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New Mechanicals for 100K

by Chad Ludeman on May 22, 2008 · 9 comments

in Building Science,HVAC

We have been trying to nail down the mechanical systems to spec out in the house for some time now. We are getting very close, especially after the recommendations from the energy modeling. Our mechanical contractor is having health issues and had to bow out of the project so these may be subject to change based on recommendations of the ultimate mechanical contractor that comes in. We are also entertaining the option of just installing everything ourselves with the cooperation of a good plumber.

Solar Thermal System

Schuco Slimline II-80SCHUCO Slim Line II-80 Solar Thermal Package – Currently we are looking at this two panel packaged system that comes complete with the storage tank with integrated heat exchanger. The price is not to bad at about $4K list from what I can find, but the important thing is that the entire package is certified by the Solar Rating and Certification Corporation (SRCC). This will qualify us for $2,000 federal tax credit that is available for solar thermal installs. The tax credit is for 30% of the installed cost of a qualified solar thermal system, so after labor it should be easy for us to qualify for the full amount.

Lastly, installing this system will take care of a majority of our hot water heating demand and will increase the overall efficiency of the house to the level that will allow us to take advantage of the full $2K federal tax credits for builders who build a home that achieves 50% energy savings for heating and cooling compared to code homes. These two tax credits will hopefully cover the majority of the solar thermal system and allow us to hit our energy efficiency targets on our budget.

Hot Water Gas Boiler

Munchkin Boiler T50-R2Munchkin T50-R2 Boiler - We were recommended a number of high-efficiency boilers but are leaning towards the Munchkin brand at the moment for the following reasons:

  1. 95.1% efficient (AFUE %)
  2. Affordable – Around $2,500 list where most others are above $3K
  3. Modulates for improved efficiency
  4. Great brand name

The above two items in our mechanical system will very efficiently handle both our domestic hot water needs as well as our radiant heating needs. The solar storage tank will supply the domestic HW only and use the solar thermal panels as a primary heat source and the boiler as the secondary heat source. The boiler will be connected to a closed loop radiant system as well as the solar storage tank.

Radiant Heat in Slab on Grade Foundation

We will be installing PEX tubing ourselves for the radiant system prior to pouring the concrete slab that will remain unfinished. We will purchase the rest of the components needed as a pre-assembled package from any number of vendors that offer them. Not much more to say about that.

Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV)

It looks like we will be going with the Ultimate Air RecoupAerator Whole House ERV Unit (Model 200 DX). This model has a couple of advantages over others we’ve looked at:

  1. As an ERV, it will maintain humidity as well as temperature, where an HRV only deals with temp
  2. Very low power consumption and quiet operation
  3. MERV 12 filter comes standard helping with LEED points and keeping the indoor air cleaner
  4. 95% efficient
  5. Variable speed controlled by time settings or programmable thermostat
  6. EconoCool feature allows cooler night air to be brought in directly during cool summer nights to cool the home without traditional air conditioning.

This last point is obviously a big one for us. Our concrete slab should absorb a lot of heat during the day and then release it at night as the ERV cools the home with fresh outdoor air.


There are a few options or variables that could cause this list to change. For one, there are quite a number of ways we could configure the combination of radiant, solar thermal and domestic hot water. I may go through a couple other possible options in the next few days. Besides the ERV, we may install some type of dehumidifier in the home to ensure that the summer months are comfortable. I am actually considering purchasing a room dehumidifier and running it in our poorly insulated loft apartment to see how it works. We will most likely have to make a decision prior to gaining any useful data from this experiment, but I think it will be valuable none the less.

If you enjoyed reading this post I can promise you'll love our new writing over at Postgreen Homes. Yeah, we know that's the same thing your favorite band said and their new album is nowhere near as good as their early stuff, but seriously, we are actually still getting better.

There also isn't much conversation to be had here . . . at least not with us. So come on over to the Postgreen Homes Blog and tell us what you think of our new(ish) digs and crazy ideas. We will be sure to tell you what we think of your opinion.

{ 4 trackbacks }

Alternate Solar Thermal & Radiant Heating Combo Systems |
May 27, 2008 at 7:47 pm
Finally have to make some decisions « Attempting to Live a Sustainable Lifestyle in St. Louis
June 8, 2008 at 4:28 am
Increasing our Solar Thermal System vs. Gas Boiler Backup | 100K House Blog
November 7, 2008 at 7:03 am
Premature Solarization - Solar Power Before Reducing Consumption | 100K House Blog
January 22, 2009 at 5:52 pm

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Shawn Busse May 22, 2008 at 11:35 pm

Hey Chad,

Cool post (as always).

I went to grad school in SE Ohio in this little town called Athens. Anyway, it was a tough part of the state – terrible economy, poverty, etc. Southeast Ohio boomed in the 1800s, but fell by the wayside as the need for its main product (bricks) disappeared.

Imagine my surprise when I saw that your ERV system is actually made in Athens! Manufacturing rising from the ashes of the industrial revolution.

This is great on two levels: your project both supports a green technology and a home-grown company that’s providing valuable jobs to a forgotten part of the country.


2 chad May 23, 2008 at 12:03 am

Cool Shawn. Thanks for the info. They are very friendly on the phone. Maybe I can get you to pick us up a scratch & dent model for half price. :)

They really seem to have a great product compared to a lot of their competition. Their product marketing department should be given a pat on the back for knowing their market reqs and communicating their advantages to schmoes like you and me.

3 Brandon May 23, 2008 at 1:57 am

You mention that during the summer days the concrete floor will absorb a lot of heat and release it at night. You could use a light colored concrete to help reduce the absorbed heat. I would also think that a set of good window shades and running cold water through the radiant system would reduce it even more if not completely eliminate this problem.

4 Robert May 13, 2009 at 8:55 am

Hi there,

Did you look at Venmar units at all? My wife and I are designing a SIPS house as well. One SIPS company told us about Venmar units, and the Mech engineer here in my office (PHL) really likes Venmar for health care work. Just wondering if you’d done any comparison shopping. I know Venmar runs $2000+ for a “kit”.

5 Solar thermal panels April 21, 2011 at 2:39 am

Is there any difference between solar thermal systems and solar water heating systems?i appreciate your work.

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