Category Archives: Indoor Air Quality

New Building Codes for Air tightness, Ventilation, and Moisture Control- Article brought to us by IE3 Business Intelligence for Professional Contractors

New Building Codes for Air tightness, Ventilation, and Moisture Control

IECCmap_Revised-ASHRAE-climate-zones

New residential energy efficiency building codes are trying to tackle the challenge of how the home’s flow of energy, heat, air, and moisture will affect the indoor environment, including attics and crawlspaces. These codes are requiring homes to meet specific air tightness and indoor air quality standards, both of which are driving the need for dedicated dehumidification and mechanical ventilation.

Click here to create a do-it-yourself classified right in this article. Reach everyone reading this post!

The code item which addresses the tightness of the building sets ACH 50 standards based on location. Climate Zones 1 and 2 must achieve ≤5 ach50, and in Zones 3 – 8 ≤3 ach50. What does this mean? According to Kimberly Llewellyn, consultant at Austin based building science firm, Positive Energy, an ACH50 number is a standardized score which describes how tight a home is. ACH stands for Air Changes per Hour, which is the number of times in an hour that the volume of air in a house is replaced at the test pressure 50 Pascals, which is about equivalent to the conditions created by a 20 mph wind. The lower the score, the tighter the building, which means less “accidental air” gets in by uncontrolled means of infiltration or exfiltration (See Climate zone map above).

Build it Tight. Ventilate Right.

Reducing the amount of air that leaks in and out of the home through insulation, air sealing, and new windows and doors are some of the first steps when it comes to cutting heating and cooling costs. Such energy saving strategies can result in unintended consequences. If effective mechanical ventilation and moisture control methods are not implemented, the result could lead to uncomfortable living conditions, homeowner health issues, and in extreme cases, significant structural damage.

This is why if you live in an area that has adopted the 2012 IECC code (and there will be 20 states that have by the end of 2015), you must now also make sure that the home has a whole-house mechanical ventilation system to bring in the right amount of fresh filtered air to dilute indoor pollutants, and replenish oxygen.

R403.5 Mechanical ventilation (Mandatory).

The building should be provided with ventilation that meets the requirements of the International Residential Code, or International Mechanical Code, as applicable, or with other approved means of ventilation. Air intakes and exhausts should have automatic or gravity dampers that close when the ventilation system is not operating.

It is also important to know that even if your residential building code currently does not mandate a required amount of mechanical fresh air, there are recommended standards that help ensure a home’s occupants are getting the fresh air needed. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) has developed the standard 62.2: The Standards for Ventilation and Indoor Air Quality.

This standard is used to calculate the MINIMUM ventilation requirement using ASHRAE 62.2-2013.

ASHRAE Airflow in CFM = [House Area in Sq. Ft. x 0.03] + [(Number of Bedrooms +1) x 7.5]

Example:

2500 sq. ft. house with 3 bedrooms, 4 occupants = [2500 X 0.03] + [(3+1) X 7.5] = 105 CFM

The ASHRAE 62.2 2010 standard would have required 55 cfm of fresh air for the same exact house. This is due to the assumption that a leaky house had some natural ventilation that helped dilute pollutants.

As you can see, our houses are getting tighter, and as a result we need to bring in more fresh air. Bringing in filtered fresh air from a known location into a tightly air-sealed home to dilute indoor air contaminants is absolutely necessary. Depending on what region you live in, you will also need to think about how to remove the humidity that you are bringing into the home. Dedicated dehumidification will almost certainly be necessary to maintain <50%RH in a house that meets these new building codes in green grass climates (areas where dew points reach above 60 degrees F).

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Traditional practice left it up to the A/C system to remove moisture in an attempt to keep it at an acceptable level. However, tightening houses limits the air conditioner running time, and oversized cooling systems can result in poor dehumidification. Also, the energy efficient, higher SEER A/C units do not remove as much moisture as the older, lower SEER systems. Keep in mind that an A/C system is only removing moisture when it is running. The shoulder seasons tend to be when dew points are highest, and temperatures are mild, resulting in high interior humidity levels with little to no moisture removal.

According to building science experts, in humid climates it is best to use a supply ventilation system to provide a slight positive pressure on the home in order to avoid the wet outside air being sucked into the home through the walls. During certain parts of the year (shoulder seasons), relative humidity will need to be controlled with a dehumidifier or the A/C system.

Indiana Soup- Story Courtesy of IE3 Business Intelligence for Professional Contractors

Date:
in: Building Performance, Residential Buildings

Image-DewPt-MapI thought I knew all about this topic, but I did not really get a grip on this until a few years ago while preparing to teach the subject. If you’re looking for the ultimate motivator for learning, I highly recommend getting hired to train a room full of experienced contractors so you can stand in front of them and preach, “This is how it is!”

The topic (this time), is moisture. Recall in the past we knew a home had a moisture load (or latent heat load) that needed to be managed, but we also knew our cold AC coil did a remarkable job of sucking the water out of the air. Even if you did not understand the psychrometric chart or read the AC manufacturer’s latent capacity specs, you still learned all about the great moisture removal abilities of an air conditioner the first time you forgot to hook up the condensate pipe. What a mess!

So what have I learned recently that makes me think I deserve your attention for the next few minutes? I now understand the potential water volume in air, and I appreciate the high levels of moisture we have in the Midwest for a large portion of the year.

Don’t stop reading because you have already read about moisture control. You are right, it is a topic frequently talked about today. However, I do not think many in our business are following through and helping the customer understand. It is time for all of us to sign up for a class on moisture. We can no longer ignore our professional responsibility to understand and control the humidity in our customer’s home.

Are you afraid of the psychrometric chart? Well, I am. Maybe not so much afraid as overwhelmed by how much information it reveals. Fortunately, you do not need to know it all. In fact, I do not even “work the chart” in my short class, but let’s remind ourselves on a few of the basics:

  • In the summer, in humid climates, we would like to comfort our homes to about 55% Relative Humidity. A dryer 50% RH is even better.
  • Outside air is beginning to feel uncomfortably humid at a dew point temperature of 60 degrees.
  • Outside air at 60 degree dew point brought inside an air conditioned home at 75 degrees will result in 60% RH. Too high.
  • Outside air at 65 degree dew point brought inside an air conditioned home at 75 degrees will result in 70% RH. Much too high. Bad things can start to happen, depending on how much of this moist air you allow inside.
  • Outside air at 70 degree dew point? Throw me a life jacket and snorkel!

So what? The air conditioner runs and we’re all fine, right? Two things are different now, compared to the past:

  1. Home Performance measures for existing homes (or building energy efficient new homes) helps our homes become more energy efficient, but now the AC runs less.
  2. Sometimes we deliberately suck in outside air that is above 60 degree dew point.

Either of these two actions on their own can cause moisture issues. Having both could be double trouble. Sometimes these measures simply affect the homeowner’s comfort. Sometimes there is so much moisture we cause health and structural problems. Who’s responsible? You. You are the expert. You must understand moisture.

What do you need to do?

The first step is to understand dew point and track it! This is an easy measuring stick for how much water is in the air, and you need to follow it. It’s on your weather app on your phone. Look at this number as frequently as you check the radar. Appreciate that some climates are very humid.

The summer so far in Indiana has been terrible. Wanna see it? Go to WeatherSpark.com. This is my favorite site to view historical Dew Point. The link below is for my city in Indiana, but you can change it to your city. This is a great resource when you learn to navigate through all the adjustments.

Weatherspark-image-f-DewPt

Note the dew point levels during the week I wrote this article. Those are serious moisture levels! Now notice the temperatures (Dry bulb) for this period. Not too hot, and especially if your home is energy efficient like mine, then there is not too much load on the AC.

My geothermal heat pump did not run too much that week, and not nearly enough for adequate moisture removal, but I was very comfortable thanks to my whole house dehumidifier. Fortunately, I did not let much of that Indiana soup into my home, other than a few, normal exhaust fan run times, clothes dryer exhaust, and normal door traffic. I condition to a very comfortable 76 degrees and 45% RH. Half my home is over a basement and the other over a sealed crawl space, and both are dry and odor free.

This is not the way it was in the past. I love the outdoors and in the past I kept my home open as much as possible. Odors grew downstairs, and spent portable dehumidifiers piled up in the basement.

Not so anymore! Once I condition my home in terms of temperature, humidity, and even pollens and dust, then I like to keep it that way. Sure, I still keep a lookout for “fresh” air and bring it in when it is available, but for some stretches of time in the Midwest, “fresh” is rare and I do not intentionally allow the Indiana soup to get into my home.

What about mandatory residential ventilation? (Oops, will you look at that. We are almost out of room for this article and we will need to cut it short.) Briefly, until we have more time, yes fresh air makes sense; lots of it for some situations, much less for others. But with what I know about moisture, I think we are blindly rushing into problems with indiscriminate ventilation. Ventilation timing and moisture knowledge is critical. In many areas, ventilation strategies must include a dehumidifier. And by the way: An ERV is not a Dehumidifier. (Related article http://www.ie3media.com/erv/)

Incidentally, I could go for a good dose of fresh air right now. Let’s see, checking the dew point map, I wonder what size duct I might need to bring in 100 cfm of fresh air from Ely, Minnesota to Indianapolis?

Belimo Takes the Guesswork Out of Economizers

zip-economizerThere is a great new product on the market from Belimo. The ZIP Economizer makes installing an economizer in a new or retrofit application very simple.

“ZIP” stands for “ZIP code” – 5 little numbers that the installer keys in to automatically set up the ZIP Economizer for maximum energy savings in a given climate zone. No consulting temperature curves, no cross-referencing with energy codes, no operation manuals and no erroneous factory default settings.

This new product features onboard setup and diagnostics, alarm notifications, an automotive quality LCD and more. It also offers expansion modules for more functionlities, such as two-speed fan and Demand Control Ventiliation. There is even a communications module that provides alarm output and firmware updates.

The ZIP from Belimo will save contractors time and money when installing new or retrofit economizers. For more information, click here Belimo ZIP Economizer

The Value of Maintenance Agreements – Submitted by Jaymie Hunckler, Account Manager at Jackson Systems

I’ll admit it – I used to be one of THOSE people. You know, the person who never bought the extended warranty or service agreement on anything. “Pssh,” I would tell my husband, defiantly. “It’s just another money-sucking mechanism. It’s another way to drain more money out of customers with no real return on investment.” Basically, I was a salesman’s worst nightmare.

And then the motor burned up on our condensing unit. In the middle of February. When we had twin infants in the house. The cause? Well, if you would have just taken a look at our measly little 1-inch furnace filter, with an embarrassingly low MERV rating, which had not be changed in probably six months, it was easy to figure out why. Now, in my defense, I hadn’t yet made my foray into the HVAC industry; sure, I knew it was important to change your furnace filter from time to time, but I didn’t worry about it! I could pick one up at the grocery store next time I went. And then I would forget. So, I put it on my list for the next visit; and then I would forget again. $600 later, I vowed I would never make THAT mistake again!

Living in our home for 4 years, we had never had the a/c “tuned up”? Why would we need to do that – to improve its efficiency – it works just fine…right? Wrong – as evidenced by the fact that we literally, just this summer, shelled out a cool $4,000 for a complete system replacement.

Maintenance agreements, if presented in the right manner, and showcasing tangible benefits can be a great asset to any contractors’ service offerings (and could have saved our family a ton of money). Too often, customers are not given the right reasons to purchase a maintenance agreement. The maintenance agreement is often offered as a passing service without the real benefits being discussed with the customer. To effectively sell a maintenance agreement the contractor must provide the customer with true benefits and options.

A Range of Offerings
Maintenance agreements are not a one-size-fits-all product. If providing maintenance agreements as a value added service, make sure you have a few different options available. They must be semi-customized to fit both the customer needs and price-range. If you give the customer options and accurately sell the benefits of each, you’re more likely to sell more agreements.

Clearly Defined
Services provided in each maintenance agreement must be clearly defined. Let the customer know up front that the first tier maintenance agreement provides for two system tune-ups per year, and why a semi-annual tune up is essential for the systems overall efficiency, especially when it pertains to energy savings (customers always want to know how they’ll save money). If the first-tier maintenance agreement doesn’t offer filter changes, make sure the customer is aware of this. Chances are, if the customer can count on the contractor to take care of filter changes and the price isn’t that much higher, they’ll upgrade to the next tier agreement.

Sales Training
This one is probably the most important element. Sure, you may have some really great maintenance agreements providing some really great value-added services for the customer. If you have a service or install technician or a “salesman” that really doesn’t know how to present the benefits of a maintenance agreement to the customer, you might as well not have one at all. This definitely explains why I was so hesitant, for years, to add on maintenance agreements or extended warranties.

Look, it’s easy to say “Buy this service agreement – it costs $400 and we’ll tune up your system twice a year!” Are you confused why the customer doesn’t want to sign on the dotted line? They weren’t given the reasons WHY they should purchase that service agreement! Isn’t it just as easy to say, “With the purchase of a service agreement, we’ll take care of six filter changes a year for you. Filters need to be changed regularly to ensure the proper health of your system. A new filter also helps prevent against unwanted allergens in the air, such as pet hair, dander and dirt, which can really affect the overall health of your entire family. We can take care of that change for you, so you never have to worry about it!”

There are endless benefits to offering maintenance agreements to your customer (and offering them the right way). Increased sales and repeat business from customers who are going to come back to you for many years are just two. Jackson Systems has a variety of sample maintenance agreements we can provide you that you can customize to fit your own needs. Give us a call at 888.652.9663 and we will gladly email these to you.

Honeywell® Lyric™ Is Here!

The Lyric thermostat from Honeywell is ideal for customers who are on the go and want optimal comfort and savings they don’t have to think about.

The Lyric uses “geofencing” to determine occupancy. This technology uses the homeowner’s smartphone location to automatically adjust temperature as they come and go. The Fine Tune feature considers both indoor and outdoor temperature and humidity to reach set point, ensuring 72° really feels like 72°.

The Smart Cues feature sends homeowners maintenance notifications and extreme conditions alerts to help extend the life of their HVAC equipment.

The Lyric thermostat is now available from Jackson Systems. For more information or to place an order go to click here: Honeywell Lyric Thermostat or call 888.652.9663.

Jackson Systems Offers Solution for “Zoning the Impossible”

Zoning is becoming more and more popular in the residential and commercial markets. In residential applications, accessing duct work can present a challenge in existing construction. When bonus rooms and room additions are considered, there may not be duct work running to these areas.

The Motorized Zone Register (MZR™) from Jackson Systems is a low-cost, rugged, metal, motorized zone register designed to work with most forced air zone control systems. It can also be used as a stand-alone register with a wall-mounted thermostat to eliminate over-heating and over-cooling in bonus rooms, sun rooms, guest rooms and basements.

This easy-to-install zone register allows zoning to be installed in almost all residential applications. It is designed to fit most register boots and comes in many sizes, most in both tan and white. There is also a polymer version available for side wall installations.
The MZR is a standard register with a 24VAC spring open/power close actuator. It uses standard gauge thermostat wire (plenum-rated wire may be required if running through duct work.)

The MZR can be wired to a stand-alone thermostat for control of the register in single zone applications, or it can be wired to a zone panel and for multiple zone applications. Up to 6 Motorized Zone Dampers can be connected to a single zone.

The MZR is another innovative solution from Jackson Systems designed to make zoning easier and more profitable for HVAC contractors. For more information, visit zoningregister.com or call is at 888.652.9663.

Selling Comfort Through Controls

Selling zoning systems and smart thermostats is easier than you might think. Homeowners want to be comfortable and save energy. Zoning systems and smart thermostats provide both of these benefits. And just by observing and asking a few simple questions, you can easily sell comfort through controls.

When speaking with homeowners, analogies to other familiar home appliances and features can help them understand how it works. Explaining to consumers the two zones of a refrigerator, one for fresh food and one for frozen food can be helpful. Or ask them if it would make sense to have only one light switch that turns all of the lights in the house on or off. That is essentially what a single thermostat does with the HVAC equipment. One switch heats or cools the entire home.

When you are in the home, look for finished basements or room additions. These can be areas of comfort problems. Ask your customers if they are interested in lowering their utility bills. Independent tests have shown that zoning systems with programmable thermostats can save up to 30% or more on heating and cooling bills. And who is going to say no saving money?

Another revenue stream for your business is smart thermostats. According to the research firm Nielsen, the United States smartphone market is now 55% penetrated. Consumers are using their phones to control alarm systems and entry to their homes. They are viewing their favorite TV programs and movies. Some apps even allow control of television sets. And the list goes on. So much of our world is connected and consumers are hungry for more. So why not control their comfort from their smart device?

As technology continues to get more sophisticated in the smart device market, it is also happening in the HVAC controls market. There are many thermostats on the market that allow control through any smartphone, tablet or computer and most offer free apps to make this control even easier. And consumers are demanding more. In today’s market, there are so many options for smart thermostats. From basic Wi-Fi controlled thermostats that require no additional equipment to more sophisticated, feature-rich models that provide more control of IAQ equipment, there is an option available for nearly any budget and application.

Offering customers better comfort through HVAC controls is a smart business decision, but it is also a great service to your customers. Sometimes just asking a few simple questions can benefit you and your customers. Happy selling!

New Honeywell Talking Thermostat

TH9320WFVThe new Honeywell Wi-Fi 9000 universal thermostat with voice control features voice activated recognition and control, allowing the temperature setting to be adjusted in the home by talking to the thermostat. This thermostat uses “Far-Field Voice Technology”, so it recognizes voice commands from across the room, even in a busy home.

With the same great features as the Wi-Fi 9000, this attractive thermostat lets your customers remotely monitor and manage their home’s comfort and energy usage anytime from anywhere. These aesthetically-pleasing touchscreen thermostats connect directly to your customers’ home Wi-Fi in a few simple steps. The plain language on-screen setup and redesigned terminal blocks mean an easier installation for you. The remote access via any smart device means more comfort control for your customers. And the Cloud-based voice recognition software will automatically update as Honeywell adds new voice commands and other enhancements.
Honeywell Wi-Fi 9000 with Voice Control Product Brochure

12 Technical Rules of Thumb for Installing Zoning

Z-300-HPS
1. In most cases, it will not be necessary to modify duct sizing when installing a zoning system.
2. It is a good practice to size the smallest zone to handle approximately 25% of the system CFM.
3. Never undersize the ductwork.
4. Upsizing registers in the smallest zone to the next larger size should be considered.
5. You can double the rated CFM of a register before it starts to become noisy.
6. Multi-stage equipment is always a better choice with a zoning system.
7. It is always better to slightly undersize the HVAC equipment than to oversize it.
8. Never locate a thermostat in a hallway.
9. Dampers should be installed at least 2 feet away from the plenum when possible.
10. Always use a separate 24 volt transformer to power the zone panel. Do not use the equipment transformer.
11. Always tag all wires, especially from dampers and thermostats.
12. Some basements may require setting the zone thermostat in the auto mode during the cooling season for the following reasons: basement walls are cold as a result of being underground, uninsulated ductwork located in the basement acts as a cooling radiator, ductwork leaking air, cold air falls.

For questions about zoning or for a quote on a zoning system, call us at 888.652.9663.

Zoning Selling Tips

zoning floor plan
1. Look for finished basements, add-on rooms or other additions where comfort may be a problem
2. Ask homeowners if there are particular areas in the home that are too hot or too cold.
3. If the homeowner is seeking a second system for their home, zoning may be a more cost effective option.
4. To help customers understand zoning, explain how their refrigerator has two separate zones, one for fresh foods and one for frozen foods.
5. Challenge homeowners to imagine a home with only one light switch that can only turn the lights on or off for the entire house. With a single-thermostat forced air system, they have to condition all of the air to condition any given space. Just like having one light switch to control all of the lights in the house.
Look for future posts on technical tips for installing zoning.

New E-Commerce Site Makes Ordering Easier

E-commerce ShotWe recently updated the look and navigation of our Web site to make it easier to find the great products you are searching for. A large part of this upgrade was improvements to our online ordering system. The new E-commerce tool is easier to use and contains more information about your account. With the new site, past orders can be viewed, quotes can be viewed and changed to orders and you can upload a CSV file of common or repetitive orders. These are just a few of the new features of the site. To help you better take advantage of the new E-commerce offerings, we have created a guide to navigating the site. We hope you find the changes useful and using the site a more enjoyable experience. Download the E-commerce User Guide

Smart Thermostat Sales on the Rise

The News recently reported that the smart thermostat market is projected to reach $1.4 billion dollars in annual revenue by 2020. With the increase in retailers selling these thermostats, there is clearly a huge opportunity for HVAC contractors to take their share. It can be a tough sell to some homeowners who really don’t understand the value a smart thermostat can bring to their comfort and the energy savings they can afford.

Last year, we published two maintenance agreements offering a “connected” package. This highest level of the agreements allow HVAC contractors to offer a smart thermostat with their top service agreement. Below is a link to one of the maintenance agreements. It can be customized with your contact information, logo and pricing. Feel free to download it. Here’s to spring and increased profits.

Maintenance Agreement

HVAC Business Boot Camp Open for Registration

build-your-businessIf Greg McAfee can do it…in Dayton, Ohio, you can too! Greg made an investment of $274.00 and worked to become the leading HVAC service provider in an area that’s been deemed one of the ten worst places to do business in the United States, Dayton, Ohio. Learn how he went from his humbling beginnings to a growing multi-million dollar company.

And now, Former Marine Greg McAfee and his Team are ready to share their knowledge, systems and quality practices with HVAC Business Owners and managers. There is an early bird discount for registrations made by February 14. Click here for more information or to register: HVAC Business Boot Camp

Performance Contracting

Tom Jackson visits with a contractor at the ACCA Building Performance Forum sponsored by "The News"

Tom Jackson visits with a contractor at the ACCA Building Performance Forum sponsored by “The News”

Energy savings is top-of-mind as we move into what could be a very harsh winter in some parts of the United States. This paired with the growing consumer demand for “green” products is driving many HVAC contractors to performance-based contracting. By viewing the house as a system, these contractors open up a new revenue stream while also doing their customers a great service. As energy costs continue to increase and the demand for “greener” products grows, performance-based contracting is sure to follow.

Here is a link to a great story in “The News”, explaining some strategies for getting into performance-based contracting and resources available to contractors. ACCA Examines Performance-Based Contracting

Honeywell Giving Away 4 Indian Chief Motorcycles

trueease_updatedHoneywell and Indian Motorcycle — two American icons — have teamed up for the High Gear Humidification Program. There’s no better time to open up the throttle on your humidifier installations, because now
every qualifying Honeywell humidifier comes with a chance to win a new 2014 Indian Chief, the flagship model of the popular Indian lineup!

Homeowners value the efficiency and comfort of Honeywell humidifiers almost as much as you value the installation ease. And now you’ll get an entry into the High Gear Giveaway with every TrueSTEAM™, TrueEASE™, HE265 and HE225 whole-house humidifier you buy — entry details are in every box featuring the High Gear Giveaway sticker. Every TrueEASE also comes with a free HumidiPRO. The contest ends March 31. We have these humidifiers in stock. Call us at 888.652.9663 to place your order!

Click here for details.

Contractor Educates Their Community on Preventative Maintenance

Goff Heat and Cooling

Goff Heat and Cooling in Kirbyville, MO was recently featured in their local newspaper, Branson Tri-Lakes News. They used this opportunity to educate homeowners in their area about the importance of preventative maintenance. The article provides excellent tips to consumers, but also valuable information on selling these agreements to consumers. We wanted to share this great article (with Goff Heat and Cooling permission) with other contractors. It not only contains great information, but showcases how contractors can use their local media to promote their companies through educating the public. Here is a link to the full article: HVAC Preventative Maintenance Explained

Thanks to Goff Heat and Cooling for sharing this article and allowing us to share with other contractors.

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