Confusion reigns supreme, at least in the world between my own floppy ears. Perhaps you look at things differently, but I see a tremendous amount of the color gray in between the ebony and ivory. Just a few weeks ago,The NEWSran a somewhat interesting if not controversial article about the use of power attic ventilators (PAVs).

Ken Summers of Comfort Institute made a substantial argument against the use of PAVs because of potential problems with humidity and the like. His position is supported by other credible resources such as a Florida utility company that has performed studies on the subject. In the interest of fair and balanced reporting, we also printed the viewpoint of a company that is in the business of home ventilation. A power attic ventilator has its place, according to Broan-NuTone, and should not be confused with whole-house fans which serve a different purpose.

Fair enough. Two differing positions on a subject will likely cause you to study the issue carefully as you make your own decisions as to what solution may be the best for a given application. I think I understand the arguments for and against PAVs. It depends a lot on the construction of the building and the climate.

However, the space between my ears is hurting. Now, another gray-colored topic, the matter of whole-house ventilation, pops up. As you might guess, there are two schools of thought. Some people like them, some people don’t.

Today, I read a technical sheet from the Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E), a California utility company. The summertime advice from PG&E is to open the screened windows and doors and operate your whole-house fan instead of your air conditioner before the temperature rises during the day. I have read research from other sources that discourages the use of whole-house fans.

Huh? It seems that utility companies would agree on the use of various equipment solutions; after all they are considered energy experts. Who are you supposed to believe?


If you live in some parts of California, perhaps you can take PG&E’s advice and not worry too much about the extra humidity that you could otherwise introduce into the living space if you lived in southern Mississippi. If the space between your ears started aching years ago from all the conflicting and disparate advice, suffice it to say that there are a lot of different climates throughout the land of the free and the home of the brave. Many different solutions are required because one solution won’t necessarily be a perfect fit in every climate.

Think about it. Heat pumps are more popular and probably more effective in some geographic areas than in others. Heat recovery ventilators and energy recovery ventilators (HRVs/ERVs) have their own geographical advantages, and I doubt that New Mexico is a tremendous market for dehumidifiers.


If you are a contractor, which about 32,000 of our paid subscribers are, you have to be constantly on your game. Aside from having your own natural biases about what types of products work best in a given situation, you must keep up with all the new gadgets if you are going to intelligently answer the questions that some of your customers are going to ask.

For example, if you are a contractor in Great Falls, Mont., and your customer asks you how much the return on investment will be if she purchases an 18 SEER system, you can pretty honestly say, “Not much.”

I know. That was a pretty easy one. But what if your customer in Nashville, Tenn., wants to know about a hybrid system? Do you know the gas and electric rates by heart and do you also know how often the system might switch back and forth from one fuel source to another?

Well, thankfully, you only have to be on top of those issues that are important to you. Still, it’s a pretty big job to keep up with all the products and technologies no matter where you live. It’s enough to make the space between your ears start hurting.


If you want to make your life a little less complicated, back up a few pages and trust the opinions of some other contractors about some whizbang products and services.

A panel of HVAC contractors studied 106 entries and decided which ones were the best from the standpoint of installation, service, and maintenance. Of course, the 51 judges probably have their own geographical biases - but if you look closely among the winners, I’m sure you will find at least one that you should be using where you live.

Publication date:07/16/2007