Reviewing the High-Efficiency HVAC System

Project: Bob's Shingle Style Home, Episode 10, Part 1

An elaborate and highly efficient HVAC system is installed in the basement and Bob checks out his new system 2000 unit and air handler.  Radiant heat is installed in the bathroom floor and the electrical inspector is on site to approve the work that’s been done so far.

Part 1: Reviewing the High-Efficiency HVAC System
Bob talks with Mike Kaufmann from Energy Kinetics about the high-efficiency System 2000. The low mass unit will be used to supply both the heat and hot water for the entire house. Bob and Mike are joined by plumbing and heating contractor Frank Iadarola, who has isolated the zones for servicing ease. Bob and Frank look at the hydro air unit, which will supply the first-floor heating and air conditioning.
Part 2: Reviewing the Boiler Pipes and Bathroom In-Floor Radiant Heat
Part 3: Installing Electrical Wiring in an Old Home
This project centers around the remodel of Bob Vila's own gracious Shingle Style home in Cambridge, MA. It's a house with a lot of history and beautiful architectural details, many of which were obliterated in remodels of the 50s and the 70s. On the centennial of the house's construction, Bob gets together the best talents in the business to recreate and renew it to its former glory, making some important modifications along the way that will transform this into a dream house for today.

Also from Bob's Shingle Style Home

Hi, I'm Bob Vila. Welcome home again.

You know, we've got a big technology show planned today. We're bring this house into its second century and that means all new mechanical systems. We'll get started today looking at our heating equipment which is a System 2000 boiler, air handlers, and all sorts of interesting bells and whistles including some radiant flooring.

Then we are going to be looking at the electrical systems, including how to pull the wires into the different sub-panels and we do have an electrical inspection, so that's a very important part of the job. Stick around. It's good to have you home again.

Bob Vila's Home Again.

We're going to get started today in the basement and most basements in Old New England houses are dark, dank places that go bump in the night because of the furnace and all the other equipment. We've made a lot of changes here, we have got a new concrete floor, we've got metal stud partitions, we've created an area for an exercise room, a woodworking shop, a laundry room, all sorts of specialized areas. This is going to be living space, but there will be a furnace room. And right now lets Join Mike Kaufman, who's from Energy Kinetics in Clinton, New Jersey.

Morning, Bob.

Inventors and makers of the System 2000. How are ya?

Very good, thanks.

What do you think? This is a pretty impressive installation we've got here.

Frank has done a great job.

You have got a great plumber. But let's talk about the yellow box in front of us and all of these components because I don't really understand how it works.

I know that there's gas coming to it, natural gas, and that this system is providing all the heat and all the domestic hot water that we'll need here, right?

That's correct, Bob.

What you have is a low mass boiler with low water content. Four gallons of water, 190 pounds in mass.

OK. Let's review that a minute.

What does low mass mean?

Low mass would be the amount of metal to be heated up that's actually what makes up the boiler itself.

Okay, so it's not like those old boilers that had the huge cast iron... lamb chops or whatever.

That's correct.

OK, and then the other thing you said was four gallons.

Four gallons of water is the total content of water inside the EK2. This is our larger boiler. Then we make a smaller boiler with two and a half gallons of water.

Alright. And then what are some of these components? What's this thing here, for example?

This is your external plate exchanger that makes your domestic hot water. What you'd have is the hot water would come up through a pumpaway on the circulator on the supply side with a bypass line going down through the plate exchanger. Which is, every other plate is domestic water, and every other plate is boiler water.

So -

The two never touch.

- this is my hot water heater for the whole house.

That is correct.

It fits in the palm of my hand. How can that possibly work?

What you've got is your maximum thermal transfer between the plates. Your boiler water is going through and your domestic water's coming in cold. And every other plate is heating up. Your thermal transfer between the two is allowing for -

If it's fifty degree water temperature and could be a 150 degree water temperature out.

You'd have a 100 degree rise going off and being stored into the top of the two hundred and twenty gallon storage tanks you have here Ffor your domestic needs.

OK. An incredibly fast rate. Right?

This will supply at two hundred thousand Btu's in. It's gonna give you four gallons a minute or 240 gallons an hour recovery.

And is it still efficient in summer when we no longer need the hot water for heating the house?

Making hot water is extremely expensive. This about the lowest cost that we're aware of right now in making domestic hot water.

OK. And because of the storage tank systems we're not making ex--we're not holding onto hot water at all times, were only making it on demand.

That's correct. This boiler will stay cold until it's called for demand.

Whether the demand being in this house you have an assortment of demands. It's a versatile house, where you have radiant domestic space. to someone. When this gets cold, it will then heat up and turn around and start immediately, without condensing, it's a non-condensing unit, will recover your hot water and store it between a balance of recovery and storage.

Now something this complicated has to have a computer attached to it somewhere, right?

This is the system manager, the actual brain if you will. That actually controls every demand that comes in from the house. And this literally tells the system, what to do next and how to distribute the heat.

So, this basically acts in conjunction with all of the piping and all of the different zone valves.

That is correct.

What do you think of this installation?

This is one of the finest divisions of breaking the zone valves down to be able to balance a house out of this size or any size.

Let's get Frank out, to roll over here because he's really the man responsible for installing all of this copper here. Frank, nice job. Can you tell us exactly what you've got going here?

Well, what we've done here, Bob, is taken each individual zone, and isolated it with each one of these valves that you here, see here. One in the return, and another one on the supply, which is right here, so that a basically we have ease of servicing. If you have a problem down the road, and one of the circuits at one of the zones, you can isolate it without shutting down the whole system.

Now I've got a third floor that's basically a teenager suite and they're gone away to school. Do I come down here and shut down some of those zones?

No, no. That's done automatically with your setback thermostats.


We have setback thermostats in each one of the zones that will control the amount of heat, when and if you need it.


In the zone.

And although we're talking gas as a fuel source, and we're talking copper pipes filled with hot water, in fact, we're delivering heating to the different rooms It's in the house via forced air, right?

That's correct.

So what we've got to look at now, is what you call an air handler?


All right. Mike, thanks.

Thank you Bob.

We're gonna go on to the next step for a minute.

Okay, Frank,so what's happening here?

Well, John is assembling the return air plenum for this hydroware unit. This is the unit that's dedicated for the first floor heating and air conditioning.

OK, so the plenum is where the air collects before being either heating or cooled, right?

That's correct, all the air from the rooms are being brought back through this plume connected to duct work, brought up through the unit, which is a moved with a blower, goes through a hot water coil that's being fed from the boiler that we just left from the boiler room.

This is supposed to be vertical though isn't it?

That's correct.

Is it ready to go up?

It's ready to go up.

Is it very heavy?

It's very heavy, I'd better get that.



Oh, it's heavy.



And that just, it just sits on a slab like that, right?

Looks like about it. Now we have a canvas connector here which eliminates any vibration noises or anything.


It's a rubber, rubberized connector.

So that's the transition between the duct work and the...

That 's correct. That kills all the noise, all the sound.

Excellent. And then the copper pipes will be joined to here. But, can we take a look in, inside here to see?

Of course.

Half a dozen screws. OK.

Well, why don't we take a break for some messages, while we remove this panel. So don't go away. Okay, we're back and we're getting ready to solder some copper pipes together that connect with the boiler, right Frank?

That's correct.

So this will bring the hot water over here, via these pipes. And what it is you have do before you can solder the copper pipes together?

Well, what you have to do is clean the copper tubing with an abrasive cloth to remove any impurities, and then you flux it with a brush. And what that does is breaks the surface tension of the metal so that the solder will adhere to it.


And then you heat it up to a temperature of eight or nine hundred degrees for the type of solder that we're using , and that will fuse the joints. Now, this is the hot water coil that connects back to the boiler that we just left.


And the boiler will have its own valve that will open on demand from the thermostat from the ground floor level, which is what this hydro air handler handles.


It'll open its own valve, pump the water through the piping into the coil. The blower will be running, and it will take the air and blow it past the coil, into the air, and blow it to all the rooms.

And that's essentially how you get hot air from this particular air handler in all the ground floor rooms. We have another air handler that's similar to it, and it's located in one of the eaves up on the third floor and carefully hidden away there.


And that will take care of the bedrooms upstairs.


Now, in the middle of this thing, we've got just so many different soldered joints. Are they soldered exactly the same as what John's doing here?

No. No. This is what we call a soft solder, and it's a combination of 95/5 solder.

But this is silver solder, which is silver braid. And that, that requires a much high temperature of around 1100, 1200 just because of I acquire it and a that exactly its.


So, in the middle of the air handler, we've got the squirrel cage fan, and then what's all this down here?

Well, this is the cooling coil Bob and this is used in a different season.

This will be used, the heating coil will be used in the winter season, this will be used in the summer season.

And basically that will circulate free air.

That circulates on through these two pipes that you see right here will be connected to an outdoor condensing unit.

Now does this unit include an air cleaner or a humidifier.
Well the unit normally comes with a fiberglass filter, which is located right here but we're upgrading to an electronic air cleaner which is going to be right in this area there right here.

So that will be a separate mount on the side?

Yes, it's going to be 2000 cfm that is 2000 cubic feet of air a minute, the air cleaner that will remove about 90% of the impurities with every air change. OK, Frank, why don't we let John finish up the soldering here. Let's go up to one of the bathrooms and talk about the radiant heat that's being installed in the floor.


You know Frank, one of the worst thing about the New England winter is having to walk barefoot onto a ceramic tile bathroom.

That's correct. Bob, I'd like you meet Peter Night from Heatway.

Hi, Ron.

How are you, Peter?

I'm fine, thank you.

So tell us what you're doing here. This is a bathroom floor.

This is a bathroom floor that we're gonna be putting radiant floor heating in the floor in a thin slab. What we're doing now is putting in the heat transfer hose that will be used to carry the warm water from the boiler, circulate it through this this tube, and then send it back to the boiler to be heated again.

What's this tube made out of?

This is a multi-layered heat transfer hose. Andit's designed for applications of radiant heat in the floor.

How hot will the water that goes through here be?

The water temperature that we've calculated for this area would be at 125 degrees.

So this has to be real sturdy stuff?

This is able to handle temperatures much warmer than that, actually. If you look at it, it has a rating on it up to 180 degrees.

Well I've got a living room ceiling underneath the bathroom, so I would worry about that.

You' ll just be using the water temperature that you need in order to heat up the slab to the temperature that gives you a comfortable floor.

Yeah, this is the rough part of the job.


And then what we'll be doing here, prior to ceramic tile installation, is to lay down what we call a mud job, which will be kind of a dry mix of Portland cement and sand, and the ceramic tile would be laid on top of that. Now how do you hook this product which is either, what is it vinyl or rubber?

This is a rubber compound that...

How do you couple this with the copper for piping.

This, we use a barb fitting that is fit into the end of the transfer hose.

So you do have...

A barb fitting which that hose fits over it on one end and that fitting would be soddered into a regular plumbing copper fitting on the other end.

On the other end, right here.

So, that would make your connection to the hard pipe in a copper piping. That's normally used to run the hot water from the boiler to a manifold, that's located in the area of the radiant heat.

And this , of course, is again controlled by the manager down...


At the, at the point of origin.

Thank you.

Well thanks a lot. It's going to solve the problem.


Ok. Thanks Frank.

We've got to break for some messages. Don't go away. When this house was built in 1897, it was illuminated with gas. Probably in the 1920s they improved the technology up to knob and tube electrical wiring.

Since then, I'm sure in the forties and fifties they updated, and as of last year, we had a brand new two hundred amps service and then a hodgepodge of different types of wires.

We've gotten rid of all of that. Barry Driscoll is totally rewiring the place, along with a few helpers.

And, I guess this is the feed to the third-floor is it?

Yes, it is. This will feed our third-floor sub-panel, which also feeds a couple of air handlers, a couple bedrooms, some bathrooms, and a big entertainment.

That's right. This is basically the third floor teenage area.

The living room where you could have parties, you could have a lot of-

That's good.

Rock and roll and a lot of noise. Okay.

So, that has to go all the way to the basement, right?

Yes, it does.

And it ties into the new service?


And then we've got.

Okay Brendon, feed that up.

Okay, we have more similar wire, same size. What size wire is this?

Okay, that's a, this is a three-three sub-feeder, which is going all the way back up from downstairs to this second floor sub-panel,

Okay, okay.

Just like the third floor, which we just ran.

So, if anything goes wrong on the third floor you go to the sub panel up there to check out the circuit breaker, and the same thing happens here.

That's right.

And we are standing in utility closet on the second floor, where we're gonna install a stacked washer/dryer for immediate family kind of stuff, and we are also going to have storage and a kind of linen closet function here, but it serves the purpose of having the panel located accessible, but not out in plain sight in the middle of the hallway.

Okay, so what are the three? There's a red and a black and a white.

The red and the black are our hot conductors. The white is our neutral conductor.

The white is the neutral.

And the bare copper is our ground.

And we've got to get rid of all the casings.

All the junk.

All the junk before we can feed it through into the panel.

That's right. Here you go. Alright so this thing goes in go through here, you go ahead and get it here.

Bring this right through our Romex connector and up into the panel.


There's a lot of juice that's coming through here now. How do you secure this in the box?

It's secured actually through the Romex connector, which makes the ground itself through the can which the panel is located in.


We have a grounding conductor, which is going to go to the ground bar.

Our neutral which goes to the neutral bar and our two hot legs to right in on the two lugs.

Okay and then all the individual circuits are labeled here. As you can see. What's that one say?

Stairway hall lights.

Stairway hall lights.

Okay. So everything will be identified.

Yes it will.

But although this, you know, to us looks like we're pulling a lot of wires into place, etc. This is one of the most dangerous jobs that anybody can undertake in a house.

And I always discourage "do-it-yourselfers" from getting involved in this type of and bringing a professional in. And of course, the professionals have to answer to the inspectors.

Right now, we should be able to find a city of Cambridge electrical inspector up on the third floor.

Alright. Let's say hello to Greg Rockland, our project manager and architect.

Hi, Bob. This is Thomas Machela, inspector of wires for the city of Cambridge.

How are you Bob? Nice to meet you.

Inspector of wires. Great. Hey, what's this?

It's a service light, Bob. So when a service man comes to work on this unit, he has some light, doesn't have to.

Now is that just an added goody, Thomas? Or is that something that's required?

No, that's required by code. Along with the convenience outlet for servicing the unit.

For servicing the air handler that we were looking at and talking about earlier in the show.

That's a very, very good idea. Now I know we've got a sub-panel here, in this storage closet.

And I know that you are inspecting just the third floor today, right?

Yes sir.

Now, what sort of stuff are you looking for when you do an inspection?

Well, the sub-panel is one thing that we're looking at, Bob. Making sure that we have enough power coming

Up here and the fact of its location. Now I did notice you said that this was a, its not a clothes closet. So that's good because it would be required to not be in here. Being a closed closet.

I see what you mean, it would be a violation if we stored, if we had closet rods in here. Yes.

Now this was designed barely almost as a mini trunk room, a place to keep suitcases and the like.

Well, that will be fine.

But you have to worry about how well tighten everything is and stuff.

Everything has a torque dimension sir, and it's all on the inside of the panel.


You'll notice this being a sub panel, the ground bar has to be separate from the neutral bar.


And they have accomplished that and they have done a very nice job here.

Now does the City of Cambridge or the State of Massachusetts allows home owners to do their own wiring in their own remodeling projects.

Well, no the state law requires that you be a licensed electrician and you go to an apprentice course and.

You gotta have a license?

That's most definite.

And in fact as I understand like one of the the leading causes of house fires and fatalities.

It is electrical wiring problems, right?

That's correct.

Especially, in an old wooden frame building, too. You'd find that a lot of people have done that themselves. Done their own wiring and it does cause problems.

It is a difficult situation. Now, anything unusual about what we're doing up here in the, you know, we're creating a big kind of family room up here.

Well, basically everything seems to be in pretty good shape. You've got your outlets by code are required to be twelve feet apart,


So that you're not standing at any point more than six feet from an outlet.

From an outlet. And that's to reduce the the number of extension cords that people use for lights.

Right, exactly. Now they've done a very good job of securing all their wiring here.


And it appears like you're using, I would say half inch sheet rock-


By the way the box is out away from the stud about a half inch.

That's right. And, our lighting in here is a little bit unusual.

Yes. What we are doing on the tops of all these beams is strip halogen lighting which will give you up light for general lighting. And then if you need to light a specific thing like a pool table, or a card table, there'll be track lighting which you can focus, on that.

Yeah. Exactly, that's, there is no problem with that.

Not at all.

So we pass inspection?

Yes, sir.

Great, thanks a lot.

Alright, thank you.

We've gotta break for some messages, don't go away.

And that's going to wrap things up, but it's been a great day. We got that inspection.
Come home again next time when we'll be working up on the third floor. Putting up the plasterboard and the plaster, putting up some of the carpentry trim, and hopefully out in the front of the house we're going to be digging a trench for a brand new water service.

That's it. Till next time, I'm Bob Vila. It's good to have you home again.



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