Sunday, December 06, 2020

Home work

This week I finished one of the house projects I needed specialist companies to do, and I made progress on another. This week’s project was arranged last week, before I knew I was having the procedure, and the other one was a quote that won’t be actioned until the New Year. The important part for both is that things are moving forward.

I’d often talked about putting ducted air conditioning in the house, which is basically a heat pump solution that cools in summer and warms in winter. Nigel and I had that when we lived on Auckland’s North Shore, and the house was comfortable year round. However, it’s also very expensive to install, and that became a factor for me.

Last month, I went to the Waikato Home and Garden Show, and one of the things I wanted to check out was companies doing whole-house ducted air conditioning. It turned out there were few options on show, and among them was a company called HRV that specialises in ventilation systems which now includes ducted air conditioning, among other products.

The problem I had was that the heating/cooling systems are very expensive—more than $16,000—and I just couldn’t justify spending that kind of money when I’m the only one living in this house. I knew that some Kiwis balked at ducted heating/cooling systems because of their belief that they’re horribly expensive to run (they’re not), and that fact could affect the resale value of the house, effectively costing me money twice. In any case, I doubt that many (any?) people would spend more to buy this house just because it was installed.

I initially rejected the idea of the simple ventilation system HRV sells because I didn’t see what value it would give me, since it didn’t heat or cool—it just moves air around. I’d already turned away the guy I spoke to at the show, then I got a call from a persistent person at HRV who really wanted me to set up an appointment with their guy who deals with this area. I agreed in the end, fully intending to tell him no, too.

Things turned out differently. He took measurements of the house and dampness levels (which weren’t bad at all), and he explained in detail how the system works, far more so than their brochure does. It eventually dawned on me that the simple ventilation system would accomplish the main thing I wanted, namely, to even out the temperature in the house.

I have a heat pump in the master bedroom and in the open-plan lounge/kitchen/dining, but the other two bedrooms and the hallway have nothing, and they get hot in summer and cold in winter. The HRV system will help that. Here’s their diagram of how it works:

Basically, a unit in the attic/roof space draws in air, filters it, and blows it into the house through ducts, relying on thermostats in the roof space and in the house. How it does that does that depends on the season: In summer, it’s off all day, then at night, when the temperature in the roof space drops, it pumps cooler air into the house, reducing the overall temperature inside to the pre-set level. In winter, it draws the warmer air in the roof space and pumps that warm air throughout the house, raising the average temperature.

It works this way because the roof space temperature is always high when the sun is shining, and it drops off dramatically when the sun sets (especially in winter, of course). Because the system has no heating or cooling function of its own, and just moves air around, it’s dramatically less expensive to run than any heat pump type system, and costs maybe a quarter the price to install. To me, this was a more affordable solution to what I wanted to accomplish—a more even temperature throughout the house.I was also aware that most Kiwis are familiar with the system, and some people actively want it. That means that installing it will be cost-neutral at resale, and it may even help, with speed of sale, and maybe even the price.

Modern houses tend to be well-sealed—plenty of insulation, tight fitting windows and doors, and double-glazing, all of which makes it difficult for the house to “breathe”, and that can trap moisture in the house. The company says their system gets around that problem by introducing filtered fresh, dry air, and I take their claim at face value. It certainly can’t hurt, regardless of whether the advantages are as good as they say. My main interest was always about evening the temperature.

I’ve been through two evenings so far, and the first one I was surprised at how “loud” it was sitting under the duct. “Loud” is a relative term, of course. In our old house, it only sounded like that when the fan was on high, and I think the sound might bother some people. But, this is yet another way in which I’m not like other people: I don’t mind the soft whirring sound at all. In fact, I think it’s kind of soothing.

In any case, the fan doesn’t run all that long—just until the house gets to the set temperature, and then it shuts off. It certainly wouldn’t have been loud enough to keep me awake (the heat pump in my bedroom is much louder), but it shut off well before I went to bed, anyway. However, I think it must’ve turned back on during both nights because my bedroom was nowhere near as stuffy as it had been in the mornings before installation. Another win, in my opinion.

So far, I’m happy with the system and the results I’m getting. We’re not into full-on summer yet, and it was installed months after the worst of winter, so I don’t have any way to really compare it to the before. Even so, my initial impression is that it will do what I wanted.

So, tick that one off the list. I’ll talk about other projects as they happen, of course, but it’s nice to get this one done before Christmas. On to the next projects!

The image of the ventilation system is from the company website and included for purposes of clarity. The Facebook ad, which shows the filtration, is notable mainly for its 2020 appropriateness. I was not paid or compensated in any way for this post, however, for the sake of transparency, I did receive a "show special" of an additional duct outlet at no additional charge, just as anyone who went the show would have.


Roger Owen Green said...

We love a happy Arthur!

Arthur Schenck said...

Yeah, he doesn't come to visit me often enough. 😉