ERV comparison – settings and controls

We were owners of several UltimateAir RecoupAerator 200DX energy recovery ventilators (ERVs), until they broke down. And like so many other former 200DX owners, we found ourselves hunting for some suitable replacements. We settled on the Broan ERV200TE and Panasonic FV-20VEC1 (Intelli-Balance 200).

In this post I am comparing the settings and controls of these two units. I hope you will find the information useful if you are in a similar situation.

Broan setting and controls

The Broan has no controls on the ERV itself, but has one main control terminal block and one auxiliary terminal block. To set up, balance, and run the Broan, I had to purchase the VT9W wall control, which got wired into the main control terminal block. The wall control is the main interface to run the ERV, and is user friendly.

The MODE button has four settings:

  1. STANDBY – which turns the unit off
  2. RECIRC – Recirculation mode, which could be used to even out temperatures in the apartment.
  3. 20 MIN/H –  which cycles between 20 minutes of low speed ventilation and a 40 minute pause.
  4. CONT – Continues ventilation at low speed.

The TURBO button ventilates at high speed for four hours before turning back to the previous setting.

The %HUM button (dehumidistat function) turns on the Turbo mode once indoor humidity exceeds a set limit.

I also purchased the VB20W Push Button Timer for the bathroom, which got wired into the auxiliary terminal block.

This switch does the job equivalent to that of a bathroom fan. Pressing the button turns on the turbo mode for 20 minutes to exhaust the air from the bathrooms.

While using the ERV over the past couple of years, I ended up using only four settings consistently:

  1. The STANDBY mode to turn the ERV on or off,
  2. the 20 MIN/H mode when we have low ventilation needs,
  3. the CONT mode when we have regular ventilation need, and
  4. the bathroom push button timer when the bathroom is used.

For a complete description of all the settings and functions, see the Installation and Owner Guide.

Because the Broan is a replacement unit for the UltimateAir RecoupAerator 200DX, I could reuse the existing low voltage wiring for both controls. It was just a matter of switching the old controls with the new ones and connecting them correctly to the terminal blocks.

Panasonic settings and controls

The Panasonic settings and functions struck me as odd, because they appear to follow a different paradigm compared to the old RecoupAerator or the Broan mentioned above.

The ERV has a small panel with three control dials directly on the ERV. One dial (the ASHRAE time knob)  sets the ventilation intervals in minutes, from 10 minutes per hour to 60 minutes per hour in 10 minute intervals (six settings).

The other two dials set the air flow rates for the supply air and exhaust air fan motor respectively, from 60 cfm up to 200 cfm in 20 cfm intervals. In short, it’s an ERV that has eight preset ventilation stages.

The small dials are not made for big fingers like mine.

Panasonic also offers an auxiliary wall control (FV-SW20VEC1) for the ERV.

FV-SW20VEC1 wall control

The settings appear very simple and straightforward on first sight:

  1. Standby mode (ON/OFF),
  2. Vent mode, for ventilation, and
  3. Boost mode to run the ERV at high speed for 20 minutes in the default setting.

But the devil is in the details! To use the vent mode effectively, the user has to jump through a number of hoops. One has to select and set the supply air volume out of the eight available settings, followed by selecting and setting the exhaust air volume. After that, the user has to select and set the ventilation intervals in minutes out of the six available settings.

There are only two modes available by one simple push of a button:

  1. ON/OFF
  2. Boost

Adjusting the ventilation from, for instance, continuous to a 20 minute interval requires programming (pushing three buttons in a certain order) and is not as simple as pushing one button like on the Broan ERV.

I would love to install an optional boost switch in the bathroom, similar to the Broan Push Button Timer. I understand that there are options available, but none that I saw that would be a simple installation such as with the Broan. And the options that are available appear to require line voltage, and not low voltage. That would require me to ditch the existing low voltage run I already have and install a new line voltage run from the ERV to the bathroom.

Panasonic may have good reasons to take the path they did on the controls and settings. I have not yet figured out what they could be. Considering that most people don’t even like to fiddle with their thermostats, the Panasonic wall control may not be loved by your typical user.

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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.

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