Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) Resources on the Web
Here are some informational sites that I found very useful to read
- The Department of Energy maintains a comprehensive site on how to save energy in your home. The site describes all aspects of energy usage in homes and how to improve your homes energy efficiency. The folks at LBNL offer a free web-based energy-audit that makes some good recommendations.
- Our Cool House
- The Canadian Retscreen.net web site is for the more technically inclined who want to explore the possible economic benefits of renewable energies (solar, biomass, wind, etc.), emerging technologies (Micro CHP, etc.), and different efficiency levels. Unfortunately, these comprehensive spreadsheets only work on Windows PCs running MS Excel. Perhaps a platform-agnostic solution will be released some day.
- Building Science Corporation has a fantastic site full of house information that they have published over the years. Besides their extensive online offerings, they have also published a number of ground-breaking books on proper house construction for comfort, low energy costs, and longevity. Buy the book for your climate and read it. While it is definitely aimed at builders as a target audience, the many diagrams in the book are an excellent resource to learn about wall and house construction.
- The Taunton Press publishes a number of interesting journals related to the building industry. I like their Fine Homebuilding magazine as a good primer on a number of topics, their Energy-Efficient Building book and found their Pro's for Pro's series of books very useful as well. A lot of good information can also be found on the Taunton web site. Unrelated to HVAC but also published by the Taunton Press is the beautiful and comprehensive Renovating Old Houses by George Nash.
- Hydronic Pros are an excellent resource for planning radiant and hydronic (i.e. water-based) heating in your home. Besides publishing a comprehensive technical tome they also offer design services. For a price, they'll do everything from calculating your heating requirements to providing your heating system installer a complete system diagram with everything called out. However, they do not assemble anything, as far as I know.
- Hailing from Gardiner, Maine, the professionals at NRTRadiant also offer comprehensive design and system assembly services. Rob and his colleagues will do everything from calculating the heat gain and losses, to specifying the systems, to actually building pump manifolds and other component assemblies to allow drop-in assembly on-site.
There are a number of places on the internet where you can converse with professionals about your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning questions. Here are several forums I that have found to be especially useful:
- If you're interested in water-based heating solutions, look no further than The Wall, a forum run by Dan Holohan, a steam and water-heating expert. Besides publishing the reference on steam heating, a homeowners guide to steam heat, and a number of good books on hydronic (i.e. warm water) heating, Dan also offers an extensive free online library full of information from the origins of water-based heating systems to current technical references from manufacturers. Check out his long list of traditional and e-books that you can buy at HeatingHelp.
Users of The Wall have contributed reviews of products, seminars, and programs to the On the Job section. This forum also has great advice regarding water heaters and you can search for discussion threads of interest via the Wall's comprehensive search capabilities. My favorite day-to-day forum.
- Besides writing an excellent primer for all things oil-heat related called Carry the Torch, Alan Mercurio also maintains a very informative site called Oil Tech Talk. As the name implies, the main focus is on oil-based heating technology (however, the site also has good information about gas-based systems). Check out the forums on the site and if you find his site useful, don't forget to thank Alan with a contribution.
What I like about Oil Tech Talk is the depth of knowledge and the obvious love the site operator brings to the job. Oil Tech Talk covers "new" technologies such as modulating oil burners in residential applications, condensing oil appliances, etc. Like HeatingHelp.com, the tone at OilTechTalk is quite civil and the regulars are happy to help folks with their questions.
- HVAC-Talk is a forum dedicated to air-based heating, cooling, and air conditioning systems. Whereas homeowners are welcome at HeatingHelp and OilTechTalk, they are merely tolerated at HVAC-Talk. Be sure to read and follow the site rules before posting anything, as the site admin will delete non-compliant posts and revoke your posting privileges without warning. Furthermore, professionals will get away with posts that homeowners are banned for.
Use the search button to directly look up discussion threads you may be interested in. Then have a look at the "Wall of Pride" and "Wall of Shame" sections for some graphic examples of good and bad work. You can also look up contractors by State that use or at least know about HVAC-Talk. Aside from the biases mentioned above, HVAC-Talk is arguably the best forum for air-based heating and cooling on the internet.
- A great all-around forum related to home construction where homeowners are welcomed can be found in the Breaktime section of the Taunton web-site. The users there offer lots of encouragement, "been-there, done-that" advice related to home construction.
- For those of you considering radiant heating in your homes, look no further than the Radiant Panel Association forum web site.
- HVACWare is a another neat site that belongs to a company that produces software and which has a useful forum to browse. Because they can show 4,000+ messages at once, their page may take some time to render on your browser. Be sure to reconfigure the page listings to list them by thread and only show messages posted within the last month or less. That will improve the responsiveness of your browser a lot. HVACWare produces software for a number of manufacturers that you are free to download.