The New “Metal” – Why Bulky and Burly Isn’t Better

Posted 17 December, 2021 — HVAC Trends


A common perception is if something’s made of metal, it must be more durable and stronger than its counterparts. The thing is, it’s just not always true – especially when it comes to the energy recovery wheel used in your HVAC system.

That’s because metal wheels are bulkier, less efficient and more difficult to repair and maintain than their polymer counterparts. We’re going to break down each issue and why it matters when you’re selecting the best energy recovery wheel for your needs.


First, though, we want to call out the obvious. “Hey, they’re just promoting their product instead of the other options.” That’s not who we are. We developed – and continue to evolve – our polymer wheels because they win time and time again. But we also make aluminum wheels. There’s a reason more of our polymer wheels are in the market than any other wheel because they provide the best long-term reliability and energy recovery performance

So, with that “this isn’t shameful marketing” disclaimer out of the way. Let’s dive in.


Polymer “Bounces Back”

Energy recovery wheels with a metal media may seem sturdy. But here’s the thing: They’re just not flexible, kind of like a boss from the ‘80s. That’s a problem.

Why? Because any debris that gets into the HVAC system is likely to cause more damage to a metal wheel than its polymer counterpart. When an object hits a metal wheel, the metal often is dented, which affects overall performance. That equates to less energy recovery and a less efficient wheel.

On the flip side, when something hits a polymer wheel, the media often can absorb the impact and return to its original shape. Of note, Airxchange® polymer wheels are the only truly segmented wheels available. Therefore, if it’s damaged you can simply replace one part of the wheel rather than the entire thing.


A Lighter Wheel

Think about it like this: Thirty years ago if you went hiking, you would need to lug your gear in a large backpack that used heavier materials for the frame. You did that because you didn’t have a better option.

Like those packs and outdoor gear, energy recovery wheels have evolved. They’re now able to use lighter, better performing material to get the job done more efficiently.

That’s significant for several reasons. Using polymer allows you to use a smaller wheel to do the same job as a larger metal wheel. You can use a smaller HVAC cabinet resulting in less material costs and less space needed for installation. Both have financial benefits.

Also, a lighter, smaller wheel that delivers the same performance as a larger one is more energy efficient. It requires less power to do the same thing. That means lower electrical bills in your facility – critical if you’re increasing ventilation to improve air quality.


Framed in Steel

Not only is polymer media incredibly durable, it’s also housed within a metal frame. Often, the perception is that when using the term “polymer energy recovery wheel”, we’re referring to the media AND the frame.

At Airxchange®, the frame is made using a corrosion-resistant stainless steel. This ensures the wheel maintains the structural integrity you demand but with the performance, efficiency and ease of use that comes with polymer.

Check out: “The Value of Polymer – And How It Saves You Money” to learn more about why polymer is such an effective media for energy recovery wheels. If you want to go deeper into any of these topics, send us a note.