“We see so many industries evolving but not enough in hydronics,” explained Gord Cooke, president at Building Knowledge Canada and partner at Construction Instruction. This was just one point made during his presentation on “Managing Homeowners Expectations,” which was part of the bi-annual Canadian Hydronics Conference (CHC). This year, the event was held at the World Trade Center at Prairieland Park in Saskatoon, Sask, from Sept. 28 to 29.
In addition to the beautiful weather (some parts of the province even broke temperature high records on the last day of the conference), guests were treated to fully catered breakfasts and lunches, a tradeshow floor with around 40 exhibitors, and prizes that included an iPad and gift cards.
At this year’s conference, there were two days full of seminars for attendees to choose from. Within each time slot, people were able to choose from three different presentation topics. On the first day, attendees were able to enjoy seminars on “Air-to-Water Heat Pumps,” presented by Mike Miller, Taco Comfort Solutions, “Chemical and Non-Chemical Water Treatment Options,” presented by Kirk Nagus, Axiom Industries, “Keep It Simple for Hydronics,” presented by Alex Miller, Big Block Construction, “Snow Melt Systems,” presented by Jean-Claude Rémy, Uponor Ltd, “Managing Homeowner Expectations,” presented by Gord Cooke, Building Knowledge Canada, “Solar Thermal for Hydronics,” presented by Scott Boutilier, Viessmann Manufacturing, “Smart Technologies in Hydronics,” presented by Jim Erhardt, Watts Water Technologies, and lastly, “Variable Speed Circulators,” presented by Steffen Werner, Wilo.
On the second day, there was some repetition regarding topics, so in addition to that, attendees also were able to listen in on “Current Risks and Rewards for the Industry and Its Business Owners,” presented by Robert Bean, Indoor Climate Consultants, “Mechanical Rooms: Back to Basic,” presented by Jean-Claude Rémy, Uponor Ltd, “Air-to-Water Heat Pumps,” presented by Rick Mayo, Taco Comfort Solutions, “CSA B214 Update, presented by Tom Gervais,” Bradford White Canada Inc, and lastly, “Promoting Building Hygiene with Hydronic Heating & Cooling Systems,” presented by Robert Bean, Indoor Climate Consultants.
Gord Cooke, Building Knowledge Canada, gave a quick-paced presentation on managing homeowners’ expectations. During the 50-minute session, Cooke called on the industry to work together rather than against each other as competitors.
One of the repeated topics during this conference surrounded heat pumps. As Cooke puts it, “Heat pumps are the new imperative.” But selling them to the homeowner can be complicated. This might mean not necessarily having to sell the technology on energy savings. Energy efficiency doesn’t equate to comfort, “We have to be careful in how we sell this,” explains Cooke.
It’s no secret that electrification and the race to net zero would be significant talking points in most seminars held during the conference. Robert Bean of Indoor Climate Consultants held the conference’s keynote presentation, covering electrification and net zero in the industry. During his seminar, Bean highlighted how the net zero goal was brought to the industry’s attention 30 years ago, “The term net zero is not new. It’s been around, and people in the industry have known about it for some time.” He references how back in the 1990s, the Twin River Buildings in Edmonton utilized an electrification system.
Regarding Canada’s path to being net zero by 2050, Bean highlighted how Canada can do better at using wasted energy and how the country can optimize the potential of its energy usage. Bean stated, “There are huge opportunities for this industry because as the world moves towards these net zero, green sustainability goals, there’s a huge opportunity to fix the buildings that we have.”
As part of Mike Miller’s presentation on air-to-water heat pumps, he further explained how the hydronics industry could provide clean and efficient solutions for homes across Canada. His presentation focused mostly on how efficient heat pumps can be in residential applications. Miller mentioned that back in 2017, the global market saw 2.6 million air-to-water heat pumps sold, with 70 per cent of them being split systems. Supplemental heating is often required for areas that find temperatures dropping below -5C.
Mechanics behind hydronics
It would be rather silly if we didn’t talk about the main highlight of the conference. Numerous seminars focused on the mechanics of hydronics as a packaged system and the many offerings that can be made, if only with a little bit of creativity. These seminars ranged from simplifying hydronic installations, smart technologies, and snowmelt systems, and promoting building hygiene with hydronic heating and cooling. While all the seminars should be discussed at length, the last seminar provided some interesting talking points.
Bean was back on stage presenting the promoting building hygiene seminar. It focused on the restoration process for buildings affected by natural disasters. While various disasters could occur, like excess winds and fires, a good portion of the seminar discussed the issue of moisture in a building as, “It is one of the number one failures when it comes to buildings,” explained Bean.
To help combat moisture issues, Bean mentioned how using natural materials can help restore building resiliency and are easy to heat and cool when used in radiant heating and cooling, and ventilation system combination. For example, Bean discussed how a radiant floor heating system could provide wonders in the restoration process, as the system would raise the floor’s temperature, which then would release moisture/vapour into the air, which an air ventilation system would then catch. Bean also highlighted how if people are not prepared to assess and manage moisture, they should leave the industry, as poor moisture management causes water damage to buildings. This is not the same for radiant cooling, as some would claim.
The end of the conference featured a local theme of presentations by various Saskatchewan government and energy officials. These presentations highlighted updates to the national plumbing code, SaskEnergy incentive opportunities, and building code issues for the province. Additionally, Paul Stevenson, formerly of Emco, was presented with the Award of Merit.
The CHC is hosted by the Canadian Hydronics Council, a council within the Canadian Institute of Plumbing and Heating (CIPH). The council mentioned how going forward, it would focus its efforts on government regulations, industry training and educating the public. The council also mentioned that the theme is visibility and understanding.