Original article by: BUILDER Online
4 ways home builders can use building science to win more business.
You might say Doug and Alexi Asano’s forever home came down to a choice between countertops and their HVAC solutions.
“Don’t misunderstand. We have nice countertops and beautiful hardwood floors, but we chose to invest in things you don’t see upfront, like a top-flight all-electric HVAC system,” Asano explains when describing their new home just outside Charlotte, N.C.
The Asanos represent a growing home health and wellness trend, supercharged by the pandemic and work-at-home culture. It’s not surprising that air quality and comfort rank high at specification time.
“The Asano home is super airtight, with foam insulation in the wall cavities and attic, along with R-6 continuous insulation sheathing on the outside,” says home builder Lynne Keener. Keener and her husband, Gene, own and operate Fine Homes, Inc., a 38-year-old custom home builder. The home’s ACH50 rating is below 1.4, a high-performance threshold.
Leaving nothing to chance on indoor air quality and comfort, the Asanos’ architect, Boston-based Steve Baczek, did some research on their behalf. That ultimately led to Tranquility, a program that helps home builders effectively design the mechanical system for today’s high performance building envelope and offer solutions from either Trane or its sister premium brand American Standard Heating & Air Conditioning.
American Standard representatives facilitated the Asanos’ builders’ engagement of Patuxent Environmental Group (PEG), one of the nation’s leading HVAC consulting engineers. The challenge for PEG wasn’t as straightforward as it seems. Yes, the home was as tight as a thermos bottle, but with a catch: more than 70 windows. All that solar exposure had the potential to turn the home into a giant heat sink.
The home builder recalls, “Normally all the HVAC contractor says is, ‘Make it three zones with a three-ton system.’ Instead, we received lengthy documentation from PEG.” For this project, PEG recommended American Standard for heating, cooling, air-cleaning, ventilation, humidification, and dehumidification. PEG’s recommendations included:
- Right-Sizing. Oversizing equipment to handle worst-case scenarios is a tricky and often costly proposition. “It’s really important to get the building envelope inputs correct,” explains Mike Topitzhofer, national business development manager—building science, at Trane Technologies. “Oversizing means short-cycling. That reduces the runtime you need to effectively control moisture. Excess moisture leads to damage, rot, mold, and general discomfort. Short cycling is also hard on equipment."
- Clean Air. A pair of American Standard AccuClean Whole-Home Air Cleaners along with anti-microbial insulated ducts scrub the air of particulate matter down to .1 micron, about eight times more effective than the best HEPA room filters. AccuClean is the first air cleaner to earn asthma & allergy friendly certification from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) through their product testing arm, Allergy Standards Ltd.
- Fresh Air. A pair of American Standard FreshEffects Energy Recovery Ventilators (ERVs) constantly refresh the home with filtered and preconditioned fresh outside air, which helps save on heating and cooling and cleanses the air of more contaminants.
- Exterior Surfaces and Windows. Topitzhofer says all ducts terminate at the home’s interior, saving material expense and installation to exterior walls and windows while still achieving optimized comfort and efficiency.
What’s the best way to differentiate the air quality and comfort for your homes? Tranquility offers builders a whole-home, building science-based approach that delivers predictable home performance while improving the homeowner experience. Asano admits to one compromise. “We have always wanted a gas range. Our architect, Steve, couldn’t believe it. ‘A combustible? A big hole to exhaust it?’ he asked. He recommended an induction range to make the house 100% electric and we couldn’t be happier.”
The term AccuClean is a licensed trademark of American Standard Heating & Air Conditioning.
Certified asthma & allergy friendly symbol is a certification mark and registered trademark of Allergy Standards Limited (ASL) and the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA).
To learn more on HVAC systems for your next home project, visit trane.com/builders.