The HVAC industry’s energy recovery ventilation sector got an unsuspected publicity boost when more than 4 million TikTok users viewed an ERV’s incorporation into a family residence converted from a circa 1970’s underground nuclear bunker.
The viral video also helped attract tens of thousands more viewers on subsequent TikTok ERV segment subjects ranging from opening the ERV packaging, rigging it under ground and installing it to provide energy recovery for the bunker’s outdoor air ventilation.
Bunker homeowner Ruben Romero has attracted more than 660,000 followers on his social media channels as he transforms his sterile, industrial-grade, 6,000-square-foot underground bunker into a livable home for his wife and four children. Romero’s family already calls the bunker home, but completion is expected in 2026. Each week Romero posts his escapades, such as cutting 11-inch-diameter steel intake/exhaust pipes, once used by a diesel-powered generator, and converting them to 10-inch-diameter intake/exhaust flues for the EV 450 Premium ERV manufactured by RenewAire, Waunakee, Wisconsin.
Although Romero doesn’t disclose his location, the 13-acre rural prairie site is one of 50 Cold War-era bunkers the U.S. government built nationwide with telecom companies, such as AT&T, to keep vital communication lines operating in case of a nuclear war. The 16-foot-high bunker lies four feet below grade and also includes a 170-foot-high communications tower, ground level storage buildings, a 3,000-pound blast door and plenty of stale air that needs continuous ERV dilution with outdoor air for optimum indoor air quality.
Since the cool bunker retains a natural geothermal temperature of 56 F to 72 F, it needs only hot water radiant heating. The ERV runs continuously on low speed to help positive pressurize the bunker and efficiently preheat incoming outdoor air. The ERV automatically shifts to increased airflow via variable speed modes when sensors detect unhealthy levels of radon, humidity, CO2, volatile organic compounds and any other gaseous contaminants.
While the topic of ERVs is arguably less exciting than the hundreds of zany public video antics that escalate TikToks to viral status, Romero’s millions of views suggest the general public is increasingly interested in IAQ.