Kurt Johnson – Owner Fresh Air Ventilation & President MIAQC – Ventilation and IAQ from the Trenches

Air Date: 3-4-2016| Episode: 404

This week we welcome Kurt Johnson Owner of Fresh Air Ventilation and President of the Maine Indoor Air Quality Council (MIAQC). The story on how Kurt got into designing and installing ventilation systems is fascinating and educational…

Full Description:

This week we welcome Kurt Johnson Owner of Fresh Air Ventilation and President of the Maine Indoor Air Quality Council (MIAQC). The story on how Kurt got into designing and installing ventilation systems is fascinating and educational. As an Owner/Operator who designs and installs ventilation systems he has seen the good, bad and ugly of home ventilation up close. He is also very involved with industry associations, has a passion for the subject and a desire to see people get this important topic right. Kurt will give us a real world perspective and the straight scoop about ventilation from the trenches. How real world? Kurt has designed and installed over 500 systems in the past ten years. Join us today at noon live or download later to LEARN MORE about ventilation and indoor air quality from the trenches this week on IAQ Radio. We encourage those that can make it to attend this years Northeast Indoor Air Quality and Energy Conference April 11-12, 2016 in Portland, Maine. The conference is sponsored by MIAQC please stop Radio Joe and Kurt to say hello if you attend. LEARN MORE!

Z-Man’s Blog:

We should ventilate for people

The Rolling Stone’s song “Ventilation Blues” was the intro music for Kurt Johnson this week’s guest on IAQradio. Kurt is: owner of Fresh Air Ventilation, President of the Maine Indoor Air Quality Council and someone who is passionate about the role that ventilation can play in protecting and improving health.

Nuggets mined from this week’s episode:

Ventilaion is commonly misunderstood. Airflow needs a way in and a way out. When it comes to ventilation, climate should dictate sensible system design and installation.

The best method to mitigate radon is to first prevent it from entering the home with a sub slab system.

Natural ventilation is due to stack effect, warm air rises and cold air sinks. Crawl spaces are problematic when buildings rely on natural ventilation due to moisture, radon and MVOCs.

Use of plywood and OSB in construction makes buildings tighter, resulting in less air leakage than older building materials.

Wind has the potential to move air through buildings.

The health consequences of poor ventilation are proven.

Before the energy crisis, most leaky homes changed air once every 3 hours.

According to Kurt, he agrees with the recommendation of ASHRAE and others that every home should have minimum ventilation to remove CO2 and other pollutants. Only confusing thing there is the range of the minimum. Currently ASHRAE says a change every 3 hours. The UK says a change every 1-2 hours. Sweden = every 2 hours. France = every hour. It makes more sense to him to shoot for a healthy ventilation rate which he believes is more likely once an hour than once every 3 hours.

Kurt became interested in ventilation after purchasing a tightly built Canadian modular home that featured a fresh air ventilation system.

Thinking new construction would be his biggest market, Kurt started a business based on ventilation. When new construction tanked he needed to look elsewhere for business. He focused his marketing on home shows where he introduced himself and his company to builders. His website and social media have also worked effectively.

Unfortunately, too many people think that the solution to indoor ventilation is installing bathroom fans.

Properly designed and installed ventilation systems, mix and distribute air while supplying fresh air to living spaces and removing pollutants from kitchens and baths. The systems also have Heat Recovery Ventilators which conserve energy.

Kurt was enlightened when he took a certification course in ventilation from HRAI (Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Institute of Canada) where he learned about air flow, pressure, resistance, and all the things that need to be considered when designing and installing a ventilation system in a home. The training was practical, sensible and well designed.

Maine is a cold climate. There are relatively few forced air heating systems in Maine. The most common heating system is oil fueled hydronic where hot water is circulated through pipes and heat exchangers (fin coils). Fireplaces and stoves are also common. Back drafting is a concern with open combustion devices. Most homes in Maine have basements.

Newer Air Source Heat Pumps can be confused with ventilators.

As he isn’t making changes to HVAC system, boilers or plumbing he doesn’t need to be a licensed tradesman.

The majority of fresh air should be supplied where people spend the most time. Many bedrooms lack sufficient ventilation.

Exhaust only ventilation systems are unreliable as you don’t know where the air leaks are.

When it comes to ventilation the health costs are greater than energy costs. Citing Bill Fisk from Lawrence Berkeley Labs, $100 Million spent on improving ventilation would save $22 Billion.

The need is to distribute fresh air through the home while exhausting from the most polluted areas.

While costs depend on size of the home and other factors single room ventilation projects start at $425 and whole home projects range between $4K-$6K. Through the wall ventilators are made for installation in exterior walls. For best results they can be installed in pairs, where one pulls fresh air in and the other exhausts air out. High level air filtration and dehumidification are available options.

When compared to bathroom fans energy recovery systems save 75% of the energy and will pay for themselves.

Some common problems with existing ventilation systems: poor design, poor installation, ductwork sizing and resistance, types of ductwork, installation of ductwork, location of vents and registers, lack of maintenance, etc.

In cold climates, he recommends not putting ductwork in cold spaces. If need be, he uses insulated flex duct which is pulled straight and tight.

Initially, Kurt was nervous about cutting holes in customer’s buildings. He now uses inspection tools to see inside interstitial spaces before cutting.

Many of his customer’s experience relief within 24 hours of installation of a ventilation system.

Active listener Brian Baker’s comments struck a chord:

“HVACR is so diverse why not have specialists? The health practitioners do eye, eye, nose, throat, pediatrics, cardiologists, etc.”

“We ventilate for people, not for moisture, not for radon, not for air for combustion or any other reason. HRV’s/ERV’s are balanced flow devices.”

Kurt’s final words:

Buildings are made for people. We should ventilate for people and their health. Ventilation is a good starting point to improve health.

Today’s music “Ventilator Blues” by the Rolling Stones YouTube

Z-Man signing off


Who invented the centrifugal fan?

Answer: Russian military engineer Alexander Sablukov in 1832