Quality Home Comfort Award for 2000

a magazine article discussing the quality home comfort runner up given to climate partners.

Climate Engineering, also known as Climate Partners, won the Quality Home Comfort Award in year 2000 for using innovative design and painstaking installation to handle a difficult and challenging residential project in Hamden, CT. The home was built in 1929 in a historic tree-lined neighborhood outside the Yale campus.

The architect covered all of the home's compact floor plan so there was no extra space in the floor plan to work with. The exterior of the home was all brick and the interior was designed with plaster walls and ceilings, as well as hardwood flooring. The homeowner, Angus Gordon had lived there for over 50 years so he was adamant about not disturbing the existing elements.

Gordon never had air conditioning in his home, just a gas-fired steam boiler with one zone for the entire house, which lead to a lot of overly hot or cold rooms. An easy fix for the home would've been to replace the entire system, but since the architect who designed the home was famous for using every inch of space, there was absolutely no room for just a simple replacement system.

Up For the Challenge

Although it would be difficult, Climate Engineering's Tom Casey Jr. was determined to provide a first-class comfort system to the Gordon family, and they eventually decided on a dual-fuel option to take care of heating and hot water needs. This new system featured three zones of heating including the intensely cold downstairs study and bathroom. There were two heat pumps with hydro-air modules and duct-mounted evaporator coils, and two air handlers – one for each floor.

The system's control package coordinated the operation of heat pumps versus the gas-fired hydro-air units based on outside air temperature and balance points. Gordon was not only impressed with the system's intelligence and how well it worked, but he was also pleased with the significant amount of savings from the combination of electric and gas bills during the winter months.

Climate Engineering had the opportunity to use the old flue passage from the elimination of the natural gas boiler, as a chase for all the connections between the basement and attic system. This in turn, helped to preserve the interior appearance of the home. The only noticeable change was the addition of a few low-key grilles put into the second floor ceilings.

From a comfort standpoint, the hydro-air system was the best choice, but it also meant they had to get hot water lines, wiring, and drains up to the attic system. Climate Engineering's solution was to use the old boiler's flue as a chase to connect the basement and attic systems, so they could go right up through the center of the house without disturbing anything while allowing the heating and cooling to be distributed where it needed to be. This also benefited them by preserving the flue for the wood burning fireplace in the living room, which was important to Gordon because he loved to have a fire going.

Climate Engineering removed steam radiators and steam piping, and coordinated with an asbestos removal firm to remove insulation from the steam piping and basement flooring (both contained asbestos). Then rezoning the downstairs study and bathroom presented a unique issue since both rooms were on a slab so it was merely impossible to unobtrusively install a duct from the first floor system in the basement.

Of course, Casey came up with a solution to remove a zone from the second floor system and bring a duct down through the second floor bedroom to serve the two rooms on the slab. Climate Engineering even went as far calling in a skilled carpenter to build a bookcase to conceal the duct run. Casey was positive that there were plenty of contractors who would've looked at the job and said, “it can't be done,” but they don't think that way at Climate Engineering. Instead they find ways to make the impossible, possible.

Checklist of Quality

Climate Engineering prides itself on the quality of work they provide. They run an ACCA Manual J analysis on every home, all of the outdoor units are mounted on feet on concrete slabs to isolate noise and vibration, duct work is only commercial-grade metal wrapped in aluminum-faced wrap, and all systems are balanced after start-up. Supply and return boots in non-conditioned areas are insulated for appearance, sound attenuation, and energy conservation and they're also painted flat black to make it look better. Climate Engineering also offers a 9-step clean package to ensure the work area is left clean and in a better condition than when they started, throughout the job and all Climate Engineering staff is provided manuals to follow on each and every job.

Upon each job completion, every detail of the project is inspected and this was very apparent in the Gordon home. Casey was bothered that some aspects weren't the best quality possible and even though the homeowner couldn't hear any noise, Casey heard a minor noise that bothered him, so Climate Engineering fixed it.

A Climate of Trust

Almost all of Climate Engineering's work comes from referrals and this was no different. Gordon used to be the CEO of a local electric company, United Illuminating, who also happened to be running a promotion for a special rate if you purchase a heat pump. United Illuminating referred him to Climate Engineering to handle the job.

Gordon didn't want to be locked into heat pumps so they discussed dual fuel and he ended up going with that so he could choose between gas and heat pump based on the outdoor temperature and still receive the savings. Climate Engineering presented him every option available and let him make the final decisions. Neighbors who saw the care and attention to the Gordon home began also working with Climate Engineering on their own homes.

Building a referral network through quality work, and obsessing about perfection may be why Climate Engineering has become the only company in the 10-year history of the Quality Home Comfort Awards to win two first place awards in the same year.

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