NRCan cross-country forums promote tighter home technologies

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In recent years new homes have become tighter – a lot tighter. Builders and HVAC contractors have been pushing the industry to develop heating and cooling technologies for the lower design heating loads.

“We’re going to tighter and higher performance housing. There’s a need for new HVAC systems,” remarked James Glouchkow, LEEP team leader for NRCan’s Office of Energy Research and Development in Ottawa, to builders, HVAC designers and contractors at the first LEEP Gas Mechanicals Technology Forum held in London, Ont. Dec. 12. The forum, one of several planned across the country, was developed in response to builder demand for HVAC systems for today’s new homes with low design space heating loads. Design heating loads have dropped by as much as 40 percent, he added.

“Current good practices are outstripping what’s in the guides and codes,” remarked HVAC designer Dara Bowser, Bowser Technical Inc., Brantford, Ont., during a panel discussion with HVAC experts and builders.

At the same time, smaller, often attached, homes have resulted in a demand for compact appliances that can provide space heating, cooling and DHW. Builders have been installing these combo systems for years, but the performance was often disappointing. In 2015 the introduction of the CSA-P.9-11 Standard, a test method for determining the performance of combo systems, changed that. For the first time, it tested the heating unit and air handler together and the results are published, allowing contractors a quick way to compare performance.

New partnerships

Builders and HVAC contractors have pushed the industry to develop heating and cooling technologies that reflect this new reality. Related challenges were presented to the Canadian Home Builders Association (CHBA) technical research committee, resulting in a partnership between the Canadian Gas Association (CGA) and NRCan’s LEEP program, leading to technical forums like the London event.

The forums explore:

  • Changes in housing construction and form, the impact on mechanical needs and approaches for meeting these needs
  • A new guide to help builders and designers consider mechanical options before proceeding with design. (The guide is currently being finalized based on forum response.)
  • Examples of equipment and systems developed to address these needs.

Manufacturers challenged

Early in 2017, NRCan launched the LEEP Challenge in which manufacturers were asked to submit solutions for energy efficient homes. To present at LEEP forums, manufacturers had to have furnaces or combo systems meeting the following minimum requirements:

  • The furnace, or the water heater or boiler used in a combo, had to be capable of operating at a firing rate of 30,000 Btu/h or less.
  • Furnaces needed an annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) rating of 96 percent or higher.
  • Combo units were required to have a thermal performance factor (TPF) of 0.86 or more.

The deadline was last May. Eleven manufacturers submitted entries and six were selected. They are:

  • Carrier
  • Dettson
  • EcoVision
  • Energy Saving Products
  • iFLOW
  • NTI

A second LEEP forum was held Jan. 31 in Hamilton, Ont. Events are planned for Edmonton on Feb. 28 and Calgary, March 15. Further events are also planned for Saskatoon, Regina, Toronto and Ottawa (dates to be announced).

Each event features expert speakers, a panel discussion and presentations from four manufacturers, selected by the regional utility for each event.

To register for upcoming LEEP events, contractors, engineers, etc. should go directly to the events page for the local home building association (BILD Calgary Region and CHBA Edmonton Region, for example).
More information on the LEEP program can be found at www.nrcan.gc.ca.

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