Climate change and the HVAC marketplace

By Jonathon Harp

Climate change is at the forefront of environmental concerns as climate effects from atmospheric carbon loading such as extreme weather, flooding, forest fires and ice cap melting occur more frequently. Canada and countries the
world over are implementing measures to sustainably reduce carbon emissions and greenhouse gases and stem the tide of this potential environmental disaster.

Industries have a role to play with government in solving the climate change dilemma with the HVAC sector being a significant part of the carbon loading problem. Global heating of buildings is responsible for two thirds of building energy demand and approximately 20 per cent of energy consumption. Put the buildings and construction sectors together and the energy consumption number grows to 30 per cent and nearly 40 per cent of carbon emissions. In Canada, buildings represent 28 per cent of energy end use and 26 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions.

On the cooling side, CFC, HCFC and HFC refrigerants containing ozone depleting substances and greenhouse gases are being phased out under the terms of the Montreal Protocol and replaced by substances with less or no environmental impact. The HVAC industry plays a leading role in providing energy efficient and environmentally-friendly systems. For the industry and particularly contractors, there is a huge opportunity to lead customers in the right environmental direction and to help home and business owners reduce their carbon footprint.

Your low carbon economy (LCE) plan should involve training of staff members to knowledgeably respond to customers. Nothing says “we really aren’t in that business” than uninformed staff unable to respond to customers wanting to reduce their carbon footprint. You have to be viewed as an expert in this area by your customers. Training is the solution.

What HVAC options should be offered as a part of the company’s commitment to the LCE?
Here are some options to consider:

1. Smart technology
The concept of Smart technology is to use sensor devices in the building to provide data to a device that controls indoor comfort. The system is constantly made aware of the indoor environment throughout the building and efficiently determines what each zone needs including heating, cooling, humidification, dehumidification, etc. While they are most commonly used in commercial and industrial applications, Smart technologies are also used in zoned residential systems. Smart systems are viewed as crucial technology to control rising emissions associated with the increased need for cooling.

2. Remote monitoring and hand-held devices
Hand-held devices such as Smart phones and tablets can now easily control and manage building environments to improve efficiency and reduce energy usage. Particularly in the commercial and industrial sector, these devices are being used to remotely monitor systems and apply maintenance measures without having to travel to the customer’s location; another environmental benefit. Smart remote monitoring options available to customers include thermostats, apps and Smart heating and cooling equipment. This technology is evolving rapidly with easier systems for customers to use in both the residential and ICI sectors.

3. Performance efficiency
The HVAC industry continues to raise efficiencies on all energy-using products provided to the marketplace as
well as making changes to the product mix to address environmental concerns. This includes cold weather heat
pumps that work well in the Canadian climate as part of the electrification strategy. New refrigerants are being
introduced to meet new federal and provincial regulations that come into force throughout the 2020s.

Looking ahead

Probably the biggest hurdle for the LCE is industry acceptance. For example, it is a huge step for consumers
and the industry to contemplate a Canadian HVAC industry that does not include natural gas and instead moves into an electrified marketplace. An absolute move to electrification is not going to happen any time soon. Nor is the introduction of hydrogen into the natural gas grid in Canada. There will be a gradual move to a LCE and the important part for contractors to acknowledge is that LCE options have to be a part of their business plan. Customers are increasingly requesting options to meet Canada’s environmental direction and contractors need to be ready to respond. The evolution of buildings in the future is going to be a significant opportunity for contractors and the industry; particularly in the commercial, ICI and residential retrofit market. Train your people and sell the long-term aspect of the LCE. Look at opportunities to collaborate with other contractors to provide a broad suite of low carbon solutions to your customers. Most importantly, “get on the train because it’s leaving the station.” You want your business at the front of the line as the LCE takes hold in Canada.

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