New Zehnder Q and ComfoPost Arrive Right on Cue for New West Vancouver Passive House

Albert Rooks and Shawn Barr collect final numbers for the Zehnder commissioning.

Albert Rooks and Shawn Barr collect final numbers for the Zehnder commissioning.

Last Tuesday, Small Planet Supply’s Albert Rooks met with Shawn Barr of Naikoon Construction to complete the final commissioning of the first Zehnder ComfoAir Q and ComfoPost in North America at the Radcliffe Passive House in West Vancouver.

The installation of the new Q system wasn’t an accident. Radcliffe Passive House owner James Dean was aware that the Q would soon be released in North America and wanted it installed in his new home since it represents a whole new level of heat recovery ventilation. 

Dean is also no stranger to this technology, as the ERV enthalpy exchanger and membrane comes from CORE Energy Recover comes from Core Energy Recovery Solutions, a company he founded.

More Sophisticated Technology Makes System Balancing Easier

New Zehnder Q

New Zehnder Q

Albert Rooks expressed excitement about the new unit because of the sophisticated operation of the unit which made installation easier. “It was really exciting because the unit measured the static pressure of the ducting system for the entire house and then confirmed the maximum airflow possible through the ducting, after which it self-balanced the supply and exhaust flows. This allowed me to input my target design flows without having to measure. From there, it prompted me to balance the room to room flows from within the home as the final step in the system’s commissioning wizard.”

This is an improvement from previous Zehnder products. In prior models, all of the balancing had to be done by hand, in a trial and manner fashion. The new version is much easier to commission, especially for remote locations. Another new feature also helps with remote locations. When the Q system is internet enabled, it makes it possible to remotely diagnose system problems.

First ComfoPost in North America Conditions Air

Zehnder ComfoPost, installed.

Zehnder ComfoPost, installed.

As briefly mentioned previously, the Radcliffe Passive House design didn’t just stop with the Zehnder Q, this system is also equipped with the Zehnder ComfoPost. The system takes heating or cooling from water brought into the home via a heat pump, putting it into the ventilated air. This reduces the amount of refrigerant needed which is better for the environment, while allowing occupants to use the Zehnder system to change the temperature in their home. Dean selected a Daikin heat pump that also produces domestic hot water.

Why did Dean decide to use the ComfoPost in his home? "Once I saw how little heating and cooling we needed from having such a well-insulated and airtight building envelope, I realized that we could really simplify the HVAC system by integrating the heating and cooling with the fresh air ventilation system. We considered using in-floor radiant, but decided it wouldn't feel comfortable when cooling and would rarely be used for heating and we wouldn't feel the warm comfort of the floor because the temperature differential of the floor and air is so small," James Dean noted. "The air quality, temperature and humidity levels from the Zehnder ComfoAir ERV and the ComfoPost is perfect."

Since ComfoPost is new to North America, Albert Rooks has applied to BC housing for a grant to support data collection of the ComfoPost unit. The study would help determine how effective the temperature transfer is on the low-flow ventilation air. The hope to find that due to the coil’s design that the transfer efficiency is quite high since its sized for low air flow and high transfer efficiency.

Custom Grills Made for Trickier Installation

The custom made grills caused problems with the commissioning. Sealing them and putting them back in placed fixed the problem.

The custom made grills caused problems with the commissioning. Sealing them and putting them back in placed fixed the problem.

Without a doubt, the decision to make custom grills for the passive house added to the clean lines that the house enjoys. However, the wood grills weren’t sealed tightly to the distribution box causing air to leak, throwing off the readings. This was remedied by removing the grills, getting everything sealed and then putting them back in place.

After one last measurement of the system with the air flow meter in both normal and boost mode, Albert completed the commissioning paperwork, verifying that West Vancouver’s passive house is not only beautiful, but balanced too. 


Using a Change Model to Better Gauge Customer Readiness for Change

If you’re an architect or a high-performance builder, you may not think that you have much in common with behavioral health professionals, but in certain cases you’re doing the same work that we do: getting people to change their behavior.  If you’re one of the lucky architect/builders who only gets clients who are 100% motivated to build energy-efficient homes, this isn’t the article for you.  If you find yourself frustrated and unsure why a client who seemed really motivated just disappeared, this article might be worth a read.

Therapists have long wrestled with what needs to happen to get individuals to intentionally change their behavior.   One theory, The Trans-theoretical (TTM) Model of Change (Proschaska & DiClemente) purports that people move through five (or six) stages when they change.  For therapists, behaviors  we’re dealing with are are things like quitting drinking or smoking, losing weight, etc.   While it may seem “obvious” to therapists why doing these things are positive, the key to helping clients achieve their goal is to understand where a client is in the process to match our strategies with where they are in the process.

For those who have “drunk the Kool-Aid” of high-performance building, it seems natural that everyone should get why high-performance homes are (obviously) the best choice (goal). It can be hard to remember that there was a time when we didn’t know why it was better to have tight envelopes, vapor-permeable barriers and fuel-efficient mechanicals.   Being able to identify where customers (and potential customers) are in the change process can help you use strategies specific to a customer’s stage of change and help you avoid unnecessary effort. 

Change Stage 1: Pre-Contemplation (or the  “What”) Stage Customers:

This is the stage of customer you may not see come through your doors, or may see by accident.  A friend told them about this architect who “built this beautiful home” but the desire to build an energy-efficient home isn’t there.   They may be hoping that you will build them the McMansion of their dreams. 

Strategies for Stage 1 Customers: Validate the desire to own something beautiful while encouraging the customer to consider how building a more energy-efficient home could be healthier for their family and the world.  In this stage you are just “planting the seed” that there can actually be a different way to build (or retrofit) a home.

Change Stage 2: Contemplation (or the “Why) Stage Customers:

This is the stage where most new customers come in.  They think they might like to build a healthier, more efficient home but they’re not sure they want to do it or how to build a healthier home if they want one. 

Strategies for Stage 2 Customers:

Validate that this is a big step and that the choice is theirs.  Encourage them to identify what the pros and cons of building a higher-efficiency home.   Listen carefully to the reasons they give so you can better understand their motivation. Help them identify positive things that will occur in their life as a result of their building choice. 

Change Stage 3: Preparation (or the “How”) Stage Customers

In this stage, the customer is starting to move toward a commitment to change – they are taking active steps to learn more about the new type of home they will build (or retrofit).

Strategies for Stage 3 Customers:

Encourage them to visit homes that are similar to the one they want to build.  Help them connect to other homeowners who have built highly efficient homes.  Encourage the customer have realistic expectations about the building process and ensure rapport with your customer is good.  The hardest (and best) stage is just ahead.

Stage 4: Action (or the Building) Stage Customers

This is when it happens.  The commitment is made and the house is being built.  With even the best planning, there are bound to be things that happen that can be upsetting: delays, cost increases, etc. 

Strategies for Stage 4 Customers:

When upsetting things occur, it can be helpful to try a two-step strategy.  First, empathize with the customer about the issue (most likely there is a really good reason to be upset) and second, refer back to the reasons the customer identified in Stage 2 about why they wanted to build an energy-efficient home.   By reminding them of the reasons why they made their choice, you are using their own words to remind them of their commitment.

Stage 5: Maintenance

It’s happened!  Your customer has moved into their house.  The pictures are on the wall and the barbecue is on the deck.  Other than making sure the check doesn’t bounce, there are still a couple more things you can do to help your customer in this strange new energy-efficient landscape.

Strategies for Stage 5 Customers:

During the euphoria of “finally moving in”, many customers aren’t focused on the mechanics of their new home.  Make an appointment two to three weeks after move in to go over the mechanical systems and other home features that may be new to the customer.  If there is an HRV or ERV, go over how the system runs, changing filters, etc.  Make sure your customer knows how to use all the equipment in their new home.  Help them identify any stumbling blocks that may make it difficult for them to keep their home performing well.   This will make it easier for them to avoid the sixth stage of change, “Relapse.”

Stage 6: Relapse

Hopefully none of your customers end up here, but it can happen.  Your customer turns off their HRV and can’t figure out why the house “doesn’t seem right” or drills holes in the ceiling to put in some fancy canned lighting, only to ruin your airtight building plan.   

Strategies for Stage 6 Customers

The first thing to do, of course, is to help the customer fix the problem.  Then, have a conversation about what triggered the issue (“I didn’t think I had to have the HRV on all the time” or “No one said I couldn’t make changes to the lighting”) or where misunderstandings may have occurred.  Help the client problem-solve how to avoid the issue in the future.  

There you have it, a little primer about stages of change!   For more information on creating your own change, check out:  “Changing for Good”: by James O. Prochaska and John C. Norcross. 

Have Truck, Will Travel: Reflections on the First Half of our BC Airtightness Workshops

Have Truck, Will Travel:  Reflections on the First Half of our BC Airtightness Workshops

Have Truck, Will Travel:  Reflections on the first half of our BC Airtightness Workshops

It was with a mixture of excitement and fear that Small Planet Supply accepted the contract award to provide mobile airtightness trainings across the BC Province.  The grant was a combined effort of Fortis BC, BC Hydro, the Province of British Columbia and BC Housing.  It wasn’t teaching the classes that seemed intimidating; it was the thought of navigating the sheer size of British Columbia, how to connect with communities across the region and how to replicate the hands-on portion of the BCIT held classes in local trainings.   Since late September, we’ve conducted twelve classes and trained 143 people. Here’s a little of what we’ve learned so far:

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Cork on the Outside of the Bottles

Cork on the Outside of the Bottles

Last Friday, Albert Rooks and I were in Lisbon for our third Amorim Cork Conference. The two-day conference highlights innovations in cork use. Amorim is the world's largest cork producer and manufactures cork flooring, cork stoppers for wine and our own Thermacork.

This year, following a tour of the factory (more on the factory tour soon), we were surprised with a site visit much more fun then last year's school tour - Fitapreta Winery, located outside of Evora.

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