A special job requires a special comfort system.

Orchard Valley Technology, Haydenville, Mass., Hayes/Peer Nous Residence

Orchard Valley Technology
Haydenville, Mass.
Hayes/Peer Nous Residence

With most of his business centered on design-build, Jim Patterson of Orchard Valley Technology, Haydenville, Mass., is used to creating special systems for special houses. The project that won the Innovation Award of this year's RPA System Showcases is no exception.

The builder of the house, John Cromwell, and the architect, David Bixby from Clark & Green, had subcontracted to Patterson before. When this job and its unique requirements presented themselves, the architect and builder toured some of Patterson's past jobs and decided he was their man.

The owners wanted a replica of a house built around the turn of the last century. Every detail of modern life had to be hidden. Every sensor for the geothermal heating system was buried in plaster in strategic spots throughout the walls of the house. The heat source is buried in the ground outside. The light switches are the old-fashioned kind with the separate buttons for "on" and "off." The wooden floors were scraped and beaten with heavy chains before being finished. They spared no expense, either. The geothermal radiant system was priced at $80,000.

Geothermal is becoming more and more popular as concerns about the environment and energy conservation grow. However, these systems can be extremely complex. "We take a great deal of pride in our ability to take a cumbersome web of mechanical equipment and trim it into a user-friendly system," Patterson says.

The heart of this project was the closed-loop, horizontal, earth heat exchanging system. This particular geothermal system works via trenches in the ground surrounding the building. A tube that is filled with a mix of water and refrigerant is laid in the trench. The idea is that during the winter, at this depth, the heat from the ground heats the liquid in the tubes. In the summer, the reverse happens, since the ground temperature at this depth remains constant -- despite the different surface temperatures. In different regions, different depths of trenches are needed.

A Water Furnace Spectra water-to-water heat pump handles the geothermal heating and cooling by pumping the liquid through the buried tubing and extracting energy with its compressor cycles. The heated or chilled water is then pumped into a 120-gallon Viessemann indirect tank for storage. A sensor is located in the tank and operates the boiler when the desired water temperature cannot be reached by geothermal energy alone. The back-up Viessmann boiler is tucked away in a mechanical room.

A tekmar system was used to control and operate the radiant floor circuits that total about 8,000 ft. of Roth PEX tubing stapled-up with heat transfer plates and passing through two Unico miniduct systems. In the summer, chilled water is passed trough the Unico system coils to provide central cooling and dehumidification.

Another unique feature of Patterson's system is the remote phone system that will automatically call a technician if there are any problems. This was needed -- the home is a weekend getaway and the owners aren't there most of the time. Probably the best feature of the phone system is its capability to have the owner call ahead and tell the system to have the house ready for use during the cold winter months.

"A job like this really takes a lot of cooperation,"Patterson says. He had to work closely with the house's architect as well as its builder. Most of the low-voltage wiring connected to the comfort system was installed by Patterson to accommodate the system's unique needs.

Second Place:
Advanced Radiant Technology
Shorline, Wash.
Schneebeck Residence.

Third Place:
Radiant Specialties Inc.
Kalispell, Mont.
Mann Horse Barn.