Home tech

…and not the digital sort.

Our building is LEEDS-certified, and they have several bits of cool technology installed which do not quite work, in practice, the way they should.

The one I was working on today is the air exchange units.

The concept is straight-forward: due to our modern insulating systems our houses do not ‘breathe’ enough for good health. To fix that, air exchange units pump fresh air in, and exhaust air out. But that becomes ‘heating the outdoors’, so they use a radiator-like system to pump air out  in tubes right next to air on its way in, and transfer some of the heat to the incoming air, saving energy.

The devil is in the details. The system installed in our place is not a single large unit, but 6 separate smaller units, to move enough air for the size of the apartment. Six times the expense, six times as many things to break, and most importantly six times as much maintenance. Every three months each unit has to be opened up, the two reusable foam filters taken out and cleaned, and then the units get reassembled.

Two of our units exhaust at deck level. Our deck is currently mostly covered by snow. Under one of these units the snow is melted away. Under the other, the snow is barely divoted. In other words, we have a 50% failure to exchange heat from the exhausted air of those we can test.

Cleaning the filters is eye-opening. The inside filter builds up a light mat of kitty hair, and is white with dust. This dust is primarily human (and cat) skin cells, and the feces of skin lice/dust mites which feed on the shed skin cells. Which is gross. But not nearly as gross as the sticky black carbon which builds up on the outside filter. It blackens the sink instantly, and takes focused scrubbing to clear it.

Actually, I take it back, the most important issue, for me, is probably the noise of so many fans constantly cycling on and off. And the fans of the heating units doing the same. And none of them in sync. There are three of each in the main room of the condo, and their noise can drive me out of the room quicker than almost anything.

Anyway, living with this system has certainly shown its lack of livability. I hope, if I get to build a house, I will be able to find a better system.