Randall Fogle feels the pain of every homebuilder he works with.
He knows about the heartbreak they face with crazy lead times, zigzag pricing, and straying talent. He faces a fair share of it himself as an HVAC contractor specializing in new home construction. It’s no surprise when he sees house wrap covering window openings because the windows are months late.
But that kind of improvisation only goes so far.
Take custom homes. “The builder wants the A/C running when doing the floors. Dust gets into the ductwork, clogs the drains, fouls the blower, and coats the coils. Efficiency suffers or worse,” explains the owner and operator of Charleston, SC-based Fogel Services. The 20-year industry veteran estimates his company installs and maintains HVAC systems in about 7,500 area homes a year.
Frozen Coil? Clogged Blower?
Dust isn’t going away because of relentless delivery pressure. “We recently finished a new home. Two months later we’re back in because there’s moisture on the ceiling. Well, the coil was caked in sheet rock dust because the builder cranked up the A/C while they were sanding the walls. Now we take pictures of our units to show they were dust-free when we installed it,” says the callback-wary contractor.
Fogel also sees an increasing need for whole-house mechanical ventilation as residential building code and improved materials tighten the envelope. Then, there’s the kitchen.
“A lot of custom homes feature fancy range hoods,” reports Fogel. “Code says if it’s moving more than 400 cubic feet per minute, you need to compensate with makeup air.” Today, many range hoods draw well beyond 400 CFM.
There are various solutions on the market to provide this make-up air – including the KV08 and KV10 Kitchen Vent Kits from Aprilaire. However, bringing fresh air is only the first half of the battle. Ensuring that the make-up air is better than the indoor air it’s replacing requires removing particulate, allergens, and other irritants.
Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) and HVAC performance relies on many factors including ventilation, air filtration and humidity control. But it is air filter technology that assumes a central role in healthy home science regardless of fresh air delivery methods. Fogel admits MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value), the rating standard for air filters, isn’t high on the public’s buzz meter . . . yet.
Healthy Home Priority
“We’re in a transition period with MERV ratings,” speculates Fogel. Growing concern over IAQ tied to COVID-19, asthma, and respiratory allergies will push awareness in coming months. Several production homebuilders, such as Meritage, aggressively market IAQ as a brand differentiator.
What should you look for in a callback-killer air filter? Fogel advises four things:
- Retire 1” Filters. It’s yesterday’s technology. High static pressure combined with low dust-capturing capacity and the need for frequent change-outs (unlikely in most households) is a near-certain path to frozen dirty coils or a gummed-up blower.
- Think Low Bypass. What good is any filter if untreated air can scoot around it? Look for a self-sealing filter frame that forces all air through the filtering material.
- Insist on a 10-Year Clean Coil Commitment. Coil callbacks over dirt and dust shouldn’t be an issue with an advanced air filter.
- Offer Homeowner Choice. MERV 11-, 13-, and 16-rated filters offer impressive benefits. Make it easy for the homeowner to dial-up air filter performance.
Fogel singles out air filters from Aprilaire for all-around performance, value, and callback confidence. “They protect our equipment like nothing else out there. Aprilaire is callback-prevention insurance for HVAC contractors and builders.”
Learn more about how you can eliminate HVAC callback issues on your next project.