A Lesson in Home Comfort

July 1, 2006
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Jim Powell, left, and Craig Jones installed a $50,800 comfort system in the Bavas' 5,625-sq. ft. home in Shelby Township, MI

In the living room, Slasor Heating and Cooling installed a Heatilator 40-in. caliber designer direct vent, two-sided fireplace, with a multifunction wall control.

The hydronic piping has become a stop on the Bavas' home tours.

Thanks to Slasor, the Bavas' new kitchen is a comfortable place to cook and entertain.

Acting as your own general contractor when building your home can be a real learning experience. For Robert and Joanne Bava, all of the latest technology and options for heating and cooling was something they were willing to learn about.

"We acted as our own general contractor, and for the most part, we were learning on the job," Robert Bava says. "My wife and I had never done anything this large-scale before.

"The biggest learning part for us was to figure out how to accomplish getting our house heated and cooled in an efficient manner so that we wouldn't have high heating and cooling bills."

Another concern for the Bavas was their large walkout basement. They wanted this area to feel as comfortable and as livable as the rest of their Shelby Township, MI, home, and they knew that they'd have to find a contractor they could trust. So they turned to Jim Powell and Craig Jones at Slasor Heating & Cooling, Inc., Livonia, MI.

"We've worked for them in the past; Robert's the CEO of the Community Choice Credit Union in Livonia, which is about a 9-iron from our office, so we've done all the work at their branches for years," Jones says. "He said he was building a new house and asked if we'd be interested in giving him a price on heating and cooling."

The Bavas had very specific criteria for Slasor. They wanted a heating and cooling system that was highly efficient, had quiet operation, and provided excellent indoor air quality, with an unlimited supply of hot water.

"A comfortable basement was one of the criteria, too. In his old house, he finished the basement, but he said it was always miserable — cold, clammy, and damp," Jones says. "He wanted the basement to be warm and energy efficient."

Slasor met the challenge head on, designing a radiant heating system for the basement along with a zone damper system in conjunction with a forced air furnace. They installed a Burnham Revolution direct vent boiler, 3300-ft. of Uponor/Wirsbo radiant tubing, and a Triangle Tube 75-gallon indirect water heater, along with a Trane XV90 variable speed furnace.

"They were also planning on putting in a big tub in the master bath, and a shower with six body sprays," Jones says. "I told him that we'd either have to look at multiple or tankless water heaters, or we could accomplish a lot of these things with a kind of hybrid system, using a boiler to heat the slab in the basement and make your basement walkout level 70F on a 20F day. We can provide an unlimited supply of hot water with an indirect water heater that can also heat the bathroom floor.

"Of course, being a banking executive, Robert wanted it to make sense financially — it was more money up front, but he liked the projected payback through energy cost-savings."

This type of system was nothing new for Slasor; they've installed many radiant systems and hybrid systems, so the challenge that the Bavas presented gave them an opportunity to educate the homeowners.

"We knew about (radiant heat) from seeing it on a couple of different television shows," Bava says. "Most of what we learned, as far as the benefits, how it works, and the installation procedure, we learned from Craig and Jim."

"As a heating and cooling contractor, you can never discount the value that a homeowner might attach to comfort, quiet, energy savings, and indoor air quality," Jones says. "We have so many neat products available to us in this industry now. Even products that aren't directly related to heating and cooling; homeowners are really surprised by some of the things we can offer them."

Slasor performed a Manual J room-by-room heat gain, heat loss calculation when they first arrived. In addition to determining the type of heating system to install, they realized that they could cool the entire house utilizing a single 5-ton capacity 19 SEER unit. Most of the other quotes the Bavas were getting were for multiple furnaces and multiple air conditioners.

"A lot of guys were quoting him for three duct systems, with three furnaces and two air conditioners; three air cleaners and two or three humidifiers," Jones says. "The systems that Robert was seeing included b-vent chimneys sticking through his roof — one competitor even wanted to put a furnace in the attic — and Robert didn't like those ideas at all."

Considering the top of the line equipment used in Slasor's quotes, and that the heating system would also be providing unlimited hot water, the Bavas didn't find it unreasonable when their quote was only $12,000 to $15,000 more than the other "multiple furnace" quotes they were getting.

"We did the whole thing with a 19 SEER 5-ton air conditioner that has two compressors," Jones says. "With zoning you can do a lot more square footage with the same tonnage. Even the inspector in Shelby Township questioned the ability to cool the whole house with just one unit."

What also really appealed to the Bavas was the efficiency and the energy savings they would be getting as well. Slasor's comfort solution was sufficient to quell their concerns that it would cost them a bundle to heat and cool the 5625-sq. ft. home plus basement.

"We moved in about a year and a half ago, and have had no problems with the system at all; it's very comfortable," Bava says. "It's fantastic. They did really nice work. We've been comparing our monthly bills with some of our neighbors and family members with smaller houses, and our bills are actually smaller than theirs."

Jones added: "This winter, we had a recordcold December, and a lot of their neighbors with similar sized homes were complaining of $650 gas bills. Robert and Joanne's was only about half of that. For a guy who's a CEO of a credit union, he's well aware of the cost savings.

Not only are the Bavas satisfied with the system's ability to meet their comfort and energy-efficiency needs, they're impressed with the quality of the work, too. And they're not the only ones.

"We've had more than a couple of compliments on Slasor's work. We had a different plumber that came in to do the basement and he just stared at their work and said, 'you don't see this very often,'" Bava says. "Even the township inspector was amazed with the quality of the whole system and how it was put together.

"Having the radiant heat system has been a neat feature whenever we give a tour of the house; we always show the tubes going into the cement in the basement, and the plumbing work. At least the guys that come over find it pretty cool."

This home is the end of the line for Robert and Joanne Bava and their daughters. They've built a couple of homes in the past, but they don't have any plans to move out of this one. Thanks to Jim Powell, Craig Jones, and Slasor, the Bavas have learned efficient heating and cooling is possible, and that they're comfortable right where they are.


  • rane XV90 variable speed furnace
  • Trane XL19i two stage, 19 SEER air conditioner
  • Trane cased coil with TXV
  • Burnham direct vent Revolution boiler
  • Triangle Tube indirect water heater
  • Uponor radiant heat tubing
  • Uponor radiant heat manifolds
  • Grundfos pumps
  • Tekmar 256 controller
  • McDonald Miller LWCO B&G flow controls
  • Taco SR503-1 pump relay with priority
  • Honeywell three zone damper system with ZD dampers and S/A temperature sensor
  • Honeywell electronic air cleaner
  • Honeywell single bulb return air ultraviolet light
  • Honeywell flow-through and temperature compensating humidifier
  • Honeywell/Trane digital programmable thermostats with seven-day programming and intelligent recovery
  • ODT sensors
  • Heatilator 40-in. caliber direct vent see-through fireplace