure it meets the ASHRAE 2010 ventilation requirements (CFM = (bedrooms+1 x 7.5) + (sqft x .01)) as well as any efficiency requirements listed in your energy efficiency compliance package (part of your Ontario building permit).

  7. Stephen Sheehy | | #7

    We have a Zehnder HRV. It was expensive, about $6000 installed. It has operated flawlessly for almost three years. It's quiet and efficient. My hvac guy was impressed with how well it went together.

  8. Trevor Lambert | | #8

    I think I'm comfortable installing the ERV and ducts. I'm not comfortable doing the custom install of the heat exchanger, pumps and controller for the loop. I think my chances of finding someone capable of doing that are somewhere between slim and none.

  9. Trevor Lambert | | #9

    Can anyone shed any light on comparing the "effective heat recovery rate" as reported by the Passive House Institute (nHR, eff) and any of the commonly used specs elsewhere (e.g. sensible recovery effectiveness, total recovery efficiency)? I get the impression Zehnder is the best, but also the most expensive. Very difficult to make decision on whether the extra cost is worth it without numbers.

    1. Rafati | | #21

      The main difference is from the standard used for rating. In North America standard CSA 439 is used for rating of ERV and HRV systems while in Europe EN 308 or Passive house standard. For the North American products, you can search HVI directory which lists all the product ratings. SRE or sensible recovery efficiency is used for sensible energy and latent recovery is for moisture transfer. nHR in passivehouse certificates have relatively similar formula to SRE, however it doesn't account for leakage and cabinet heat loss. In other words, The same system under two standards show slightly higher nHR in passivehouse than SRE.

  10. Andrew Bater | | #10

    "Jablotron Futura" sounds like the name of a distant planet in a Star Wars movie, that is not a great moniker.

    The materials on their website are very thorough, capabilities are wonderful. Maybe some company in North America should re-badge this unit for sale here. It's pretty cool.

  11. Trevor Lambert | | #11

    I'm guessing Jablotron doesn't sound as ridiculous in Czech as it does in English. It is a nice looking unit, but I don't think you can legally re-badge something without the company's consent.

  12. Andrew Bater | | #12

    I wasn't articulate with my remark Trevor. Yes, what I was really suggesting is that Jablotron partner with a US company that could help them with branding and marketing.

    For example, I believe that the HRV line that Honeywell offers (offered?) is actually made by another company in Canada.

    I am sure if I tried to market a product in Czechoslovakia I would choose a bum name too. So many funny instances of this going wrong cross border, like the apparently apocryphal Chevy Nova / Mexico story.

  13. Trevor Lambert | | #13

    I don't think Jablotron is interested in distributing in the US. From what I hear they were fed up with problems they attributed to installers back when they were Air Pahoda and had a distributer there, so they gave the middle finger salute and closed up shop. If someone was really interested in one, I have contact info for the guy who imported 20 of them into Canada. But honestly, you'd be lucky to get him to return a phone call. I haven't been able to.

  14. Trevor Lambert | | #14

    Lance, I did some reading on the Panasonic unit. I'm not sure it can handle a 3000 square foot house. I'm not even sure it could handle my 2400 sqaure foot house. The formula you used is not quite correct. It should be number of occupants times 7.5, not bedrooms (or bedrooms+1, if occupancy is not determined). The other part of the equation, .01 is an outdated value. The most recent one is .03, which is meant to account for the better air sealing of modern high performance homes. For my house that comes out to 103.5CFM. For a 3000', even if you just had two bedrooms it comes out to 112.5. The Panasonic tops out at about 96, and from what I can tell the efficiency starts to drop off on most models as you get closer to the max throughput. It's too bad, because the price is certainly attractive and you can actually buy the thing as a man on the street. I was impressed by the vanEE G2400E, but so far two suppliers have refused to deal with me because I'm not a licensed contractor. I'd be ok with going through a licensed contractor, but so far I haven't found one capable of handling the job.

  15. Andrew Bater | | #15

    That is too bad re Jablotron/Air Pahoda and their experiences here. Perhaps someone, like the folks in Maine who import the Siga Tapes, will re-initiate a relationship and pick them up.

    It makes me wonder what the balance of trade is like for energy efficient building products, North America versus Europe. We know some high performance windows come from Europe, do any US windows go there? Somehow I suspect the overall balance, while small, is quite lopsided. Might be a fun matrix to create.

  16. Lance Peters | | #16

    Hi Trevor,

    I double checked with the City of Ottawa officials just two weeks ago regarding ventilation requirements. They claim the 2013 standard is only a recommendation and that the 2010 standard, as I referenced, is what's being enforced by permit officials. I was also told that occupancy was determined by the number of bedrooms +1 (assumes two in the master) since city officials cannot verify who will occupy the home at build completion or in the future.

    Per the 2010 ASHRAE requirement:

    Four bedroom 3000 sqft build (7.5 x 5) + (3000 x .01) = 67.5 CFM
    Four bedroom 2400 sqft build (7.5 x 5) + (2400 x .01) = 61.5 CFM

    You may want to ask your city officials to be sure of which ventilation requirement you need to meet. Also, after doing tons of reading on the subject, it would seem that many building science types disagree with the higher 2013 ventilation requirements.

    Regarding Zehnder ventilators. I have absolutely no doubt that they are a top-notch product. Many people report excellent performance and results using them, and according to those who've installed them the hardware and plumbing is robust and well thought out.

    Having said that, my personal opinions follow.

    1. I am skeptical of ANY company that refuses to report performance data in a comparable format to competing products. They only provide their PHI certificates which provide little if any data that can be used to objectively compare the performance of their equipment.

    The certificate states "Further information can be found in the appendix of this certificate", but the appendix is not published. Using their Comfoair200 as an example, it's rated at 92% efficiency. Great, but at what airflow rate? Surely it's at the unit's minimum airflow, so how does it perform where people will actually use it? Who knows. It seems to me they rely on that exclusive certification and lots of marketing to sell their product.

    2. After researching the performance specifications (flow vs. efficiency) of cross-flow and counter-flow exchanger cores, as well as published papers from Zehnder, I have a hard time believing their exchangers perform significantly better than other high performing options. Given their premium price point, I'm not sure they could ever be justified financially.

    3. Their unique duct system offers some advantages like fitting in thin wall sections, and is built well and installs nicely. However, their ducts are not insulated which may or may not be a concern for some installations, and since their system uses multiple small diameter ducts instead of fewer large diameter ducts, fan energy use could be higher for a given amount of airflow (higher surface area to cross section ratio). This is likely not a big deal as they use very efficient fans, but it's something to note all the same. Reports indicate their ductwork is also responsible for a large portion of the installed cost.

    4. They do not just sell you a unit; there is no retail pricing available. To get a quote requires sending in a copy of your house plans and then they get in touch with you and set you up with a local installer. This all smells like a "boutique" sales model to me, adding layers to the marketing of their product. With other systems you can order off the internet and it shows up at your door. Do with it what you will, no need to over-complicate a relatively simple household appliance.

    As I said, these are just my thoughts, nothing more, after doing some rather extensive research into home ventilation. I'm sure Zehnder makes a top-shelf product, and it seems they charge top-shelf pricing as well. Personally, I don't imagine it's worth it unless you absolutely have to have a PHI certified ventilation system.

    The Panasonic IB-100 is very attractive to me as it offers top-shelf performance, nice operating features, as well as reasonable pricing and availability. They are also a well established brand who are highly regarded for their line of ventilation fans.

    Another ERV I considred is the Renewaire EV90P which is essentially a small ERV with the core of a much larger unit, bringing efficiency up to 80%. It is also reasonably priced, but does not offer the pressure balancing and variable flow controls of the Panasonic.

    Food for thought.

  17. Jon R | | #17

    I'd read a few things like below and consider if you want a ERV(s) that can optionally ventilate at better than code levels. Operation doesn't cost much, especially in milder weather. Also consider high ventilation rates in the master bedroom (almost certainly has high occupancy hours per cubic foot and therefor a good health/cost ratio).

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3279453/

  18. Trevor Lambert | | #18

    Zehnder has their ERVs listed on the HVI product directory, so they do have comparable stats available. They told me not only will they sell to me directly, they couldn't even offer installation. Perhaps this is only because I'm in Canada. In contrast, I can't get vanEE to sell me an ERV, they insist I go through a distributor. The distributors won't sell to me because I'm not a licensed contractor. So it seems like vanEE's business model is to let potential customers hire contractors and just sit there and hope that the contractor chooses to push their product. Doesn't make much sense to me.

  19. Jerry Chwang | | #19

    Really late to this thread, but I had a not so great experience with Air Pohoda / Jablotron about 3 or 4 years ago here in Toronto, Canada. Purchased a Air Pohoda unit because it had such great performance numbers, but due to construction delays, only installed the ducting but didn't turn on the unit itself until a couple of years after I received it. The unit powered up and initialized but something in the control board wasn't right and we never got it running. By then, AIr Pohoda had folded and the Canadian importer from Kingston, ON also wouldn't return my calls (probably the same person that Trevor is referring to). Daryl J. from the US was great and gave me the background on what happened in the US, but that's another story.

    About 2 years ago, I found the original inventor / founder online as his company was bought by Jablotron. He seemed nice enough when I first contacted him and explained my issues. Even offered to ship a control board and I considered using a Jablotron for my basement when I finished it. However, after a few emails and phone calls to troubleshoot the issue, he basically said that my engineer and electrician were idiots and he refused to work with us. Never shipped the board, and didn't reply to any further emails.

    Though I thought the tech was great, it goes to show that there is risk with overseas companies and startups that you have to be prepared to take a hit (a few thousand $). So the Air Pohoda is still sitting in my basement and I bought a temporary solution (Lifebreath) off kijiji. Still looking for a high efficiency unit and was considering Zehnder. If anyone is in the Toronto area, maybe we can meet up and compare notes.

    1. Rafati | | #20

      Hello Jerry,

      I recently was researching on high efficiency ERV systems in North America. Someone recommended me Air Pohoda systems and saw your post. I have been in ERV industry in the since 2014 mainly focused on exchanger and its performance testing mainly in commercial building sector. I was quite impressed with the experts feedback in this thread.
      I may be able to connect you to one of my people in my network (CORE energy recovery Solutions) in Vancouver which is a core manufacture or other manufacturers specialized in ERV systems in Canada if you are interested. Also, I am wondering if you had any luck with Air Pohoda system. You can find me on Linkedin
      https://www.linkedin.com/in/mohammad-rafati/

Log in or create an account to post an answer.

Community

Recent Questions and Replies

  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |