HVAC Choices for “Zero Energy” Homes

Eveyone has asked the question “So what kind of HVAC system do you put in a house that is supposed to, at the end of the year, use ZERO energy?” at one time or another. This article by Gord Cooke, which was originally published in Mechanical Business, September 2014, answers that question in detail…

Well, of course, that may sound like an oxymoron and at least isn’t a very fair question. But it is worth considering the optimization of HVAC options for what has been referred up till recently as Net-Zero energy homes. The nomenclature may be changing due to an initiative by the Department of Energy in the US. In looking at better ways to communicate the value proposition of homes that, on average, only use as much as they are able to produce themselves on site, they are considering the term Zero Energy homes. Lets not get caught up in this article in the long debate as to exactly how to define “zero energy”; does it include all energy use, big screen TVs, long showers, should it be carbon neutral, should it include power or fuel transmission losses? Moreover, I am not talking about the in-the-woods, off-grid, earth-berm house that has a little wind mill. I want us to consider the thousands of more mainstream zero-energy homes that are being built across North America this year. In this regard allow me to hint simply at some of the HVAC option considerations that we have been going through generally at our company working with five mainstream builders who are this year building Zero Energy homes in Ontario and specifically decisions I have been wrangling with for my own new modest cottage that is now under construction.read more

Furnace Sizing Professionalism

Now that the fall season has rolled around, the cooler temperatures are a good reminder to brush up on all things related to furnaces. This article by Gord Cooke, which was originally published in Mechanical Business, March  2017, outlines how “we as an industry, particularly contractors, salespeople and designers, need to recalibrate the way we think about furnace sizing.”

One of the people I work with was recently shopping around for a replacement furnace in his older home and had a local HVAC contractor come to his house to quote the job. After walking around with a tape measure and calculator for 5 minutes the salesman announced that the house would require at least a 60,000 btu unit. He acknowledged that a 50,000 BTU/hr unit, like the one that was being replaced, would probably do the trick, but seeing as the contractors brand of choice only came only in 40, 60 or 80 increments, he defaulted up to 60,000 BTU/hr. My colleague raised concerns about this size recommendation, as the 50,000 BTU/hr mid-efficiency unit being replaced had always seemed to be short-cycling. The salesman assured him that he would be ‘rolling the dice’ going with a smaller unit, reassuring him that he’d been sizing and selling furnaces this way for almost 20 years… etc., etc.read more

Radon and Opportunities for HVAC Contractors

In case you missed this article written by Gord Cooke which was originally published in Mechanical Business, December 2016, here it is again!

By now I’m sure many of you reading this have heard customers, clients, or even friends and neighbours mention the dreaded R-word… I’m also sure many of you have not. It’s remarkable how an issue so well-known and addressed in both the public sphere and in the building and housing industries in the US and Europe has taken so long to gain widespread attention here in Canada. Regardless, it’s here now and it’s only getting bigger. Radon is an important issue for homeowners and builders alike, and it presents some great potential opportunities for the HVAC contractor-in-the-know.read more