Currently Reading

Net Zero Energy: The Ultimate Z.E.N. Home's Indoor Air Quality System

Healthy Homes

Net Zero Energy: The Ultimate Z.E.N. Home's Indoor Air Quality System

The Ultimate Zero Energy Now Home stretches the boundaries of a fully integrated indoor air quality system to address health concerns

By Charlie Wardell May 29, 2020
Family enjoying healthy indoor air quality in a net zero home
Healthy indoor air quality is a priority for the Ultimate Z.E.N. Home | Photo courtesy TitleXchange
This article first appeared in the May/June 2020 issue of Pro Builder.

Indoor air quality was a hot sales button even before “stay at home” became a national battle cry. “We’ve never needed to convince our buyers that health is important,” says Bill Rectanus, VP of operations for  Thrive Home Builders, in Denver, which is partnering with Pro Builder and the Energy and Environmental Building Alliance (EEBA) to build The Ultimate Z.E.N. (Zero Energy Now) Home. “We just need to show them how we support it,” he says.


Beyond the Standard for Indoor Air Quality

Indoor air quality, or IAQ, has long been a cornerstone of Thrive’s brand, and the builder has followed the standards of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Indoor airPLUS program, contributing to the 16,584 homes certified since 2016.

You could call the Ultimate Z.E.N. home “Indoor airPLUS Plus,” after Thrive augmented the EPA’s baseline. “We wanted to use this project to show builders ways to integrate IAQ products to maintain a healthy environment,” Rectanus says. 




Key System Elements

Exhaust-only ventilation

Fresh air will be provided by what Rectanus calls “a pseudo balanced system.” An exhaust fan in the laundry room will run continuously at low speed to remove stale air, while a fresh-air supply fan in the basement’s mechanical room will provide makeup air into the HVAC return. That fan includes a MERV 8 air filter and sensors that regulate the fan within preset temperature and humidity parameters. 

Exhaust and supply fans
Thrive Home Builders will combine a handful of Panasonic's WhisperGreen local exhaust fans (left) and the company's WhisperFresh supply fan (with a built-in MERV filter) to create a balanced ventilation system.


Advanced filtration

Air introduced to the return plenum will be further purified by an air cleaner, then delivered to the home’s supply ducts by an air handling unit programmed to run continuously at low speed. The electrostatic MERV 13 filter is designed to remove 99% of airborne allergens.


Aprilaire filter

Aprilaire's 5000 series electronic air filter provides a robust MERV 13 filter and integrates with the central air system.



Proper indoor humidity is crucial for good health. “Humans are healthiest at a relative humidity of between 35% and 45%,” says Brandon Glancy of Aprilaire, a manufacturer of IAQ-related products. For Denver’s dry climate, the home will include Aprilaire’s whole-house humidifier to maintain indoor relative humidity at healthy levels using the forced-air distribution system.

Aprilaire humidifier
Aprilaire's 600 series whole-house humidifier maintains healthy indoor relative humidity levels.


Active radon mitigation

Beneath the home’s basement slab is a sealed vapor barrier over a horizontal perforated pipe buried in 4 inches of clean gravel. That pipe will connect to a vertical pipe that extends through the roof, and a continuously running in-line exhaust fan in the attic will actively mitigate any radon gas.


Monitoring and control

Panasonic’s new Cosmos air quality system uses sensors in the bedrooms, kitchen, and living room to communicate wirelessly with a router to ramp up the home’s exhaust fans or to turn on the range hood when VOCs, carbon dioxide, or particulates exceed preset levels. 



Panasonic’s new Cosmos air quality system will provide systemwide IAQ control and monitoring


Lasting Value

Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has made people even more anxious about health issues, perhaps permanently so. “The message that home is the safest, healthiest place to be will linger long after the pandemic has passed,” Rectanus says, giving healthy homes with managed indoor air quality an edge in every market.


Ultimate ZEN Home partner companies' logos


Access a PDF of this article in Pro Builder's May/June 2020 digital edition


Related Stories


A Right-Sized, Integrated HVAC System for Indoor Comfort and Health

The Sustainable, Healthier Home delivers on its promise with a thoughtful, systematic solution


This Spec Home Puts Wellness, Energy Efficiency on Display

In response to rising construction costs and limited labor, some home builders have turned to constructing spec homes rather than pre-sales and/or…

Healthy Homes

Indoor Air Quality Lessons From Historic Homes

When Historic New England opened some of its homes to the public after the onset of the pandemic, it knew good air circulation was an important…


More in Category


Create an account

By creating an account, you agree to Pro Builder's terms of service and privacy policy.

Daily Feed Newsletter

Get Pro Builder in your inbox

Each day, Pro Builder's editors assemble the latest breaking industry news, hottest trends, and most relevant research, delivered to your inbox.

Save the stories you care about

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet lorem ipsum dolor sit amet lorem ipsum dolor sit amet.

The bookmark icon allows you to save any story to your account to read it later
Tap it once to save, and tap it again to unsave

It looks like you’re using an ad-blocker!

Pro Builder is an advertisting supported site and we noticed you have ad-blocking enabled in your browser. There are two ways you can keep reading:

Disable your ad-blocker
Disable now
Subscribe to Pro Builder
Already a member? Sign in
Become a Member

Subscribe to Pro Builder for unlimited access

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.