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Musings of an Energy Nerd

New Lakesideca Products — March 2019

A ventilation fan from Panasonic, an HRV with a heat pump, triple-glazed windows from New Jersey, and a plastic drainage mat from Tyvek

This week I’ll take a look at four new products of interest to residential builders: a supply fan from Panasonic, a high-efficiency HRV from Quebec, triple-glazed windows manufactured in New Jersey, and a plastic drainage mat from Tyvek.

For decades, Panasonic has been manufacturing residential exhaust fans that are dependable, quiet, and energy-efficient. That’s why so many exhaust-only ventilation systems include a Panasonic exhaust fan.

Recently Panasonic came out with a new fan, the WhisperFresh Select, designed to meet the needs of builders who prefer supply-only ventilation to exhaust-only ventilation systems.

The WhisperFresh Select is Energy Star certified. The supply fan has an adjustable airflow delivery rate, with nine settings (from a low of 50 cfm to a maximum of 150 cfm). It is equipped with an ECM motor, and will automatically ramp up the fan speed in response to a filter that gets clogged in order to maintain a consistent air flow delivery rate.

The fan draws 8.2 watts at 50 cfm, and 27.3 watts at 150 cfm.

The WhisperFresh Select fan includes a replaceable filter. For those who want balanced ventilation (albeit without heat recovery), the WhisperFresh Select can be set up to communicate with a WhisperGreen Select exhaust fan to provide coordinated supply and exhaust ventilation.

[Photo credit: Panasonic]
The WhisperFresh Select fan includes a humidity sensor. The fan can be set up to shut off automatically when the outdoor relative humidity rises to a user-adjustable setting (anywhere from 30% RH to 80% RH).

The fan also includes a temperature sensor. The fan can be set up to shut off automatically when the outdoor temperature drops to a user-adjustable setting (anywhere from 4°F to 15°F). The fan also stops operating when the outdoor temperature rises above 95°F.

The WhisperFresh Select fan is available online for about…

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25 Comments

  1. Andy Kosick | | #1

    Can't say how much I appreciate the work of Minotair and CERV. I think you disagree with me on this Martin but I think affordable, high performance housing desperately needs a true magic box. Not heating with a ventilation system or ventilating with a heating system but a single air moving system (that can be distributed), and heat, cool, dehumidify, and ventilate as needed. Minotair and CERV are as close as anyone has ever come to this in my opinion. I know they market these as ventilation but hope they are not asleep at the wheel and have this in the back of their mind. If they could push the heat output to 10k at 0F and perhaps develop a stale air intake that toggled between a bath and kitchen duct for ventilating and a central location for recirculating these things could be everything but a range hood for a small home, townhouse, or apartment.

    1. Alex De Gagne | | #10

      Thank you Mr Kosick for your appreciation!

      Our team does work pretty hard to go forward. You'll be pleased to learn we put a lot of sales and marketing efforts to mostly promote our PentaCare V12 Compact Air Treatment Units like the all-in-one HVAC solution for Passive Houses and Multifamily Buildings in some niche markets (as long of course the heating and cooling loads can be met within the capacities of our units, which is often the case).

      Stay tuned!

  2. Trevor Lambert | | #2

    I like the idea of the Minotair, but looking at the price and the specs, I just can't see how this would ever make sense. If it could actually replace a minisplit and at the home, you could justify the price tag (maybe). But it's pretty clear that is not the case. It's really just an ERV with modestly higher efficiency than other models that are one quarter the cost.

    1. Alex De Gagne | | #5

      With all due respect Mr Lambert, strictly comparing Minotair's Compact Air Treatment Units to just an ERV is totally unfair and clearly indicates a lack of knowledge you seem to have about that kind of products. Because in reality the PentaCare V12 Compact ATUs are 4 machines in 1:

      1- Dehumidifier capable of removing over 100 pints of moisture per day
      +
      2- Ducted heat pump with 11 500 BTU/h in cooling & 8700 BTU/h in heating
      +
      3- High Efficiency HEPA MERV15 air filtration device
      +
      4- The most efficient of all HRVs and ERV in North America as certified now by HVI capable of providing Net Zero Positive Ventilation© in many conditions, which is a technological breakthrough in itself.

      All that for 5998$ USD. Those are facts. I attached a brochure with all the specifications in case you want to know more and get more facts.

      1. Malcolm Taylor | | #8

        User...103,

        Can you expand on what Net Zero Positive Ventilation actually means. It isn't at all clear from the link you provided.

        As an aside on tone: You may find you face a more welcoming reception if you don't just come to a site and attack anyone who has questions about your product. Making your case with a bit of tack really helps.

        1. Alex De Gagne | | #9

          About Net Zero Positive Ventilation©:

          It's having an HRV or ERV capable of outputting more energy (heat) than the energy (total electricity consumption) the equipment requires to run in some conditions. One tested example of that is the PentaCare V12 having an HVI-certified SRE (Sensible Recovery Efficiency) of 116% while getting inside 100 CFM of 32˚F outdoor air. Actually no other manufacturer can offer that level of efficiency as it's the first time such results were achieved. The tangible result is being able of providing fresh air AND helping heating at the same time in those conditions with the air temperature getting out of the equipment at around 102˚F (resulting in an ASE of 178%).

          On your aside on tone: I'm sorry if you felt offended as it was not the intent. As you know while reading a text it's hard to get the real tone the author wants to transmit contrary to a verbal communication. Also, you have to know that English is not my mother tongue but I'm learning every day to increase my knowledge of the English language. So I do thank you for your constructive feedback Mr Taylor.

          Still, when Mr Lambert writes "It's really just an ERV with modestly higher efficiency than other models that are one quarter the cost." it's still very far from the truth as I clearly indicated using facts and I don't see any harsh words being used, unless you consider "an attack" when someone tells somebody else they lack clearly some knowledge about something? Again, please enlighten me where I was off.

          1. Malcolm Taylor | | #12

            I've edited this comment. I think my first instincts were correct. Alex is a bit thin-skinned and needs learn to calm down a bit.

      2. Trevor Lambert | | #13

        I don't want to get a in a big debate about this, but some of your "facts" are more subjective interpretation than objective fact.

        -all heat pumps dehumidify
        -all HRVs have filters, most can recirculate air
        Now unless we consider all those devices as two machines in one, I don't think it's reasonable to call yours four machines in one. Maybe yours is better at filtering, maybe it's better at dehumidifying, but those are differences in performance, not function.

        -8700BTU/h is at 47F (8C). Frankly, the 8C rating is almost irrelevant. I know my house doesn't even require heat at an outdoor temperature of 8C. A more useful number is 5600BTU at 17F (-8). Another useful number would be xxxxBTU/h at -15C or -20C, but you don't provide it in your documentation. I have a strong suspicion that it drops to a low enough number and COP as to be unhelpful for advertising, to put it in the nicest possible way.

        -You invited the comparison to a conventional HRV by putting it through the HVI specified testing. It IS a fair comparison, because under the testing conditions the heat pump is contributing to the total efficiency numbers. It's not like you can get 116% efficiency at 100CFM of fresh air supply WHILE providing 8700BTU/h (really more like 6500, if we're using the same outdoor temperature) of heat, as you are implying. No, it's one or the other. You can put it on a duty cycle, but it still all comes out in the wash. 6500BTU/h (estimated at 0C) at 50% duty cycle is only 3250BTU/h. 100CFM at 50% duty cycle is only 50CFM. If you bump it up to [email protected]% in order to get the effective 100CFM, then goodbye goes the 116% SRE (would be about 97%, using a linear interpolation of the data for 250CFM and 100CFM). So a more honest reporting of what the unit is capable of is 97% SRE at 0C, plus 3250BTU/h. Is that enough supplemental heat to supplant another heat source? In most cases no. So it's a simple equation, how much more does the unit cost than what it replaces? What it replaces is an HRV, plus the energy cost of the supplemental heat. It just doesn't work out. In the rare case where the entire heating load of the house is 3kBTU, you'd be miles ahead to just provide that with electric heat and a conventional HRV, which could be had for at least $4000 less than the Minotair and cost maybe $20 a year more to operate. That's a long payoff time for the Minotair.

        As I said, it's an interesting device, and if money was no object I'd probably buy one. For most of us, cost is a factor.

        1. Alex De Gagne | | #22

          Mr. Lambert,

          You dispute the fact that we cannot say out Compact ATUs are 4 machines in one by saying all heat pumps can dehumidify (which is absolutely true) and that all HRVs have filters and some can do recirculation (again, it's true). But at which levels?

          So let's compare apples to apples here:

          As our heat pump (HP) function has a cooling capacity of almost 1 ton (12 000 BTu/h) at 11 500 BTU/h as calculated using AHRI 210/240 Protocol like every serious HP manufacturer, let's see how much moisture the best of those 1 ton units can remove (ducted and ductless): it ranges from 1.9 pints to 2.7 pints per hour (2.3 pints on average). The PentaCare V12 removes 4.7 pints per hour (112 pints max per day), more than twice the average, as calculated using AHAM DH-1 Protocol. So the reality is to be able to remove the same amount of moisture someone would need to have a dedicated dehumidifier along one of those HP.

          So yes, it does the job of a stand-alone dehumidifier in that capacity range.

          HEPA MERV 15 (or F9) standard filtration: How many HRVs or ERVs can you name Mr. Lambert that has the same level of High Efficiency filtration off the shelves, as standard, plus with a seal all around the frame to ensure a real efficient filtration job? Please let me know when you'll find one a real equivalent (and don't forget the seal). But until then, someone will need a stand-alone filtration device to provide that level of high efficiency air filtration.

          So yes, like it or not, our Compact Air Treatment Unit do the job of 4 machines in one compact, indoor-installed, package.

          And you say you live in a house where you don't need any heating around 47˚F (8˚C), well that's great for you, probably a Passive House? That's the way to build from now on! But 99% of the people in North America do need heating at that temperature and we're glad to help them while bringing fresh air at the same time like I've previously written.

          In conclusion, and at the best of my abilities, I humbly think I've done here some logic-based and factual comparisons. Our products are not magical and are not for every application possible, but they're still great for what they are and can do once they're compared to the work they do in total.

          1. User avater GBA Editor
            Deleted | | #23

            “[Deleted]”

  3. User avater
    Michael Maines | | #3

    I talked with Alexandre De Gagne, the Minotair sales manager, at the NESEA conference last week. He said that you can hook a Mitsubishi mini-split to their controls to increase the heating and cooling capacity. I've been intrigued by the concept for a few years now, especially since humidity control is a growing issue in high-performance homes. I'm determined to work one into a project this year.

    1. Alex De Gagne | | #7

      We look forward of working with you Michael. It was great seeing you last week at NESEA.

  4. Trevor Lambert | | #4

    That sounds interesting, but it doesn't change the financial picture. You're still looking at a cost increase of ~4000USD (presumably this is equipment cost only, not installed) for a 5600BTU/h heat pump. That's about the same I was quoted for a 18kBTU/h Mitsubishi, fully installed.

    Another point of comparison is that for far less money, my HRV coupled with a ground source glycol loop beats the V12's SRE at -25C by a wide margin (72% vs ~98%).

    1. Alex De Gagne | | #6

      Another important fact here to compare apples to apples: when you're talking about coupling a ground source glycol loop to an HRV, the regular citizens will have to pay thousands of dollars to get such a setup. Because most people don't have neither the skills or the needed equipment to do so, the reality is the vast majority of people will have to pay at least 6000$ and up (drilling the ground + equipment + pipes) to get an increase in performances like you mentioned. And that is only if you city permits you to drill and/or have the place to drill, etc...

      So a question for you: how many HRVs or ERVs are capable of providing 100 CFM of fresh air inside a building while the outdoor air is at 32˚F and once inside gets out of the equipment at around 102˚F without any other equipment or process? I'll give you the answer: strictly the PentaCare V12 from Minotair. The tangible result: providing fresh air AND helping heating at the same time like no other, off the shelves, residential product can do.

      1. Trevor Lambert | | #14

        You make a fair point about the practical difficulties of installing a glycol loop. I was speaking entirely from the perspective of a new build, where you excavating already and have access to under the house. In that case, the incremental cost of digging a couple of trenches and laying some pipe is just a few hours of excavator time and the cost of the pipe; in the ball park of several hundred dollars. For a retrofit, excavating would cost more and may not even be possible. I'm not sure I agree that that is the vast majority of people. But in a new build, with the option of either, I still say the glycol loop is far more financially justified, while acknowledging that even that might not really be justified.

        Yes, the PentaCare V12 is the only unit capable of providing net heat gain while providing fresh air. My contention, as I illustrated in my other comment (#13), is the amount of net heat gain isn't enough to justify the increased cost.

        1. Alex De Gagne | | #16

          It is unfortunate that you don't put all the pieces of the puzzle for everybody to see because it seems you obviously did not mention the price of a liquid to air exchanger like a Zehnder Comfo Fond L 350 which sells for 2473$ CAD (since you're in Canada). Right now in stock and at that price, at Small Planet Supply in Vancouver, BC. FYI that model is what we see mostly being installed in the field for glycol loop preheating.

          So I really don't know how you can mentioned that such a set up can be had for several hundreds of dollars only??? Maybe you were able to do all that on your own for almost nothing (if it's the case I'm glad for you). Because for most people it's 2473$ + cost of pipes + cost of digging + cost of commissioning = several thousands, not several hundreds like you wrote Mr Lambert.

          So the reality is still that for the vast majority of people they'll have to pay thousands of dollars to get such a setup (like I previously wrote).

        2. User avater GBA Editor
          Martin Holladay | | #17

          Trevor,
          Your estimate of "several hundred dollars" is on the low side.

          Here's what I wrote in my article, "Using a Glycol Ground Loop to Condition Ventilation Air":

          "I talked to four people who provided estimates of the typical cost of a [glycol] ground loop and associated hardware (the water-to-air heat exchanger, circulator, and controls). These estimates ranged from $2,000 (the amount cited by Alex Wilson and Marc Rosenbaum) to $3,000 (the amount cited by Vermont homeowner Chris Pike, who evidently was quoted that figure by a contractor)."

        3. Trevor Lambert | | #18

          I mistakenly thought you were referring to only the under ground portion of the glycol loop when I replied, so I also only talked about the under ground installation cost. I'm sorry, that was my bad.

          So let's look at the numbers again. Let's stick to USD, since that's what we've been talking about all along. Even if we use the Zehnder unit, the most expensive option, you're looking at $2000. Add another $1000 for digging a trench and putting some poly pipe in it, another $1000 for installation of the exchanger and peripherals, and we're still well short of $6000. Yes, it can get higher, but it can also get lower. Ultimate Air sells one for much less, and you can build one for much less than that.

          As I already said, there's a general consensus that the glycol ground loop will never pay for itself, so it's a pretty low bar to begin with. For the sake of expediency, I will retract the statement that the glycol loop is a better option.

          1. User avater GBA Editor
            Martin Holladay | | #19

            Trevor,
            As I wrote in my article, "If this level of savings is typical [the savings documented by Peter Schneider for a glycol ground loop in Vermont], then the simple payback period for a ground loop is about 4,400 years."

          2. Trevor Lambert | | #20

            Martin,

            I think the payback period is a little on the pessimistic side. I could submit a blog detailing my build and installation of my glycol loop, how much it cost and how much energy I got out of it if you are interested.

          3. User avater GBA Editor
            Martin Holladay | | #21

            Trevor,
            GBA is always on the lookout for guest blogs -- especially guest blogs from designers, builders, or homeowners who understand how to use energy monitoring equipment. Feel free to send me an email for more information: martin [at] greenbuildingadvisor [dot] com .

  5. Jim Iredale | | #11

    I specify the Minotair exclusively in my builds and consulting practice for Passivhaus projects.
    A Minotaur V12 will do everything a high end HRV or ERV can do only better and with greater efficiency, and with a real COP.
    When coupled with an Earth Tube a single Minotaur currently provides all the fresh air and heating load in a cold climate, TFA159m2, two story residence, virtually eliminating any backup heat requirement.
    The Minotaur V12 can alto be programmed to master a slave air handler to increase the volume in larger buildings, gently delivering heat with the ventilation air; a goal of Passivhaus design.
    It can also provide a ton of cooling, which in a Passivhaus is usually enough, given the performance of the envelope.
    The user interface is friendly yet there is also an array of additional information and programming available for those who like to play with their systems.
    If you are building air tight and efficient buildings you need this type of product.

  6. Trevor Lambert | | #15

    "When coupled with an Earth Tube a single Minotaur currently provides all the fresh air and heating load in a cold climate, TFA159m2, two story residence, virtually eliminating any backup heat requirement."

    I am highly skeptical of this claim. Can you show your work?

  7. Kevin Dickson, MSME | | #24

    "Earth tubes and Trombe walls are dated concepts, says GBA senior editor Martin Holladay. You are entertaining two ideas from the 1970s,” he says. “Both ideas have been substantially discredited, but, like the walking dead, it seems that it takes more than a stake through the heart and a bunch of garlic to keep these ideas where they belong."

  8. User avater GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #25

    Any GBA readers interested in earth tubes may want to read this article: "All About Earth Tubes."

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