New home bucks the trend with radiant, ductless HVAC

New home bucks the trend with radiant, ductless HVAC

YORK, PA. — When Dave Yates received a call from Bob Myers, a local building industry entrepreneur, to tell him that he was planning to build a new home, he also learned that his firm — F. W. Behler Inc., York, Pa. — was already chosen to do the job. The business owner informed Yates that he had researched Behler’s work and reputation thoroughly and knew he’d made the right choice.

“We’d dealt with Bob on a few jobs in the past, and recently had completed a main frame computer room cooling system at his building supply warehouse and office center,” explained Yates. “I think that helped to tip things in our favor when he began his plans to build a large home not far from York.”

Several weeks after that call, Yates got an urgent request that he visit Myers at his office complex. As Yates put it, he dropped everything (even the baby in his hands, if there’d been one), jumped in the truck and was at the customer’s facility 10 minutes later.

Built around mechanical systems

Myers was at his desk, perusing new house plans just in from the architect. According to Yates, the blueprints were first rate. Yet, as Yates bore down on the details, he made several suggestions, changes that would permit easier, more sensible plumbing and mechanical solutions. His customer made notes, approving each recommendation quickly.

“Before long, it was apparent to me that Bob Myers was indeed very concerned about the quality of mechanical and comfort systems for the home,” explained Yates. “Essentially, he built the home aroundhis desire for the best work we could do.”

Blueprints revealed plans for a home that would be 8,500-sq.ft. with an additional 4,000-sq.ft. of living space below ground. There, the mechanical room would be nestled among a fully equipped exercise room, a wet sauna, a ‘50s style snack bar with soda n’ beer jerks and a movie theater.

Up above, the home’s focal point would be an interior entryway with a curved rock wall, as though built around an old German fortress, and a great room with exposed beams 30-ft. off the ground and surrounded by a galley, plus a grand fireplace and, opposite that, a wall of windows — all fit for a king. Next to the large garage there was a full-sized basketball court, radiantly-heated, of course.

Sealed with a handshake

Yates was also glad to see that he’d be given plenty of space for mechanical equipment, pipe and tubing runs within the home. But the best news of all was the handshake that sealed the deal at the end of the day.

“The customer turned to me, offered his hand, and said ‘I’m confident you and your crews will do terrific work on our new home; you’ve got the job,’ ” said Yates.

When excavation for the home was complete, preparations were made for the basement’s concrete slab. This included two inches of rigid insulation under the entire home, and its perimeter. “It looked like a giant, pink swimming pool,” said Yates.

Following that work, Yates’ crews showed up at the site with truckloads of Onix, Watts Radiant’s EPDM rubber radiant tubing with aluminum oxygen barrier.

“We put in about 12,000 lineal feet of tubing in the concrete slab at 9- and 12-in. centers and the day after we were done tying it down the trucks arrived with concrete,” said Yates. “The construction schedule at that point was going like clockwork.”

As the house progressed, plans changed from time to time. “At certain stages, there were changes on top of changes,” said Yates. “But because that was the nature of the job, we adjusted to it.”

By month nine of the 16-month construction schedule, Yates’ crews felt like they could drive to the jobsite with their eyes closed.

“We rotated crews in and out of there to give everyone a chance to work on such a magnificent project,” said Yates. “It was like a large commercial job, only more detailed ... and prone to change. That meant a task completed three weeks earlier might need to be un-done, and re-done at a later point.”

Low-temp radiant

A few months later, one of the most interesting facets of the job took place. Yates and his crews installed 14,000-sq.ft. of Watts Radiant SubRay above-subfloor panels. This task took more that a week and made way for the installation of many more miles of Onix tubing, easily laid in SubRay channels.

“This radiant heat solution puts BTUs close to the finished floor surface, so we were able to reduce system delivery temperatures dramatically,” said Yates.

Because of the SubRay, and with an extremely well insulated home, Yates said that even with ambient temperatures at zero degrees last year they were warming the entire home with first- and second-floor temperatures of 88°F, and basement slab temps of just 78°F on a design day.

Yates’ crews also installed three Watts home-run domestic water manifolds and miles of WaterPEX tubing to feed them, a 95 AFUE wall-hung boiler, a mod-con with an input range of 55-172 MBH, and two indirectwater heaters.

The home’s cooling solution entailed the use of two main central HVAC systemswith the addition ofmultiple Fujitsu high-efficiency inverter-driven mini-splits.

“When I studied the home’s room-by-room designs, it was clear that there was a need to comfort-condition rooms, like the movie theater, separately from the central-system A/C,” explained Yates. “One of the many advantages provided by the Fujitsu mini-splits is the ability to use air conditioning during extremely cold weather. So if Bob hosted a group to watch a movie or for a ‘50s sock-hop, the mini-splits would quietly do the job of removing body-generated BTUs, even at a time of year when that would seem so unlikely.”

“The Behler crews did an incredible job for us,” said the homeowner, shortly after experiencing their first winter in the home. “He [Yates] will tell you, I’m sure, the job was a challenge from time to time. But through all the changes, they lived up to their promise to do the best possible job. It was an adventure for all of us.”