Winter’s hottest topics
By Simon Bowden
Energy efficiency is the name of the game for equipment manufacturers as Canada heads into the upcoming heating season. New amendments to the government’s energy efficiency regulations have been published and continue the push toward cleaner and greener HVAC equipment.
Technological advances are also allowing manufacturers to make smarter equipment – something that consumers are demanding as smart home technology continues to be a growing trend.
While this is providing customers more control over their systems, it is also good news for contractors, who can often monitor systems large and small remotely, allowing them to arrive at a jobsite with the information and tools they need to resolve issues quickly – vital in an industry where time is literally money.
Beyond consumer-driven change, the federal government is also pushing the industry. Published earlier this year, Amendments 15 and 16 to Canada’s Energy Efficiency Regulations update existing energy standards for a number of product categories. However, those companies that sell equipment in Canada have been on the case for many years.
Shiblee Noman, senior product manager at Goodman Manufacturing Company, says, “In Canada, the focus is on embracing increasingly higher efficiencies. End users have been seeking more of that. Now, government is mandating it.”
A good tech needs to stay on top of all these changes to be able to give their customers not only what they want, but what they need. These are times of great change, but they can also be times of great opportunity.
An electric movement
Cleaver-Brooks has noted higher demand for electric boilers. Catie VanWormer, product sales manager for the company’s ClearFire product line, says, “Steam and hydronic electric boilers are available for commercial and industrial applications that are clean, compact, quiet, easy to install and have no venting or fuel requirements.”
“There is a strong possibility that electric boilers will increase in market share given various jurisdictions’ aspirational targets for fuel switching to electricity,” adds Bradford White product specialist Tom Gervais.
Part of the overall drive toward achieving greater efficiencies in HVAC equipment is the phasing out of non-condensing gas boilers. This can prove more complicated than simply swapping out the old boiler for a new one.
Jerry Leyte, director of sales and marketing Canada for Viessmann, says, “As non-condensing boilers get replaced with condensing units, existing building radiators may need to be exchanged for lower temperature heating systems, such as in-floor, or more efficient or larger radiators that don’t need high operating temperatures. If condensing units still need to operate at high temperatures to meet the requirements of the existing radiators, some of the added efficiency of the condensing boilers may be lost.
“Hopefully it will lead to more new buildings considering in-floor heating as an option to optimize the advantages of added comfort and low temperature heating.”
John Kopf, boiler product manager at Navien, notes that while consumers will have to pay more initially for a condensing boiler, they will benefit in the longer term from the lower cost of fuel due to its greater efficiency. There are also pros and cons for the contractor.
“On one hand, more expensive equipment will result in higher revenues for contractors and wholesalers. Since condensing boilers are less forgiving, they will require more frequent maintenance, providing contractors additional revenue streams,” he says.
“On the other hand, more complicated controls can lead to costly installation issues and more time spent at the jobsite during the initial boiler start up.”
Learning to work smarter
Demand for smart home technology has been on the rise, and will continue to grow.
“Connecting high-efficiency HVAC systems to smart home technology is a growing trend recognized by HVAC contractors and homeowners. End-users also are finding great value in smart communicating technology’s ability to improve indoor comfort control,” says Goodman’s Noman. “These advancements are also finding a receptive audience with HVAC contractors because they can help make their jobs easier.”
“On the commercial side, Internet of Things-enabled equipment is a must for property managers and building owners,” says Kopf of Navien. “It allows them to ensure that the equipment is operating at its peak efficiency and at the same time reduces operating costs related to service.”
Kal Osman, AERCO International’s director of product management for boilers, says the number of IoT-ready components will continue to grow.
“In larger applications it gives the facility’s engineering team critical system operation visibility. It also helps in equipment service and maintenance by alerting users to system issues and maintenance schedules,” he explains.
“Many equipment manufacturers now offer their own IoT-ready devices with IoT service. These services provide critical information that is needed to help keep the equipment running at its best.”
Viessmann’s Leyte, however, suggests that having the technology is one thing, knowing how to use it is something else.
“There are more homeowners who want to be connected, but they are not always necessarily doing anything meaningful with the information the technology provides. It is often a case of want versus need,” he says.
“The contractor should discuss with the homeowner what they want the technology to be able to do for them and then determine what the best features are to incorporate.” Now that’s an opportunity.