ERV croaked – Part 3

Christmas and the new year came around. We made the move from the garden apartment up to the 1st floor – with a brand new ERV! I was expecting a smoother ride here, after the basement ERV gave out on us in October and again in November.

But it wasn’t meant to be.

I still had some trailing paranoia from the incidents with the basement ERV. I kept frequently checking to see if the units were running OK. And that is when I noticed a noise from the 1st floor ERV that I didn’t like.

By now, I can open up the ERV blindfolded and hanging upside down, which I did. Except I wasn’t blindfolded or hanging. But I was surprised when I took a look into the ERV, because one of the filter pies in the enthalpy wheel was missing!

After turning the enthalpy wheel very carefully, it turned out that the pie wasn’t missing but was partially pulled out from the wheel and got stuck.


The filter pies that go into the wheel are made of three fabric layers that are woven together. In my case, the three layers started to separate. The outermost layer peeled out and jammed the wheel.


But there is some smart design in this ERV. Whoever developed the product anticipated that the enthalpy wheel may get jammed. The driver belt that transfers the motion from the enthalpy wheel motor to the enthalpy wheel is designed to snap upon a certain amount of resistance. It is the sacrificial component because it is cheap and easy to replace.


UltimateAir promptly sent me a new belt and a new set of properly woven filter pies.The belt and pies were quickly installed, and the ERV was up and running again.

ERV-13 ERV-14

All this happened in January, amidst our delightful polar vortex. It was freezing cold outside, and we were again sitting there without mechanical ventilation, when we need it the most.

These incidents (the 3rd now this winter) have become somewhat unnerving. There is maintenance to any and every utility in a building; I get that. The ERV should be serviced after a cumulative 90 days of operation. In fact, the master control for the ERV has a little red LED light at the bottom that comes on to let you know that the cumulative 90 days are up and it is time for some maintenance. I love that little detail.

But right now, I feel I have to check on the units on an almost daily basis to make sure nothing is going wrong. Imagine if you had to check on your hot water heater every day to make sure it is still running OK.

The saving grace in this is the excellent customer service UltimateAir provides. Whenever I call them, they are very courteous and helpful. All the servicing they have done and all the replacement parts they sent me fell under warranty.

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About Marcus de la fleur

Marcus is a Registered Landscape Architect with a horticultural degree from the School of Horticulture at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and a Masters in Landscape Architecture from the University of Sheffield, UK. He developed a landscape based sustainable pilot project at 168 Elm Ave. in 2002, and has expanded his skill set to building science. Starting in 2009, Marcus applied the newly acquired expertise to the deep energy retrofit of his 100+ year old home in Chicago.

One thought on “ERV croaked – Part 3

  1. As it happens, I do know what it feels like to have to check on my water heater every day. During the extreme cold this winter, the air intake was regularly frosting up and the condensate drain line would freeze. I got in the habit of checking for the telltale flashing light every morning as I headed to work. It got very frustrating, especially since we otherwise really like the unit and the problems weren’t really its fault.

    Once our basement is heated it won’t be an issue, but I can definitely understand what you’ve been dealing with. Hopefully your ERVs (and our water heater) will be reliable from here forward!

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