Service gives homes clean bill of health

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  • | 12:00 p.m. July 20, 2005
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Builders and HVAC equipment subcontractors now are able to assure new-home buyers that their heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system is functioning at peak efficiency when they take possession of their new homes.

An HVAC system that is not operating properly is not suitably filtered or that is not dehumidifying air in the home can lead to a proliferation of mold and bacteria.

An analysis of the home and its air conditioning and heating system has many benefits and can help ensure that builders and subcontractors are protected from charges that an inefficient HVAC system is responsible for mold developing in a home later - a proposition that can be very costly for all concerned.

AirEnalasys, a member of the Northeast Florida Builders Association, is an independent company that conducts this type of home testing.

“We offer quality assurance by determining the condition of the home’s air supply and the operating status of the HVAC system,” said John B. Shepherd, president and CEO of AirEnalasys. “Our testing program will help improve levels of health, comfort and energy efficiency, all of which are affected by the HVAC system.”

Homeowners will learn about airflow and balance between air returned and air supplied and what type of air they are truly breathing.

“The program is available to existing and new-home owners,” said Michael O’Donoughue, owner of AirEnalasys’ Jacksonville franchise. “Educational materials, testing, analysis, certification and recommendations regarding air quality within the home and the performance of the home’s HVAC system all are included.”

Using sophisticated airflow technology, which is calibrated using National Institute of Standards and Technology traceable instrumentation, a trained and certified AirEnalasys technician analyzes the air conditioner and heat pump for efficiency and balance, assesses leakage throughout the home and generally determines where air is coming from in the home.

“The process is 100 percent computerized,” Shepherd said. “It is similar to an MRI of the home’s indoor air and includes an air flow test that determines the operating efficiency of the HVAC ducting system.

“The results are driven by facts and empirical data, which can identify areas of concern with regard to air quality and airflow such as circulation, filtration and balance issues.”

Based on the test results, AirEnalasys generates a report that may include recommendations for improvement.

“Following these recommendations can pay off by reducing electric bills, identifying hot and cold temperature zones within the home and uncovering potential humidity concerns,” O’Donoughue said.

The AirEnalasys process is a tool builders, subcontractors and homeowners can use to diagnose issues within the home and treat problems that arise, not just the symptoms.

Energy applied to the heating and cooling system accounts for more than half of the total energy used in the average home. However, 90 percent of homes may be operating at 60 percent efficiency or less.

“A desirable system should register between 90 percent and 105 percent efficiency,” Shepherd said. “Results of more than 105 percent can indicate air flow that is too rapid. This can present problems with moisture being pulled off the coil and carried into the ductwork, creating an undesirable situation.”

In the past, some air leaks around doors and windows were considered beneficial allowing for the exchange of stale air in the home with fresh air from outside of the home. This exchange has been eliminated almost completely.

“The national energy crisis of the 1970s led to tighter and tighter home construction,” Shepherd said. “These well-insulated homes may suffer from a lack of proper airflow delivery.”

Additionally, studies show that indoor air may be as much as two to five times more polluted than outdoor air. This can aggravate conditions such as allergies and asthma and lack of ventilation may be a contributing factor.

“While virtually eliminating air leaks may reduce loss of conditioned air, it also can lead to stale air within the home,” O’Donoughue said. “Building a home without conducting this test is like building stairs without a railing. It is to the builder’s advantage to know the status of the home and its systems.”

“The AirEnalasys process benefits everyone, not just the homeowner - the HVAC, utility, mortgage and insurance companies all have something to gain,” Shepherd said.

Mold-related homeowner’s insurance claims also may be reduced.

“The results are made available to the homeowner at closing and the baseline data is stored online for the builder,” O’Donoughue said.



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