Uncomfortable in your home? So what else is new?

April 3, 2000
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DALLAS, TX — It’s an age-old question, as well as the title of a forum at the recent ASHRAE Winter 2000 Meeting: “Why are so many people uncomfortable in their own home? What can we do about it?”

After 20 or so attendees tossed the topic around for nearly an hour, the age-old question remained unanswered, simply because there are too many variables.

One attendee hinted that there might never be a solution. “Heck,” he said, “we can’t even get people to change filters!”

Says a lot, doesn’t it?

Many variables

When forum moderator Steve Attri of Lennox asked what system components can go wrong to throw systems out of whack, the answers ranged from “oversizing” to “humidity control in winter.”

“It’s like wrestling a water balloon,” is how one put it. “There are the upstairs problems. There are the downstairs problems. There’s the gravity problem. …There are just so many things to get in tune.”

Someone suggested that the only way to solve the problem was to get the architect and design people to integrate systems in a house accordingly.

“We will never do it [solve the problem] as a group of mechanical contractors,” said one. “Integrating the design is the only way the problem is going to be solved.”

“People enter this picture,” said another. “And people are all different when it comes to determining ‘comfort.’ Cold may be warm to one person and warm my be cold to another.”

Too overwhelming?

One attendee, a representative of the Radiant Panel Association, tried to persuade attendees that he has had no problems with radiant heating. However, he did not advocate only radiant heating but a combination of all technologies.

“Consumers don’t have a choice as to what they get installed in their home,” he said. “When you move into a house, you don’t have a choice in heating-cooling systems. You have to take what the builder builds.”

Another attendee zeroed in on today’s workforce.

“We do not have skilled technicians doing the job correctly,” he said. “You just get what you pay for.”

With ASHRAE looking to place Standard 62.2P, Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality in Low-Rise Residential Buildings, up for public review soon, Attri wanted to know if this would help improve the comfort in homes. The general consensus was “yes,” but it was not the answer.

“It’s still installation,” said an attendee. “Yeah, we need to train these people to do the systems correctly. We need certification for installers, too.”

Another suggestion was to “educate the consumer, too” on the subject.

“It’s an overwhelming topic,” agreed Attri. “But it’s useful to have these discussions.”

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