- heating and cooling -
it wasn’t important to Sandee and I whether our heating and cooling system was a Lennox, Trane, Carrier or Rheem. regardless of the brand, we knew the best system for 340 fairfax was the one that was professionally designed, properly installed, then tested and tweaked to insure it was working right.
but there’s a problem. although the majority of heating and cooling contractors are honest, hardworking people, we’ve found they do not posses the knowledge and skill to design heating and cooling systems. even though it adds substantial cost, i always engage a professional to engineer and design our heating and cooling systems. then i know everything is done right.
for example, when it comes to cooling systems, bigger is not better. with all the improvements in insulation and our A+ job with airtightness, we were able to dramatically reduce the size of our air conditioners. as a matter of fact, we’re using units about ½ the size as a comparable new home. better insulation and sealing air leaks increases our comfort, supports better health and saves energy. and using a smaller system costs less to install.
but taking advantage of “right sized” units would not have been possible without a professional design.
unfortunately, air conditioners in most custom homes are sized by rules of thumb or other dubious approaches. oversizing is an epidemic problem, leaving homeowners with increased energy bills, shorter equipment life, discomfort, uncontrolled humidity and a higher risk of mold.
the systems at 340 fairfax were engineered using the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) professional design process.
the ACCA process is contained in a series of engineering manuals that we don’t even pretend to understand. most of the procedures are so complex a computer is required. but we learned long ago that just because someone owns computer software, doesn’t mean they know how to use it correctly.
the designer at 340 fairfax is certified ACCA instructor. that gives us enormous confidence that everything will be done by the book.
our main floor is cooled with a Carrier Infinity heat pump system. we will use radiant floor heat in the winter.
the Infinity system is a state of the art variable capacity heat pump. it modulates output from 35% to 100% much like an accelerator on a car regulates your speed. if outdoor temperatures are mild, we don’t need full capacity to be comfortable.
so the Infinity unit cruises at ¼ - ½ speed leaving us cool as cucumbers. when the 90-degree days hit, it goes “petal to the metal” delivering full power.
modulation provides enormous advantages in comfort and humidity control. And these units only use a fraction of the energy compared to conventional “contractor-grade” units. as a matter of fact, on the low speed, this system uses less power than Sandee’s portable hair dryer.
we’ve divided the main floor into two zones. zone 1 serves the master suite and Sandee’s office. zone 2 serves the rest of the living areas.
both zones are controlled with their own dedicated thermostat. this allows us to set a different temperature in each zone. it is a nice feature since we both like sleeping in cooler temperatures. with zoning, we don’t have to overcool the entire main floor just to cool our bedroom.
the main control is an Infinity Touch Screen in the great room. this full color, high-definition screen displays both indoor and outdoor temperature as well as humidity. but the Infinity system doesn’t just control temperature. it also controls indoor humidity and displays the local forecast. this is handy to know when deciding what to wear before heading out the door.
both zones can be controlled from the master Touch Screen. but the master suite has its own thermostat as well. so we don’t have to walk from the bedroom to the living room to adjust the temperature.
the system connects to the Internet using our wireless router. this allows us to monitor and control the system from a computer, smartphone or tablet from anywhere in the world where we have Internet service.
our second floor living areas are heated and cooled with a Mitsubishi heat pump that is also variable capacity. just like the Infinity, its display is full color, high-definition. it is connected to the Internet as well.
providing uniform comfort in “low energy” homes is a tough job. adding zoning makes it even more complicated. this is where the ACCA engineering manuals offer excellent guidance for the best design.
our designer follows the ACCA process by determining how much heating and cooling is needed in every room. then he creates a system layout and develops a blueprint. the blueprint shows all the bends and turns the air must pass through to get to the rooms. each bend and turn adds resistance to the airflow. So the resistance of each pathway is calculated to determine the right size ducts and blower power. this is only way to insure every room is evenly heated and cooled. the entire process is thorough and precise with no guesswork.
the professionally designed, properly installed and performance verified heating and cooling system at 340 fairfax assures us that we will enjoy better quality indoor living.