We just made a last minute switch from Zehnder’s Energy Recovery Ventilator (ERV) to Ultimate Air’s ERV for our Manhattan Passive House project.

There were two main factors in this decision: price and USA made.

Zehnder is a great unit and Barry the sales rep is a great guy. You’ve got top grade quality and service. And I almost went with them.

But Ultimate Air is almost half the price as Zehnder and is thus much more affordable to a middle class home.

For a small 1400 square foot brownstone duplex the Zehnder will run you at about $6,000 in materials, including duct work etc.

For the same space and to do the same ventilation Ultimate Air will run you about $3,000. That’s a big difference.

Installation is about the same, with Zehnder being the faster and easier by a little but not enough to offset the savings by much.

This more approachable price very important to me. It is not just about saving money. It is about making the green technology available to the largest amount of people. If Eco Brooklyn is going to make a big impact in turning New York green through ecological renovations then we have to cater to the middle class price point.

It is hard to do that with a Zehnder.

The reason Zehnder is more expensive is that it comes from Europe so you have more middle men in the pot and more transport costs. Barry would argue that it simply is a better machine and thus worth more but Ultimate Air would disagree. I know, I talked to both of them.

Zehnder compares their units to the Prius car – more expensive but great and ecological. My answer to that is that the Prius is great at changing the way people see cars and trailblazing the way to the future. But until they come out with a Prius that is a hell of a lot cheaper it won’t change the world.

Early adopters and very idealistic people will always buy the Prius of the market place, but most people in this world can’t afford to buy with their morals. Most people are simply focused on staying above water and until green building can help them do that it isn’t going to change the world.

And here at Eco Brooklyn we are interested in products that help the middle class go green because if we achieve that we get the majority of NY. And if your goal is to turn NY green then you go for the majority.

This isn’t to say we won’t buy Zehnder. There is a place for it in the NY market. We’ll use it when the budget permits and the client prefers it over the Ultimate Air. Some of our clients buy Prius and we love them for it. Ecological idealism and the ability to back it up with money is a powerful and good thing.

One of the things that Zehnder has over Ultimate Air is that it is a much quieter machine. This is a problem with Ultimate Air. But with the extra money we saved with the units we can afford to buy insulated duct work that will eat up the sound issues.

For this job, where the budget is tight, Ultimate Air was a good choice. At Ultimate Air you have Jason, who knows his stuff. He can talk tech like anybody’s business. And Ultimate Air sells a good product. AND, and this is important, it is made in the USA.

I’m not nationalist. I am an internationalist through and through. I couldn’t care less if something was made my dudes with US passports or any other passport.

BUT, I am also very local minded and it is important to me that my local geographic region becomes strong in green building technologies. If we continue to buy Passive House products from Europe, who is way ahead of the US, then we won’t grow our own Passive House technology as quickly.

So supporting our very young Passive House friendly companies in the USA is a very important thing.

For this project Ultimate Air is a great fit.