Increasing Awareness Influences New Ventilation Products
Contractor awareness is serving as a catalyst for manufacturers of ventilation products
People want to breathe clean, fresh air, which has thrust IAQ into the mainstream. This thriving consumer and HVAC contractor awareness is serving as a catalyst for manufacturers as they strive to develop new, cutting-edge ventilation products.
TIGHTER HOMES CAUSING PROBLEMS
“The increase in IAQ problems seems inextricably linked to houses that are being built tighter and tighter,” Monks said. “Although the answer seems simple — stop building tight homes — it’s not that simple. As energy costs escalate and energy conservation becomes a matter of national concern, energy codes respond and specify tighter, more energy-efficient houses. Tight houses can actually negatively impact IAQ as moist and polluted air gets trapped in the home. Indoor pollutants are virtually impossible to eliminate completely. Therefore, mechanical ventilation is necessary to guarantee good IAQ.”
Monks noted it is difficult for homebuilders to deliver IAQ to homeowners when the fresh-air supply — kitchen range hoods, bathroom fans, and central air-handling units — are all working independently.
“Panasonic continues to develop whole-house ventilation solutions that are energy-efficient and support the industry’s move to balanced ventilation strategies,” she said. “Panasonic’s SelectCycler™ System provides builders with a low-cost whole-house IAQ solution, and our system will be quickly evolving into a complete IEQ [indoor environmental quality] system in the future.”
The SelectCycler System whole-house mechanical ventilation solution adheres to ASHRAE 62.2 requirements. Designed for single-family and multifamily construction, it provides whole-house ventilation control that’s integrated into the home’s central HVAC system. The system offers Hybrid and Balanced operational modes. The Hybrid mode achieves a low cost per Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index point for supply ventilation while Balanced mode achieves a low cost per HERS point for balanced ventilation.
Chris Chase, senior product marketing manager for air cleaners and ventilation, Aprilaire, said state building codes that require tighter homes are prompting builders to ask more HVAC contractors to recommend ventilation solutions that allow them to comply with the codes.
“The most recent codes require mechanical ventilation as a means to introduce fresh air into the structure,” Chase said. “Simply exhausting air from the structure is not a complete solution. Even in states with older building codes, HVAC contractors are preparing their businesses for the eventuality of needing to provide ventilation solutions.”
Homeowners are also beginning to understand the value of fresh-air ventilation in regard to their home’s indoor air, Chase noted. “They want to control their ventilation, and they want confirmation it’s operating as required. Our new Wi-Fi thermostats have fresh-air-control capabilities from the Aprilaire app. Proper ventilation can provide benefits to homes that were built tight prior to ventilation requirements [1990 through 2008]. The opportunity exists in the residential service and replacement market to add fresh-air ventilation to these systems to help reduce odors, address sweaty windows, and dilute indoor contaminants as new carpeting and furniture are added to the home. There are also contractor opportunities for adding ventilation to much older homes as they are renovated and sealed tighter with foams, caulking, and other new materials designed to make the home’s indoor envelope more energy efficient.”
Aprilaire recently introduced a complete line of fresh-air ventilators designed to provide the required amount of fresh air into the structure at the lowest possible price.
“These products are designed to supply fresh air into the HVAC system, where it is distributed through the home’s ductwork,” Chase said. “This provides the market with a viable alternative to both exhaust ventilation and more expensive recovery ventilators.”
A GROWING AWARENESS
Drake H. Erbe, vice president of market development of Airxchange Inc. and chair of the ASHRAE 90.1 committee, said there is an increased understanding of energy recovery ventilation, which mitigates the energy penalty association with bringing in outside air to ventilate a structure.
“On a global basis, as buildings get tighter, the ability of those buildings to breathe — infiltration and exfiltration — is less and less,” he said. “Human occupants need to be able to have good air transfer, if you will, and we do that by bringing in outside air, running it through the system, and then exhausting a portion of it. The onset and increased understanding of energy recovery ventilation has allowed this to occur because it allows individuals to reuse energy that’s already bought and paid for. When you bring in outside air, human occupants feel better, productivity is higher, and comfort is increased, and that’s what everyone is looking for. And we’re all different — that’s why we have ASHRAE 55, ASHRAE 62, and, of course, ASHRAE 90.1. If you put all of that together into a building design, the end result is health, productivity, and comfort in a cost-effective and energy-efficient indoor environment. Ventilation is an important factor in that equation.”
Erbe said original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are creating ways to include energy recovery components into their systems more than ever before. “Energy recovery has been in ASHRAE 90.1 since the 2010 version, so you have to figure every manufacturer has been looking at their platforms and providing ways to ensure inclusion of ventilation as well as looking at ways to mitigate that energy penalty with this and other technologies.”
Erbe noted there were many different technologies in the marketplace to meet ventilation codes, standards, and guidelines, including dedicated outdoor air systems (DOAS), energy recovery ventilators (ERVs), and more.
“Everybody wants to be healthy, productive, and comfortable,” he said. “That’s what’s driving the interest [in ERVs].”
Brian Hafendorfer, application engineer, Trane, said the continuously updated ASHRAE standards and guidelines are bringing more awareness to the importance of ventilation.
“The published content of the industry is starting to increase, which has helped bring awareness to the casual user,” Hafendorfer said. “The EPA has said, for many years, indoor air contains two to five times more contaminants than outdoor air. And, with that knowledge, building owners should recognize that people are often their most important resource. But also, they’re one of the most expensive resources you have. And, it can be shown that by increasing ventilation, you can improve the IAQ, which then improves productivity and lowers workers’ absenteeism. So, there’s always a benefit in providing better ventilation and improving the indoor environment.
“But, there’s always a little resistance to change,” he continued. “So, you do see people becoming more aware, but not necessarily acting on that awareness. There’s always a disconnect and maybe a lag between when people are aware and when they’re actually doing something about it.”
Over the last few years, energy efficiency has been driving the market, so there’s an increasing amount of energy-recovery-type solutions being developed and integrated into existing air-handling products, Hafendorfer noted.
Trane’s Performance Climate Changer™ air handlers offer elevated energy efficiency and IAQ, quiet performance, and the ability to be fully integrated into a building management system. They are available in indoor and outdoor units in a variety of sizes and configurations and offer the features and options necessary to meet project budgets, specifications, and timelines.
The Performance Climate Changer air handlers feature reduced air leakage that helps lower energy consumption, efficient building humidity management, technology that filters and reduces airborne contaminants, fan blade and wheel configurations designed to reduce sound levels, a beltless fan design, and removable panels that allow for easy maintenance.
John McKissack, product manager, Nortek Global HVAC, agreed that the growing awareness of the importance of ventilation is rapidly changing industry standards.
“ASHRAE Standard 62.1 has, for the past 15 years, made great strides in improving building environmental health with good ventilation practices,” McKissack said. “Moving the standard to a continuous maintenance and review, thereby publishing an update on a two- to three-year cycle, keeps us aware of the importance of ventilation. Additionally, AHRI [Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute], in keeping up with this increasing awareness, has published a new testing standard 920 for DOAS units. In the coming years, all manufacturers will begin to rate their DOAS units using common methodologies. And ASHRAE 90.1 is moving forward with applying a new minimum efficiency level based on 920 testing procedures.”
In order to satisfy customers’ ventilation needs in a cost-effective manner, Nortek Global HVAC has begun using energy-recovery technology in all new products, according to McKissack. The Reznor YDMA packaged makeup air product conforms to all of the newest ventilation standards and conditions 100 percent outside air.
“There is a growing awareness in the industry regarding ventilation and how it affects building energy use,” said David Pich, director of HVAC technology, Titus HVAC. “ASHRAE has recognized that providing air directly to the occupied zone increases the effectiveness of the ventilation air. For this reason, Titus has developed a line of products to provide air directly to the occupied zone. We are seeing an increased interest in the treatment of return air to improve IAQ and reduce ventilation air in an effort to reduce energy usage.
“Titus has launched a complete line of displacement diffusers and expanded our underfloor product offering,” he continued. “We have developed a product that utilizes both chilled beam and displacement technology to provide ventilation air directly to the occupied zone, year-round. These products provide exceptional ventilation effectiveness per cfm.”
The Titus DVBC is a rectangular displacement diffuser with a curved face for wall-mount applications. It is designed to supply a large volume of air at low velocities into the occupied zone. The TAO Floor Mounted Displacement Chilled Beam provides superior thermal comfort in areas where high ventilation loads are needed, such as educational facilities and theaters. It combines the benefits of both chilled beam and displacement units in one system and is appropriate for extreme climates.
AWARENESS DRIVES NEW PRODUCTS
Scott Laurila, product manager, energy recovery products, Greenheck Fan Corp., said energy efficiency is a high priority to design professionals, performance-based contractors, and building owners.
“Considering HVAC makes up a significant portion of building energy consumption, manufacturers are always evaluating technologies and product designs to condition and deliver air more efficiently throughout commercial buildings,” Laurila said. “Energy codes and standards, specifically ASHRAE 90.1 and the International Energy Conservation Code [IECC], will continue to drive product enhancements and design strategies to ensure efficient HVAC systems in commercial buildings.”
Greenheck has several business areas that are key to ensuring sustainable and efficient designs, including improved fan designs to optimize efficiency, sound, and minimize product cost; the incorporation of electrically commutated motors (ECMs) for improved efficiency; and control strategies to ensure system optimization through demand-based monitoring of CO2 and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
“Air-to-air energy recovery through stand-alone ERV products, or incorporated in applied DOAS, ensure ventilation air is efficiently and effectively conditioned,” Laurila said. “Airflow verification through non-evasive measurement at the fan inlet, outdoor air measuring stations in supply unit intakes, and airflow-measuring control dampers are all products Greenheck offers to help facilitate the commissioning process and verify ventilation system performance.”
Recent changes in the ventilation market include using ventilation as a means for total building comfort, according to John Pennycuff, vice president of sales and marketing, Hunter Industrial, a division of Hunter Fan Co.
“Our energy-reduction needs have driven some of us to look at ventilation as a tool for affecting indoor air quality as well as a way to affect thermal comfort in both conditioned and non-conditioned spaces,” Pennycuff said. “Sustainable design, green building, net zero, and so on are no longer just buzzwords. Many of the energy-efficient design practices introduced to the market through numerous green building initiatives are now finding their way into both local building codes and ASHRAE standards. Doing more with less seems to be a growing philosophy.”
Hunter Industrial is exploring ways to use natural ventilation paired with air circulation as both a supplement to traditional HVAC systems and, in some cases, as an alternative to traditional HVAC systems, Pennycuff said. “Our bodies are equipped with their own air conditioning systems that consume no electricity from our already over-burdened grid. Simply stated, we sweat — as unflattering as that may sound. Even an unnoticeable amount of perspiration can make us feel much cooler — an effect that is further amplified by moving air over our skin [air circulation]. Our approach has led us to the development and introduction of an exceptionally efficient HVLS [high-volume, low-speed] fan for industrial air circulation.”
Brittany Adam, research engineer, Big Ass Solutions, said more products are emerging in the market that incorporate ventilation into residential HVAC.
“Competition will ultimately drive the development of scientific knowledge, higher standards, and better products,” Adam said. “Big Ass Solutions supports bringing both novel and proven technologies to the residential market in order to ensure the quality of indoor air and energy efficiency.”
Big Ass Solutions has expanded its product line to include additional commercial and residential fans, noted Adam. “We are busy researching ways to improve IAQ in residential and commercial spaces. The company takes pride in the ability of our commercial and industrial fans to integrate into larger building systems and move fresh air around a large space. We have quite a few projects in research and development addressing ventilation issues, specifically IAQ and efficiency in residential systems with ventilation options.”
Joe Ellison, engineered products sales manager, Modine Mfg. Co., said end users are definitely becoming more aware that ventilation equipment not only provides fresh air, but also properly dehumidifies outside air and can help avoid issues, such as clammy spaces, sick buildings, mold growth, and odors.
“As a result of the increased focus on proper ventilation, dedicated outside air systems have become more prevalent in the design of HVAC systems for commercial buildings, both in the new construction and renovation markets,” Ellison said. “DOAS units offer large/deep DX coils to handle difficult latent loads, can provide higher temperature rises in heating, require a wide modulation range in both heating and cooling, and require more sophisticated control strategies.”
Modine’s Atherion incorporates several key features designed to help efficiently heat, cool, and dehumidify large volumes of outside air. Specifically, the Modine Atherion unit utilizes digital scroll compressors, a microchannel condenser coil, an electronic expansion valve (EEV), and modulating hot gas reheat to properly cool and dehumidify outside air. The Atherion unit also can be specified with a high-efficiency gas furnace section with thermal efficiencies at or above 90 percent.
“If there’s a real trend, there’s a growing recognition that the design and control of the system is really essential to being able to provide the occupied space the ventilation it needs throughout the entire building,” Erbe added. “It all comes together in a building that is a combination of a number of different systems. Those systems have to work well and play well with each other. It’s very important that these systems talk to each other, and it’s important the designer understands the relationship of the pieces of the system. You can have a good product, but if you put it together wrong, or if you don’t recognize the positives it brings, then it’s difficult to achieve health, productivity, and comfort.”
Publication date: 4/18/2016