Heat Recovery Ventilation 1

While slightly less got done in the house while we were away than we would have liked, the Heat Recovery Ventilation (HRV) system installation is now proceeding quickly.

Along with the thick insulation and sealed building shell, the HRV is one of the most important features of any Passive House. An HRV system is really very simple. In essence, it is a ventilation system with a heat exchanger, so that in winter, when cold air is drawn into the house, it is warmed with the heat from the stale outgoing air (and vice-versa in summer). However, it is also more than this.  The HRV ensures a uniform temperature throughout the house, taking the air heated by the sun through the large south-facing windows and distributing it to other rooms.

Our systems is also a little bit more than this. With the addition of a very small thermostat-controlled heating element (about the power of a toaster), it also becomes a low pressure forced air heating system. This will be the only artificial heat in the house, and we don’t think we’ll need it that much even in Ontario winters.

It’s worth noting that not all HRVs are created equal. Most of the manufacturers make claims about their efficiency,  but few of these are actually independently tested and verified, and this includes the leading companies in North America. This doesn’t mean they are bad, but you can do so much better. Our HRV is the ComfoAir 200 system from Swiss company, Zehnder, which is pretty much the best manufacturer of HRVs in the world. Their real tested efficiency is the highest, their systems are the quietest and their ribbed plastic Comfo-Tube ducting is much better than the old square section metal ducting you might be used to. Our system was supplied, with minimal fuss, by the excellent Hans, from Zehnder’s Ontario dealer, Pinwheel Building Supplies.

You need to plan for the installation properly from the beginning though. We didn’t but we got lucky. The units themself take up a fair bit of room. However they can be mounted on walls or ceilings. Since we have massively over-engineered CLT ceilings, we did the latter, mounting them up, out of the way, in our machine room, which just happens to have enough room up there. There are a lot of ducts too – intake and exhausts in different parts of the house – and the ducting goes up through what would have been our chimney openings. Again, this was luck rather than judgment. We also didn’t get the design for the HRV system ducting done before we ordered the CLT, so rather than having pre-drilled fittings, the builders are having to drill through the thick ceilings to make the vent holes.

9 thoughts on “Heat Recovery Ventilation 1

  1. Pingback: Porch Construction 1 | Wolfe Island Passive House Project

  2. Frank Crawford

    Hi David, First congratulations on your recent occupancy permit. I moved into the passive house I designed and built in Calgary Alberta in Sept 2016 which included a Zehnder comfoair 200 ERV with post heater like yours. This last winter I had 6 weeks of below -20C which was a tough test on the Zehnder and I have some lessons learned and possible warnings for you based on your system description above. Feel free to contact me for details as I want to help make all passive houses a success. Cheers Frank


    1. Mike Feiner

      Hello Frank, I’m researching the Zehnder product myself now and was wondering what your warnings would be. Is it possible to get a heads up on your own discoveries about this product?
      Thank you, Mike


    2. David Post author

      For some reason, I’ve only just seen this… we’ve had no discernable problems even at -25ºC, however we are never likely to get this for more than a few days (rather than weeks) at a time, here. I can’t find any contact from the link above, so please feel free to e-mail us…


  3. Pingback: Reflections After a Year of Living in Our Passive House | Wolfe Island Passive House Project

  4. Mike Feiner

    Hello David, Do you have a pre-heater for the zehnder? either a in ground loop or a hot water coil or electric? or does it use the buit in electric preheater? Or how does it behave or run in minus 25C?


  5. David Post author

    We don’t have any preheater, and we’ve noticed no problems. But as I said, we very rarely get more than 2-3 consecutive days that are that cold.


  6. Pingback: HRV Fan Failure: the importance of pre-heating in cold climate zones | Wolfe Island Passive House Project

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