Quality Home Comfort Award, 2000

a magazine article discussing the quality home comfort runner up given to climate partners.

A comfort system in a log home in the woods of Western Connecticut helped write history. For the first time in the 10 year annuals of the Quality Home Comfort Awards, one company has taken first place in two categories in the same year.

Logging on to Comfort

Homeowners Ken and Pat Tober poured their hearts and souls into the construction of their log home in Shelton, CT and quality was their most important criterion for their home. The Tobers dreamed of owning a log home for many years but they didn't want just any log home. Tober said there wasn't one thing in the home that was pre-cut, they made everything.

After finding land in a secluded wooded area, Tober then hired a framer to frame the house along with two carpenters. The three of them did all the work themselves, with occasional assistance from Ken's 77 year-old father, John. Tober said the labor seemed endless at times and the painstaking construction process had stressful moments.

A Demanding Customer

The log home took over a year to build, so Tober knew he wouldn't settle for just any comfort system. Fortunately he knew Jim Slater, Climate Engineering's design engineer who helped Tober plan a system for the house.

However, Tober still had concerns about comfort with the high cathedral ceilings and humidity control being an issue with the wood. He made it clear that he wanted to be comfortable but didn't want to see a visually unappealing system in his home. He also “didn't want the curtains blowing off the windows at one end of the house,” while the other end was 90 degrees.

As a final hurdle, Climate Partners were asked to help alleviate the suffering of Pat Tober, who is allergic to just about everything. Slater's response to this was, “no problem.”

Climate Partners crews provided the Tobers' with a four-ton heat pump, mated to a five-ton, variable speed air handler. The system was divided into four zones, each with programmable controls. A duct-mounted hydronic coil was installed for defrost and hydro-air capabilities, and an integrated control package was applied to coordinate the operation of the heat pump versus the oil-fired hydro-air based on outside air temperature and balance points.

Several systems were considered but the best choice was a variable speed system with variable volume zones. The home was extremely tight and well-insulated so they felt this system would offer the best option for constant circulation to maintain tighter control over humidity year-round. Humidity is a big problem for a wood structure because in the winter months, it's difficult to keep it humidified because the wood absorbs so much moisture from the air; and during summer, the issue is keeping it dry enough so the wood doesn't swell and crack.

Casey explained that they would need a $3,000 humidifier rather than a $300 humidifier and this was not an issue thanks to an experience they had sleeping in a friend's log cabin in Vermont. When they woke up, their sinuses were packed solid, the air was parched, and they decided right then and there that they wouldn't skimp on the humidification system, just to avoid ever feeling that way in their home.

Casey's solution was a variable speed system, set for constant circulation to help maintain proper humidity levels and alleviate Pat Tobers' allergies. When allergies are a concern, Casey sticks to a combination of ultraviolet light and pleated filters so they installed standard external pleated filters but added a UV air purification light.

The four zones were important because of the open floor plan. The bedroom and its loft were at one end of the house and the kitchen was at the other, with the great room between the two with an expanse of wood and 20 ft. high ceilings. Programmable controls allowed the Tobers' to tailor the comfort system the way their home is used.

Pat Tober is happy to note that the solution has worked and her allergies haven't been a problem at all.

No Noise is Good Noise

Noise attenuation was another critical element that Casey and his crews had to deal with in the Tobers' home. Sound travels very well in a wood structure, and reflects and bounces off hard surfaces without even carpeting to soften unwanted noise.

During the final walk through, the sound of a humidifier solenoid valve closing was audible due to water pressure in the house. Climate Engineering came back and retrofitted the humidifier with an air hammer device so it would suppress any noise associated with the system. According to Casey: “it was a house problem, but on our quality recheck it was an unacceptable condition to us.”

In a log home, you physically have to evaluate everything you're doing and ask yourself if what you're doing fits in with the concept of a log house. The noise issue, humidity control, selection and placement of grilles, and what kind of controls were used, were all influenced by the fact that it was a log structure.

A Company Culture of Care

Climate Partners not only provided a superior comfort and ventilation system, they also helped the Tobers get through the stresses and strains of building a home without adding stresses and strains of their own.

Ken Tober said there were two things that particularly impressed him about Climate Partners. The first is that, all crews were polite and when he had any questions, they took the time to explain everything. He was very happy with that. The second thing that impressed him was that Climate Partners crews truly cared about his home and comfort system.

Tom Casey and Climate Partners always reinforce the idea that employees picture that they're the person on the other end, tailoring each job to each individual client's needs. This must be the secret behind winning not one, but two Quality Home Comfort Awards in the same year.

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