AHR 2017 - Balancing the HVAC equation

A good HVAC specialist once told me that the best HVAC system is one that you never know is there, because it’s doing its job keeping you comfortable. For most people, heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems are something that they rarely see or think about, because the components are usually behind a locked door or in the basement and there’s really no reason to check it out unless it breaks.

However, I believe that if more people have a rudimentary understanding of what goes into an HVAC system, we could design better homes and buildings, increase the comfort of the occupants, and save people time and money.

When I was at the AHR expo this past January, I got to sit down with Dan Foley of Foley Mechanical and discuss this concept with him. Dan has many years of experience in the HVAC industry and shared with me some insights that you can only get from years of coming up on different scenarios on the job. Dan talked to me about the importance of listening to his clients and some minor home construction adjustments that could make for better systems overall. I hope you enjoy and get some good takeaways from this segment!

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Q&A - word of mouth vs. online resources

Over the course of 30 years or so, many of the contractors that I have hired to do work on my home have been "repeat customers". Generally, once I find someone who is reliable and who does good work, I tend to stick with that person for as long as possible through my various projects.

Oftentimes, somebody I work with on projects over the course of years or decades is able to recommend other people to me who do good work. One example of such a person who I've worked with for a long time is Mike Evangelisti, the foundation contractor who brought his big machines in to dig the hole where my new home will go. Not only is Mike proficient at digging precision holes, he was also able to help me with the septic system, grading, and moving topsoil to a location on the property where I can use it later.

In many instances, the contractors and specialists you'll use for a project in an area may know each other well and know who to call if you're in need of someone for a part of your project.

However, it's good to keep all of your options in mind when it comes to finding qualified experts to work with. If you move to a new area and you don't know anyone, there are some services available online like findabuilder.com that can provide you with some names and phone numbers. It's also possible to hire contractors and builders from an online classified service like Craigslist, but I'm a bit from the old school and generally don't procure my services this way.

What do you think? Have you had an experience where you've used Craiglist or another service to find a contractor or licensed professional? I'm curious to know about your experience... join the conversation and let us know!

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Looking through panes of glass

Back in our "Windows and Doors" episode, I walked through a showroom packed full of different examples of windows that I could have installed in my new home. From single to double pane, from solid glass pane to casement windows, I knew that I wouldn't be selecting just one style of window for my new home and that I would have to make some choices about what manufacturer to use.

Before I installed my sets of windows, I had the framers finish most of the frame and install our housewrap and flashing system so that I could install the windows and casements at the end of that process. Since I plan on hanging four inches of ridged insulation (2 layers of paper faced polyisocyanurate insulation) on the outside of the frame, I designed the extension jambs to protrude out about four inches so that when the insulation is hung and the siding installed, the windows won't stick out like a sore thumb.

I built the extension jambs myself out of PVC lumber. In order to accomplish this task I've temporarily converted my garage space into a miniature sawmill, with appropriate sawdust collection and ventilation systems. I feel more like a lumberjack already!

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Electrifying Green Comfort

Now that the framing and insulation of my new eco-friendly home is nearly complete, I have the opportunity to shift my attention to the interior. My wife and I haven't quite made our final decisions about the cosmetic details, but one area that I'm moving forward on right away is developing and implementing my electrical plan.

Planning the electrical system for my new home is where some of my professional engineering skills come in handy. Knowing exactly where to drill holes and how much wire I will need are a couple of the details that I've filled in even before I hang an electrical box. For practical and safety reasons, I've made sure that every detail of my electrical system has been planned out before I start wiring up my house.

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The latest in geothermal at AHR Expo 2017

Geothermal heating and cooling technology is without a doubt one of the most efficient and eco-friendly ways to bring comfort into your home. It goes without saying that using a geothermal heat pump is better for the environment - geothermal eliminates the need for fossil fuels and provides a level of year-round comfort that is the same or better than fossil fuel systems.

When I got to Las Vegas for AHR 2017, one of the first people I went looking for was Jay Egg, one of our country's foremost experts on all things related to geothermal. Jay and I sat down for an interview at last year's AHR show in Orlando, where he talked to me about the benefits of installing a geothermal heating and cooling system. Now that a year has passed, I wanted to catch up with him and learn what’s changed over the past year, what the developments in the industry have been, and whether or not financial incentives remain for me to install such a system in my new home.

I haven’t made any final decisions yet about what’s going to go in the basement as far as heating and cooling, but a geothermal system drives a hard bargain as far as long-term energy savings and reducing my carbon footprint.

What do you think about geothermal heating and cooling? Do you think I should install a system in my new home? Join the conversation and let us know!

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Q&A - Managing your project in the best way

Through the course of this blog so far, I've written some zany analogies about building a new home. I've compared it to being the conductor in a symphony orchestra, because all the parts of your project must work well together in order to assure optimal and predictable results.

I think it's more than that, though - I think that having a home-building project go well also requires a certain degree of emotional intelligence. I have a friend whose family grew up with an African Grey Parrot - if you're not familiar with these majestic animals, these parrots are highly intelligent and require constant time and attention from their owners. My friend's family showered the bird in love and attention, and in return the bird sang and made the house a happy place to be.

Like the African Grey, a home-building project is long-lived experience and potentially a life-long companion - if you plan to live in the house you build, then I think it's important to build with heart - treat the people you work with well, and they'll make your house a happy place to be. Love your project, and it will love you back.

I hope my tip helps some of you to have great home-building projects. What's your advice for managing a project in the best way possible? Join the conversation and let us know!

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AHR 2017 - Everyone's a winner!

This year's AHR show in Las Vegas was fantastic. In between my booth dury for Taco Comfort Solutions, I got to catch up with a wide range of professionals across the HVACR industry. Energy efficiency is still the name of the game, and the drive to make more eco-friendly mechanical systems that consume less power is stronger than ever.

On the show floor, I ran into a few old friends and a couple of new ones, and I'll have some special content for you in the weeks to come. I had the pleasure of having a few conversations with some folks whose knowledge you'll find interesting including Robert Bean, recipient of this year's Dan Holohan Lifetime Contribution to Comfort Award. Be sure to check the blog regularly for these special feature updates. Did you attend this year's AHR Expo? Share your experiences by leaving a comment below!

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The right ingredients for a great kitchen

One of the biggest areas where I can save money on energy costs for my eco-friendly home is in the kitchen. Even though I’m still working on the skeleton of the room that will become our kitchen, I think that planning the details of what appliances I want to include and what materials to use is important to do early on in the process.


The kitchen is one area of my new home that I’m pretty excited about, just because kitchens are fun to design and there is a myriad of options out there that can really spice things up. One of the latest trends in kitchen design is to hide appliances - that is, cover up the refrigerator, dishwasher, and other appliances with cabinetry so that the whole space blends seamlessly together. Whether or not this will look good in 20 years is debatable - if I decide to hide my appliances behind cabinet veneers, only time will tell.

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AHR is right around the corner!

The International Air Conditioning, heating, and Refrigerating Exposition, or AHR Expo, bills itself as a “unique forum designed expressly for the HVACR community, allowing professionals to get together to share new products, technologies and ideas.” I’ve found my experiences at the show to be overwhelmingly productive, and I’ve met some faces there who have helped me along in my quest to built a comfortable, eco-friendly home.

At last year’s AHR Expo in Orlando, I had the pleasure to speak with some of the industry’s leading experts about sustainable building design, construction techniques, and systems that could greatly reduce the carbon footprint of my new home. Dr. Allison Bailes III is a fellow eco-friendly homebuilder and author of the Energy Vanguard blog. He teaches HVAC professionals about the big picture when it comes to eco-friendly home construction and offers invaluable knowledge and expertise on a multitude of energy efficiency related topics.

At AHR 16, I also got to speak with Jay Egg, a certified geothermal designer and mechanical professional who has been an authority on geothermal heating and cooling systems for nearly 30 years. In my opinion, Jay Egg is a foremost authority on all things geothermal and is a great resource for anyone considering installing such a system, including myself.

I also got to catch up with one of the best HVAC trainers in the industry, Taco FloPro Team Trainer John Barba. John is committed to providing the highest level of support and training to folks working across the HVAC industry, and I got a chance to talk to him about my project at last year’s AHR show. I also got to ask him what to expect at this year’s AHR show.



Are you looking forward to the AHR expo? Will you be attending? Join the conversation and let us know!

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Time to select a house wrap system

Protecting the walls and roof of my new home from wind, moisture and infiltration is super important, especially during the stages of construction when the frame of my home will be more vulnerable to the elements.

Now that the framing of my eco-friendly home is mostly complete, it’s time to protect the structure that I’ve invested so much time and energy on so far. Generally, home builders do this by wrapping the unfinished structure in a protective layer of man-made film that allows moisture to escape while not allowing any to pass through the barrier from the outside. House wrap helps keep the structure dry and keeps the materials in good condition until the outer layers of the home can be applied.



By preventing water from penetrating the structure, mold is not able to form and rot is not able to take hold on the structure. This is important when you’ve spent thousands of dollars on building materials and hundreds of man hours building a structure that you plan to live in.

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