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Making heat recovery ventilators sexy

December 14, 2022

heat pump

Boston Globe story

It’s called “building decarbonization” — the work of making structures of all sizes nearly carbon free. And I’ll concede that the topic, while vital to our survival on this roasting planet, isn’t the sexiest.

But spend an hour with Julie Klump, and you, too, might be surprised to find yourself getting excited about polyisocyanurate board insulation and heat recovery ventilators.

On Tuesday, I met Klump at the Salem Heights Apartments, a complex of 281 affordable and low-income units owned by the Preservation of Affordable Housing, where Klump is VP of design and building performance. Hard-hatted workers swarmed the site, some affixing super efficient insulation panels around new triple-glazed windows on the building’s upper floors.

The new cream, ochre, and gray aluminum exterior is a vast improvement over the ugly— and unstable — drab brick facade that has enclosed this blocky building since the1970s. But what’s happening here goes way beyond cosmetics.

This phenomenally expensive renovation project is zipping Salem Heights up tight, putting a sweater on the behemoth so that every apartment can now be heated and cooled with efficient electric heat pumps, which will eventually run entirely on renewable energy.
When it’s done, energy bills at Salem Heights will drop about 67 percent, Klump says.The building will be so resilient that it will stay warm, or cool, even if the power goes out for a week. The old gas heat will remain in place just in case, but if all goes well, that dirtier system will never be used again.

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