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International Builders' Show 2015

 Cool Feat: Delivering Comfort in the Desert 

Natural gas cooling at the New American Home near Las Vegas solves a complicated air-conditioning challenge.

For The New American Home 2013 in Henderson, Nev., just south of Las Vegas, builder Tyler Jones and his design-build team at Blue Heron set out to deliver perhaps the most ambitious version in the 30-year history of the housing industry’s premier show home.

The New American Home 2013 by luxury home builder Blue Heron showcases innovative and practical uses of the latest technology and equipment.

That vision manifested in a stunning, 9,000-plus-square-foot custom home that blurs the lines between indoor and outdoor space at almost every turn and level, inviting and embracing the desert environment through open-air rooms and telescoping patio doors and windows.

But wouldn’t all that shared air clash with Blue Heron’s ability to maintain a comfortable indoor climate, not to mention its desire to deliver a net-zero-energy home? Instead, Jones and his team turned to a space-, cost-, and energy-efficient natural gas–powered option to satisfy the home’s challenging heating and cooling needs.

Using less electricity than a common hair dryer, the 8- and 15-ton NextAire gas heat pumps from IntelliChoice Energy are engineered and designed to serve up to 17 and 33 individual living zones, respectively. They operate at a variable capacity of ½ to 4 tons to deliver precise amounts of conditioned air.

Two NextAire gas heat pumps serve a role equivalent to about 10 typical electric heat pumps.

“It really works well to balance the temperature and deliver consistent comfort,” says Kris Osterling, Blue Heron’s project manager. That’s an especially impressive feat given the home’s indoor-outdoor spaces.

Osterling estimates that to even approach similar performance with an electric system would require perhaps 10 typical heat pumps placed strategically around the home, likely intruding on signature views to the desert hills beyond.

By contrast, the IntelliChoice Energy system required only two outdoor chillers to serve the entire house. Though far larger than common condensers, the pair is out of view on one side of the house and could, if needed or possible, be located up to 400 feet away from the house. Their 4-cylinder Toyota engines also deliver a quieter operation, according to the manufacturer. “It’s what this system is made for,” says Tom Young, founder and chief technology officer of IntelliChoice Energy.

The system also relies on a standard (if well designed and tight) central air distribution scheme of duct runs extending from small air handlers in each zone, requiring no extra knowledge for a trained HVAC subcontractor, the builder says.

The NextAire system isn’t the only one leveraging clean-burning and cost-efficient natural gas in the New American Home. A Rinnai condensing tankless water heater and the VersaHydro system from Heat Transfer Products combine to deliver domestic hot water and, from the latter, supplemental space heating.

The home’s footprint is rife with gas-powered fire features, ranging from sleek indoor fireplaces in the great room and bedroom suites to contemporary outdoor fire pits and stand-alone units that can be moved for aesthetic and spot-heating effect.

Gas-fueled fire features throughout the home highlight its innovative indoor and outdoor spaces.

There’s also an impressive outdoor kitchen, anchored by a 50-inch wide, stainless steel gas grill from Fire Magic that offers 1,056 square inches of cooking surface. Finally, a residential standby generator from Kohler is at the ready to maintain critical systems in the event of a power outage.

The natural gas service for The New American Home, like many homes in Nevada, Arizona, and California, is provided by Southwest Gas. The company’s involvement in The New American Home makes sense, given the utility’s focus on efficiency and innovation.

Like the home itself, the use of natural gas in The New American Home 2013 is both innovative and practical. “There are just so many advantages to natural gas that I can’t imagine this house without it,” says Osterling. “There’s no way we could have realized our vision.”

The New American Home is open daily to registered attendees at the 2013 International Builders’ Show via free shuttle buses (ticket required) departing from the Las Vegas Convention Center. To view more innovative natural gas technologies, and for a chance to win a Fire Magic Aurora A540 gas grill of your own, visit the American Natural Gas and Propane Industries Exhibit at Booth C2614.



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