How An Engineer Designs A DIY Energy Recovery Ventilator

We have no idea whether [Nick Goodey] is a trained engineer or not. But given the detailed design of this DIY energy recovery ventilator for his home HVAC system, we’re going to go out on a limb and say he probably knows what he’s doing.

For those not in the know, an energy recovery ventilator (ERV) is an increasingly common piece of equipment in modern residential and commercial construction. As buildings have become progressively “tighter” to decrease heating and cooling energy losses to the environment, the air inside them has gotten increasingly stale. ERVs solve the problem by bringing fresh, unconditioned air in from the outside while venting stale but conditioned air to the outside. The two streams pass each other in a heat exchanger so that much of the energy put into the conditioned air is transferred to the incoming unconditioned air.

While ERV systems are readily available commercially, [Nick] decided to roll his own after a few experiments with Coroplast and some extensive calculations convinced him it would be a viable idea. One may scoff at the idea of corrugated plastic for the heat exchanger, but the smooth channels through the material make it a great choice. He built up a block of Coroplast squares with the channels in alternate layers oriented orthogonally, letting stale inside air pass very close to fresh outside air to exchange heat without every mixing directly. The entire system, including fans, an Arduino for control, sensors galore, and the Hubitat home automation hub, is powered by DC, so no electrician was needed. [Nick] has a ton of detail in his build log, including all the tools and calculators he used to design the system.

Given the expense of ERV systems, we’re surprised we haven’t seen more stories about DIY versions. We have talked about HVAC systems a lot, though — after all, HVAC techs are hackers who make housecalls.