Communicating best practices for maintaining high-performance homes helps ensure the homes you build operate as intended, and achieve continued energy, water, and other utility savings. Residents may be inclined to change settings or turn off equipment if they aren’t aware of its role in the building’s operation, so they need to know how the house functions and why certain systems are in place to help avoid callbacks.
A green home may require a different maintenance plan than a home built to code because of the features and systems it includes, such as solar photovoltaics (PV), high-efficiency HVAC equipment, a rainwater reuse system, mechanical ventilation and more.
“We send training videos to our customers so that they know how and when to clean and change filters on their equipment. We also offer maintenance that we as the builder will service on individual items, from HVAC to termite treatments,” notes Sustainability and Green Building Subcommittee Chairman Brandon Bryant of Red Tree Builders.
Consider incorporating the following steps into your owner’s manual or expanding your business model to include these services as part of a whole-home maintenance package:
1. Educate your clients about the features monitored by the smart thermostat.
A resident may be inclined to turn the heating/cooling system off while away, but you’ve likely programmed the thermostat to maintain a certain indoor relative humidity (45%-65%) so that excess moisture doesn’t lurk in the floors and walls. Explain that keeping the HVAC system running can help prevent moisture, mold and mildew from building up in the wood framing or drywall, mitigate asthma or allergy triggers, and maintain better indoor air quality (IAQ).
Encourage your customers to keep the pre-set schedule for the fan within the smart thermostat to maintain better IAQ for the tighter building envelope. This allows the fan to run so that fresh air can circulate throughout the house.
2. Drive home the importance of using the kitchen hood vent.
Harmful particulate matter occurs from combustion processes during cooking, which many consumers don’t realize. Encourage your customers to run the hood vent while cooking to vent harmful particulate matter outdoors.
3. Offer cleaning services, or encourage clients to clean filters in the mechanical ventilation system.
High-performance homes may include mechanical ventilation systems such as Energy Recovery Ventilators (ERVs) or Heat Recovery Ventilators (HRVs). If you don’t have a maintenance program option, it is important to encourage customers to vacuum and wash the filters every few months as recommended by the manufacturer.
4. Provide cleaning services for the heat pump water heater filter, or teach your customers the process and recommend a frequency.
5. Ensure that your customers are changing their HVAC filters regularly.
Like conventional homes, high-performance homes also require changing HVAC filters approximately every three months.
6. Set up alerts with online solar PV production monitor software.
If the home has a solar PV system, set up alerts to flag irregular dips in production to quickly identify any issue the system might be having.
A maintenance checklist incorporating these and other items can help the resident keep track of everything that goes on in their high-performance home.
“We are currently developing a maintenance program that can offer home owners various levels of services, from a year’s worth of filters to full service installation of those products. We hope our buyers will find value in the peace of mind this service delivers,” says Bill Rectanus, vice president of home building operations at Thrive Home Builders.