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Brink Renovent Sky 300 MVHR review by Eric Fewster

Brink Renovent Sky 300 MVHR unit review

Photo: The slim profiled Renovent Sky 300’s heat exchanger unit installed in the ceiling.

SuperHomer Eric Fewster is a certified passive house consultant, an Advisor with a SuperHome who offers services as ColdProof. He installed the Brink Renovent Sky into one of his client’s homes. Here Eric gives us an insight into his experience with the product and the benefits his client has experienced.

Brink Renovent Sky

The Brink Renovent Sky is a series of Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery (MVHR) units, which are available in three different maximum ventilation capacities of 150, 200 and 300m3/h. The system works by extracting damp and stale air from inside the home and replacing it with fresh air from outside. The extracted air is passed through a heat exchanger which removes the heat before it can be lost to the outdoors. This heat is then transferred to the incoming fresh air which is pumped around your home. A network of ducting, cleverly concealed in ceiling voids facilitate the movement of air and connect the entire system together. Brink have incorporated a number of features into their Renovent Sky models, including intelligent frost control, humidity sensors and clock control.

 

Eric says…

While many residents look for ventilation systems to assist the management of damp and mould, my client was primarily interested in improving the comfort levels in their home. The biggest improvement that could deliver this was to drastically improve air tightness in order to virtually eliminate the draughts, and then to install MVHR which would then ensure good air quality while maintaining constant humidity levels.

The client’s house was a mid-terrace built in 1888 – while it was not a very large house, it was incredibly draughty, which was the primary source of discomfort. The initial blower door air test gave a result of 17.45 air changes per hour, which when adjusted to normal external wind pressures meant that about 1.35 air volumes of the house were disappearing every hour. No wonder it was uncomfortable!

My client and I are very impressed with the Sky 300’s performance and ability to drastically improve the air quality and environment of the home. The unit has a fan power of roughly 0.24W/m3 and comes with a ‘bypass’ feature as standard. This feature becomes active when outside temperatures are high and heat recovery is not desired. The bypass is controlled automatically by sensors that consistently monitor internal and external temperatures. Keep in mind that an MVHR system is most beneficial and only really effective when air tightness has been addressed – so if you’re thinking of MVHR, think how you’re going to address air tightness first, something that is never easy in older houses and where you probably need some specialist advice.

 

Supplier/Installation

I bought the product online in 2013 from Passivhaus Store, which I think were the only supplier I found in the UK. I was happy with the support they gave me. One of the great things about the unit is that it has a very slim profile, so takes up much less space than many other similar products on the market. It can also be fitted to either the wall or the ceiling, making it flexible and suitable for smaller properties that don’t always have space in abundance. In our case we had very little choice in where to install it, and finally decided on the bathroom ceiling. While this wasn’t ideal as it lowered part of the ceiling which then had to be boxed out, it was preferable to having the unit in the loft where the maintenance of filters would have proved more demanding in the longer term. We then installed extract points in the kitchen and bathroom, and supply points in both bedrooms and the lounge to deliver fresh warm air to these areas of the home.

The installation itself was straightforward, and the manual was clear and informative. 180mm insulated duct connected the heat exchanger unit to both the external extract and intake cowls, as well as to the distribution boxes. From here, semi-flexible ducting was then used to connect these distribution boxes to the extract and supply points in the house. A good point about the ducting was the connection system from the distribution boxes to the ducting which provided for an airtight and robust connection. The ducting to the rooms sometimes could be hidden in floor voids or up the inside of built-in cupboards, but at times it needed to be boxed out with wooden frame and plasterboard. The cost of the MVHR unit and ducting came to £4,340 (excluding labour) which is competitive given the product’s unique features and advantages.

 

Main benefits

The Brink MVHR system has brought huge benefits to the comfort and air quality in my client’s home. With relative humidity being kept between 40%-60%, condensation and mould won’t be a problem, while the system also ensures unwanted cooking odours are quickly eradicated. The product would certainly benefit houses where damp, condensation and mould are a continuous issue.

In conjunction with air tightness and draught measures, the Sky 300 has also given significant energy savings. Because you no longer need to open a window or turn on a conventional extractor fan to ventilate the house, you no longer waste energy by losing any heat to the outdoors. The high level of air tightness coupled with the heat recovery has reduced the amount of energy my client needs to keep their home warm and comfortable by 97.3kWh/m2 per year.

 

Practical details and comparison

There are a number of practical details to consider when installing the Brink Renovent Sky 300 or other similar MVHR systems. First, you need to consider the importance of air tightness, which if it isn’t addressed, will enable cold air to leak into your house which in turn will limit the performance of your MVHR unit. I believe you really need to get airtightness to somewhere below 3 ACH (Air Change per Hour) for it to start making sense.

In terms of space, the Sky 300’s heat exchanger unit measures 1.2m in length, 0.64m wide and has a depth of 0.31m. The system also requires the installation of two distribution boxes. These are advantageous because they contain air restrictors which ensure fixed airflow to each room and makes fiddling with valve terminals less of a problem. The disadvantage to this is that more space is required. Each box measures 0.64m x 0.51m x 0.21m, but don’t forget the added space needed to house and conceal these units.

While the installation of this system is not overly difficult for those who are DIY-minded, you should have it all designed first by an MVHR specialist to ensure flow rates are correct according to duct runs.

My client has told me that the product is easy to use, reliable and thanks to the slow-running fan speeds, almost silent. The digital controls allow ventilation intensity to be easily managed and programmed to change daily, weekly or even just on the weekend. There was another option for a 4-way switch, but from our experience having tried it, despite appearing simpler this control incurred some problems when it came to resetting it after cleaning the fan filters. So we would recommend sticking with just the main digital controls.

Maintaining the system is very straightforward. It can be done by hoovering the filters clean every few months and replacing them every couple of years. Unfortunately with the airtightness work I put in place, the product has a pay back of about 87 years! However for my client, installing this product wasn’t about saving money, but saving energy and making their home feel much more comfortable in the longer term. Given the impressive results they have experienced, I definitely wouldn’t do anything different if given the opportunity.

My top consideration when making my purchase decision was the suitability of this unit for a retrofit project – both the slimmer unit and the semi-flexible ducting. I have had some experience of using MVHR in the past and I would suggest taking some time to do some research into the products available on the market. Each make and model has slightly different capabilities that are best suited to houses of different shapes and sizes.

Product details: Brink Renovent Sky 300
Manufacturer: Brink
Installer: ColdProof
Supplier: Passivhaus Store



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