The True Cost of Failure Rates in Poorly Made Energy Recovery Wheels – and How to Avoid Them

Posted 17 December, 2021 — HVAC Trends


Here’s the deal: No matter the product, no matter its reliability, at some point in time it’s going to need to be replaced. And the same goes for energy recovery wheels – even the most reliable – in your HVAC system.

Debris can damage wheels, they’re often not maintained properly, and ultimately the simply reach their max lifespan. Again, this is the case for everything in the world but when it comes to your energy recovery wheel, you need to be aware.

Why? Because if you use the right energy recovery wheel, you can reduce your costs significantly when a wheel needs to be serviced or even replaced.

At the core of that concept is our polymer, truly segmented energy recovery wheel. Don’t worry, this isn’t a product pitch but since it’s the only polymer wheel on the market – and the most reliable – it’s a great example to work with.

Now, the common ways a wheel can “fail” are if it’s too dirty to allow proper air flow, one of its parts (a belt, for instance) breaks, the desiccant begins to degrade, or if the wheel is damaged. Whaaat? Those things never happen, right? Well, of course they do, but you can significantly reduce the risk AND save money when you need to replace a wheel if you make a few savvy upfront decisions.

So, let’s walk through each situation.

All Air isn’t Clean Air

Energy recovery wheels get dirty. That’s inevitable. Of course, it happens faster in some industries and applications, such as manufacturing and casinos, but ultimately, it’s an issue for everyone.

The primary concern is that as a wheel becomes dirty, it affects performance. The dirtier a wheel, the less air that can flow through it, increasing pressure drop across the wheel, thus making it less effective.

With a non-segmented wheel, your options are pretty limited. If you’re lucky, you can take the entire wheel out and scrub it or vacuum it. But most metal wheels aren’t easy to remove and most have to be cut out with a reciprocating saw or heavy machinery and replaced.

A situation such as that means you have to hire workers, take your HVAC unit offline, and likely buy a new wheel. That quickly gets pricey.

The better option is to use a truly segmented wheel. Our polymer wheels are the only truly segmented and washable wheels on the market. That means you can remove one segment or “piece of the pie” at a time. You clean that section, put it back in, and repeat – it’s as easy as the instructions on your shampoo bottle. Downtime is as little as 15 minutes and you rarely need more than one person to complete the job.


All Desiccants aren’t Created Equal

That’s right, on a metal wheel desiccant slowly degrades because it’s applied using an adhesive. That’s a big deal because desiccant is the magical compound that makes energy recovery wheels work.

Also, if you are able to wash a metal wheel, that process may help air flow for small periods of time, but it further strips desiccant from the wheel’s media, breaking down the adhesive.


On our polymer wheel, the desiccant is “permanently bonded” into the media, using a patented manufacturing process. This ensures the desiccant doesn’t degrade over time or from cleaning and maintenance, and performance levels remain high. Having to replace a wheel less often is a simple economic benefit: Less capital expenditures means more money stays in the business.

Damaged Wheels & Broken Belts are a Bummer

Believe it or not, energy recovery wheels can get damaged, even when installed inside a contained HVAC cabinet. All it takes is one piece of rogue debris making its way inside to tear up the corrugated surface of a wheel.

When that happens, you’re likely going to have to replace a metal wheel to reclaim performance. But if the wheel is truly segmented, you’re in luck. With a segmented polymer wheel, you can pull out the damaged section(s) – often in only a few minutes – and order a replacement. It’s cheaper, faster and more effective.

Belts, on the other hand, can wear out. It takes a while but it does happen. That’s normal, though. All belts eventually need to be replaced. And this is why we designed our wheels with an easy-to-maintain system. Due to our continuous link belt on most of our cassettes, all that’s required is to remove a link or two, take off the old belt, and unlink the new belt to install the new one.

And, it’s easy to get that new belt. No phone tree or lack of expertise on the service side. All you have to do is go online and use our part finder or call us directly.

Want to learn more about why are polymer wheels are so reliable and easy to maintain? Send us a note anytime.