Most likely, Corey Hickmann — president of Comfort Matters Heating & Cooling, Inc., Hanover, MN — would have preferred to have had this call come sometime in early fall, rather than on a cold day in early March. But, as he and many other HVAC contractors will agree, winter “no heat” calls come with the territory, especially when a home is being served by a
26-year old furnace and air conditioning system.
And so, in true Quality Home Comfort Awards style, Hickmann — who now has three QHCA awards to his credit — and his team answered this “cold” call admirably.
Hickmann arrived that day to find a 73-year old Cape Cod style home, with a basement and one-and-a-half levels of living space. But despite its age, much of the home’s structure had entered the 21st Century, thanks to the new owners, Tim and Sue Meggers. Since purchasing the home about four and a half years ago, the Meggers had completely renovated the home’s ground floor.
“We reinsulated, rewired, resheetrocked, and put in new trim, windows, and doors,” Mr. Meggers explained. And, thinking ahead to when he would soon renovate the second floor, he went ahead and installed ductwork to meet present and future comfort needs. Three unused duct runs he installed went from the first floor to the upstairs level, and three were connected to existing ducts.
“When the furnace died in March, and Corey visited with us, I told him where the new ducts were, and we figured out how to make the system work with the ductwork I installed,” Meggers recalled.
The basement had not yet been renovated, because the furnace location and the home’s older duct system arrangement made it difficult to remodel. But now, the failed system signaled it was time to get started on the basement. The comfort system would be the first improvement.
With the outside temperature in the 20F range, time was of the essence. Hickmann and two installation technicians — Nathan Lindstrom and Wesley Gedatus — made the necessary load calculations, spoke with the homeowner about the home’s comfort issues, and got to work as soon as possible.
“Corey is very knowledgable, and his workers are top-notch. They came in and were more than courteous, helpful, and patient,” Meggers said. “They took the time to answer our questions and they were thoroughly prepared before they started working. Our home is older, and there are some unique things about the duct system they had to work around. For example, they were very helpful in explaining and working with us to avoid having a large plenum hanging down the basement wall. It’s very clean. We’re very happy.”
From the Bottom Up
The team tackled the basement first, because there were decades-old needs that had to be addressed in that area before the new Amana systems were installed. First, they had to reposition the system about 6-ft. from its previous location, to offer more room on the landing at the bottom of the basement stairs.
There was also a serious need for duct improvements. For example, the previous owner had cut a six-inch hole for a duct run into an eight-inch floor truss!
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“We had to pull the ducting out so that the truss could be reinforced, and we also had to keep some integrity to the structure related to existing ceiling heights, and not make it a massive soffiting issue,” Hickmann explained. “It was plan-as-we-go to make things fit.”
The major challenges in the upper levels of the home were related to air balancing. “We added a significant amount of return air ducting to the main level,” Hickmann said. “Old homes were built with return air vents on outside walls and supply air returns on inside walls. Today, it’s the exact opposite. Our specialty is not to just replace and roll down the road. We want to meet all heating and cooling needs.”
Tricky Thermostat Problem
The biggest comfort challenge was in finding a solution for inaccurate thermostat readings, because the thermostat had been placed on a wall that concealed a supply air duct, and was reading the temperature of warm or cold air inside the wall. Rewiring and relocating the thermostat was not an option.
“We tried recalibrating the thermostat, which seemed to do OK this winter. But on the only two warm days we’ve had this spring, we were able to turn on air conditioning, and we realized there was still an issue with the temperature reading,” Hickmann said.
“The Honeywell Vision Pro thermostat was definitely being affected by the ductwork, and was giving off false temperature readings. A test period in spring found that there was a 9F difference between the thermostat reading of 66F (from the duct air inside the wall) and the actual room temperature of 75F.”
The solution was to install Honeywell’s newest VisionPro 8000, with RedLink remote capabilities. The remote RedLink unit senses the rooms’ true temperature, and it’s that reading which controls the thermostat start/stop times.
Although this was a smaller project, it nonetheless measured up to Quality Home Comfort Awards standards. The team from Comfort Matters answered the call, found the problem, and considered their options carefully. They put a solution in place, and helped another customer come to appreciate the value of a quality HVAC contractor.
PRODUCT KEYS TO SUCCESS
Amana 2-stage 96% variable speed furnace, AMVC 95045
Amana 15 SEER, 2-ton air conditioner, ASX14024
Honeywell VisionPro 8000 thermostat with RedLink remote control.
Little Giant condensate pump
Corey Hickmann, Nathan Lindstrom, Wesley Gedatus.
WHAT ARE THE QUALITY HOME COMFORT AWARDS & HOW TO ENTER
In 1991 Contracting Business.com magazine created the Quality Home Comfort Award program to recognize the very best in residential HVAC comfort system design and application.
COMFORT, QUALITY, and SUSTAINABILITY are our foremost requirements (This includes energy savings and indoor air quality as important parts of the overall consideration). UNIQUE IDEAS and PROBLEM SOLVING techniques are equally important. And start-up/commissioning procedures are key to the successful entry. Judging will be done by a panel of leading residential HVAC contractors.
Mail entries with sample photographs of good quality to Terry McIver, executive editor, ContractingBusiness.com, 1300 E. 9th St., Penton Building, Cleveland, OH 44114. OR, USE OUR ONLINE ENTRY FORM, found here.