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Seeking Opinions on this Quote for a Zehnder ERV

Shaun A | Posted in General Questions on

Just received my quote back on my high end remodel and I was prepared and not shocked at least! It came back at $9,200 with the commissioning included. From those of you that have done the Zehnder system before is there anything that they try and sell you that you don’t need? My budget was around $8,000 for the ERV system. This is an 1,800 sqft first floor with a 700 sqft basement and 600 sqft of crawlspace. I know the customer support is what everyone talks about and I have already found this to be true. The sales rep has already said since this is your first one when you receive the product I will personally come to your job site and walk you through everything.

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Replies

  1. Matt F | | #1

    I think the cost of a Zehnder system is very hard to justify.

    You need between 40 and 80 CFM with your house, depending on which standard you use:
    https://www.energyvanguard.com/blog/62474/Lstiburek-Has-New-Ventilation-Standard-Resistance-May-Not-Be-Futile

    Check out the Panasonic Intelli-balance, which makes a lot of sense for your flow rates:
    https://na.panasonic.com/us/home-and-building-solutions/ventilation-indoor-air-quality/energy-recovery-ventilators

    1. Shaun A | | #2

      I have installed a Panasonic ERV before. But being this is a remodel and the unit will be retrofitted I like the ease of installation with their piping system. It’s going to be hard to get 6” piping where I need it to branch off for my supply and returns. Zehnder designed it at a total of 120cfm with boost switch’s on both bathrooms.

      1. Expert Member
        Akos | | #4

        For retrofit you can always home run to a standard ERV with ducting for high velocity systems like:
        https://highvelocityoutlets.com/collections/tubing/products/upc-280m-1

        These are pretty easy to fish through walls.

        For stale air pickups you might need two runs or tie into the house hvac return.

        Either way, much less then the quote even if you get one of the high end ERVs from VanEe.

    2. Kieran Lavelle | | #28

      Zehnder is in the business of fresh air and comfort. Anyone can make a standard based on cold numbers and biology, and any company can deliver a metal box with 2 fans and a heat exchanger that will deliver code minimum air flow.

      The numbers that Zehnder recommends are based not on the minimum required to live, but the amount of air to achieve a comfortable and fresh interior environment. It's all about comfort not about math. Zehnder's high efficiency is so the supplied air in winter is as close to interior temperature as possible - for occupant comfort. The proprietary ducting and distribution system is idiot-proof so the amount of air specified is the amount of air delivered - for occupant comfort. Standard MERV13 filtration - for occupant comfort. Super-quiet operation - you get the idea. Keep your junky panasonic.

  2. Tyson Godfrey | | #3

    I'm just installing my Zehnder unit now and there were a few things I found on my original quote that cut the cost down a little. You don't need the wifi module (ComfoConnect Lan C) unless you really care about using your smartphone to monitor the system. They also had an extra carbon filter and housing(ComfoWell) on my quote that I ended up removing. Switching to the ComfoFlex ducting (which also has the benefit of being UL listed) saved some on shipping since they were able to get my order on one pallet instead of two. I thought using a standard rocker switch for the bathroom boost would save some but you have to add an extra module (Optionbox CAQ). After adding the extra module it ended up being a wash compared to just using the Zehnder control panels. Depending on you climate you can also go without the pre-heater.

    1. beedigs | | #32

      did zehnder do all the load calculations etc (manual J, manual D, manual S) themselves and made recommendations, or did u also use a third party to determine the best unit? also, does going with a zehnder unit mean you get all the ducting that comes with the erv as a complete system?

      1. DavidSilva | | #36

        Comfoflex tubing or comfotube comes with quote. If you can’t mount the silencers and manifolds right up against the erv, then you’ll need rigid pipe, either 6 inch or 8 inch depending on size of manifold. I think 8 port and up is 8 inch and anything less is 6 inch. Comfoflex pipe is 3 inches and can fit between 2x4s but there’s not going to be much left of the wood after holesaw. I don’t believe they do manual j, d, or s but rather default to about 2 port diffusers for most rooms based on cfms needed per bedroom, bath, kitchen. Larger rooms will get 3 port diffusers. They ensure supply equals exhaust for balancing and the diffusers can be fine tuned dialed up or down for balancing by their commissioning agent.

  3. George Smith | | #5

    I have the ComfoConnect Lan C on my quote, as well. I do not wish to connect my house to the internet, so will bag that.

    Tyson, what are the control panels they spec'd for you? They spec'd rocker switches and Optionbox CAQ for me.

  4. AlexPoi | | #6

    Venmar has a pretty energy efficient new unit (X series) that is half the cost of the Zendher. 9k$ is just way too expensive for an ERV in my opinion.

    1. Shaun A | | #8

      The unit it’s self is not that expensive it’s all the piping, grille and displays/controls is what makes it expensive but also easy to install especially on a retrofit. Luckily for this job/client I budgeted $8k for an ERV already. I might be crazy but I am willing to pay the extra dollars for ease of installation, awesome customer support and commissioning at the final stage so I know it is running exactly the way it should.

      1. Lance Peters | | #18

        If you need their small diameter piping for installation and you're willing to pay for it (or charge your customer), then it might make sense. Adding a few thousand to an ERV budget on a larger project for someone else might make a lot more sense than it would if you were budgeting for your own project.

        Just know that you're paying for the name and the installation accessories, not so much for an ERV that's any better than competing product that cost less.

        On a new build with fewer installation restrictions Zehnder is VERY tough to justify.

        It would be interesting if Panasonic offered a similar suite of installation accessories at proportionally lower prices. I've compared their Intelli-Balance 100 with the Zehnder Comfo-200 ERV and they're almost identical in performance, yet the IB100 is about 1/3 the cost of the Zehnder unit. If Panasonic offered a small diameter piping system, some fancy control options and a flashy Passivhaus certification for 1/3 to 1/2 what Zehnder is offering they'd have a runaway hit. In my opinion.

        1. Shaun A | | #20

          I couldn't agree more! For a retrofit I think its going to worth the extra couple thousand for ease of installation! I wish Panasonic would come out with piping to match the Zehnder!

      2. T Carlson | | #19

        I would assume the sales rep will come help you not out of the goodness of his heart but because you are paying for it through his margin.

        Its a good sales tactic, and experienced customer support can be invaluable for complicated matters assuming that support is an expert in the product AND applications, most of the salesmen I run into barely get the first one. But it is not some sort of bonus, it is paid for somewhere in the sales process which ultimately ends up in the consumers final price. Sounds like you are the contractor so you must mark up the $9200, so your customers are paying an unbelievable amount of money to bring in and distribute outside air for a little bit of square footage high end or not.

        1. Aside from that, are Zehnder tubes basically smooth-wall insulation machine tube?

        2. Do you have a sales contract outlining the scope of work for the commissioning?

        1. Shaun A | | #21

          As far as I have seen the tubes are internal smooth wall and very flexible and fit inside a 3.5" cavity.

          I have not ordered yet so I do not have a contract or anything from them. As what I have been told from the rep is once it is installed they send a certified zehnder rep to the jobsite and he verifies all airflow cfm at each supply and return and makes sure the system is doing exactly what it is supposed to. I had asked the rep a few questions since this was my first install of their system and he said "If you would like once you get the system on site I will come to the job and personally walk you through the install. Yes I agree I am paying for it no matter what in the sale. I am the contractor and this is a cost plus (fixed fee) job so I am not marking the unit up.

          1. Lance Peters | | #22

            Here's a tech sheet on Comfotube:

            https://zehnderamerica.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/ComfoTube-2015.03.16.pdf

            Looks like they are 3" OD, 2.5" ID, and they recommend up to 19 cfm per tube (9.8 ft/s).

          2. T Carlson | | #24

            I think the tubing is interesting and a clever design, which you could adapt with any unit, do you know how much the tubing costs?

          3. George Smith | | #25

            Unfortunately, the Comfotube is not UL approved. Where that might be an issue, Zehnder will sell you their ComfoFlex duct for about $100/50 foot roll. It is slightly larger in diameter so doesn't work in a 3.5" cavity as well.

  5. Tyson Godfrey | | #7

    They spec Comfoswitch C67 for my bathroom switches. They were $110 each with a ComfoSplitter for $185. That may be cheaper than the Optionbox depending on how many bathrooms you have.

    1. Shaun A | | #9

      On my quote they have 1-connect LAN c, 1- C67 controller, 2- hardwired boost switches and the option box CAQ.

      I also have a section on the quote for Comfowell components.

      1. Tyson Godfrey | | #12

        It is the Comfowell Filter Casing that you don't need. You will need the rest of the Comfowell components to connect the tubing to the unit.

        The C-67 Controller is needed for either set up as this is your main controller for changing settings. The two C67 ComfoSwitches and Spliter would be around $405 (based off of my quote) While the two hardwired boost switches with Option Box CAQ would be $525. That would be another $120 or so you could save by switching to the Comfoswitch boost set up. You can see what the Comfoswitch looks like at https://www.epicair.co.uk/pre-c67-speed-controller-q350.html

      2. Tyson Godfrey | | #13

        It is the Comfowell Filter Casing that you don't need. You will need the rest of the Comfowell components to connect the tubing to the unit.

        The C-67 Controller is needed for either controller set up as this is your main controller for changing settings. The two C67 ComfoSwitches and Spliter would be around $405 (based off of my quote) While the two hardwired boost switches with Option Box CAQ would be $525. That would be another $120 or so you could save by switching to the Comfoswitch boost set up. You can see what the Comfoswitch looks like at https://www.epicair.co.uk/pre-c67-speed-controller-q350.html

    2. Tyson Godfrey | | #14

      It is the Comfowell Filter Casing that you don't need. You will need the rest of the Comfowell components to connect the tubing to the unit.

      The C-67 Controller is needed for either set up as this is your main controller for changing settings. The two C67 ComfoSwitches and Spliter would be around $405 (based off of my quote) While the two hardwired boost switches with Option Box CAQ would be $525. That would be another $120 or so you could save by switching to the Comfoswitch boost set up. You can see what the Comfoswitch looks like at https://www.epicair.co.uk/pre-c67-speed-controller-q350.html

    3. Tyson Godfrey | | #15

      It is the Comfowell Filter Casing that you don't need. You will need the rest of the Comfowell components to connect the tubing to the unit.

      The C-67 Controller is needed for either set up as this is your main controller for changing settings. The two C67 ComfoSwitches and Spliter would be around $405 (based off of my quote) While the two hardwired boost switches with Option Box CAQ would be $525. That would be another $120 or so you could save by switching to the Comfoswitch boost set up.

    4. Tyson Godfrey | | #16

      You can see what the Comfoswitch looks like at
      https://www.epicair.co.uk/pre-c67-speed-controller-q350.html

  6. DavidSilva | | #10

    Will need hrv in new build. Have leaned toward cerv2 or minotair because they recirc when/where appropriate rather than air changing at all times. But I haven’t done enough research for that to be anything but gut instinct at this early stage. Has anyone looked deeper? On related note, has anyone used booster fans for really long runs if central placement impossible? Thanks in advance.

    1. Trevor Lambert | | #11

      I'm having trouble understanding when/why you'd want to recirculate air with a device whose sole purpose is to introduce fresh air. I think the only reason the CERV2 and Minotair do it is because they are also heating/cooling. In most cases, the heating/cooling those units are able to provide do not allow you to replace another heating/cooling appliance. For that reason, it's very hard to justify the enormous cost premium they represent.

      1. DavidSilva | | #17

        You’re right in that I’ll still need minisplits. I haven’t looked at prices and perhaps the premium isn’t worth a long payback compared to simpler units. The recirc piece is supposed to be useful in that it’s smart enough to “understand” humidity and pull air from outside vs more humid parts of the house. It’s also supposed to be smart enough to recirc/pause rather than pull from outside if the indoor air is sufficiently healthy and void of VOCs, good humidity, etc. I’m oversimplifying from what I remember of the webinars. Apologies to all if there are any misstatements. All suggestions are welcome.

    2. Kieran Lavelle | | #29

      David,
      It's best to separate your fresh air delivery from your heating/cooling. Flow rates are different and there's different ducting requirements.

  7. Stephen Sheehy | | #23

    Zehnder designed our system and specified the parts. When it was done, almost everything was used and we didn't need to get anything more. My installer, who had never put in a Zehnder system, said it was easy. It's been running non stop for almost five years without a hitch. Filter replacement is a snap.

    1. Deleted | | #31

      Deleted

    2. beedigs | | #33

      did zehnder do all the load calculations etc (manual J, manual D, manual S) themselves and made recommendations, or did u also use a third party to determine the best unit? also, does going with a zehnder unit mean you get all the ducting that comes with the erv as a complete system? new build for me

      1. Charlie Sullivan | | #34

        They do a full system design, but it's not per those manuals as it's not a heating/cooling system.

        They will work up a quote for you including the ducting, etc., but you can choose to buy whichever of the line items you want and source some parts elsewhere if you want. But it's very convenient to use their whole system.

        I have some leftover Zehnder tubing that I'd sell inexpensively to free up space in my Central NH (bordering VT) shed.

        1. Karl B (Zone 6A) | | #43

          Hi Charlie,
          We're moving in the direction of a Zehnder install, and I'd be happy to purchase whatever leftover tubing you have. We're next door in Vermont. Any chance it's still available?

  8. Trevor Lambert | | #26

    Not sure what all these switches and control modules are that amount to hundreds of dollars. If you can run wires, the boost switches are nothing more than a momentary, normally open switch. The ones I got from Zehnder were about $20, and I'm sure you can find ones even cheaper than that.

  9. Chad M | | #27

    I (owner installed) a comfoair 350 system in 1/2 new construction(new 2nd floor) and 1/2 remodel(1st floor) and it went really well 6-7 years ago. Used their comfotube 75 white tubes and silencer, and distribution boxes. They designed it and then commissioned it after I installed it and balanced everything at the vents and adjusted main unit. My remodeling contractor was able to get a contractor discount. Hope that still exists. She runs like a champ 24/7.

  10. Joe Roman | | #30

    I am curious if anyone has done a side by side or better yet, real world, comparison for the Zehnder vs. Minotair?

  11. Ric Soares | | #35

    To backup your numbers: I just got my Zehnder quote as well for a similar home.
    Small (low ceiling) 2,200SF home but only 1,890SF of the home is conditioned/Zehnder affected. 6 exhaust locations over 2-1/2 floors (basement & attic included).
    About $9,500 inc. commissioning.
    I'm going to research if I can substitute with 2-3 separate smaller units because I can't imagine finding the room in the walls in this incredibly space-tight home for what amounts to 24! line runs (each 24cfm run needs 2 lines).
    Also having 2-3 units may help control when I turn on/off or boost my systems.
    My basement includes a gym & in-law suite so if I'm not using it for a week or so - I should be able to shut it down without shutting down the rest of the home.

    1. Mark Nagel | | #37

      Ric, any chance you could show a break-down of their quote?

      I'm interested in the sizing (I'm looking at a new build, in which case I have a bit more control over how I can make things fit).

      1. Ric Soares | | #41

        I can definitely post that if it doesn't break any rules. It's America so I imagine that are all kinds of rules against me doing anything anywhere. Could I get GBA editor's feedback on sharing pricing quote?

    2. Johngfc | | #38

      Ric -
      If you seriously look into alternatives, please post another thread. Our situation is very similar: ~ 2,000 sf, all essential space on one floor, eventually we'll partially finish basement - do we go with one larger or multiple smaller ERVs? Zehnder or Panasonic?

      1. Ric Soares | | #40

        Right now I am leaning towards Panasonic. Their new 100 model now has a boost switch which looks leasy to wire w/ a regular electrical switch. It also has a standby switch so that you can turn off operations without cutting power to it (this is important so that the unit knows to and has power to close the exterior intake damper) where I'm not sure that the Zehnder has an off switch. A single Panasonic unit costs less than 1/3 of a whole-house Zehnder so it might be nice for me to be able to zone the ERV system to the house by floor since floor usage is typically day-seasonal (attic at night, main floor during the day, basement for special occasions). I'm not 100% sold on the Panisonic, I like its simplicity and price and wattage but not crazy about the efficiency. In theory it might be better to have a less efficient unit that is easy to zone and time (run only for 12 hours vs 24 hours) than a more efficient full time system that costs 2-3x as much.

      2. Ric Soares | | #48

        I ended up installing the Panasonic 100CFM model. I went with two units (one for each floor). I love it. Couldn't be happier. The outdoor air is tempered like magic even when it's below freezing outside I barely feel a difference with my hand up against the supply. They are silent (can be in a bedroom ceiling silent) as long as you don't restrict the supply end. Try upsizing the supply duct to 8" if possible or at least 6" with 2-3' straight run out of the unit. I love having the two separate zones on separate schedules almost more than I love the $7k savings from going with the all-home Zehnder. Any fears that I had about the Panasonic not being as efficient are gone now that I am experiencing winter w/ these working units. Love Love Love it.

    3. MaineLaxRef | | #39

      If you are really interested in smaller units, check out the Lunos option. I am building a similar size home and was quoted 4 pairs of Lunos e2 for $4100. I would need another $850 for each bathroom for Lunos eGO.
      There are significant savings due to using zero ductwork, but there are 10 6" wall penetrations versus 2 8" penetrations for a ducted ERV.

      1. Ric Soares | | #42

        I looked into this and seemed promising for at least my basement where I only need one single supply/return BUT HERE'S THE PROBLEMS that I have w/ the Lunos:
        1. Doesn't look like it has a damper of any kind and the design doesn't lend easily to adding a damper this means a 6" hole in your wall 24/7.
        2. I always exhaust in the bathrooms above the shower and near the toilet; the Lunos is like a lung - not like a vacuum; last thing I want is the Lunos positively pressurizing the bathroom (it's like doing your buisness upwind or upstream). Timing my movements w/ the suction/supply of the Lunos fan is unrealistic.

        1. David Argilla | | #44

          The Lunos Ego has an exhaust only mode. And if I understand it correctly, the Ego doesn't pressurize a room in it's normal ventilation mode either, as there are two fans, one exhausting interior air while the other brings in fresh air.

  12. CarsonB | | #45

    I think it would be extremely helpful to have a community driven "buying guide" wiki page that is constantly updated with new products and pricing with pros/cons. This is common in retail for things like computers/cameras/tvs/etc. Right now this information is scattered over many QA posts and a few multi-year old articles. For ERVs alone I heard that panasonic is coming out with a 200 cfm intellibalance, and Broan has a new self-balancing line of ERVs called "AI" that seems compelling for DIY installs on a budget.

  13. Chris Baskett | | #46

    I like the Panasonic and may get one to bridge the time gap with ordering a Zehnder (6+ months), and I have a place to put it later if I change over.

    However, my big problem with Panasonic is no HRV! Am I wrong? They even have one that looks like it is supposed to be a bathroom fan replacement but it is the wrong kind - it is an ERV. Are people using ERV’s in bathrooms? I suppose maybe in super-crazy humid areas as opposed to humid areas. I wonder if the ultimate solution is an incoming air in-line dehumidifier with HRV for bathrooms. Not sure.

    Also, people are saying that the Zehnder is basically equal to the other systems and just costs more because of the name. I don’t think so. While not warranting all of the additional cost, they have a lot of features like outside air direct cooling that is very appealing to me on days where our windows are heating the house up and its not so hot outside. There are a lot of little things they get right and I’ve heard they are the best in the business for very cold air and staying functional. Also, the additional ground loop system is very cool, but also very expensive. Their people admit it isn’t necessarily worth it only because of cost, but if in extreme hot or cold it can provide a payback. (Also, if you can dig your own trench then that totally changes the equation). Replaceable core ERV-HRV if your situation changes winter to summer. Lots of things that are rare.

    I think there is still a markup, but I am just saying I don’t agree they are equal to the other ones.

    One thing they don’t do as far as I know that CERV does (uniquely?) that is very interesting is having an open/closed electronic gate system to focus on different parts of the house at different times. CERV does also has a ground loop pre-heater/pre-cooler.

    Edit - adding efficiency:
    It is very hard to compare efficiency, but here goes:

    Pan IntBa 100l: 85 cfm w/32 degF incoming = 75

    Pan IntBal 200: 67 cfm w/32 degF incoming: 83
    Pan IntBal 200: 124 cfm w/32 degF incoming: 77

    Zen Q600: 59 cfm unk temp HRV = 93
    Zen Q600: 118 cfm unk temp HRV = 91
    Zen Q600: 59 cfm unk temp ERV = 89
    Zen Q600: 118 cfm unk temp ERV = 83

    Panasonic won’t say what the efficiency is at 100, highest they provide is 85. There are other variables that I’m not sure are the same in the above data.

  14. PhilipFresh | | #47

    We are introducing a new system in the US and Canada this summer, the Fresh-r , you can find more info on http://www.fresh-r.eu
    It's a decentralised system that is small and only works when needed. The system continuously messures Co2, Humidity, PM and temperature and will take care of the indoor air quality. Rewarded by the passive house institute.
    Feel free to contact me if you want more info: [email protected]

    1. C L | | #49

      @Philip: Interesting info. Can the exterior wall unit be installed horizontally near the top of the wall, or horizontally on a ceiling to a vented attic (perhaps with ducted vents?) or is vertical installation required?

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