HPAC Magazine

Building Code Changes A Vanguard For DWHR Systems

Manufacturers are hopeful that the rest of Canada will follow Ontario's lead.

October 1, 2013   By Patrick Callan

An amendment to Supplementary Standard 12 (SB-12) has made Ontario the first Canadian province – and the first North American jurisdiction – to include drain water heat recovery (DWHR) in its Building Code.

Having a DWHR system – a heat exchanger that uses outgoing, warm drain water to heat incoming cold fresh water –as an option in the prescriptive path in SB-12 could make it easier for builders and designers to use DWHR to meet Ontario Building Code requirements.

The March amendment to SB-12 explains how DHWR can be used to meet the minimum energy efficiency requirements for houses. Compliance can be met in a number of ways, including one set of prescriptive tables or one of three different performance paths. 

Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing spokesperson May Nazar said manufacturers approached the government to have DHWR units recognized in SB-12. Potential changes such as safety and reliability, effectiveness, fairness to DHWR manufacturers, fairness to other energy efficiency manufacturers and clarity were discussed several times by the Building Code Conservation Advisory Council.

“Only after the government was satisfied that an amendment would be fair, technically feasible, easy to understand and still satisfy the energy efficiency requirements, was it able to proceed,” she said.

DWHR systems have been approved in the U.K. and France for over two years now, thanks in large part to the efforts of system manufacturers.

Gerald Van Decker, CEO of Kitchener, ON-based RenewABILITY Energy Inc., said some of the benefits of having a DHWR system installed include: a five to 10 per cent reduction in total energy costs for new homes, a reduction of half a ton of carbon dioxide per year for a family of four using retrofit units and increased effective hot water capacity.

Van Decker noted that the amendment also means you can trade off above grade walls; a builder can choose to go from an R-24 wall to an R-20 wall using a 46 per cent efficient DWHR unit, which increases the amount of livable area in a home.

Installing a DHWR system ranges from $500 to $900 depending on whether it is new construction or retrofit, according to Van Decker. “The paybacks can be typically six months to a year,” he said, and “it will last about 100 years or more.”

Despite his company having installed more than 25 000 DWHR units across Canada in the past decade, Van Decker said the biggest obstacles are the retrofit market and getting plumbers to back DHWR technology. But once they install a DHWR system and feel the high heat transfer rate on the inside wall they’re absolutely amazed, he added. In addition to trying to convert Ontario plumbers, Van Decker is working on expanding the use of DHWR systems in Europe, the U.S. and Canada. “We expect that the other provinces will follow (Ontario),” said Van Decker.

The CEO of EcoInnovation Technologies Ltd. in Saint-Louis-de-Gonzague, QC, which manufactures the ThermoDrain DWHR system, certainly hopes so. “Absolutely nothing is going in Quebec as far as the building code goes,” said Daniel Beauchemin. “A few builders, such as Construction Voyer & Tremblay Inc., are installing about 75 to 100 DHWR systems in residential homes per year, but other than that the Quebec market is “dead.””

Like Van Decker, Beauchemin noted that many plumbers have their doubts about DHWR technology and many homeowners don’t realize the long-term savings. “If you take this technology and you calculate the savings as an investment, it will outperform any RRSP on the market,” he said.

Dealing with the Quebec bureaucracy has also been very challenging, he added. “They’re not even looking at what’s available in their own backyard – such as drain water heat recovery,” he said. Code will be the catalyst in making DWHR technology work in the industry, he emphasized. “If we’re going to duplicate any success that we’ve seen in Ontario, it has to be put into the Code,” said Beauchemin. 

Fortunately, the building and energy efficiency evaluation industries have been slowly warming to the idea of DHWR systems, he said. “They have come to recognize that there is a lot of potential for builders in using this technology because of the amount of energy recovered versus the amount of money invested,” commented Beauchemin.

One potential game changer took place at the beginning of 2013 when the Canadian Standards Association recognized ThermoDrain as performance and safety certified to CSA 55.1 and 55.2.

“For the first time as an industry we are actually stamping our units with a third party certification that has been designated towards drain water heat recovery,” said Beauchemin. “The standard gave a lot of credit to the product and now that it is certified a lot more people are looking at this more seriously.”  <>

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