Capitalizing On Greening
September 2, 2013 | By Steve Goldie
It takes more than technology to produce results.
Our industry has contributed to substantive change to help make this planet a bit greener and cleaner. There are truly a myriad of examples. Plumbing fixtures are using much less water and we are seeing more and more options to recycle grey water. Variable speed pumps and motors in HVAC equipment are becoming the norm resulting in vastly reduced electrical consumption. Newer, more environmentally-friendly refrigerants have replaced the ozone depleting varieties of the past, in addition to vastly improved handling and disposal practices. The equipment running these refrigerants has also improved electrical efficiencies. All in all, not a bad list.
Let’s move on to the true environmental villains, the fossil fuel burning, carbon spewing appliances that are heating up our homes in the winter and our hot baths and showers all year long. How are we doing on that front? That is the segment of our industry that I have the most experience with and I can say it is the area where we have really made great strides forward. The good news is that when it comes to fossil fuel burning combustion equipment, whether it be hot water heaters, boilers, furnaces or make up air units, we do have the technology to utilize the fuel efficiently, extracting virtually all of the energy. We can also do it cleanly, emitting little more than water vapour. I have seen condensing boilers operate at near 100 per cent efficiency, with icy cold return temperatures from a snowmelt system nearly matching the temperature of the flue gas exhaust. This is an extreme example and not the normal operating conditions of the average heating boiler or furnace, but the point is that the technology exists here and now to utilize the fuels as efficiently as possible.
Do I hear a but? On the other side of the coin, while the technology exists and is readily available, it is not always being utilized, or it is not being utilized properly. I have seen tender plans for buildings designed to achieve various levels of LEED status and yet the specified boilers are large inefficient atmospheric boilers, usually seriously over-sized. What kind of Leadership in Energy Efficient Design is that? Yes, we have improved minimum efficiency requirements for this type of equipment but I do not feel we have gone far enough or fast enough. But minimum efficiency standards are just one part of the equation.
Simply installing a piece of high efficiency equipment does not guarantee savings. Systems have to be sized, designed, applied and controlled properly if maximum results are to be achieved. We regularly see fuel savings of at least 35 per cent and often much higher when older systems are upgraded properly. If we could extend those savings to all of the 650.9 Megalitres of natural gas that were burned in Canada last year alone strictly for residential purposes that would be something that even David Suzuki could be happy about.
Fortunately, we also living in a time where information is shared and exchanged faster and easier than ever. Teaching and support resources are readily available through wholesale partners, manufacturers and their sales agents. The internet is also a boon, full of information but also lots of misinformation so use with caution. If you are a contractor who wants to be a part of the greening of our world the resources are available to help you get there.
Steve Goldie is with NEXT Plumbing Hydronics where he is the hydronics specialist. He learned his trade from his father while working as a plumber in the family business. He joined the wholesale side of the business in 2002 after 21 years in the field and is frequently called on to troubleshoot systems and advise contractors. He can be reached at email@example.com.
GOLDIE COMMENTARY: Perception versus Reality
Let me start right out of the gate by stating that the views expressed herein are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of HPAC Magazine, its editors or publishers. Now that we are clear on that, allow me to go on a bit of a rant here. I do not want to give anyone the impression that I am a miserable old complaining curmudgeon but sometimes I just have to blow off a bit of steam. This time it is the hypocrisy of the whole “Green” industry that has raised my ire. Do not get me wrong, I believe we all need to be as environmentally conscientious as possible, but unfortunately it seems more often than not the perception of “being green” is more important than actual results or performance. In just about every situation I prefer to opt for substance over appearance but this world seems to operate the other way around.
Perhaps I am just grumpy because I happen to earn my living and pay my taxes and my Hydro bills in the province of Ontario, the province that has, in the words of Al Gore “the single best green energy program on the North American continent.” One might think this would be a good thing and if it were even remotely accurate it certainly would be. However, the truth is a little bit inconvenient, to steal a phrase.
Ontario’s Auditor General came to the conclusion that several generations of the provinces taxpayers will have to deal with billions of dollars in extra hydro charges for years to come as a result of the Green Energy Act — the smoke and mirrors environmental legislation Dalton McGuinty and his cronies cooked up. Quite the legacy for the former Premier, who also managed to kick the taxpayer one more time on his way out the door by flushing close to a billion dollars down the drain via the cancelled gas plant contracts.