Can Green and Comfort Get Along?

Can Green and Comfort Get Along?

Steve Saunders of Tempo Mechanical, speaking at HVAC Comfortech 2007. Saunders has started a home energy testing company called Texas Energy Solutions.
Richardson: green variables go beyond a tight duct system.

Energy efficiency is the HVAC contractor’s ticket to the big time world of green, and the greening of HVAC services begins with education. For example, The National Comfort Institute (NCI), Sheffield Lake, OH, trains and certifies air conditioning and heating contractors and energy raters on how to measure and rate heating and cooling system performance. According to NCI, that training brings an astounding transformation in the way an HVAC contractor performs his or her work, and in how customers view the service.

“Once a contractor rates a system and identifies a problem for homeowners or building owners, it opens an incredible door,” says NCI’s Rob “Doc” Falke. “Our research has found that most systems operate at 57% of capacity. We make that determination by using air balancing and combustion testing.”

One of NCI’s newest disciples is David Richardson, Richardson Heating and Air Conditioning, Frankfort, KY. Richardson says his NCI training and certification inspired him to view green comfort as a function of efficiency, and he’s gone back to many customers to recommission their comfort equipment as an integrated systems, rather than as parts working independently of each other.

“To ensure that our installations are as efficient as possible, we’ve incorporated commercial air balancing methodology and commercial combustion testing into our services,” Richardson says.

Richardson has taken his team to another level, and now, his technicians can truly verify system-wide efficiency, not just box efficiency.

“We’re trying to open some eyes to see there’s a methodology that goes into improving the entire system,” Richardson says. That’s where green can tie in; by making consumers aware that there are more variables to this than just a tight duct system.”

There’s a Competitive Advantage to Doing it Right
There will always be contractors looking to take short cuts on a project. Richardson says that philosophy is often at work among those of his competitors who view improved system performance as too much work that takes up too much time.

“In addition, we’ve entered an economic cycle that for a time has made system improvement more affordable for strapped homeowners than total system replacement,” he says. “With the economy the way it is, making the equipment do what it’s supposed to do is more affordable than ripping everything out. There’s virtually no competition because no one else wants to size it — they just seal it. But there are additional efficiency-related variables — beyond just a tight duct system — that are being ignored.”

Spreading the Word
Richardson’s proactive stance includes advising his peer group on all things green. He writes a carbon monoxide article for a regional contractor publication, and encourages them to try to see the big picture of total system efficiency.

“If contractors understand how the various components interact, they’ll realize that this is all more than just ‘equipment.’ Look at what the entire system is meant to provide related to comfort and efficiency,” Richardson says.

Steve Saunders, president, Tempo Mechanical, Dallas, TX, believes so deeply in the need for home energy efficiency that he started a home energy rating business as a division of Tempo Mechanical, called Texas Energy Solutions.

“We work hard on new construction homes, and energy performance in existing homes,” Saunders explains. “We support the National Comfort Institute, and try to apply commercial techniques to our business. There are many opportunities to improve the ongoing energy crisis, and be at the center of a national issue that requires our attention.”

The Energy Rater Route
For those contractors who prefer to subcontract the energy rating aspect of HVAC system efficiency, a certified energy rater is the way to go.

Bob Brice, president of Cenergy, Des Moines, IA, has been crisscrossing the U.S. to improve energy raters’ image in the eyes of HVAC contractors who haven’t always appreciated what raters have to offer. (See Brice’s article on p. 68 of this issue.)

Brice believes green HVAC contracting means you offer similar solutions to meet different goals.

“If I’m working with someone who’s convinced the glaciers melted yesterday, that’s fine with me, because the solutions I’m going to propose to that person are the same solutions I’ll propose to the person who simply wants to save money on their utility bills,” Brice says.

Trish Holder speaks to groups on building green.
The Mainstream GreenHome.

Two Projects, One Objective: Green Comfort
1 Trish Holder, a wife, mother, writer, and marketing consultant in Greensboro, NC, knows more about HVAC technology than your average busy parent. Holder and her husband Mark Raines are building a green home in the Pleasant Oaks subdivision of Northwest Guilford County, and documenting their progress to inspire and educate others, at

Holder has taken an active role in selecting building materials, HVAC equipment, insulation, and plumbing for the new home. HVAC sponsors include Broan NuTone, WaterFurnace, and Zurn.

Holder is aware of the fact that not every trendy product leads to the most comfortable living environment. She’s glad to support a greener option, as long as it doesn’t interfere with her overall objective — assimilating green technology without sacrificing comfort and style.

“We have several goals, not the least of which is keeping it ‘real world,’” Holder says. “So windmills are out, but a geothermal heat pump is in.”

Holder and her husband Mark are willing to build a home that costs 5 to 10% more for the sake of minimizing energy usage and overall environmental impact.

“Staying on budget is certainly a priority, because we don’t want to ‘green’ the house out of its resale value,” Holder says. “The biggest challenge is evaluating products in terms of overall greenness. The most energy efficient products are sometimes shipped across the country or ocean, so you burn fuel to get them here. I struggle with that one all the time.”

To learn more about the Holder- Raines green home, visit

2 Energy-saving HVAC systems in a newly-completed National Homebuilder Mainstream GreenHome, Raleigh, NC, have helped reduced fuel costs by70%. The Mainstream Green- Home has received LEED platinum certification. The Mainstream Green- Home is managed by Cherokee, Raleigh, NC, a private equity firm that invests in brownfield redevelopment projects.

A ground source heat pump by TRC connects two Florida Heat Pump units that act as heat exchangers and condensers and tie into a duct ventilation system.

Radiant flooring by Warmboard uses a vegetable byproduct to transport heat through aluminum coated tubing. The heat is then dispersed through aluminum- coated flooring.

The air conditioning system was installed by Allen Kelly & Company, Raleigh, NC.

Contractor Interest in Proper Ventilation Grows
As interest among commercial contractors in the LEED program grows, there’s one area that poses a particular challenge. It’s related to ventilation. Dedicated outdoor air systems (DOAs) are used to help contractors meet LEED’s ventilation requirements as defined in ASHRAE 62.1.

Properly designed dedicated outdoor air systems working in parallel with sensible cooling equipment help to address four problem areas: 1) The delivery of ventilation air must be separated from the space conditioning systems for proper ventilation air distribution. 2) Conditioning outdoor air to handle all space-latent load, and much of the spacesensible load, employing energy recovery, as specified by ASHRAE 90.1-2004. 3) Meet the balance of the space-sensible loads with a parallel system. 4) Integrate fire suppression and energy transport systems as permitted by the National Fire Protection Association’s NFPA 13.

“The DOA system decouples the sensible and latent loads, and makes it easy to handle the outside air,” says Rigdon Terrell, director of marketing for Sierra Fresh Air Systems, Dallas, TX, a manufacturer of dedicated outdoor air systems, evaporative cooling, and directfired heating systems.

“By handling the latent load in one box, you’re significantly reducing the size of all the sensible equipment,” Terrell says. “The key is making sure it’s sized properly to handle the worst enthalpy conditions, not necessarily the hottest day of the year. You want to make sure you’re designing for peak moisture content on cooling side.

“When it comes to heating, an indirect- fired burner with high turn down is a great tool that enables you to tightly control the discharge temperature of the leaving air with the minimum amount of energy consumption.”

A Bright Green Future
Increasing number of progressive HVAC contractors — those with efficiency solutions verified by air balancing and ventilation system improvements — have determined how to harness the power of green and use it to their advantage. As the months pass, and more HVAC contractors pursue system testing and build good relationships with energy raters, their image will be enhanced. No longer will contractors be know only as the “heating guys.” Instead, they’ll be at the top of everyone’s list — homeowners, media, municipalities, and businesses — as the green efficiency experts.

TAGS: Archive
Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.