BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - The Birmingham Ronald McDonald House® is replacing its outdated 1920s facility with a new $7 million, 33,000-square-foot home that will increase the center’s capacity by more than 30 percent and feature many energy- and cost-efficient technologies.

In an effort to lower operating costs, Brown Mechanical Contractors Inc., an HVAC-plumbing contractor in Birmingham, Ala., utilized multiple energy-efficient technologies to design the new 41-room facility, including crosslinked polyethylene (PEX) for the home’s plumbing and hydronic heating systems.

“Selecting hydronic heating for this project over more conventional HVAC systems will provide residents with more even temperatures throughout the home as well as offer guests the ability to tailor individual room climates,” said Jeff Wiedemann, heating product manager for Uponor.

For this project, Uponor donated roughly 9,000 feet of PEX tubing that will provide domestic water service as well as supply the facility’s 63 ceiling-mounted, water-source heat pump units that will heat and cool the home. “Our overriding interest in evaluating each system was the long-term energy cost, while ensuring that the upfront cost was also feasible,” noted Leigh Ann Speake, vice president, Brown Mechanical, who worked closely with plumbing distributor Steve Bendall at American Pipe & Supply, Birmingham, to assess different scenarios.

“We considered everything from individual through-the-wall units and traditional split systems to air handlers and fan-coil units. In the end, the water-source heat pumps proved ideal for this application and our moderate climate.”

According to Robert Shapiro, project manager and former charity executive director, in addition to the front-end savings and streamlined installation afforded through the Uponor PEX, it is estimated that the design of the plumbing, insulation, and HVAC systems combined will save roughly $7,000-$10,000 in annual operating costs for this project.

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Publication date:04/16/2007