Bathroom Fan Innovation Wins Gold for Panasonic
Aspen Pumps, MarketAir take silver and bronze
Panasonic has been running field research on the soffit venting problem for well over 10 years, and this year, that research has paid off in the form of a gold-winning product in the Dealer Design Awards category for Components and Accessories: the EZ Soffit Vent.
“Callbacks caused by underperforming bathroom fans continue to plague the industry,” said Joe Nagan, home building technology services, Panasonic. “Current practices and products for venting fans at the soffit include complicated duct work, leading to poor system performance. This product is the first professional grade ‘installation system’ for venting fans at the soffit, designed specifically to enhance the installation process and to improve fan performance.”
Design, prototyping, and in-field testing for the EZ Soffit Vent began about four years ago.
“Contractors were looking for a solution to both installation problems as well as performance problems and callbacks,” said Nagan. “Typical fan outlets for soffits don’t work very well because the vent is connected by the soffit installer, who needs extra length in the duct to allow it to be pulled down, terminated, and then pushed back into place.”
The EZ Soffit Vent, a Home Ventilating Institute (HVI)-certified termination system, includes its own mounting system and allows contractors to complete all ducting work in a single trip, prior to soffit installation. There’s no risk of compromised airflow due to excess duct being handled by the siding contractor; all they have to do is cut a hole for the grille.
“Proper bathroom ventilation is a must, and good ventilation starts with a properly installed soffit vent,” Nagan said. “This helps the fan do its job better because the contractor does not have to leave all the extra ducting for the siding guy to come and put the soffit vent up. By not having extra duct stuffed in the attic, the fan works better and reduces the number of costly callbacks.”
The airflow solution features a low-resistance back damper to eliminate drafts and improve blower door test results, while the grille can be rotated 180 degrees so discharge aligns with the ductwork. The connector stub has a stepped shoulder to aid with sealing the connection, and the unit has a built-in airtight damper. The compact design fits in a narrow 12-inch soffit, and the mounting bracket can be located anywhere there’s a vertical surface within the overhang.
Jeff Haak, Black-Haak Heating Inc., Greenville, Wisconsin, has worked with the EZ Soffit Vent since it was in prototype mode.
“For us doing HVAC and electrical, we vent a lot of bath fans,” he said. “Electricians didn’t always understand the importance of doing the venting right. What we liked about this product is, there’s the ease of installation, and it doesn’t take any more time to do it right. It saves time, and we let the customer know that we look through the marketplace and help them get the best performance possible from the fan we install. Once the guys got used to them, they really enjoy them.”
Panasonic is currently investigating enhanced features by reviewing customer feedback and plans on being in prototype test mode later this year.
Aspen Pumps took silver for its M4 A/C & Furnace Tank Pump, designed for removing condensate from HVAC ceiling-, wall-, or ground-based systems.
The M4 Tank Pump has an Ingress Protection (IP) rating of 24 and is designed specifically to help ensure safe install and maintenance for the a/c technician. It’s splash-proof and sealed, and it comes equipped with multiple mounting clips and a built-in bubble level. A quick-release reservoir allows the unit to be serviced while still attached to either the wall or rod mounts, helping to avoid reservoir water spills — something particularly hazardous for installers working in a ceiling void, where live devices are installed.
Aspen started research for the product in 2016 and launched it 12 months later, after feedback from contractors and distributors.
Looking ahead, Aspen plans to consider introducing motors capable of taking variable voltages, similar to the company’s mini-pumps line.
Coming in bronze in this category was the SuperSleeve, a plastic wall sleeve by Marketair designed to aid installation of wall-mounted ductless air conditioners. Its primary function is to help the installer pass the lineset, drain hose, and electrical cable through the wall and prevent debris, insects, vermin, and moisture from entering the wall cavity.
The SuperSleeve concept was based on Marketair’s RoughinBox, developed for new construction applications.
Anyone putting a mini-split into a retrofit application can cut a piece of PVC pipe and put it in a wall; what sets the SuperSleeve apart are the features, said Gerry Spanger, president/CEO of Marketair. The SuperSleeve is extendable, so it can accommodate anything between a 6-inch and 12-inch wall. It also has an external weather cap and a guide to promote proper condensate drainage without requiring the hole to be drilled at a downward angle.
In addition, the SuperSleeve provides a pathway for the electrical cable to be installed directly into the unit from the exterior after the evaporator has been mounted.
Publication date: 7/23/2018