We certainly agree that the fewer mechanical equipment in a home the better -> our wall assembly (near Passive House design) promotes a thermally and airtight envelope, such that the mechanical demands within the house are minimal. This allows clients to downsize or eliminate their heating equipment, reducing upfront cost, routine maintenance, and utility consumption. We find that an ERV, or a CERV (Conditioned ERV), can replace a heating system completely in a tightly-built home.
A tightly built home will prevent temperature/humidity swings within the living space, while an ERV will provide consistant.
Regarding the ERV/HRV debate, I vouch for an ERV in dry climates like ours. As you point out, a dry house causes discomfort to the occupants and accelerated deterioration to the interior furnishings. Not to mention add-on costs for humidifiers to rectify the situation. An ERV will intelligently maintain a comfortable humidity level between 35-45% within the living quarters. That said, consistent humidity levels will warrant precaution in wall assembly design to either block vapor intrusion, or facility its passage through the wall assembly.
The ERV is not intended to keep you from opening windows! Common misconception. An ERV will ensure comfortable humidity levels (see psychrometric chart) - typically 35-45% RH, while also providing air filtration to decrease dust, pollen, and pollution in the home, as well as, recover the heat/cool from the air cycle saving energy expense. It will continue to do this whether the windows are open or closed.