Where and how to buy an MVHR ventilation system in the UK

If you’re building or renovating your home and making the property airtight to less than 3 Air-Changes per Hour (or a SAP Air Permeability Design figure of less than 3) then you will be wondering where, how and from which company you can purchase a Mechanical Ventilation and Heat Recovery unit from in the UK.

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Also known as Heat Recovery Ventilators (HRV), the biggest brands in MVHR systems are (typically) all from the European continent. For this post I’ll be talking about two of our favourites here in the office – the Paul Novus and the Zehnder Comfoair ranges.

There are many more MVHR unit-makers (Nuaire, Helios, Titon, etc), but we know Paul and Zehnder are dependable, almost-silent and highly-efficient units. 

Buying a Paul Novus MVHR unit

The Paul Novus range are German-made units for small to medium residential properties. The Paul Novus 300 and 450 units are the most popular. The Novus 300 will usually do for a small or medium-sized London semi-detached property with two or three bedrooms and one main bathroom, and the Novus 450 for a larger three-storey townhouse with four or more rooms and a couple of bathrooms, as a rough guide.

Paul was purchased by Zehnder recently, but the range continues to be sold under its own name, and the sleek black box with the red trim is staying the same – Zehnder has no plans to discontinue the system. These are neat units, very reliable and require the minimum of maintenance once installed, so they’re perfect for most family homes.  

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Buying a Zehnder ComfoAir or ComfoCool Q unit

Zehnder systems range from tiny ceiling-mounted MVHR units for small apartments where space is a premium, right up to the Q600 series, for huge homes where airflow requirements according to Passive House and Building Regs have to be up to and over 600sq.m. In the biggest homes you might need to buy two or three MVHR units to meet your airflow requirements.

Zehnder units have a few more bells and whistles than the other units on the market, most notably a variable summer bypass mode and, given the fear of overheating in well-insulated low energy homes, the ComfoCool system, which allows you to actively cool the incoming air from outside during sunny days in the UK (as rare as they are).

ComfoCool is a really nice addition to all of the other capabilities of the MVHR system, and should be considered if you prefer cooler air in bedrooms and living areas in the summer. Contact me to find out more.

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Buying a Mechanical Ventilation and Heat Recovery system in the north of England, the southeast and Central London

No matter where your property is located in England, Wales, Scotland or Ireland you can have your MVHR system designed by low energy designers Enhabit – they also supply, install and commission MVHR systems across the southeast with their own in-house building team. As a collective of PassivHaus designers, project managers and builders Enhabit are well-experienced in designing MVHR systems for low energy buildings.

Enhabit is based in Hammersmith in London, so they only usually install in the southeast but if you’re feeling capable you can install an MVHR system yourself – the ducting is relatively simple to fit and Enhabit makes the design documents easy to follow by producing 3D schematics.

Buy direct from Paul/Zehnder or go through your architect or designer?

MVHR ventilation systems must be designed and installed properly, so it normally makes sense that you purchase the MVHR unit through your designer – that way they can calculate the airflow rates, pressure drops, acoustic measures and type of ducting you’ll require properly. Prices are normally a little cheaper than going direct, too, as designers have already negotiated a better trade price. 

The big MVHR suppliers aren’t very good at designing your system, as they tend to focus their in-house design efforts on the larger multi-residential projects such as blocks of flats and housing estates rather than single properties. They’ll normally just provide you with a basic quote for the MVHR unit and ducting in the first instance.

If you’re happy with the rough price they will offer to design the system as they see it. Rather than charge you directly for it, they’ll usually incorporate it into the cost of the unit and materials if you buy from them.

This isn’t normally their first preference, though – they’d rather just sell you the unit and let someone else handle the design. As such, in the vast majority of cases they’ll pass it over to a dedicated MVHR designer such as Enhabit, who they trust to create an MVHR ventilation system design that will run quietly and efficiently. 

So you may as well go direct to Enhabit and get them to bundle design and supply together for a better price.

How much does an MVHR system cost in the UK?

In terms of pricing, for designing the MVHR system in a medium-sized home it will cost approximately £700+VAT.

An MVHR system from Paul or Zehnder, including all ducting and pieces, will cost around £10,000+VAT for a medium-sized home.

Installing an MVHR system will take two to three days and will cost approximately £3,000 to £4,000+VAT.

Commissioning an MVHR system is about £700+VAT and takes a full day for two technicians. This can be done post-decoration, once all the ducting has been fitted.

If you are in the UK and are considering getting a quotation for your own Zehnder or Paul MVHR system please get in touch with me through my contact form here, or leave a comment below and I’ll reply back to you.

MVHR units you should stay away from

It’s worth investing in a good MVHR system from one of the more expensive brands with a long history of good operational performance. MVHR units should be whisper-quiet in operation, and the poorer units are louder than the Zehnders and Pauls of the world, so you’ll have to get used to white noise if you fit a cheap unit. Contact me directly if you want to know which MVHR units I don’t recommend. 

Here’s a video that runs through the basics of MVHR / HRV systems if you’re curious about how it all works (note: I don’t know anything about this particular installation company except that they make a good video!):

Now for the disclaimer: I work for Enhabit, the design team mentioned above, but all of these views are my own based on my experience in helping clients with their MVHR system requirements.

Patrick

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