Like another project, Yukon Innovation Prize finalists Cody Reaume and Thomas Jacquin are focused on improving the energy efficiency of Heat Recovery Ventilators (HRVs.) The units have become a mandatory part of northern construction because, as buildings become more insulated and efficient, the amount of fresh air capable of circulating into the structure is reduced. The unit helps keep the building ventilated, while preserving the heat already inside. The two inventors are focused on improving the intelligence of those cycles in the home by developing a device capable of monitoring and controlling the HRV.

“The idea came about by looking at existing HRV controls,” Reaume said. “There’s not intelligence to it. You’re venting air, but there’s no telling if it’s clean or not.

“Could we use real time measurements to monitor if air was clean?”

The duo are proposing to do that monitoring with a wall control unit that would replace your existing control with a four-wire control. They envision it as something that individuals could simply retrofit and install on existing builds and HRV units. The end result is a home system that only activates for a cycle and uses energy when it detects that the air in the house needs to be ventilated due to air quality.

“We want owners to understand the benefit of it,” Jacquin said. “Understand what it means when air quality is better.

“You can reduce costs by eliminating circulation cycles when not needed and also improve air quality by cycling when required.”

They have modeling that estimates the unit could provide energy savings of about $150 per year. Reaume is quick to note that the estimates vary depending on the occupancy and size of a home. Their models account for an average-sized home that’s usually empty from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The intelligent monitor itself would be approximately the size of a modern smartphone and would monitor the levels of carbon dioxide and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the home to determine when a ventilation cycle is needed. Reaume notes that carbon dioxide is the compound in air that leaves it “stale” and VOCs are found in a lot of products including glue, paint and solvents.

“You get ‘sick building syndrome’ from these things in buildings,” Jacquin said.

Reaume and Jacquin see the unit as a viable product across the North and colder climates, where air quality issues and energy efficiency continue to be balanced in building new homes. They also note that it has the potential to improve the efficiency of ventilation for air conditioning in warmer climates.

They have a plan to move their product forward and make sure that it can be successful.

“The next step is getting an alpha product out in homes and getting some data collection and feedback,” Reaume said. “We want to adjust the product on feedback.”

‘We don’t want to ramp up production if there needs to be a change,” Jacquin said. “It’s important to get feedback if people want additional features.”

Thomas Jacquin works on the settings for the HRV intelligent monitor

The 2019 Yukon Innovation Prize is presented by the Cold Climate Innovation Centre at Yukon College and the Department of Economic Development. The four finalists were selected for the high commercialization potential. They were provided $10,000 to further develop their ideas. The prize winner will be announced in late June and will receive a further $60,000.