Lititz, Pennsylvania hasn’t seen a strong single-family, new construction market for almost a decade. But if growth in 2016 was any indication, the economy in the southeastern part of the Keystone State might finally be on the rebound.
With interest rates still low, small business slowly blossoming and nearby Lancaster City in the midst of a revitalization effort, framing crews are busy again.
Many HVAC contractors are scheduling service and retrofit around construction schedules, and business owners are shouting louder than ever about the scarcity of fresh apprentices and seasoned techs.
With seven trucks on the road, J&G Heating & Air Conditioning Inc. in Conestoga, Pennsylvania is one of the local companies that’s noticed the uptick. The company, founded in 1999 by Jason Sweigart and Gary Ream, has grown steadily with its territory, in part through an acquisition of Star Heating and Cooling in 2009.
In early 2016, a long-time customer brought plans to J&G for a new home, soon to be built less than a mile from the customer’s previous residence.
“They were moving from one side of the golf course to the other, looking to get into a brand-new home,” Sweigart says. “As far as the mechanical system was concerned, the family had two requests: all systems needed to be high-efficiency, and there would be no compromise to comfort.”
Just south of Lititz is one of the state’s premier country clubs, Bent Creek. It made local news when superstar Lady Gaga was sighted there shopping for a home. She ended up not purchasing a property, but the course still draws players from around the country, and is home to the country’s longest-running annual golf tournament.
The countryside north of the club was largely undeveloped until recently. Now, excavators and general contractors are bustling to maintain deadlines at a new development called Essex Court.
J&G’s involvement began in April, roughing in ductwork and assembling a material list for the hybrid forced-air and hydronic system in the two-story, 3,400-square-foot custom home.
Two 3-ton Carrier Infinity 19 condensing units are used to provide air conditioning to the home’s two ducted zones. Each of the air handlers — one upstairs and one down — also include an AQUECOIL hot water coil to supply all heating to the home.
In areas where high-efficiency, variable-speed air conditioners qualify for utility incentives, using a hybrid system instead of a heat pump allows the homeowner to capitalize on air-conditioning rebates. And that’s without mentioning any rebates available for hydronic components and condensing boilers, as well as the comfort, responsiveness and efficiency provided by a hot water heating system.
J&G Service Manager Justin Ream, and Installation Technician Shaun Goshert, installed an 155 MBH US Boiler K2 Firetube boiler in the basement to supply all heat to the home, largely through the two, 72,000 BTU hydronic coils.
“When you’re sizing these coils, you do so by specifying the physical dimensions of the top of the air handler,” Sweigart explains. In reality, the coils are oversized for the home. That allows the installer to use a slightly lower water temperature, while being careful not to go so low that heat transfer to the air stream is still sufficient.
The boiler also supplies hot water to a 40-gallon Crown MegaStore indirect water heater. While forced air provides primary heat to the home, a supplementary in-floor radiant system is used in certain areas to provide premium comfort.
Taking the edge off
“The homeowners regretted not putting radiant heat in the floor of the spare room above the garage in their last home,” Sweigart adds. “Despite having carpet on the floor and ample ductwork, that room always had a chilly floor because it was above unconditioned space. They wanted to avoid that this time.”
Before drywall was hung in the garage, technicians installed 5/8-inch Zurn PEX and aluminum heat transfer plates in the joist bays. R-30 bat insulation is used below the oxygen-barrier PEX. The room above is the daughter’s bedroom. At this house, she’ll be comfortable even if she’s not wearing socks.
The home also has a few other radiant circuits. The Jack-and-Jill bathroom and master bath upstairs are heated from below the tile, as is the mudroom downstairs. In all, there are five heating zones in the house, circulated with Taco 007e pumps and Zone Sentry zone valves.
The two hydro-air zones need water between 160 F and 180 F, depending on outdoor conditions. So, K&G used a radiant mixing block to temper down the radiant supply temperature to no more than 110 F in the tile areas, and 120 F in the carpeted bedroom.
Effective and efficient
Overall, the heating and cooling system design points to premium comfort, but that is only half the equation. The homeowners were adamant that the entire home be just as efficient as it is comfortable, and they started with the building envelope.
The general contractor, Costello Builders, heavily insulated the two-by-six frame, including the garage. Interior walls were insulated, as well. The home is situated to capitalize on winter solar gain. To limit the cooling load during summer months, the large, south-facing windows have solar shades.
PowerMan Electric designed the home’s LED lighting system. This not only reduces the use of energy to light the home, but limits heat gain. LEDs use half the wattage of CFL and a tenth the wattage of incandescent. Compared to the 35 and 85 BTU/h output of CFL and incandescent bulbs, respectively, LEDs produce a miniscule 3.5 BTU/h.
Sweigart maintained the same attention to energy efficiency when selecting components of the hydronic system.
No matter which zone is calling — or what combination of zones — the K2 boiler “knows” the exact BTU input needed, thanks to US Boiler’s Sage Zone Control circulator panel. With simple plug-and-play installation, the zone control corresponds with the boiler control and outdoor reset to calculate zone demand, automatically adjusting the boiler’s firing rate. This saves fuel and reduces short-cycling of a boiler that’s already designed to reduce energy consumption.
The K2 Firetube offers up to 95 percent AFUE through the use of a stainless steel, vertical firetube heat exchanger. One advantage of firetube heat exchangers is their significantly lower pressure drop when compared to watertube models of the same capacity.
The five Taco 007e circulators are the ECM-powered version of the 007 pump. With the same pump curve and flange width as the original model, the 007e uses 85 percent less energy. The circulator also features an LED status light, automatic self-purging feature, and BIO Barrier, a technology that prevents the motor’s strong magnets from collecting ferrous particle around the shaft and impellor.
To top it all off, web-enabled Honeywell and Carrier T-stats are used. The homeowners wanted to be able to control the indoor climate from their phones. The thermostats also provide humidity control for improved four-season comfort.
“This job serves to showcase the flexibility of using a boiler in a new home,” Sweigart says. “We’re providing radiant heat, forced hot air, and unlimited amounts of domestic hot water. And it’s all being done efficiently, with system longevity in mind.”
J&G completed their portion of the project before deadline. And with work in the Lititz area picking up, time to spare is a good thing.