Big mechanical system, low energy bills

Aug. 2, 2012
 PLOVER, WIS. — The wealthy entrepreneur who built his dream house in this small town in north central Wisconsin may not have had the creation of a mechanical contracting showplace in mind. That is, however, the result.

PLOVER, WIS. — The wealthy entrepreneur who built his dream house in this small town in north central Wisconsin may not have had the creation of a mechanical contracting showplace in mind. That is, however, the result.

The 30,000-sq.ft. mansion is heated and cooled with geothermal, high efficiency boilers and water heaters, and a high-velocity duct system, all digitally controlled. The monthly energy bill is about $1,600, a bit more than a nickel a square foot.

The contracting tour de force was put together by PGA Inc., Westin, Wis., in the Wausau area, for a grand total of $1.8 million, with $1.5 million of that for the HVAC system. PGA Inc. is, to say the least, aggressive.

“I don’t want to do tract homes and fight over $100,” said HVAC Sales Manager Mike Nelson, who managed the project. PGA has grown its business by $1 million in a down market, Nelson said, and its goal is to grow it by another $1 million in 2012.

The geothermal loop field is under a grove of trees in front of the house, piped to a basement mechanical room that wouldn’t look out of place in a commercial building. The owner, with an eye for detail, had black and white floor tiles installed in the multiple mechanical rooms (the ones upstairs house air handlers and air purification equipment). While the mechanical equipment has nice digs, the architect, paradoxically, neglected to leave enough space for ductwork. That’s why PGA Inc. selected a high-velocity Unico system.

The main mechanical room in the basement houses the geothermal equipment, boilers, buffer tanks, piping and all the pumps that move hot and chilled water throughout the house.

There are five 10-ton ClimateMaster geothermal heat pumps, each containing two 5-ton compressors. The DDC system alternates run times on the compressors. Two Triangle Tube wall-hung modulating-condensing boilers at 175,000 Btuh each maintain hot water loop temperature. Natural gas is so cheap these days that the Triangle Tube boilers are used for primary heating with the geothermal secondary. The ClimateMaster units and the Triangle Tube boilers feed into separate chilled water and space heating water Boiler Buddy buffer tanks manufactured by Hot Water Products Inc., Milwaukee.

The snowmelt system is separate. Snowmelt uses two NTI Trinity wall-hung boilers, 300,000 Btuh each, lead-lag sequenced and modulating. Two Heat Transfer Products Phoenix 199,000 Btuh modulating water heaters supply domestic hot water to the many bathrooms.

Much of the home is heated radiantly. Jeff Halter, sales manager for MrPEX Systems, Northfield, Minn., supplied literally miles of PEXa radiant tubing.

The MrPEX radiant tubing, installed 8-in. on center, warms 18,000-sq.ft. of space. In addition, there is 5,000-sq.ft. of snowmelted driveway and walkway space. In all, there is 27,000 lineal feet of PEXa tubing in the home, and probably 7,000-8,000 lineal feet for the snowmelt system. Halter noted that an advantage of his product is that the firm puts a coating on top of the EVOH oxygen barrier that’s slippery so the tubing doesn’t squeak in the floor as it expands and contracts.

MrPEX Systems also supplied the manifolds, fittings and accessories for the project.

That’s a lot of water going to a lot of different places. Nelson is a fan of Bell & Gossett and the mechanical room is packed with red pumps connected with green Aquatherm fusion-welded polypropylene pipe.

Much of the material on the project was supplied through Bob Rohde, regional sales manager in the HVAC/R Hydronic Division of Linder Electric Motors Inc., Wausau, Wis. The wholesaler bills itself as, “the area’s largest B&G stocking distributor.”

In addition to dealing with not enough space for conventional ductwork, Nelson had to fix some other miscues. The design was under-humidified and he ended up roughly doubling humidification to 16 steam humidification units throughout the house, along with Trane Clean Effects air purifiers. The house is three stories, including the finished basement, but its shape is long and narrow. Consequently, air is distributed throughout the house with Unico high-velocity air handlers positioned in multiple mechanical rooms from one side of the home to the other.

PGA Plumbing was founded as a partnership between Dean Prohaska and Gary Guerndt in 1994, thus the initials for Prohaska, Guerndt & Associates. Later in 1994, Guerndt bought out Prohaska and went on his own as a sole proprietor. PGA Plumbing was incorporated in January of 1997 with Guerndt as the sole owner. The Carrier line of products was added in November 2000. Then in June of 2001, the name was changed to just PGA Inc. and a "trailer" was added, “Plumbing, Heating, Cooling,” to more accurately reflect the services provided. In March 2005, PGA purchased Resch Heating & Cooling of Hatley, Wis. In July 2005, PGA bought Bauer Electric & Heating LLC of Wausau and, following that, in May 2006 MNC Heating & Air Conditioning LLC of Mosinee, Wis., was purchased.

PGA Inc. currently has more than 50 employees, 16 in the Plumbing Division, 17 in the HVAC Division, three in the Electrical Division, five in the Insulation Division, three in the Septic/Excavating Division, and an office staff of seven.

The business consists of approximately 70% new residential and commercial construction, and 30% service, repairs, replacement and remodeling. Two plumbing technicians and three HVAC technicians are dedicated to service calls, and others are available as needed.

About the Author

Robert P. Mader

Bob Mader is the Editorial Director for Penton's mechanical systems brands, including CONTRACTOR magazine, Contracting Business and HPAC Engineering, all of which are part of Penton’s Energy and Buildings Group. He has been  with CONTRACTOR since 1984 and with Penton since 2001. His passions are helping contractors improve their businesses, saving energy and the issue of safeguarding our drinking water. He is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame with an A.B. in American Studies with a Communications Concentration.

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