Problems persist with our UltimateAir ERV

I don’t generally like to write negative reviews. I tend to do my research and pick the best technology I can afford.

But sometimes crap happens. It might be an isolated event, like our window snafu, or it might be part of a larger occurrence such as our experience with spray foam. In the former experience, the company provided a full solution at no cost to me, in the later I was just a number in a long line.

In the case of our ventilator, I initially leaned toward thinking this was an isolated event since at the time I hadn’t found any reports online about similar experiences. But now that we are on our second unit and continue to have problems. This tells me that the design or manufacture of the product is defective. I also found someone else that has had similar problems.

A quick recap

Shortly after we moved into the house the ventilator made a terrible noise one morning. I turned it off and rushed down to find that one of the filters had delaminated and jammed the rotating heat exchange wheel. The terrible noise was the belt burning up trying to turn the wheel. UltimateAir provided the replacement parts free of charge, but I had to pay my HVAC servicer $320 to diagnose and replace the parts.

Then several weeks later, the replacement filters also delaminated and again jammed the wheel. Another $200 to replace the belt. All this we wrote about in 2012, our first year in the house.

Then we turned the unit off for the late spring and fall. We open our windows most of this time. Then in the fall when the temperatures dip, we turned the unit back on and heard an intermittent knocking noise, loud enough to keep you up at night. UltimateAir suggested replacing the belt and a small wheel. Another $160 service fee. Knocking noise continued intermittently.

In March 2013 I documented the knocking noise and posted 3 videos on YouTube. At interior vent, inside ventilator – bottom, and inside ventilator – top.

I asked them to diagnose the problem and suggest a remedy. They asked me to uninstall the unit and ship it back for repair. They paid for shipping and repair, but I had to pay my servicer to uninstall and reinstall. Unfortunately when the unit returned it had a few extra moving parts. Items that were attached to the circuit boards were bouncing around inside the unit. UltimateAir blamed shipping. If that is the case, I blame their thin padding in the shipping box. Either way, the unit would not work. I wrote a very unhappy email to UltimateAir.

To their credit, they were very responsive. They responded to my issues very quickly and they covered their replacement costs. But I still had to pay someone to install the parts and unit on my end.

UltimateAir offered to refund the purchase price or replace the unit with a new unit and credit me $400 toward the reinstall. At this point I had spent $1,220 servicing the unit and I was not very happy with their offer.

I contacted my energy consultants to see if they had encountered similar issues and ask them for their advice. They had not encountered similar issues but did suggested I look at other options considering the string of bad luck I was having with the product. Unfortunately the options included buying a new ventilator and retrofitting the connections to work with a new ventilator.

I made another bad decision and decided to go for the replacement unit. I dreaded a retrofit with a different type of unit.

The new replacement unit was installed September 13, 2013. It performed fine for the winter of 2013-14.

When I turned the unit on again in October 2014 the wheel containing the filters would not turn. I pushed it along and was able to get the wheel turning again. Maybe just sitting in the off position for the summer is bad for the unit? The unit appeared to work fine for the rest of the winter of 2014-15.

Problems persist

Then just this month, I turn the unit on again after being off 5 or so months, the wheel once again was frozen. I managed to get it working again and hoped for the best. Except this time it it stopped turning some time later and I can not seem to get it turning again. I think it sticks, and the motor continues to try to turn it, possibly damaging the motor or more likely the belt. I don’t know.

I am not going to make another bad decision and have it repaired. It is time for a new ventilator. Looks like my next post will be about retrofitting our ventilator.

Stay tuned for part 2!

3 Responses to “Problems persist with our UltimateAir ERV”

  1. 1 David Ostrowski 11-November-2015 at 5:38 pm

    Please don’t get offended by this suggestion, but I know first hand how sometimes the simplest things are overlooked. Did you try going outside and looking to see if the screen in one of the hoods contains a nest from bees, hornets or something of that nature.
    The reason I brought this up is only due to it happened to me with one of these units that I installed. Been in this business for about 25 years, and I made that mistake with a client. It can happen. After I realized it, spotted the nest, cleaned it out, they client has never had another problem since.
    Hope that helps you.

    • 2 Larry 14-November-2015 at 8:39 am

      Hi David, no offense taken. I’ve seen pictures of vents completely filled with nests. That was not our problem though. I don’t believe the rotation of the heat transfer wheel has anything to do with the supply and exhaust ducts.

  1. 1 Ventilator Retrofit | Up Hill House Trackback on 28-November-2015 at 10:49 am

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