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Quality Home Comfort Award, 1995

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

Faced with the need for more space, Tom Casey and his family decided to add a 1,400 square foot second story to their woodland ranch home rather than move out of it.

Once the decision was made, the homeowner and HVAC contractor Tom Casey went to work designing a completely new comfort system for his home. One problem that confronted Casey in creating a new comfort system was humidity control. Located in a heavily wooded, water shed area, the house smelled musty and had mildew problems before renovation. Those problems were completely eliminated because of a special control strategy Casey employed in his design.

When HVAC contractors make the decision to renovate their own homes, the comfort systems are first rate. But, when faced with the tough decision to move or renovate the home they were in, Tom and Michelle Casey decided to go ahead and remodel and expand their 1,600 sq. ft. ranch style home in Woodridge, CT. The expansion included adding a second story the the home and installing a brand new HVAC system, while the family was still living and occupying their home. Casey decided it was in his family's best interest to hold off on the HVAC system design to avoid visually unappealing elements in his home should they decide to go ahead and sell it.

Because the home was located in a heavily wooded county water-shed area with two streams running beneath the house, Casey's family constantly faced humidity problems. Most of the first floor is on slab-on-grade, except for a family room that was added with a crawl space. The second floor addition included 1,400 square ft. and vaulted ceilings.

Since the family remained living in their home, a truss system was used to help speed up the construction process and add the second story. The trusses meant there was no natural chase to run the overhead supply duct for the first floor, so they installed window box seating along the second floor perimeter to serve as a duct chase to get supply branches into the first floor ceiling joists. Radiant floor heating was used for the family room to ensure that it was always comfortable for Casey's 19 month old daughter.

Tom Casey coordinated with builder Frank Viniczay of Viniczay Construction daily to reassure timing and placement of the HVAC system components. Besides an in-slab return air system, all HVAC and related equipment in the home is new and flooring in the family room was removed to accommodate the radiant system. Climate Engineering also fabricated and installed sheet metal supports.

Special snap-lock, aluminum retrofit plates were put in to hold the radiant tubing and insulation. Flooring and imported Mexican tiles were put down to provide an attractive and toasty warm floor for the baby to play on. They didn't have a basement, so they had to work from the bottom up which was tricky at times.

A Weil-McLain condensing boiler provides the radiant floor system and a duct coil for first stage heating. It also supplies domestic hot water needs including 2.5 baths and a whirlpool tub, while second stage heating is supplied by a carrier. The radiant floor loop is controlled based on outdoor temperature and water flow modulated by a Danfoss valve. Domestic hot water is stored in an elevated Phase III tank in the second floor mechanical room that allowed return ductwork to run under it, eliminating the need to give up additional living space.

The home was divided into seven zones and the only zone remaining at comfortable temperatures 24 hours a day was the baby's room. The other zones have temperatures that are cycled based on various time-of-day schedules and the entire system is controlled using Parker ZD style zone dampers.

Before renovating, humidity problems caused mildew and damp, musty odors, so Casey knew that the need for dehumidification outweighed the need for comfort cooling. They used a high-humidity limit switch in the area to recontrol the operations of the air conditioning to solve the problem.

The compressor is turned to high speed and the furnace blower to low speed if there's a call for cooling and dehumidification, and if there's a call for just dehumidification the cooling cycle is initiated and the duct-mounted, hot water coil is enabled to provide reheat, preventing over-cooling. Coupled with the zoning strategy, this has virtually eliminated the persistent moisture problems.

Casey also installed special features including 3 propane alarms linked through a center DC voltage source to a single propane valve that shuts down in the event of a propane leak. There's also a manual bypass around this valve to prevent a loss of heat or water should it fail.

If a water leak occurs, Aquablock moisture detectors will shut down operations and the radiant floor system uses a self-actuating valve to blend supply and return water at the boiler. The duct system was sized so that there's undetectable noise at any point in the system, even in a one-zone-calling scenario with the other six zones at minimum position.

The home has a domestic hot water recirculation system so there's always hot water at the tap and this system is also controlled by a timer so the benefit is only there when it's needed.

Unlike the shoemaker whose children go unshod. Casey seems to have ensured his family's well being by covering every possible hole in his home's comfort system. And now that the system's in place, it also serves as a showcase and test site for the latest technologies. “We frequently use it in selling our clients on the best quality products they can install in their homes,” says Casey. After all, if we'd put it in our house, we must really believe in it – sort of like putting your money where your mouth is!”

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