Technical Papers

Change is Inevitable

Thursday, April 10th, 2014 by Hal Smith
Home Performance is changing the HVAC Business, and HVAC codes are changing the Home Performance Business.


As a member of the HVAC community in the Northeast for the last 30 plus years, we have installed hundreds and maybe thousands of humidifiers. Today we install almost none. This is because of our involvement with Home Performance. Today if someone calls with the complaint of a dry uncomfortable home in the winter, we treat it differently now. We used to say, “Sure we will be right out and give you an estimate on installing a humidifier.” Today we say that we need to test your home properly before we can diagnose your humidity problem. We schedule an energy audit and most times we find a very high air exchange rate and our prescription to solving the low humidity problem is to properly air seal and insulate the home. This solution not only solves the humidity problem but also leads to much better comfort, better IAQ (Indoor Air Quality), and drastic energy reduction. The customer is much better off than temporarily resolving the issue with a humidifier. Change is inevitable.

Zoning Systems

Being in the HVAC business for 30 plus years, we have installed hundreds of hundreds zoning systems. We still install quite a few, but not nearly as many as in years past. We have found that by making sure that the home is properly sealed and insulated in all areas, you eliminate many of the needs for zoning. A typical example would be a “FROG,” Finished Room Over the Garage. These areas are notorious for not being in balance with the rest of the home. When you go in and fix this by air sealing and insulating most challenges are eliminated. FROGs can be challenging to fix, but worth the effort.


When we properly insulate and air seal a home, many times we install a furnace that is 1/3 of the size of the original. We suggest furnace models with variable speed blowers and continuous airflow. The duct work that was typically way too small to fit that very large furnace now usually works well for a much smaller furnace. This is not so in every case. You always need to be cognizant of proper airflow and duct sizing.

There are still some very good reasons to consider zoning and we always suggest airflow testing. I am not at all saying that zoning does not have its place in the business. I am just saying that it does not make sense to install zoning to remedy a problem that really should be solved with building science. Change is inevitable.

Controlling Moisture

As we cut down the high air changes in a home, controlling moisture becomes very important. We are installing vapor barriers on dirt crawlspaces and dirt floor basements almost every day. We always make sure bathroom fans are properly ducted to the outside. We always check for how the clothes dryer is being vented. We never leave a sump pump crock uncovered now. We also look at the venting of the cook stove. As an HVAC contractor, we never worried about any of these things. Today they become standard procedure for us.

We find ourselves installing many central dehumidifiers and sometimes ducted ventilating dehumidifiers. It sometimes makes sense to meet new ASHRAE ventilation standards by creating a slight positive pressure in the home causing ex-filtration and stopping infiltration. Change is inevitable.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, I would like to end with the same message that I continually send out. Since change is inevitable don’t you think it makes sense to embrace it and be the on the winning side of the equation? HVAC contractors have such a huge head start and advantage in the Home Performance business it just makes sense to embrace it. Your customers will love you for it!

Hal Smith is owner of Halco in Phelps, NY, and a member of the Building Performance Council's advisory committee.

Halco, a recent recipient of the HPwES 2013 Housing Innovation Award, has 140 employees and was started in 1984l Since Halco began participating in HPwES projects is 2006, the company has completed more than 1300 HPwES projects, saving homeowners more than $950,000 annually on their energy bills.Hal Smith has stated that participating in HPwES changed his business from one that was weather dependent to one that stays busy year round.
Article published through the Air Conditioning Contractors of America.

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