Efficient HVAC Gets Stylish

Efficient HVAC Gets Stylish


Continental Fans in-line bath fans can each be used with two ventilation points allowing one fan to vent the bathroom and shower areas.

Stylish isn’t typically used to describe the most utilitarian of home systems: heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems. How they look haven’t mattered. But with efficiency in vogue, today’s innovative HVAC products epitomize the new home style—even when the working parts remain beyond view.

Among the systems that have managed to merge cool form with energy-saving functions include smart thermostats that become the hubs of home control, fans that cool and dehumidify, and even look good doing it. This is a new breed of systems can replace AC and furnace heat as we know them.

 

Quiet and Cool

QC’s QuietCool whole-house fans are coming in style, thanks to regulations like California’s energy efficiency Title 24 building code. The fans operate on the principle of “thermal mass cooling” by drawing cooler outside air through the system and into the attic and then out the attic vents. Lower-level windows need to remain open for proper ventilation. The fans take 30 minutes to install in new home construction, once the home is framed but before drywall is installed. The entire system consists of a fan motorhead and housing that hangs suspended in the attic, a 6-foot acoustical duct that acts as the chief sound-dampening component within the system, and a ceiling box and dampener system that is installed at the ceiling drywall grade. The dampener system relies on gravity, not a motor, to work and provides and R5 insulation value with zero blowback from attic to home (there is also a winter insert that increases the R value to R50).


Pssst: Whole House Fans Get Quiet


Smartly Dressed

Va-va-voom! Trane’s XL824 thermostat also allows remote access and control of connected home systems such as garage door openers, indoor and outdoor cameras, motion sensors, door and window sensors, and door locks and deadbolt. That makes it the hub for the Nexia Home Intelligence system, and can be controlled from an Android phone (Nexia is too cool for an iPhone, apparently.) A built-in wireless bridge allows management of a smart home’s features through a broadband Internet connection and phone or tablet app (there is a monthly subscription). The colorful 4.3-inch touchscreen shows indoor temperature and relative humidity, the five-day weather forecast and radar, and allows up to six daily heating and cooling schedules.

 

Whew! Dehumidify Us

Heat exchangers are the rage this year and here comes Ultra-Aire with dehumidifiers that integrate with the home’s heating and cooling system. It’s also a heat exchanger, which pre-cools the incoming air stream, allowing the air to reach the dew point in less time, which pulls more water out of the air than conventional dehumidifiers. The systems provide whole-house dehumidification either with AC or dedicated duct work. An optional fresh air duct provides ventilation, assuring compliance with local requirements and national standards including ASHRAE 62.2. All units feature built-in MERV 11 filtration. Ultra-Aire whole-house ventilating dehumidifiers are typically installed by a licensed heating and cooling contractor. Builder pricing ranges from $900 to $2,500. The dehumidifiers are controlled by a programmable wall-mounted unit.  

Matt Risinger of Risinger Homes in Austin, Texas, installs Ultra-Aire dehumidifiers in all the homes he builds.  “In the hot/humid South, no HVAC system is complete without a dehumidifier. The dehumidifier is critical for comfort.” He adds that the units are easy to install and plug into the existing ductwork while only requiring a 120v outlet.

 

Slick Heat

Think hydronic heat is hot? How about ground-source heat and solar thermal? AllTherm’s SolarLogic Integrated Controller takes them all on. This bad boy controls multiple sources of hydronic heat, including solar thermal, ground source heat pumps, or a boiler. The control board replaces conventional controls and control wiring, including switching relays for pumps, zone valve controls, transformers, and of course set-point and differential controls with a single, computerized system that can be operated from anywhere in the world. AllTherm provides a standardized design and plumbing configuration, saving design time and money. The SLIC (sweet acronym huh?) can operate up to 10 heating zones, two collector banks, DHW, storage, boiler, ice-melt, pool, or a spa – without the need to program the system.

A spa warmed by geothermal heat? That’s so cool it’s Icelandic. 

Two-for-One Fan

Continental Fan's AXC fan has enough power to ventilate two points.

Continental Fan’s two new in-line bath fans can each be used with two ventilation points. One fan mounted in the duct has enough power to exhaust from two grilles and can exhaust two to four times the amount of air than traditional ceiling bath fans. AXC and AXP fans can provide direct shower ventilation. AXC fans go from 147 CFM for the 4-inch fan, up to 1400 CFM (14-inch can).  The AXP fans run from 162 CFM (4-inch fan) up to 837 CFM (12-inch fan). All sizes have variable speeds down to 50 percent. Both models incorporate an external rotor motor with permanently lubricated bearings. Both models operate on 120v. The AXC fans are HVI and Energy Star qualified.



Ventilate with Energy

Energy Recovery Ventilators (ERVs) are great ways to circulate fresh air through a house—while transferring heat and humidity from the incoming or outgoing airstream to the other (depending on the season) to help to condition a space. That saves energy and money used by other HVAC systems.

Many ERVs use four ports for incoming air, air to be recycled. But Carrier’s Comfort Series Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV) has a unique two-duct system and can be mounted to a furnace or ductwork. If that doesn’t make your drool, the Comfort Series ERV does not require a separate wall control, allowing for easy integration into existing home systems. And the unit’s small cabinet dimensions make the product more compact than others on the market, a benefit for today’s newly constructed homes. It’s so cool it gives us the chills—in a well-ventilated way, of course. Figure on $1,000 install costs.

 

 

 

 

About The Author

Casey Meserve is a TecHome Builder Staff Writer, creating investigative and timely articles for its eMagazine and Special Reports. She graduated from Bridgewater State University with a master’s degree in English in 2011. She began her writing career in 2005 as a reporter for Community Newspaper Company and later GateHouse Media. From 2010 to 2013, she worked as an editor at AOL Patch.

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