Contractors around the country are wondering: How can we humidify or dehumidify buildings and still save energy? Fortunately for them, manufacturers are working on solving that problem.

“More than ever, contractors are interested in ways of protecting the interests of their customers and securing their future business,” said Cheryl Hughes, regional sales manager, Munters Corp. “By considering the quality of equipment construction, reliability, and operating costs, the contractor demonstrates value to end users over the life cycle of the equipment. Today’s contractors stay current with innovative product designs as well as energy-saving strategies and rebate programs. At Munters, we offer at least seven different ways to treat outside air. Our most energy-efficient designs are the most popular, indicating contractors and end users respect energy efficiency.”

Janis Rozenbergs, product marketing manager, humidification, Aprilaire, noted energy efficiency is increasingly becoming a major part of the conversation for systems in new construction as well as service and replacement.

Rozenbergs said Aprilaire has made significant strides recently when it comes to energy efficiency.

“Most recently, in dehumidifier product testing, we’ve been able to show the difference in real operating costs relative to energy use of smaller retail dehumidifiers compared to our higher-capacity units,” Rozenbergs said. “Using energy rates in the same market where the products were tested, our testing verified homeowners can save more than $175 in energy every season. That’s real value.”

Nikki Krueger, marketing manager, Ultra-Aire, said she thinks contractors are interested in providing customers with the most energy-efficient and effective solutions available.

“Everyone involved in the building community is energy conscious to some extent,” she said. “New building techniques, the advancement in HVAC systems, and the need to meet aggressive energy use targets in several states are driving the interest in whole-house ventilating dehumidifiers.”

At Advantix Systems, global CEO Hannah Granade said her company’s salt-based dehumidification systems are recognized for being among the most efficient in the market. She acknowledges that many contractors are driven by first-cost expenses.

“We are finding that contractors are asking for increased energy efficiency, but at a price point that is competitive with the market,” Granade said. “Customers are generally not willing to invest in more expensive equipment that requires a payback period longer than three years. Advantix equipment allows contractors to offer an energy-efficient alternative that is not cost-prohibitive nor does it require an excessive payback period.”

Hughes, on the other hand, believes contractors are looking for energy-efficient products, especially energy-saving service contractors.

“Contractors see the big picture and consider how the entire building works. They do not focus on the individual parts of a building — they contemplate how to optimize systems to work together most effectively and efficiently,” Hughes said. “As contractors compete for business, we see the most savvy ones requesting product designs that deliver an advantage that is not always first-cost related. These contractors are looking for ways to set themselves apart from the competition.”

Impacting the Future

Rozenbergs has no doubt that humidifiers and dehumidifiers are substantially impacting energy efficiency. “We are constantly looking at the ever-evolving HVAC industry to develop humidification/dehumidification products that are best suited for each particular application and region,” Rozenbergs said. “Constant changes in energy codes are making dehumidifiers more efficient. The trend will fall on the contractor’s ability to show homeowners how controlling humidity is a huge factor in efficiency. The proof is there. We just need to talk about it in the home.”

A big key, Hughes said, is the HVAC industry has become much more educated about humidity control. As that awareness increases, equipment manufacturers are striving to do more, as to enable the building owner to maintain a humidity level that is better for everyone.

“Meanwhile, regulations and increasing energy costs demand the need for increased energy efficiency of all HVAC systems, since, for many buildings, the cost to condition air is the largest operating expense,” Hughes said. “It’s critically important for the entire industry to work together to find the right balance of performance and operating costs that offer building owners attractive paybacks. Obviously, asking new HVAC systems to do more work than former systems comes at a cost. The goal is to do that extra work without an energy penalty and demonstrate, when combined with other strategies, humidity control can be accomplished in addition to energy savings.”

As buildings and homes get tighter, the need for dehumidification is only going to increase, noted Krueger.

“Homes will continue to be built and remodeled tighter and tighter in order to meet emerging energy codes,” Krueger said. “This will drive HVAC system manufacturers to develop higher-SEER systems. While this makes sense from an energy perspective, it also makes providing a healthy indoor environment more of a challenge. By design, higher SEER systems have less latent removal.

“Cooking, showering, breathing, and other day-to-day activities of the home’s occupants generate a moisture load that needs to be removed. If the house is constructed tight, it is much harder for this moisture to leave the house naturally. Moisture builds up inside the home and can raise relative humidity and dew point to uncomfortable and even dangerous levels.”

That sentiment was echoed by Granade. “During the next five years, as sensible (heat) loads continue to diminish in buildings due to energy-efficient windows, cooler lighting, etc., dehumidification products will play a more significant role in handling a building’s air conditioning load,” she said. “Having an efficient method of reducing that moisture load in buildings will be critical to keeping energy costs down.”

Publication date: 8/11/2014

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