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PUBLICATION
NUMBER
42408014 ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023
Reasons to Build the Hybrid House
Air-to-Water Heat Pumps
The Myths of Powering Net Zero
Miracle of Spray Foam Insulation
Solar Solutions for Builders
A Tiny HVAC Challenge
UNLOCKING THE VALUE OF
COMBINATION HYBRID HEAT
THE
Mechanical
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BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023
PUBLISHER’S NOTE
2
The Missing Piece
Combination Hybrid Heat
by John Godden
THE BADA TEST
3
Affordability and Reasons
to Build the Hybrid House
by Lou Bada
INDUSTRY EXPERT
5
Air-to-Water Heat Pumps
by Gord Cooke
INDUSTRY NEWS
9
The Myths of Powering
Our Net Zero Future
by Paul De Berardis
BUILDER NEWS
13
The Miracle of Spray
Foam Insulation
by Alex Newman
BUILDER NEWS
20
Now It’s Personal … Again
by Howard Chau
SITE SPECIFIC
22
Solar Solutions for Builders
by Marc Huminilowycz
INDUSTRY NEWS
26
Putting a Damper on
Bad Air Distribution
Balraj Banger
BUILDER NEWS
28
OHBA Job Ready Program
Tackles Labour Group
by Marc Huminilowycz
FROM THE GROUND UP
31
A Tiny HVAC Challenge
by Doug Tarry
9
1
31
ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023
Images internally supplied unless otherwise credited.
FEATURE STORY
16
Middle Ground
Shifting from fossil fuels to electricity won’t happen overnight, but
integrated combination hybrid heat systems help bridge the gap.
by Rob Blackstien
13
Cover: Adobe Stock 104606150
16
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023
The Missing Piece
Combination Hybrid Heat
“IKEA: A Swedish word for ‘many parts.’”
— Anonymous
O
ver the years, I have assembled countless beds, wardrobes, shelving units and
kitchens from IKEA. The expectation versus the reality of assembling all those
parts leads most of us to absolute frustration. Either we have a few parts left
over or we have missed a critical step in the instructions and have to backtrack. Our
expectations rarely match up with actual outcomes.
Nowhere could this be truer than when attempting to build a low-carbon home.
Current monitoring of net zero houses shows us the occupancy loads from appliances,
plug loads and domestic hot water are as large as heating and ventilation ones. (See the
chart of a Tier 3 house, on page 4.)
In our IKEA analogy, occupancy levels are the missing piece. We know there are limits
to adding thermal insulation to building envelopes to reduce carbon emissions. Is natural
gas a bridging energy source to transition to renewables? To me, this is the most important
question. How do we use natural gas wisely in Ontario to support aging nuclear power
plants and preserve electrical capacity to power 50% of Canada’s passenger vehicles?
Switching homes to electrical heating systems only exacerbates our peak demand
shortfalls. We may expect getting to zero emissions, but the reality is that we might only
make it to 50% if we follow the right instructions.
If Ontario adopts Tier 3 of the Step Code as the baseline (roughly 20% better than
Package J), the space heating load on a detached house will be under 25 MBTU per hour.
Combo heating systems can meet this load and reduce CO2 emissions from natural gas
by a minimum of 20%. Installing a three-season heat pump and using off-peak electricity
during shoulder months could easily displace another 30% of natural gas CO2 emissions.
In a nutshell, a Tier 3 envelope with combination hybrid heating is the way forward.
This issue revisits “Game of Zones,” our main story from the fall 2020 issue, and takes
the discussion of combination heat one step further. “Middle Ground,” our feature,
highlights two manufacturers collaborating to develop the “missing piece”: an off-the-
shelf matched combination hybrid heating system. Most importantly, it will have controls
that manage the air source heat pump and combination boiler operation with outdoor
temperature. See page 16.
On page 3, Lou Bada reviews why we should build an affordable hybrid house that
includes combination hybrid heat or fuel switching.
Gord Cooke discusses an important heat pump technology that uses water as a transfer
medium and storage (page 5). Air-to-water heat pumps offer higher efficiencies through
reducing waste heat by lowering water temperatures required for circulation systems.
How to build a house affordably, and how to heat and cool it, are only part of our
challenge. Paul De Berardis argues that distributing our energy supply and managing
peak demand for electricity are our most pressing issues (page 9).
Lastly, Doug Tarry shares his “tiny house” experiences and the importance of finding
appropriately sized heating for extremely small loads (page 31).
Before we rush to build everything to net zero, let’s put our Allen keys down, make sure
we’ve read all the assembly instructions and keep our expectations realistic. BB
publisher’snote / JOHN GODDEN
2
PUBLISHER
Better Builder Magazine
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PUBLISHING EDITOR
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contact editorial@betterbuilder.ca
FEATURE WRITERS
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and leading builders to create
better, differentiated homes and
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impact on the environment.
PUBLICATION NUMBER
42408014
Copyright by Better Builder
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BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023
and we don’t have enough of it that
people can attain, what do we do?
First, let’s get the order of magnitude
right: (1) affordable, (2) sustainable/
resilient, (3) accessible.
It’s in this order or nothing gets
built, public or private. Let’s be
clear: these objectives are also not
mutually exclusive, but affordability
is the lens through which we
must view policy if the supply of
attainable housing is the goal.
In fact, if we consider operational
carbon, energy efficient homes make
some sense when we look at it from
the point of diminishing marginal
returns (when the juice is still worth
the squeeze). When we consider
embodied carbon, on the other hand,
we should re-examine carbon taxes
(on everything) through the lens of
A
ffordable housing has been
front of mind moreso today
than at any other time in
recent memory. I’ve been writing
about it since I began writing for
Better Builder many years ago. The
mismatch in housing supply and
demand is due to a series of abject
public policy failures. These failures
have brought us to an affordability and
homelessness crisis.
The Ontario government says that
we became home to over 500,000 new
immigrants and refugees last year
alone. The lack of affordable housing
hits the most vulnerable members of
our society the hardest.
We’re daydreaming if we believe
that we can now somehow increase
supply in the current regulatory and
policy environment and put the genie
back in the bottle.
Market-based housing (for rent or
ownership) is one prong of a multi-
pronged approach to providing
affordable housing. A proper mix
of low-rise, mid-rise and high-
rise housing, owned or rented or
subsidized, does not get built if it’s too
expensive to buy, rent or operate.
Irrespective of whether it’s market-
based, non-profit, social, supportive
housing or student residences,
our industry builds them and
governments regulate us (and, in some
cases, finance them).
Governments’ stated public policy
goals of doubling or tripling the
building of accessible, sustainable
and affordable housing (definitions
aside) are just government finger
painting given the current policy
and regulatory environment. Less
taxation on new housing (31% of
home prices at last count; imagine
taxing any other necessity that way)
and smarter, evidence-based public
policy and regulations by all levels of
government are needed. Regulations
have become a runaway train with no
cost-benefit analysis, and governments
regulate far too many meaningless
things (cost with no benefit). Policies
and regulations are also often in
direct conflict with each other.
As an aside, an interesting report
was recently published – see www.
nationalhousingaccord.ca for some
proposals on affordable rental housing
that governments can adopt.
If housing is a basic human need,
3
thebadatest / LOU BADA
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023
Affordability and Reasons
to Build the Hybrid House
“When the Juice is Worth the Squeeze”
4
1
4
R60
R27
R20
2 2 3
NATURAL GAS CONNECTION
SUPPLEMENTAL
5
FIGURE 1: HYBRID
HOUSE FORMULA
=
Thermal design 1 to
HERS 46 (ASHRAE 90.2)
+
Combination heat 2 2
(20% reduction) (could
be two-stage furnace)
+
Three-season
heat pump 3
+
Battery storage 4
with inverter 4
and critical circuits
+
Modest solar array 5
(5-7kW)
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023
4
winter 2022 article (“It’s Not ‘No’ – It’s
Just ‘Not Now’”). It can accommodate
heating and cooling zoning
requirements and fire separations.
A secondary suite adds to the rental
housing mix and helps homeowners
with their income to make their
home more affordable. Secondary
suites increase housing supply and
affordability at the same time. The
hybrid heating system can also take
advantage of Ontario’s new off-peak
electricity rates. (See previous page for
a diagram of a hybrid house.)
Why are some governments pushing
us to completely electrify housing
so quickly? The City of Toronto is
proposing all-electric housing to be
built beginning in 2028. In the middle
of an affordability and homelessness
crisis? Ontario’s current Building Code
is already the most robust in terms of
energy efficiency in North America. The
hybrid house is the logical next step, if
one is to be taken, for future buildings.
Given Ontario’s unique energy
generation mix and immense need and
expense to build out its energy grid in a
growing province and country, should
we and can we electrify housing so
quickly? The Independent Electricity
Operator of Ontario reported in
Pathways to Decarbonization last
December that we will have to spend
$425 billion by 2050 to decarbonize our
grid. Are we kidding ourselves? This is
the thinking that begets government
boondoggles and adds to the misery of
the most vulnerable.
Let’s get there with some common
sense and evidence-based policies if we
want to give people a place to live and a
life to live in it.
Orange juice, anyone? BB
Lou Bada is vice-
president of low-rise
construction at Starlane
Home Corporation
and on the board of
directors for the Residential Construction
Council of Ontario (RESCON).
affordability. Keep in mind that the
carbon tax is inflationary, which
then leads to higher interest rates
and financing and thereby erodes
affordability. Incentives, not penalties,
may work better for embodied carbon.
When is the juice still worth the
squeeze? The hybrid house is a good
example.
The judicious use of natural
gas with a combo heating system
for primary heating, coupled
with a standard air source heat
pump, demonstrates a 20% to 30%
energy savings over conventional
heating systems. It comes with
an approximately 30% increase
in installation costs. The systems
are proven, reliable, affordable
and attainable (see my article “A
Production Builder’s Best Strategies
for (or Before) 2030: The Hybrid
House Approach” in the summer
2022 issue). Cold weather heat pumps
are significantly more expensive
(approximately twice the cost of
a standard heat pump), are more
problematic for occupants, and still
require significant electrical resist­
ance heating to make them usable
for most occupants. A good portion
of electricity in Ontario is still not
carbon-free and subject to a carbon
tax. It has a higher cost to install and
finance compounded by a tax.
A HERS rating of 46 is the current
sweet spot at which we reach
the point of diminishing returns
on investment in the building
envelope. It is also the point where
we reach the 40% better-than-code
level for Tier 4 SB-12 equivalency
in the upcoming proposed OBC
changes. The hybrid house gives us
the next reasonable step.
The hybrid house’s heating system
also works well with the addition of
secondary suites as outlined in my
PROPOSED OBC 2024
TIER 3 @ 2.5 ACH
(20% BETTER)
• DOMESTIC HOT
WATER 10%
• AIR CONDITIONING,
LIGHTING AND
APPLIANCES 40%
• ENVELOPE AND
VENTILATION HEAT
LOSS INCLUDES
CONTINUOUS
INSULATION 50%
50%
40%
10%
Occupancy loads and envelope losses are a 50/50 split.
The use of natural gas
with a combo heating
system, coupled
with a standard air
source heat pump,
demonstrates a 20%
to 30% energy savings
over conventional
heating systems.
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023
I
’m sure you have noticed the
profusion of articles, news clips,
training sessions and even
advertising throughout our industry
(and in the general community) on
the topic of heat pumps. You should
be aware by now that heat pumps for
space heating and cooling, and even
hot water heating, will be an inevitable
part of the decarbonization plan for
the building industry – both in new
and existing buildings.
It is impossible to overlook the
inherent energy efficiency of heat
pump technology, at up to four times
the efficiency of fossil fuel-fired
heating appliances. Moreover, they
are electrically driven and provide
an opportunity for the buildings
they serve to be free of greenhouse
gas emissions. Switching to heat
pump-based HVAC systems also
matches well with the national goal to
decarbonize electrical grids by 2035.
It should be comforting to
know that the HVAC supply
chain is responding well to these
opportunities, with new products and
new controls that can serve a wider
range of applications. For example,
great advancements in cold climate
heat pumps can serve 100% of the
heating needs in all but the coldest
parts of the north, there is a wider
range of capacities in ducted and non-
ducted systems, and there are more
comprehensive control strategies that
better match the comfort expectations
of homeowners.
One very important addition to the
heat pump lineup is the introduction
of heat pumps that take heat from
outdoor air and use it to heat hot
water within the home – also known as
air-to-water heat pumps (or “ATWs”).
Most readers will know about ground
source or water-to-water heat pumps,
which are a great technology that can
provide capacity for heating hot water.
However, they require an investment
in ground loops – vertical or horizontal
– and that is not always practical in
residential applications.
Air-to-water heat pumps have an
outdoor unit that, at first glance, looks
like a traditional air conditioning
system (pictured above). This unit
compresses and expands refrigerant
to extract heat from the outdoor air,
similar to a familiar air-to-air heat
pump. However, the extracted heat
is transferred to hot water through a
hydronic distribution system rather
5
Air-to-Water Heat Pumps
industryexpert / GORD COOKE
Above: An indoor unit with
an air-to-water heat pump,
including an inline heater
and water tank storage.
Left: An outdoor unit.
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023
6
than a forced air system. The hot water
can serve radiant infloor heating
loops, radiant wall panels, hot water
fan coil units and domestic hot water
tanks. The efficiency of the heat
transfer is typically a coefficient of
performance (COP) between 3 and
5 – that is, for every unit of electricity
input to run the compressors and
pumps, 3 to 5 units of energy are
delivered into the hydronic loop. This
technology is a valuable alternative to
decarbonize existing homes with hot
water-based heating systems and in
new homes where homebuyers want
the comfort of infloor or other hot
water-based radiant systems that are
traditionally powered by fuel-fired
boilers.
While air-to-water technology
has been around for decades, it’s
only been in the last few years that
comprehensive, packaged systems
have become available for the
mainstream residential construction
industry. The leading manufacturers
offer systems where all the refrigeration
components are housed in the outdoor
unit and the only lines running into the
house are the hot and cold water return
lines. This is referred to as a “monobloc”
system and is useful because the
system can be set up without needing a
refrigeration mechanic. Your plumber
or hydronics contractor will take
responsibility for the system.
The industry is new enough
that there is not a fully developed
independent performance rating
system available yet, although the
leading manufacturers do provide
performance ratings developed similar
to the Air-Conditioning, Heating and
Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) test
protocols used for other heat pumps.
Like air-to-air heat pumps, both the
efficiency and the heating capacity of
air-to-water systems fall in the coldest
of weather. For example, in the chart
above, you can see that this system
has a heating capacity of 55,000 BTUs
per hour at an outdoor temperature
of 0°C (32°F). The unit has a capacity
of approximately 34,000 BTUs per
hour when the outdoor temperature
is –25°C (–13°F) and a hot water
output temperature of 55°C (131°F).
This change in capacity is a familiar
challenge to HVAC designers in this
new heat pump era. There are cold
climate versions of air-to-water heat
pumps now available and, in both
new and existing applications, there
is always the opportunity for backup
heating capacity.
Indeed, there are many options for
hot water heating backup. The simplest
is an inline electric heater that boosts
the water temperature to levels needed
for domestic hot water or when using
a forced air, hot water air handler.
Otherwise, hot water temperatures of
85°F to 95°F, characteristic of air-to-
water heat pumps, are a great match
for infloor radiant heating systems.
Much like the hybrid forced air heating
systems that combine a high-efficiency
gas furnace with an air-to-air heat
pump coil, a hybrid approach for air-to-
water systems would include a high-
efficiency wall-hung natural gas boiler
to inject hot water into the hydronics
system during very cold weather or
peak hot water use events.
It is intriguing to note that, in
keeping with the concept of heat
pumps, these air-to-water systems
provide chilled water for cooling
applications. In general, the chilled
water would be circulated through
a forced air fan coil to provide air
conditioning to the house. It highlights
60,000
55,000
50,000
45,000
40,000
35,000
30,000
25,000
–4ºF 5ºF 14ºF 23ºF 32ºF 36ºF 41ºF 50ºF 59ºF
–13ºF
UNIT PERFORMANCE: AV060 HEATING CAPACITY
BTUH
LLT = 131ºF
LLT = 113ºF
LLT = 95ºF
Like air-to-air heat pumps,
both the efficiency and the
heating capacity of air-to-
water systems fall in the
coldest of weather.
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023
again that there is no need for
refrigerant lines in the building,
because they are all contained within
the outdoor unit. Also, water has
incredible energy storage and delivery
capacity. A half-inch diameter pipe of
chilled water can deliver 12,000 BTUs
per hour (one ton) of cooling capacity
that would require a 10-inch diameter
duct in a traditional air conditioning
system. There is an equivalent
advantage in the distribution of heat.
This significant difference provides
flexibility and versatility to HVAC
designers and builders to simplify
routing and zoning and to save space
in the creation of comfort designs.
The versatility of hydronic
systems has led to the rise in their
popularity over the last 15 to 20
years – specifically in larger, more
complex homes and systems. That’s
why Grant Blackmore, the owner of
Eden Energy Equipment, a major
distributor of ground source heat
pumps and hydronic systems in
Ontario, has recently added an air-
to-water heat pump appliance to his
offering. He notes the importance
of completing the lineup of zero-
emissions, all-electric heat pump
appliances to serve the widest possible
range of applications. The emergence
of highly efficient, packaged air-
to-water heat pumps that operate
reliably throughout our winters
is a very important piece of the
decarbonization strategy for new and
existing homes. Visit their website at
www.edenenergy.com. BB
Gord Cooke is
president of Building
Knowledge Canada.
7
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The versatility of
hydronic systems
has led to the rise
in their popularity
over the last 15 to 20
years – specifically in
larger, more complex
homes and systems.
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BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023
Beyond this overarching federal
target, things get a little hectic trying
to keep track of all the different imple-
mentation targets. National and
provincial building codes are work­
ing towards net zero energy-ready
standards for 2030 (likely sooner
in Ontario), whereby homes and
buildings use as much energy as they
“could” produce using renewable
energy. Canada is also targeting a
decarbonized grid by 2035 through the
recent Clean Electricity Regulations
that will limit new electrical generation
capacity, which produces GHG
emissions beyond 2025. However,
Ontario’s Independent Electricity
System Operator (IESO) is more
realistically working towards a more
gradual 2050 timeline to decarbonize
the grid, which requires doubling cap­
acity from 42,000 MW today to 88,000
MW in 2050, costing an estimated $400
billion over the next 25 years.
Certain Canadian cities like
Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal
have also signed onto C40, where
these city mayors have committed
to cut their fair share of emissions in
half by 2030 and help the world limit
global heating to 1.5°C. Numerous
municipal government councils have
also declared climate emergencies,
which has spurred a litany of municipal
actions, including green building
standards. The most stringent of these
is Toronto and its mandate for zero-
emission new homes and buildings by
2028. Then, consider the Government
of Canada has also mandated all new
vehicle sales be 100% zero-emission
by 2035. As you can imagine, electrical
demand in Ontario and the rest of
Canada will soar within the next five to
25 years as all these various regulations
take effect.
However, over the last few months,
there have been several recent
developments in Ontario’s supply mix
of energy and future procurement.
The IESO has extended contracts
with at least six natural gas power
plants, after putting out a call for
facilities with the potential to increase
their generation capacity. The IESO
extended production contracts for
several gas plants to at least 2035,
as Ontario faces an energy crunch
caused by the looming closure of
the Pickering Nuclear Generating
Station, which triggered urgency to
find additional generating capacity.
Procuring additional capacity was
challenging because the criteria
required generation to be able to run
interrupted for four hours to maintain
the reliability of the grid – effectively
excluding renewable energy sources
and relying on natural gas.
Ontario Power Generation is slated
to begin decommissioning Pickering’s
reactors in the coming years, while
a current application is attempting
to keep all of Pickering’s reactors
operating for an extra two years, until
9
The Myths of Powering
Our Net Zero Future
industrynews / PAUL DE BERARDIS
D
epending on where you are in Canada – or even Ontario, for that matter –
the direction from all levels of government is that we are progressing
towards a net zero future to combat climate change. The Government of
Canada has committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2050, which means our
economy either emits no greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions or offsets its emissions.
This will ultimately lead to the mass electrification of all industries and sectors,
which, for our purposes, translates to fully electrified new homes and smart grid
(see page 10) buildings.
A natural gas power
plant operated by
Atura Power in Halton
Hills, Ontario in 2023.
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023
10
the end of 2026. The facility currently
provides 14% of the province’s
electricity. Adding to the crunch is the
ongoing Darlington nuclear plant
refurbishment project, which currently
has three of its four reactors offline
and won’t be completed until 2026.
Bruce Power, the producer of 30% of
Ontario’s electricity, is also slated for
refurbishment in the coming decades.
The electricity operator recom­
mended the province procure
4,000 MW of new energy capacity,
equivalent to powering the City of
Toronto, to keep up with demand by
2025. Approximately 1,500 MW of that
need will now come from natural gas
generation. Without this additional
natural gas generation, the IESO
would have to rely on emergency
actions – like conservation appeals
and rotating blackouts – to stabilize
the grid, like what California has
experienced.
This supply crunch comes as
demand for electricity is expected
to soar alongside the adoption of
electric vehicles, further driven
by Ottawa’s 2035 zero-emission
electric vehicle mandate. Electric
vehicle use is expected to increase the
amount of electricity Ontario uses for
transportation from 900,000 MWh in
2023 to 26 million MWh by 2042. There
will be additional demand for future
electrical capacity from rail transit
electrification, industrial electrification
and the regulatory push for building
electrification.
The IESO was tasked with reporting
on the feasibility of a natural gas
moratorium – specifically, phasing
out natural gas-produced electricity
by 2030. It concluded that doing so
would cost $27 billion, hike monthly
residential bills by 60% (or roughly
$100) per month, as well as cause
rotating blackouts and an unreliable
grid. The report highlighted that
Ontario still needs natural gas
generation to provide variable
production flexibility in the GTA as
well as during extreme temperatures.
Once the situation with nuclear power
generation has stabilized, non-emitting
forms of supply will be added to the
system in time to keep pace with
demand growth. The province will also
need to decide what kind of low-carbon
energy production it wants to have
going forward. The IESO provided a
general idea of what might work, such
as a mix of energy storage, imported
electricity, solar, wind, hydroelectric,
and a big emphasis on nuclear power,
including small nuclear modular
reactors. With that said, the IESO
noted, the options will change as the
technology does.
This begs the question: why
are building codes and municipal
green building standards rushing to
implement zero-emission or net zero
energy-ready homes by 2030 or sooner
if decarbonizing the grid will take at
least another two decades? Should
there not be some greater policy and
implementation alignment between
the various levels of government? The
underlying fundamental of achieving
net zero energy or zero emissions may
be less abrupt if homes and buildings
continue being electrified by emitting
forms of power generation.
This deeper dive into the future of
Ontario’s electricity supply mix drew
my attention to a recent analysis put
out with the assistance of the Net Zero
Energy Housing Council and National
Resources Canada, which looked at the
THERMAL POWER PLANTS SOLAR PANELS GAS HOLDERS
CONSUMERS CONTROL CENTRES POWER STATIONS
WINDMILLS DAMS TRANSFORMERS
STOCK
:
MACROVECTOR
/
FREEPIK
A reliable smart grid
requires planning,
investment and
time for upgrading
infrastructure.
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023
measured versus predicted energy
performance of net zero energy and
net zero energy-ready homes. What
caught my attention was some of
the glaring discrepancies between
predicted and actual energy use, both
in terms of energy use, natural gas
consumption and solar photovoltaic
power generation. Although it was
only a small dataset of homes, the
results show that actual energy
use was roughly 40% higher than
predicted, natural gas consumption
was 165% higher than predicted and
solar generation achieved 78% of what
was anticipated. Some of the lessons
learned and explanations of the
notable discrepancies point to the fact
that the air source heat pumps may
not have been operating as predicted,
potentially due to incorrect cut-off
temperatures, excessive cycling,
inadequate airflow or inadequate
modelling by HOT2000. With respect
to the less-than-predicted solar power
generation, potential reasons for the
shortfall point to solar systems not
meeting their intended performance
output, shading and inadequate
modelling by HOT2000.
Looking at this holistically,
regulatory policy pressures are
driving up the demand for more
power generation as cars and homes/
buildings are forced to be electrified,
yet aging nuclear power generation
infrastructure is requiring more
power be supplied with natural gas
production. So, we are pushing homes
off natural gas and cars off gasoline to
instead power them with additional
electricity derived by burning natural
gas. This counterintuitive and ironic
phenomenon will be impacting
disjointed municipal, provincial and
federal policies heavily for the next 10
years – and even the next 25 years as
we work towards decarbonizing the
electrical grid. This becomes even more
concerning as you consider the actual
performance analysis of those net zero
energy-ready and net zero homes,
which used significantly more energy
and natural gas and achieved less solar
power generation than anticipated.
The underwhelming performance of
these homes is not meeting the very
objective of creating net zero energy-
ready building codes, which is further
exacerbated by the current power
generation situation facing Ontario
over the next 25 years. It’s the same
as advertising an electric vehicle (EV)
to have 400 kilometres of range when
it can achieve only 260 kilometres in
reality (which is why there are currently
several class action lawsuits against
various EV manufacturers).
Now don’t get me wrong – I’m not
saying we should stop what we’re doing
and proceed with business as usual.
But these municipal green standards
and the net zero energy-ready
measures may need to be revisited if
they are not delivering the intended
results of significantly reducing energy
consumption and, more importantly,
natural gas emissions. Instead of
regulations simply pointing to net
zero energy-ready specifications by
a certain date, we may need a more
strategic and realistic natural gas
transition strategy to better inform the
decision-making process as building
regulations evolve to achieve climate
change objectives. This is where more
moderate approaches can serve us
well, especially over the next 10 to 15
years, until new non-emitting power
generation capacity comes online.
On the transportation front,
solutions like hybrid and plug-in
hybrid vehicles have a role to play
in combination with purely electric
vehicles. With respect to our residential
sector, the same line of thinking should
apply – regulatory and technical
provisions should emphasize fuel-
switching technologies (hybrid heat
was featured in my last article) and
taking advantage of off-peak electricity
with ever-advancing battery storage
technology (solar isn’t the only
solution). Most importantly, wherever
all these differing government policies
ultimately land, they must be mindful
of the current housing affordability
challenge consumers are facing. It’s
not just a matter of affordability for
getting into a suitable home or rental,
but maintaining affordability of the
ongoing utility rates as well, especially
given the looming infrastructure costs
to deliver a decarbonized grid.
All I’m trying to say is: let’s keep an
open mind. It’s not all net zero or bust.
Over the next 25 years, there will be so
many new technological developments
and advancements. Government
policies need to be able to adapt and
evolve as technology does – otherwise,
they will prevent any out-of-the-box
thinking and simply force us down a
single path with blinders on. BB
Paul De Berardis is
RESCON’s director of
building science and
innovation. Email him at
deberardis@rescon.com.
11
The report highlighted
that Ontario still needs
natural gas generation
to provide variable
production flexibility
in the GTA as well
as during extreme
temperatures.
Better Builder Magazine, Issue 47 / Autumn 2023
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023
But the other “soft” reason is
human – that is, long-term benefits to
people. Iain Stuart, a married dad of
two young kids – and national sales
manager for Carlisle Spray Foam
Insulation Canada – agrees.
After graduating from the Univer­
sity of Windsor with a BSc in biology,
Stuart started work as a tech for a
mineral wool insulation company. The
biology degree included physics, which
helped him understand the technical
side of insulation. He eventually moved
into architectural sales to promote
better insulation to architects.
After nine years, he moved to
Carlisle Spray Foam as general mana­
ger and is now national sales manager.
Spray foam, he felt, had great potential
for reducing energy consumption and
positively impacting global warming.
And Carlisle’s product, he felt,
was particularly effective. “It’s the
spray foam with the highest long-
term thermal resistance (LTTR). That
term is kind of like R-value, but it’s the
nomenclature used in the spray foam
insulation industry.”
As an industry, foam insulation has
undergone changes due to increased
requirements to reduce global warming
potential in its manufacturing.
Spray-applied foam insulation offers
insulation value as well as reduction in
air leakage in the building envelope.
Typically, builders have used half-
pound or two-pound foams to ensure
air barrier continuity, especially in
areas where it is difficult to maintain
continuity of sheet-applied air barriers
(such as rooms over garages).
What builders may not realize is
that two-pound foams have increased
structural stability, which is an
advantage to both air and vapour
barriers. The Carlisle product, Stuart
says, is also the “most dimensionally
stable in Canada.” In other words,
Stuart explains, “you measure a cube
before placing it in an environmental
chamber for 28 days. Every foam will
change in that chamber, but ours has
the least amount of change.”
He says some spray foams can
shrink, which is what Carlisle aims
to avoid. Its R-value is the highest in
Canada, at 6.7 per inch (four-inch thick
foam), and is capable of getting into
nooks and crannies in the building.
Another benefit is “zero field issues, so
zero headaches for builders,” Stuart
adds. “It’s so consistently stable that
there is no shrinkage and no need to
fix once it’s installed in new homes.
That takes a lot of worry, time and
effort out of a builder’s hands.”
The foam is such an effective
product that Campanale Homes
selected it to use in its low-HERS zero
energy-ready demonstration home.
“Campanale builds a lot of top-shelf
homes with low HERS ratings,”
Stuart says. “And they wanted to try
something new and better to achieve
the lowest HERS score possible.”
The project is a test case for the
builder to eliminate the use of a 6 mil
13
The Miracle of
Spray Foam Insulation
sitespecific / ALEX NEWMAN
I
f people’s eyes glaze over when you tell them about spray foam insulation, it’s
because they don’t understand the big picture. It’s hard to imagine that something
as simple as insulation could have such an impact on global warming. But it does.
Just follow the money if you don’t believe it. There’s about US$1.39 billion in the
global spray foam insulation market and it’s growing over 6% each year. Overall,
it’s a $27 billion industry and climbing due to the growing demand for energy-
efficient buildings that reduce heat transfer and energy consumption.
Two pound foam is commonly used
in garages to reduce air leakage and
enhance homeowner comfort.
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023
14
poly air vapour barrier in the main
walls. Further, four-inch foam in the
wall cavities will increase insulation
levels to 26.8 (4" × 6.7") while also
increasing airtightness. Lastly, the
foam will increase the structure’s
strength against extreme winds by
adding lateral strength.
While the product has excellent
qualities, spray foams in general are
not 100% enviro-friendly. As Stuart
explains, “spray foam has a matrix
of polymer and gas bubbles within
bubbles, and originally the industry
used chlorofluorocarbons [CFCs],
which create holes in the ozone layer.
To change that, the industry did
eventually shift to hydrofluorocarbons
[HFCs], which do not contribute to
ozone holes. But it did produce green-
house gas and therefore contributed to
the potential for global warming.”
However, the industry continued to
research and develop to meet the chal­
lenge by minimizing Global Warming
Potential values (GWPs), with each unit
equivalent to one CO2 molecule.
The old HFC was equivalent to
about 700 or 800 CO2 molecules, but as
of January 1, 2021, the industry began
using hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs), which
has a GWP of just one. “Clearly, the
improvements are significant,” Stuart
says. It’s an industry-wide standard
now, and all spray foam manufacturers
must use it.
Manufacturers can also up their
game with an environmental product
declaration (EPD), which reveals
exactly how they make their products.
This standardized document, Stuart
says, “was pushed by architects and
designers to force everyone in the
industry to show their cards, so to
speak. And it allows builders and
architects to compare each product.”
There are some housing forms
Iain Stuart, Manager, Sales for
Carlisle Spray Foam Insulation.
SANTEEZ
Y
MEDIA
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023
that work better with mineral wool
batt insulation than others. It’s less
effective in townhomes because the
walls between the units need to be
up to spray the foam in, whereas in
a detached home you can spray the
foam onto studs before installing
drywall. But Carlisle has been working
on designs to install spray foam into
homes built very close together.
To be more competitive, the
com­
pany recently completed ULC
fire-rated designs for one-hour and
two-hour fire ratings. To date, builders
have been restricted to mineral wool
in homes built very close together
because of that insulation’s fire
retardancy.
So how does a builder get a hold of
this product?
If a builder wants to use Carlisle
foam, they need to go through a
certified contractor. “That’s because
of the National Building Code, which
requires spray foam contractors to
be certified through a certification
body. There are only a small handful of
certification bodies in Canada,” Stuart
explains.
Mixing chemicals must be done
right, Stuart says, which is why it’s
critical to abide by the rules. “Our
name is on that product, and we’re
known for quality and we want to keep
it that way.”
It also makes financial sense to use
a certified installer rather than take a
DIY approach by the builder, he adds.
“The equipment is expensive and
needs to be maintained regularly to
ensure product performance.”
While spray foam costs about
double what fiberglass batts cost,
Carlisle is looking at ways to be
competitive. Their incentive program
is just in its infancy but it shows the
company’s desire to work with builders.
Carlisle also offers a warranty
covering up to $50,000 for material,
labour and relocation costs (if a
homeowner has to move to a hotel
while issues are being fixed).
“No other Canadian spray foam
company offers that,” Stuart boasts. BB
Alex Newman is a writer,
editor and researcher at
alexnewmanwriter.com.
15
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ROCKWOOL®
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www.rockwool.com
What it’s made of
makes all the difference.
ROCKWOOL Comfortbatt®
An exterior insulation product for use in both
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where wood or steel studs are used.
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A residential insulation product for interior
walls constructed with wood or steel studs,
where superior fire resistance and acoustical
performance are required.
ROCKWOOL Comfortboard®
An exterior non-structural insulation
sheathing that provides a continuous layer of
insulation around the building envelope.
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023
16
featurestory / ROB BLACKSTIEN
N
o one would ever argue that
carbon reduction is a bad idea.
On this much, we can all agree.
However, the road to meeting
national and global carbon reduction
goals is rife with challenges and
obstacles. In Ontario, for instance,
what would happen if every house in
the province magically converted to
electrically run mechanical systems
tomorrow?
Well, for starters, the power grid
would go down.
But we’d also have millions of
Ontarians unable to afford to heat
or cool their homes, thanks to
ridiculously high utility bills – not to
mention the cost of replacing all those
fossil fuel-burning appliances.
And while a full-scale switch from
natural gas to electricity would be
great for the environment, cost is a
major concern – especially right now,
when a lot of people are struggling
financially. Even with the provincial
electricity rebate, the high price will
prove untenable.
A bridge in the form of less expen­
sive – yet more environmentally
friendly – solutions is clearly required,
and thankfully there are companies
that recognize this dynamic and have
been working to solve it for some time.
Enter integrated combination hybrid
(also known as “dual fuel”) heat devices.
Airmax Technologies Inc. and Glow
Brand has been at the combination
boiler game for many years and has
already dabbled in the next evolution:
hybrid devices (see “No Country for Old
Ways” in the winter 2020 issue, page
16), a solution that first surfaced just
before the COVID-19 pandemic. (For
more about Airmax, see “Boiling Over
the Competition” in the fall 2018 issue.)
Panasonic is newer to the game but is
already considered a household name in
the ductless split heat pump technology
sector. Sonny Pirrotta, North American
Sales Manager – IAQ Solutions, says the
company will launch two new central
heat pump solutions this fall: an all-
electric option and an electric outdoor
heat pump with a cased coil capable of
universally matching up with any gas
furnace or combination system.
He expects the universal option to
really help increase adoption because
it’s ideal for builders and contractors
who are hesitant about changing
what they are used to. Pirrotta thinks
builders will be more open to this
because, if you pitch a pricier solution
than what they usually use, all builders
hear is that sound when adults speak in
Peanuts cartoons.
The beauty of this solution is that,
if something goes wrong with your
AC unit but your gas furnace is still
dependable, instead of replacing the
AC with another massive condensing
unit outside, you can swap it with a
slim, quiet, inverter-driven condenser
that’s capable of co-existing with your
furnace. Voilà! One less fossil fuel
appliance.
Panasonic and Airmax are current­
ly
working on integrating Panasonic’s
cased coil and outdoor unit with an
Airmax Hydronic Air Handler and Glow
combi boiler to create a system that
will heat, cool and handle domestic hot
water (DHW).
This is the kind of solution that
“builders are looking for,” Pirrotta
suggests, because it checks the low-cost
box (because the dual fuel capability
means they don’t have to use premium-
priced cold-weather heat pumps) and
it’s one less mechanical piece required.
One of the best parts of this type of
solution is that the homeowner has a
measure of control in terms of utility
costs. “It all comes back to the cost
of the energy you’re buying,” Airmax
P.Eng Brian Jackson suggests.
MIDDLE GROUND
Shifting from fossil fuels to electricity won’t happen overnight,
but integrated combination hybrid heat systems help bridge the gap.
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023
“When you give the homeowner
a hybrid heating system, they’ve got
flexibility. They can choose at which
point they shift the energy,” he adds.
Because the heat pump’s efficiency
wanes as it gets colder, “it makes
sense at a certain point [to not] use
the heat pump.”
The use of a Honeywell heat pump
specific WIFI enabled thermostat with
outdoor sensor for remote adjustment
gives the homeowner an additional
level of control.
Pirrotta says that, in an effort to
phase out fossil fuels, new builds in
places like B.C. and California no
longer include gas appliances. “But
that won’t work very well in Ontario,”
he suggests. Not yet, anyway.
Jackson says the government is
starting to view electric appliances
– especially heat pumps, which are
very efficient – much more favourably.
And if a heat pump is identified as the
primary heat source, the EnerGuide
rating drops 10 points using HOT2000
modelling software, he adds.
This is how heat pump technology
surged in popularity, Jackson explains,
because designers figured they didn’t
need an efficient combi system, high-
performance windows or R-60 in the
roof. The thinking, Jackson says, is “all I
gotta do is put a heat pump in.”
Heat pump efficiency declines in the
dead of winter, simply because they use
heat from the air and there isn’t a lot
of heat. There is a point where back-up
energy makes sense. The idea here is to
use the gas-powered combi system to
heat the home in December, January
and February (and have it make DHW)
while using the electric heat pump to
heat and cool the house for the other
nine months. In other words, about
three quarters of the year, we won’t
be using much fossil fuel in a home
powered by such a solution.
Of course, the other reason why
such a system makes sense is that, as
we alluded to above, you can’t simply
shift to electric overnight. Jackson
explains that, in the race to reduce
carbon, “policy makers and advocates
seem to be on a mission – at any cost –
to move to electrical-based hot water
and space heating systems.”
That’s a fine concept in theory, and
while some people recognize the issues
associated with such a rapid change,
“most act blind,” he says.
Electric-based HVAC systems will
require more power, but our capacity
for power generation and distribution
is already mature. Nuclear plants?
Well, they’ve exceeded their expected
life cycle, Jackson suggests, and we’ve
all seen time and time again that our
power distribution infrastructure is not
exactly robust. Further, nuclear power
plants cannot be shut down at night.
As a result, there is a huge surplus of
electrical generation. Utilities reward
off-peak users with low time-of-use
(TOU) rates. GTA homeowners could
run their heat pumps at night (11 p.m.
to 7 a.m.) with electricity costing 2.4
cents per kilowatt, or 75% less than the
peak rate.
Combine these truisms with
soaring electricity costs, and it’s clear
that we need to move to a hybrid heat
17
Brian Jackson, P.Eng (left) of Airmax
Technologies Inc. and Sonny Pirrotta
of Panasonic Canada Inc. show off
the demonstration unit.
Combination hybrid heat: High velocity air
handler and heat pump cased coil used
with a combi boiler. This system was also
installed in Country Homes’ super-semi.
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023
AIR CONDITIONING
IN SUMMER
AIR SOURCE HEAT PUMP
IN SHOULDER MONTHS
DOMESTIC COLD
WATER SUPPLY
DOMESTIC HOT
WATER SUPPLY
AIR CONDITIONING
IN SUMMER
AIR SOURCE HEAT PUMP
IN SHOULDER MONTHS
DOMESTIC COLD
WATER SUPPLY
DOMESTIC HOT
WATER SUPPLY
18
system that provides flexibility to the
homeowner, at least for now.
“This system is efficient and can
reduce CO2 emissions by up to 50%,
and hedges against near-future
brownouts and escalating electrical
energy costs,” Jackson summarizes.
However, getting to this point
hasn’t been seamless. For Airmax in
particular, it’s been a long, hard road
to bring this technology to the masses.
Nearly a decade ago, Jackson
says the company began testing its
equipment towards the CSA P.9-
11 standard, which was written to
clarify how all the components in a
combi system perform when they’re
connected together.
At the time, he says, they were
using Airmax and Glow equipment
combined with other vendors’
wall-hung water heaters. With just
one lab in Canada, trials were very
expensive, costing around $14,000 to
$15,000 to test one fan coil with one
heater, Jackson explains. Considering
Airmax/Glow makes seven different
water heaters and eight different
fan coils, testing them all was “not
feasible.”
All told, Jackson says they spent
close to a quarter million dollars on
testing. “When I reflect back, I’d have
to say I believe the standard’s intent
was good, but it may have missed the
mark,” he suggests.
One of the main issues is
application oversight. Testing results
are documented in the Combo
Performance Specification Summary,
which outlines the efficiencies of the
equipment, all the components, set
points and power consumption. In
the field, for the system to achieve the
stated efficiencies, everything must be
duplicated in terms of installation and
equipment, meaning the exact same
water heater, fan coil, storage tank,
thermostatic mixing valve, DHW set
point, heating set point, pump, and
options (outdoor air reset).
However, Jackson says, HVAC
designers and energy modellers seek a
high thermal performance factor from
the P9-11 tests to input into software.
The result is oversized equipment that
offers capacities at 150% to 300% of the
heat load.
“This is just bad design,” he
explains. It results in massive energy
loss because “the system is going to
cycle on and off, on and off, and the
efficiency is going to be absolutely
horrid.” Unfortunately, the testing
favoured large burners, leading to
theoretically higher efficiencies for
software inputs.
The upshot? The manufacturer is
spending all this money on testing
and contractors are misapplying it, yet
everyone is accepting that it’s being
done properly. “So, after we ended up
doing quite a few tests, we said ‘you
know what? We’re out.’”
At the end of the day, even a high-
efficiency system can become highly
inefficient when it’s not being used in
the right situation. Solutions must be
designed with heating capacity, DHW
➊ Glow Brand combination
boiler
➋ High velocity air handler
➌ Panasonic cased coil
for 3-season heat pump
➍ Panasonic inverter
heat pump
➎ Thermostat
➏ Outdoor sensor
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023
capacity and overall system efficiency
factored in.
“When they don’t look at all three
items, you can end up with a system
that’s good on paper but actually
is quite horrendous,” says Jackson.
“Frankly, we got sick of fighting it.”
Yet Airmax and Glow Brand
continues to seek ways to innovate.
It’s currently trying to make its gas-
fired equipment run on hydrogen
blends, which will mean zero GHGs.
This technology is quite advanced
in Europe, and we’re finally starting
to see applications in Ontario. We
currently have Glow Brand product
that can run on a 20% blend but we do
not have a standard to certify to.
Last year, Enbridge announced
the first hydrogen blending initiative
in North America for 3,600 homes
in Markham. It’s just a 2% hydrogen
blend, so it does not exceed the thres­
hold that requires creating a standard.
That’s why Airmax’s and Glow’s
development is going “very slowly,”
Jackson explains, as committees are
currently exploring what it will take
to write a standard for this type of
product. For now, adoption is stunted,
and even once there is a standard,
we’ll need a full-scale infrastructure
replacement to take full advantage
because the existing equipment will
not provide the same result, he says.
Therefore, Jackson predicts,
hydrogen will likely first become
popular in the industrial sector before
any widespread residential adoption.
Realistically, integrated
combination hybrid systems are the
best path forward for the time being.
“When you evaluate where we are now
in HVAC designs, where the legislation
is going and the limitations of our
current infrastructure, the hybrid
solution is the best, most cost-effective
solution,” Jackson concludes.
Right now, it’s a win-win-win
approach, he adds. The homeowner
gains the flexibility to choose their
dominant fuel, the builder doesn’t
have to pay a large premium for a
cold climate heat pump, and the
environment wins with less fossil fuels
being employed.
Jackson says that, given the current
landscape, we could be using this
solution until close to the midpoint
of the century. “The infrastructure
problems will not be remedied any
time soon, so we may be using the
hybrid system going forward for 15 to
20 years.”
More importantly, if we’re going
to meet our carbon reduction goals,
this may be the only chance we have,
Pirrotta says. “There is no doubt in
my mind that, by having integrated
low-carbon hybrid heating solutions
that are reliable, [it] will speed up the
adoption by builders and contractors,”
he predicts.
“Without adoption of these types of
solutions, we will quickly realize that
meeting carbon [reduction] goals will
almost be impossible.”
For our money, that’s a darned good
reason to give these types of solutions
some serious consideration. BB
Rob Blackstien is a
Toronto-based freelance
writer. Pen-Ultimate.ca   
19
519-489-2541
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BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023
20
buildernews / HOWARD CHAU
Now It’s Personal…Again
This is a follow-up to a previous article,
“Now It’s Personal,” from the winter
2022 issue, which recounts how Howard
Chau and his wife, Dalin Vornn, recently
purchased an all-original, 20-year-old
subdivision home and made replacements
to everything from mechanical systems to
thermal improvements.
Superior hot water delivery
for everyday life.
I
have analyzed the utility bills for two full
years: one year prior to the mechanical
upgrade and one year after. The data
shows a 19% savings for natural gas and an
11% savings for electricity.
The natural gas savings are due to the
installation of a combination system. AO
Smith’s ENV50N condensing water heater
and an AirMax 70e LV air handler replaced
a condensing furnace and power-vented
hot water tank. The electricity savings came
from a 16 SEER, two-ton air conditioner and
electronically commutated motor (ECM)
in the AirMax air handler. In addition,
the basement insulation was extended
from R-12 half height to full height, and
the attic insulation increased from R-31 to
R-60. Based on the REMRate modelling,
these insulation upgrades resulted in a 4%
savings in natural gas.
The takeaway is that the combo system
saves about 15% when the attic and base-
ment improvements are accounted for. It’s
important to note that the condensing tank
does not modulate as other combination
hot water heaters do. Further, the smaller
output was enough to provide portable hot
water and was sized to meet the new combo
standard, namely CSA B-214. After these
improvements, the designed heat loss on my
house was 32,000 BTUs per hour. If the Code
harmonization moves to Tier 3, this system
is robust enough to heat the reference
house, which is about 26,000 BTUs per hour.
The experiment was a success as we
proved a house built to the 1997 Building
Code, with a few improvements, can be
heated with a relatively small combination
system. BB
Howard Chau is senior
technical advisor
at Clearsphere.
Better Builder Magazine, Issue 47 / Autumn 2023
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023
22
sitespecific / MARC HUMINILOW YCZ
“The experience opened our eyes
to the need for offering builders a
turnkey solution to on-site renew­
able energy development, so we
opened RGC Energy, a renewable
division of our company,” says
Rinomato. The formation of RGC,
established two years ago, was the
result of considerable planning
and coordination with the Ontario
Energy Board (OEB), different
levels of government and utilities.
Under licence with the OEB,
RGC offers a unique and sustainable
solution to meet the energy needs
of homebuilders, homeowners,
community builders and businesses
across Ontario. The company designs,
installs, owns and operates residential
and commercial solar systems, selling
the electricity generated through net
metering directly to the occupants.
Rinomato describes RGC as a third-
party ownership model that is unique
in Ontario. “Partnering with Country
Homes, it allows for an integrated
approach, working closely with builders
and local utilities in the planning and
development phase of projects,” he
says. “By offering competitive pricing
structures that protect against rising
energy costs, combined with excellent
customer service, we help homeowners
and businesses save money on
their energy bills and reduce their
environmental impact.”
Solar Solutions for Builders
C
hristian Rinomato, head of sustainability at Country Homes, a division of
Rinomato Group of Companies, is an enthusiastic proponent of low-carbon
building. In 2022, his company was the proud recipient of the Canadian Net
Zero Builder award in the RESNET Cross-Border Builder Challenge for its discovery
homes in a Milton development. With a net zero goal, the project set out to explore
the inclusion of renewable energy by pushing the capabilities of the buildings, the
built environments and the new technologies involved in all-electric homes.
“The experience opened
our eyes to the need
for offering builders
a turnkey solution to
on-site renew­able
energy development.”
STOCK
:
PETOVARGA
Better Builder Magazine, Issue 47 / Autumn 2023
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023
24
RGC offers homeowners three
pricing options for the clean energy
generated by its systems:
1. A power purchase agreement,
where the homeowner pays for the
electricity generated from the solar
system, similar to how they would
purchase from a utility. (They
don’t pay for the solar panels.)
Set up as a net-metering account,
homeowners will see a decrease
on their utility bill for using solar.
They will receive credits for extra
unused solar energy generated,
which is fed back to the grid as
clean, renewable energy.
2. Rent the equipment. Homeowners
can opt in to a rental agreement
for the equipment, which includes
the use of solar energy and all
maintenance required for the
system. They are billed a fixed
monthly fee.
3. Purchase the equipment from RGC,
the cost of which is included in the
final purchase price of their home.
In addition to residential build­
ings, RGC has worked on several
commercial building projects in
Vaughan. Similar in structure to its
residential model, the installation
offers companies several advantages:
increased property value; no upfront
investment; predictable energy
pricing; a visible environmental
commitment; a contribution to
their environmental, social and
governance (ESG) goals; and, the
obvious one, substantial savings on
electricity costs.
For both residential and commercial
applications, RGC coordinates with
local utilities to appropriately size the
infrastructure to accommodate solar
within the community, and works
closely with project management
teams to ensure that timelines and
deadlines are met. The timeline for
solar installations is minimal – usually
completed within a day. The system is
managed by RGC both remotely and via
technicians if there are any issues. All
equipment comes with a warranty for
performance and workmanship, which
RGC manages to ensure that they are
maintained.
According to Rinomato, RGC Energy
is currently working with Country
Homes on a pioneering 400-home
residential subdivision project in
Brampton, which he says will be solar-
powered and on the path to net zero.
“RGC is leading a new wave in solar
energy accessibility as we transition to
a net zero world, looking first to utilize
solar energy in the Ontario market,”
he says. “With our Milton project as a
springboard, this will involve a focus
on clean energy, a more balanced grid
and an increase in electrification.”
In keeping with this mantra,
Country Homes is currently
partnering with an electric vehicle
(EV) charging manufacturer to offer
EV charging as standard in its single-
family homes, with level 2 chargers in
its subdivisions, low-rise and hi-rise
multi-family homes.
Rinomato acknowledges that there
are challenges (and opportunities)
ahead. “On the building envelope side,
there’s a potential to help consumers
reduce their electrical load,” he says. In
the bigger picture, he adds, microgrids
and community net metering should
be considered. A microgrid is a self-
contained electrical network that
allows consumers to generate their
own electricity on-site and use it when
they need it most. With community
net metering, excess electricity
generated in a community can be
sent to the grid for credits, which can
be shared by multiple residents and
businesses. “We need innovation in
low-rise subdivisions, including work
on microgrids and community net
metering to allow for solar energy
growth in the sector.” BB
Marc Huminilowycz
is a senior writer. He
lives and works in
a low-energy home
built in 2000. As
such, he brings first-hand experience
to his writing on technology and
residential housing and has published
numerous articles on the subject.
With community net metering, excess electricity
generated in a community can be sent to
the grid for credits, which can be shared
by multiple residents and businesses.
Better Builder Magazine, Issue 47 / Autumn 2023
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023
26
industrynews / BALRAJ BANGER
H
ave you noticed you have
rooms in your home that feel
just the right temperature, all
year round, while others feel too hot
or too cold in the summer or winter
months?
Assuming your HVAC system was
designed, installed, and maintained
professionally, the reason for the
inconsistent temperatures may be
due to the lack of air balancing and
air duct leakage. With the former,
homeowners incorrectly assume the
reason for this room temperature
discomfort is an undersized furnace
or air conditioner. Their fix is to install
supplementary heating (i.e. room
heaters) or cooling (i.e., split/window
air conditioners) devices, which is
costly and increases your utility bills.
The Raj Volume Damper (RVD) is a
device that will help eliminate the hot
and cold spots in your home caused
by imbalanced air distribution.
Along with improving home comfort,
it will reduce your utility bill and
your carbon footprint. It is a manual
device that will make your home more
comfortable and save energy.
To maintain comfort in a room, the
conditioned airflow rate must be as
per the HVAC design for your home,
however this air flow rate is different
for summer and winter. Current
practice uses a device called a volume
damper, installed near the floor
register (where the air is discharged
into the room) using a wing nut to
achieve this airflow rate.
The position of the volume damper
needs to be adjusted by a qualified
technician and locked based on the
designed air flow rate, throughout
the home, based on the season. Access
to the wing nut is required to lock
the volume damper to the necessary
position effectively. Unfortunately, the
wing nut becomes inaccessible during
construction after drywalling.
Air Balancing sets the volume
damper position to the designed
airflow rates. Being close to the
furnace, the basement and main floor
supply runs deliver higher airflow. The
supply runs on the second floor; being
farther from the furnace provides less
airflow. It is necessary to regulate the
airflow among these supply runs as
well as sealing supply ductwork.
As the wing nut of a conventional
volume damper is not accessible after
drywall, effective air balancing cannot
be achieved with the conventional
volume damper. Another way, as
mentioned in building code, is
adjustable and lockable volume control
devices such as registers. But as the
register is not sealed to the air supply
boot, the air leaks.
No air balancing report is provided
by the home builder for your home, and
it is not required by Building Officials.
Some municipalities may start to ask
for this report from the homebuilder as
a condition of occupancy.
In summary, despite installing
efficient and expensive equipment, you
may have uneven heating and cooling
in your home unless air balancing is
performed for your HVAC system.
RVD, developed by Pioneer HVAC
Putting a Damper
on Bad Air Distribution
Balraj Banger, CEO of
Pioneer HVAC systems
(left), and Sarabjit Banger.
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023
Systems, is designed to be
adjusted to any position
during air balancing
without the need of a wing
nut. It will lock itself and it
can be easily adjusted to a new
setting. The RVD ensures almost 100%
of the designed air flow rates can be
achieved provided your HVAC system
is designed, installed, sealed and
maintained professionally.
RVD is engineered to last. The
superior materials used during
the manufacturing process ensure
years of trouble-free service for
homeowners. They can perform
the seasonal air balancing on their
own home without bearing any
additional service costs after the
initial commissioning of the system
by the experts.
RVD can be installed during
your home construction phase but
due to its unique design, RVD can
also be installed in a fully finished
home with few exceptions. Prior
to the introduction of the RVD this
was not a possibility; today it can
replace the conventional volume
damper in your home.
Sarabjit Banger
points out, “the most
challenging part of
replacing a conventional
volume damper with RVD
is taking out the screws at
the supply boot end.” Banger highly
recommends installing the RVDs for
the main floor and basement before
finishing your basement. “It gives
homeowners the ability to direct more
air flow to the top floors,” he adds.
John Godden of Clearsphere has
many years of experience balancing
forced air systems and thinks this is
a much needed improvement to any
duct work system.
Balraj Banger’s achievements
include developing India’s first dual
suspension bicycle, building a proto-
type in 2010. In the same year he also
built a prototype for the programma-
ble digital inverter, designed to save
domestic energy costs akin to Tesla’s
Power Wall launched in May 2015.
As homes become more thermally
efficient, air distribution systems
become the key to comfort. With the
advent of “zoned” systems and air
balancing with sealed duct work,
proper controls and balancing
dampers become a vital part of a high
performing distribution system.
RVD has Patent Pending status for
its design in various countries.
Contact 416-312-8466 installation
of the RVD. Visit www.pioneerhvac.ca
for more information. BB
Balraj Banger is the CEO of
Pioneer HVAC Systems Inc.
27
As homes become
more thermally
efficient, air
distribution systems
become the key
to comfort.
This rating is available for
homes built by leading edge
builders who have chosen to
advance beyond current
energy efficiency programs
and have taken the next step
on the path to full sustainability.
BetterThanCode
LowCostCodeCompliancewith
theBetterThanCodePlatform
BetterThanCodeUsestheHERSIndex
to Measure Energy Efficiency
TheLowertheScoretheBetter
Measureable and Marketable
80 60 40 20
This Platform helps Builders with
Municipal Approvals, Subdivision
Agreements and Building Permits.
Navigating the performance path
can be complicated. A code change
happened in 2017 which is causing
some confusion. A new code will be
coming in 2024. How will you
comply with the new requirements?
Let the BTC Platform – including
the HERS Index – help you secure
Municipal Subdivision Approvals
and Building Permits and enhance
your marketing by selling your
homes’ energy efficiency.
betterthancode.ca
Email info@clearsphere.ca
or call 416-481-7517
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023
28
buildernews / MARC HUMINILOW YCZ
Enter Job Ready, a program initi­
ated three years ago through the
Ontario Ministry of Labour’s Skills
Development Fund, administered by
the Ontario Home Builders’ Associa­
tion (OHBA) acting as the program
proponent. The Job Ready Program
matches unskilled employees with
qualifying homebuilding organiza­
tions across Ontario, managing all
aspects of employee recruitment to
provide builders with pre-qualified,
screened, safety-trained, PPE-
equipped and onboarded candidates.
Employees participating in the
Job Ready Program receive ongoing
weekly support to ensure their
success with their new employers.
Entry-level construction roles include
general labourers, carpentry assist­
ants, warranty assistants, sales and
administrative support, décor centre
assistants and more. At the end of
an employee’s three-month paid
placement, the builder can receive a
wage subsidy of up to $1,500.
“In the next 10 years, 92,000 trades­
people will be retiring. That will create
a massive gap,” says Sajida Jiwani, chief
financial officer and chief operating
officer at the OHBA. “Not only will we
need to recruit a staggering 116,000
workers in that time, but we will also
need to build 1.5 million homes.”
EnerQuality, Canada’s market
leader in residential green building
programs, is the delivery agent for the
Job Ready Program. buildABILITY
Corporation, a company dedicated
to promoting innovation within the
housing industry, is acting as the
employer recruiter.
“We’re seeing a ‘silver tsunami’
because of retiring trades and we
need a good system to replace them,”
says buildABILITY president Michael
Lio. “Builders need skilled trades
– electricians, framers, plumbers,
etc. – and unfortunately some have
resorted to stealing them from their
competitors. Our proposition is for
employers to hire unskilled labour and
develop the talent, like the NHL draft.”
Lio says there is no shortage of
people looking for work. “You have all
these prospects available to hire and
mentor. They are a real investment. I
tell employers you can develop your
own talent and grow the new crop of
skilled labour.”
The program has already started
to make a difference, according to
Lio. “There are challenges in the
marketplace, and human resources
are so important. Job Ready is a
program designed to meet the needs of
employers. We talk to them on a regular
basis, asking them how the program is
working and how to improve it.”
Bob Schickedanz is owner and
president of FarSight Homes, a family-
run company that has been in business
since 2000. “Being a small company
with no HR department, the Job Ready
Program fills a niche for us,” he says.
“It’s like a direct conduit. Participants
get basic safety training, and as a
bonus, they’re already interested and
signed up to an immersion program
in the industry. It’s a great pre-vetted
program for small builders like us – we
set out what we need, they send us
candidates, we interview them, and we
decide if they’re a good fit for our team.”
Another small developer, Huron
Creek Developments, has had six
employees come through the Job Ready
OHBA Job Ready Program
Tackles Labour Gap
C
anada’s homebuilding industry is at a crossroads. With the current high
demand for new housing, and skilled tradespeople retiring in droves, one of
the main challenges facing homebuilders is how to attract and retain new
employees to fill the gap in their labour force.
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023
Program. “They started on our sites in general
labour – anything from sweeping to cleaning up
and, onto the next level, teaching them how to
install construction locks, edge and screw down
floors, and do Energy Star audits on our homes,”
says Huron Creek vice president Rick Martins.
“Job Ready is a great program that taps into a
market we didn’t have access to,” Martins adds.
“More importantly, it’s allowing us to work on
day-to-day business and not have to worry about
recruiting.”
That said, retaining employees has been a
challenge. “Some of them left for bigger bucks
offered by larger construction companies. But,
because of supply and demand, they’re often
subject to seasonal layoffs or unpaid days when the
weather is bad. We carry our employees through
the winter and, if it’s raining, we’ll send them on
another site to work indoors,” he says.
“The Job Ready Program is helping employers,
but it’s not perfect,” admits OHBA’s Sajida Jiwani.
“Two weeks of employee training is great, but
it may not be good enough from a builder’s
perspective. Builders are also looking for skilled
trades. That’s why we’re now doing a pilot program
with Skilled Trades College of Canada which
offers a four-week bootcamp – hands-on training
in a full-scale indoor building project, including
plumbing, electrical, drywall and framing – to give
participants a better understanding of the job site.”
According to Jiwani, five employees in the first
cohort of the pilot are still employed, and after
two cohorts (21 students), only one student did not
move on. “The challenge for us with Job Ready has
really been the building industry itself,” she adds.
“Our members have supported the program, but we
need their continued buy-in.”
Builders who are interested in participating can
visit ohbajobready.ca. BB
Marc Huminilowycz is a senior
writer. He lives and works in
a low-energy home built in
2000. As such, he brings first-
hand experience to his writing
on technology and residential housing and has
published numerous articles on the subject.
29
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023
Hiring?
Wecanhelp.
The OHBA Job Ready Program will fill your
entry-level roles with trained candidates.
Accesstoapoolofvettedandtrainedentry-levelcandidates
Matchwithentry-levelworkerswhoareeagertojoinyourjobsite
Receiveupto$1,500infinancialincentives
Sign up today:
ohbajobready.ca
30
Camp Scugog offers an outdoor camping
experience for children, youth and mothers.
Scugog’s safe, fun and diverse community is
specifically designed to address the needs of
those affected by poverty and other barriers.
We believe that the development of positive
attitudes and values is paramount to building
a strong sense of self and community.
The Cross Border Challenge and Project
Futureproof are proud sponsors of this life
changing summer camp experience.
The 2023 Cross Border
Builder Challenge
Dana Leahey,
Camp Director,
for Camp Scugog,
accepts donation
from the Cross
Border Challenge
Golf Tournament
in May of 2023.
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023
So where do we turn?
One could argue that we simply
shift to purpose-built rental housing.
Not just condos, but well built,
comfortable, efficient housing for
the massive population influx we’re
experiencing. Certainly, higher-
density housing has become a
necessity in both small and large
communities across the province.
Semis, towns and multi-unit residen­
tial buildings (MURBs) have become
commonplace. But something is
missing.
Tiny homes.
Not just those seen on TV, fit to a
trailer bed, able to move anywhere. Yes,
there’s growing interest in a simpler
life and everything these homes can
offer. But there’s a growing segment of
the population looking for that little
plot of land to call their own, with
shared common space, at an affordable
price. Tiny homes need to be in the
neighbourhoods we offer, with a
legitimate design standard integrated.
They need to be celebrated within
our communities as part of a healthy
housing continuum alongside semis,
towns and MURBs.
I’m talking tiny homes constructed
on a permanent slab-on-grade
foundation, built above building codes
31
A Tiny HVAC Challenge
fromthegroundup / DOUG TARRY
U
nder the crushing weight of the cost of housing, combined with the rise of
variable rate mortgages with fixed payments leading to infinity mortgages,
housing affordability continues to spiral out of reach for more and more
Canadians. It’s increasingly apparent that we need a paradigm shift in thinking,
from industry stakeholders to community leaders, various levels of government,
and the most vocal NIMBY leaders.
Housing affordability
continues to spiral
out of reach…
It’s increasingly
apparent that we
need a paradigm
shift in thinking.
A tiny footprint
requires right-
sized heating.
RENDER
:
DOUG
TARRY
BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023
32
in energy performance. They need
to be very inexpensive to maintain
and operate in keeping with the
overall theme of housing affordability.
Depending on the price point target,
these units would be in a mix of
singles, semis and towns. They’d
range from an accessible bungalow
(approximately 400 square feet),
to two-bedroom units (600 square
feet), to a three-bedroom family unit
(around 800 square feet). Yes, a family
home as small as 800 square feet
with a little yard and access to child-
friendly community green space.
So why can’t we simply build them?
Prejudicial NIMBYism is the single
greatest contributing factor. I don’t
mean your traditional neighbourhood
“no to anything not the same as what
we already have” complaint picketing
City Hall. I mean City Hall itself, and
existing municipal bylaws, that make
it difficult to create a new, needed
housing type under 700 square feet
when often the requirement is a
minimum greater than this for single-
family housing.
I’ve been very fortunate in working
with my local municipality, the City
of St. Thomas, and project partners
Sanctuary Homes and the YWCA
towards the creation of an affordable
tiny home project for the YWCA
called Tiny HOPE, advancing the
concept as a solution to our downtown
housing crisis and siting the project
on brownfield lands that were run
down. The City has been supportive of
going smaller to the point of wanting
to see this type of housing offered in
more communities. It’s a wonderful
example of working together towards
a common goal.
However, the existing Ontario
Building Code has some limitations
– specifically room and stair size
requirements, which are a significant
challenge when looking to utilize
bedroom lofts off a ladder. Huh?
You can buy a bunk bed with ladder
access to the upper bed, but according
to an Ontario government online
bulletin1, “Ladders to a second storey
do not comply with the Building Code
requirements.” Clearly a good deal of
thought needs to go into adding second
floor space in a tiny home, especially in
utilizing the space under the stairs.
This leads us to HVAC. The loads
are so low on these units that a
traditional system isn’t going to work.
Our preferred design is a cold climate
air source heat pump unit, with heads
in each bedroom and the common
kitchen/family space. An electric
wall mount or baseboard heater is
located near the exterior door and in
the bedrooms for backup heat, with
a towel warmer in the bathrooms for
chilly mornings.
The Building Code still requires
fresh air, and with closet space at a
premium, a location for an energy
recovery ventilator (ERV) proves
challenging. There are some excellent
small ERVs on the market, and we
found spaces above the stacked washer
dryer, water heater, and in a bathroom
void space. Getting fresh air in the
open living space and bedrooms was
perhaps the greatest challenge with
bulkheads/drop ceilings a necessary
evil. I would have preferred ERV bath
fans with jumper grills between the
bathroom, hallway and bedrooms, but
we wouldn’t meet Code compliance.
We’re looking forward to the
start of our Tiny HOPE community
build next spring after our winter
fundraising campaign. I’m also eager
to see this type of housing included
in our upcoming community designs
as a needed affordable option on the
housing spectrum.
A special thanks to Tom, Michael
and the entire team at McCallum HVAC
Design for working with Doug Tarry
Homes on creating a unique design
solution for Project Tiny HOPE. BB
Doug Tarry Jr is director
of marketing at Doug
Tarry Homes in St.
Thomas, Ontario.
1 www.ontario.ca/document/build-or-buy-tiny-
home/building-code-requirements
City Hall itself, and existing municipal
bylaws… make it difficult to create a new,
needed housing type under 700 square feet
when often the requirement is a minimum
greater than this for single-family housing.
Better Builder Magazine, Issue 47 / Autumn 2023
Better Builder Magazine, Issue 47 / Autumn 2023

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Better Builder Magazine, Issue 47 / Autumn 2023

  • 1. PUBLICATION NUMBER 42408014 ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023 Reasons to Build the Hybrid House Air-to-Water Heat Pumps The Myths of Powering Net Zero Miracle of Spray Foam Insulation Solar Solutions for Builders A Tiny HVAC Challenge UNLOCKING THE VALUE OF COMBINATION HYBRID HEAT THE Mechanical ISSUE
  • 2. www.airmaxtechnologies.com T 905-264-1414 Prioritizing your comfort while providing energy savings Canadian Made Manufactured by Glow Brand Manufacturing Models C95 & C140 Condensing Combination Boiler Glow Brand C95 and C140 instantaneous combination ASME boilers for heating and on-demand hot water supply. The ultra- efficient compact design combination boiler has an AFUE rating of 95%.These units arefully modulating at 10 to 1 and 2 inch PVC venting up to 100 feet. Brand TM ENDLESS ON-DEMAND HOT WATER Models C95 & C140 Glow Brand C95 and C140 instantaneous combination ASME boilers for heating and on-demand
  • 3. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023 PUBLISHER’S NOTE 2 The Missing Piece Combination Hybrid Heat by John Godden THE BADA TEST 3 Affordability and Reasons to Build the Hybrid House by Lou Bada INDUSTRY EXPERT 5 Air-to-Water Heat Pumps by Gord Cooke INDUSTRY NEWS 9 The Myths of Powering Our Net Zero Future by Paul De Berardis BUILDER NEWS 13 The Miracle of Spray Foam Insulation by Alex Newman BUILDER NEWS 20 Now It’s Personal … Again by Howard Chau SITE SPECIFIC 22 Solar Solutions for Builders by Marc Huminilowycz INDUSTRY NEWS 26 Putting a Damper on Bad Air Distribution Balraj Banger BUILDER NEWS 28 OHBA Job Ready Program Tackles Labour Group by Marc Huminilowycz FROM THE GROUND UP 31 A Tiny HVAC Challenge by Doug Tarry 9 1 31 ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023 Images internally supplied unless otherwise credited. FEATURE STORY 16 Middle Ground Shifting from fossil fuels to electricity won’t happen overnight, but integrated combination hybrid heat systems help bridge the gap. by Rob Blackstien 13 Cover: Adobe Stock 104606150 16
  • 4. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023 The Missing Piece Combination Hybrid Heat “IKEA: A Swedish word for ‘many parts.’” — Anonymous O ver the years, I have assembled countless beds, wardrobes, shelving units and kitchens from IKEA. The expectation versus the reality of assembling all those parts leads most of us to absolute frustration. Either we have a few parts left over or we have missed a critical step in the instructions and have to backtrack. Our expectations rarely match up with actual outcomes. Nowhere could this be truer than when attempting to build a low-carbon home. Current monitoring of net zero houses shows us the occupancy loads from appliances, plug loads and domestic hot water are as large as heating and ventilation ones. (See the chart of a Tier 3 house, on page 4.) In our IKEA analogy, occupancy levels are the missing piece. We know there are limits to adding thermal insulation to building envelopes to reduce carbon emissions. Is natural gas a bridging energy source to transition to renewables? To me, this is the most important question. How do we use natural gas wisely in Ontario to support aging nuclear power plants and preserve electrical capacity to power 50% of Canada’s passenger vehicles? Switching homes to electrical heating systems only exacerbates our peak demand shortfalls. We may expect getting to zero emissions, but the reality is that we might only make it to 50% if we follow the right instructions. If Ontario adopts Tier 3 of the Step Code as the baseline (roughly 20% better than Package J), the space heating load on a detached house will be under 25 MBTU per hour. Combo heating systems can meet this load and reduce CO2 emissions from natural gas by a minimum of 20%. Installing a three-season heat pump and using off-peak electricity during shoulder months could easily displace another 30% of natural gas CO2 emissions. In a nutshell, a Tier 3 envelope with combination hybrid heating is the way forward. This issue revisits “Game of Zones,” our main story from the fall 2020 issue, and takes the discussion of combination heat one step further. “Middle Ground,” our feature, highlights two manufacturers collaborating to develop the “missing piece”: an off-the- shelf matched combination hybrid heating system. Most importantly, it will have controls that manage the air source heat pump and combination boiler operation with outdoor temperature. See page 16. On page 3, Lou Bada reviews why we should build an affordable hybrid house that includes combination hybrid heat or fuel switching. Gord Cooke discusses an important heat pump technology that uses water as a transfer medium and storage (page 5). Air-to-water heat pumps offer higher efficiencies through reducing waste heat by lowering water temperatures required for circulation systems. How to build a house affordably, and how to heat and cool it, are only part of our challenge. Paul De Berardis argues that distributing our energy supply and managing peak demand for electricity are our most pressing issues (page 9). Lastly, Doug Tarry shares his “tiny house” experiences and the importance of finding appropriately sized heating for extremely small loads (page 31). Before we rush to build everything to net zero, let’s put our Allen keys down, make sure we’ve read all the assembly instructions and keep our expectations realistic. BB publisher’snote / JOHN GODDEN 2 PUBLISHER Better Builder Magazine 63 Blair Street Toronto ON M4B 3N5 416-481-4218 | fax 416-481-4695 sales@betterbuilder.ca Better Builder Magazine is a sponsor of PUBLISHING EDITOR John B. Godden MANAGING EDITORS Crystal Clement Wendy Shami editorial@betterbuilder.ca To advertise, contribute a story, or join our distribution list, please contact editorial@betterbuilder.ca FEATURE WRITERS Rob Blackstien, Alex Newman, Marc Huminilowycz PROOFREADING Carmen Siu CREATIVE Wallflower Design This magazine brings together premium product manufacturers and leading builders to create better, differentiated homes and buildings that use less energy, save water and reduce our impact on the environment. PUBLICATION NUMBER 42408014 Copyright by Better Builder Magazine. Contents may not be reprinted or reproduced without written permission. The opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the authors and assumed to be original work. Better Builder Magazine cannot be held liable for any damage as a result of publishing such works. TRADEMARK DISCLAIMER All company and/or product names may be trade names, trademarks and/or registered trademarks of the respective owners with which they are associated. UNDELIVERABLE MAIL Better Builder Magazine 63 Blair Street Toronto ON M4B 3N5 Better Builder Magazine is published four times a year.
  • 5. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023 and we don’t have enough of it that people can attain, what do we do? First, let’s get the order of magnitude right: (1) affordable, (2) sustainable/ resilient, (3) accessible. It’s in this order or nothing gets built, public or private. Let’s be clear: these objectives are also not mutually exclusive, but affordability is the lens through which we must view policy if the supply of attainable housing is the goal. In fact, if we consider operational carbon, energy efficient homes make some sense when we look at it from the point of diminishing marginal returns (when the juice is still worth the squeeze). When we consider embodied carbon, on the other hand, we should re-examine carbon taxes (on everything) through the lens of A ffordable housing has been front of mind moreso today than at any other time in recent memory. I’ve been writing about it since I began writing for Better Builder many years ago. The mismatch in housing supply and demand is due to a series of abject public policy failures. These failures have brought us to an affordability and homelessness crisis. The Ontario government says that we became home to over 500,000 new immigrants and refugees last year alone. The lack of affordable housing hits the most vulnerable members of our society the hardest. We’re daydreaming if we believe that we can now somehow increase supply in the current regulatory and policy environment and put the genie back in the bottle. Market-based housing (for rent or ownership) is one prong of a multi- pronged approach to providing affordable housing. A proper mix of low-rise, mid-rise and high- rise housing, owned or rented or subsidized, does not get built if it’s too expensive to buy, rent or operate. Irrespective of whether it’s market- based, non-profit, social, supportive housing or student residences, our industry builds them and governments regulate us (and, in some cases, finance them). Governments’ stated public policy goals of doubling or tripling the building of accessible, sustainable and affordable housing (definitions aside) are just government finger painting given the current policy and regulatory environment. Less taxation on new housing (31% of home prices at last count; imagine taxing any other necessity that way) and smarter, evidence-based public policy and regulations by all levels of government are needed. Regulations have become a runaway train with no cost-benefit analysis, and governments regulate far too many meaningless things (cost with no benefit). Policies and regulations are also often in direct conflict with each other. As an aside, an interesting report was recently published – see www. nationalhousingaccord.ca for some proposals on affordable rental housing that governments can adopt. If housing is a basic human need, 3 thebadatest / LOU BADA BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023 Affordability and Reasons to Build the Hybrid House “When the Juice is Worth the Squeeze” 4 1 4 R60 R27 R20 2 2 3 NATURAL GAS CONNECTION SUPPLEMENTAL 5 FIGURE 1: HYBRID HOUSE FORMULA = Thermal design 1 to HERS 46 (ASHRAE 90.2) + Combination heat 2 2 (20% reduction) (could be two-stage furnace) + Three-season heat pump 3 + Battery storage 4 with inverter 4 and critical circuits + Modest solar array 5 (5-7kW)
  • 6. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023 4 winter 2022 article (“It’s Not ‘No’ – It’s Just ‘Not Now’”). It can accommodate heating and cooling zoning requirements and fire separations. A secondary suite adds to the rental housing mix and helps homeowners with their income to make their home more affordable. Secondary suites increase housing supply and affordability at the same time. The hybrid heating system can also take advantage of Ontario’s new off-peak electricity rates. (See previous page for a diagram of a hybrid house.) Why are some governments pushing us to completely electrify housing so quickly? The City of Toronto is proposing all-electric housing to be built beginning in 2028. In the middle of an affordability and homelessness crisis? Ontario’s current Building Code is already the most robust in terms of energy efficiency in North America. The hybrid house is the logical next step, if one is to be taken, for future buildings. Given Ontario’s unique energy generation mix and immense need and expense to build out its energy grid in a growing province and country, should we and can we electrify housing so quickly? The Independent Electricity Operator of Ontario reported in Pathways to Decarbonization last December that we will have to spend $425 billion by 2050 to decarbonize our grid. Are we kidding ourselves? This is the thinking that begets government boondoggles and adds to the misery of the most vulnerable. Let’s get there with some common sense and evidence-based policies if we want to give people a place to live and a life to live in it. Orange juice, anyone? BB Lou Bada is vice- president of low-rise construction at Starlane Home Corporation and on the board of directors for the Residential Construction Council of Ontario (RESCON). affordability. Keep in mind that the carbon tax is inflationary, which then leads to higher interest rates and financing and thereby erodes affordability. Incentives, not penalties, may work better for embodied carbon. When is the juice still worth the squeeze? The hybrid house is a good example. The judicious use of natural gas with a combo heating system for primary heating, coupled with a standard air source heat pump, demonstrates a 20% to 30% energy savings over conventional heating systems. It comes with an approximately 30% increase in installation costs. The systems are proven, reliable, affordable and attainable (see my article “A Production Builder’s Best Strategies for (or Before) 2030: The Hybrid House Approach” in the summer 2022 issue). Cold weather heat pumps are significantly more expensive (approximately twice the cost of a standard heat pump), are more problematic for occupants, and still require significant electrical resist­ ance heating to make them usable for most occupants. A good portion of electricity in Ontario is still not carbon-free and subject to a carbon tax. It has a higher cost to install and finance compounded by a tax. A HERS rating of 46 is the current sweet spot at which we reach the point of diminishing returns on investment in the building envelope. It is also the point where we reach the 40% better-than-code level for Tier 4 SB-12 equivalency in the upcoming proposed OBC changes. The hybrid house gives us the next reasonable step. The hybrid house’s heating system also works well with the addition of secondary suites as outlined in my PROPOSED OBC 2024 TIER 3 @ 2.5 ACH (20% BETTER) • DOMESTIC HOT WATER 10% • AIR CONDITIONING, LIGHTING AND APPLIANCES 40% • ENVELOPE AND VENTILATION HEAT LOSS INCLUDES CONTINUOUS INSULATION 50% 50% 40% 10% Occupancy loads and envelope losses are a 50/50 split. The use of natural gas with a combo heating system, coupled with a standard air source heat pump, demonstrates a 20% to 30% energy savings over conventional heating systems.
  • 7. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023 I ’m sure you have noticed the profusion of articles, news clips, training sessions and even advertising throughout our industry (and in the general community) on the topic of heat pumps. You should be aware by now that heat pumps for space heating and cooling, and even hot water heating, will be an inevitable part of the decarbonization plan for the building industry – both in new and existing buildings. It is impossible to overlook the inherent energy efficiency of heat pump technology, at up to four times the efficiency of fossil fuel-fired heating appliances. Moreover, they are electrically driven and provide an opportunity for the buildings they serve to be free of greenhouse gas emissions. Switching to heat pump-based HVAC systems also matches well with the national goal to decarbonize electrical grids by 2035. It should be comforting to know that the HVAC supply chain is responding well to these opportunities, with new products and new controls that can serve a wider range of applications. For example, great advancements in cold climate heat pumps can serve 100% of the heating needs in all but the coldest parts of the north, there is a wider range of capacities in ducted and non- ducted systems, and there are more comprehensive control strategies that better match the comfort expectations of homeowners. One very important addition to the heat pump lineup is the introduction of heat pumps that take heat from outdoor air and use it to heat hot water within the home – also known as air-to-water heat pumps (or “ATWs”). Most readers will know about ground source or water-to-water heat pumps, which are a great technology that can provide capacity for heating hot water. However, they require an investment in ground loops – vertical or horizontal – and that is not always practical in residential applications. Air-to-water heat pumps have an outdoor unit that, at first glance, looks like a traditional air conditioning system (pictured above). This unit compresses and expands refrigerant to extract heat from the outdoor air, similar to a familiar air-to-air heat pump. However, the extracted heat is transferred to hot water through a hydronic distribution system rather 5 Air-to-Water Heat Pumps industryexpert / GORD COOKE Above: An indoor unit with an air-to-water heat pump, including an inline heater and water tank storage. Left: An outdoor unit.
  • 8. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023 6 than a forced air system. The hot water can serve radiant infloor heating loops, radiant wall panels, hot water fan coil units and domestic hot water tanks. The efficiency of the heat transfer is typically a coefficient of performance (COP) between 3 and 5 – that is, for every unit of electricity input to run the compressors and pumps, 3 to 5 units of energy are delivered into the hydronic loop. This technology is a valuable alternative to decarbonize existing homes with hot water-based heating systems and in new homes where homebuyers want the comfort of infloor or other hot water-based radiant systems that are traditionally powered by fuel-fired boilers. While air-to-water technology has been around for decades, it’s only been in the last few years that comprehensive, packaged systems have become available for the mainstream residential construction industry. The leading manufacturers offer systems where all the refrigeration components are housed in the outdoor unit and the only lines running into the house are the hot and cold water return lines. This is referred to as a “monobloc” system and is useful because the system can be set up without needing a refrigeration mechanic. Your plumber or hydronics contractor will take responsibility for the system. The industry is new enough that there is not a fully developed independent performance rating system available yet, although the leading manufacturers do provide performance ratings developed similar to the Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) test protocols used for other heat pumps. Like air-to-air heat pumps, both the efficiency and the heating capacity of air-to-water systems fall in the coldest of weather. For example, in the chart above, you can see that this system has a heating capacity of 55,000 BTUs per hour at an outdoor temperature of 0°C (32°F). The unit has a capacity of approximately 34,000 BTUs per hour when the outdoor temperature is –25°C (–13°F) and a hot water output temperature of 55°C (131°F). This change in capacity is a familiar challenge to HVAC designers in this new heat pump era. There are cold climate versions of air-to-water heat pumps now available and, in both new and existing applications, there is always the opportunity for backup heating capacity. Indeed, there are many options for hot water heating backup. The simplest is an inline electric heater that boosts the water temperature to levels needed for domestic hot water or when using a forced air, hot water air handler. Otherwise, hot water temperatures of 85°F to 95°F, characteristic of air-to- water heat pumps, are a great match for infloor radiant heating systems. Much like the hybrid forced air heating systems that combine a high-efficiency gas furnace with an air-to-air heat pump coil, a hybrid approach for air-to- water systems would include a high- efficiency wall-hung natural gas boiler to inject hot water into the hydronics system during very cold weather or peak hot water use events. It is intriguing to note that, in keeping with the concept of heat pumps, these air-to-water systems provide chilled water for cooling applications. In general, the chilled water would be circulated through a forced air fan coil to provide air conditioning to the house. It highlights 60,000 55,000 50,000 45,000 40,000 35,000 30,000 25,000 –4ºF 5ºF 14ºF 23ºF 32ºF 36ºF 41ºF 50ºF 59ºF –13ºF UNIT PERFORMANCE: AV060 HEATING CAPACITY BTUH LLT = 131ºF LLT = 113ºF LLT = 95ºF Like air-to-air heat pumps, both the efficiency and the heating capacity of air-to- water systems fall in the coldest of weather.
  • 9. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023 again that there is no need for refrigerant lines in the building, because they are all contained within the outdoor unit. Also, water has incredible energy storage and delivery capacity. A half-inch diameter pipe of chilled water can deliver 12,000 BTUs per hour (one ton) of cooling capacity that would require a 10-inch diameter duct in a traditional air conditioning system. There is an equivalent advantage in the distribution of heat. This significant difference provides flexibility and versatility to HVAC designers and builders to simplify routing and zoning and to save space in the creation of comfort designs. The versatility of hydronic systems has led to the rise in their popularity over the last 15 to 20 years – specifically in larger, more complex homes and systems. That’s why Grant Blackmore, the owner of Eden Energy Equipment, a major distributor of ground source heat pumps and hydronic systems in Ontario, has recently added an air- to-water heat pump appliance to his offering. He notes the importance of completing the lineup of zero- emissions, all-electric heat pump appliances to serve the widest possible range of applications. The emergence of highly efficient, packaged air- to-water heat pumps that operate reliably throughout our winters is a very important piece of the decarbonization strategy for new and existing homes. Visit their website at www.edenenergy.com. BB Gord Cooke is president of Building Knowledge Canada. 7 110 to 160 CFM Quickest Set-up With Consistent Results AI Series vänEE introduces its NEW Series with higher CFM NEW HIGHER CFM UP to 230 CFM QUICKER SET-UP CONSISTENT RESULTS PREMIUM ECM MOTORS WITH BUILT-IN SMART TECHNOLOGY The versatility of hydronic systems has led to the rise in their popularity over the last 15 to 20 years – specifically in larger, more complex homes and systems.
  • 10. INSUL-SHEATHING Panel 11⁄16” DuPontStyrofoam™BrandPanel ½” All-Natural Wood Fibre Panel All-Natural Wood Fibre Panel The Leslieville Laneway house is a project in the Toronto area. This discovery home is built for climate change. It Features superior woodfibre insulation combined with energy-efficient HVAC and grey water recycling. The innovative design creates efficient spaces for more occupants, resulting in a reduced carbon footprint building. The project is targeting LEED Platinum. A Barbini Design Build (barbini.ca) construction, developed with the assistance of Clearsphere Consulting for Skye Mainstreet Properties Ltd. bpcan.com S I N C E 1 9 0 5 BP’S R-5 XP INSUL-SHEATHING PANELS ARE NOW GREY, BUT GREENER THAN EVER R-5 XP Insul-Sheathing panels are now available with DuPont’s new reduced global warming potential Styrofoam™ Brand XPS formulation. This means that our already eco-friendly panels are now greener than ever — and still provide the same benefits that have made them so popular: • No additional bracing required • Integrated air barrier • Lightweight and easy to install To make them easy to identify, they are now grey instead of blue. That way, when you see our new GREY panels, you will know instantly that you are looking at a GREENER product. OUR GREY IS YOUR NEW GREEN
  • 11. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023 Beyond this overarching federal target, things get a little hectic trying to keep track of all the different imple- mentation targets. National and provincial building codes are work­ ing towards net zero energy-ready standards for 2030 (likely sooner in Ontario), whereby homes and buildings use as much energy as they “could” produce using renewable energy. Canada is also targeting a decarbonized grid by 2035 through the recent Clean Electricity Regulations that will limit new electrical generation capacity, which produces GHG emissions beyond 2025. However, Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) is more realistically working towards a more gradual 2050 timeline to decarbonize the grid, which requires doubling cap­ acity from 42,000 MW today to 88,000 MW in 2050, costing an estimated $400 billion over the next 25 years. Certain Canadian cities like Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal have also signed onto C40, where these city mayors have committed to cut their fair share of emissions in half by 2030 and help the world limit global heating to 1.5°C. Numerous municipal government councils have also declared climate emergencies, which has spurred a litany of municipal actions, including green building standards. The most stringent of these is Toronto and its mandate for zero- emission new homes and buildings by 2028. Then, consider the Government of Canada has also mandated all new vehicle sales be 100% zero-emission by 2035. As you can imagine, electrical demand in Ontario and the rest of Canada will soar within the next five to 25 years as all these various regulations take effect. However, over the last few months, there have been several recent developments in Ontario’s supply mix of energy and future procurement. The IESO has extended contracts with at least six natural gas power plants, after putting out a call for facilities with the potential to increase their generation capacity. The IESO extended production contracts for several gas plants to at least 2035, as Ontario faces an energy crunch caused by the looming closure of the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station, which triggered urgency to find additional generating capacity. Procuring additional capacity was challenging because the criteria required generation to be able to run interrupted for four hours to maintain the reliability of the grid – effectively excluding renewable energy sources and relying on natural gas. Ontario Power Generation is slated to begin decommissioning Pickering’s reactors in the coming years, while a current application is attempting to keep all of Pickering’s reactors operating for an extra two years, until 9 The Myths of Powering Our Net Zero Future industrynews / PAUL DE BERARDIS D epending on where you are in Canada – or even Ontario, for that matter – the direction from all levels of government is that we are progressing towards a net zero future to combat climate change. The Government of Canada has committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2050, which means our economy either emits no greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions or offsets its emissions. This will ultimately lead to the mass electrification of all industries and sectors, which, for our purposes, translates to fully electrified new homes and smart grid (see page 10) buildings. A natural gas power plant operated by Atura Power in Halton Hills, Ontario in 2023.
  • 12. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023 10 the end of 2026. The facility currently provides 14% of the province’s electricity. Adding to the crunch is the ongoing Darlington nuclear plant refurbishment project, which currently has three of its four reactors offline and won’t be completed until 2026. Bruce Power, the producer of 30% of Ontario’s electricity, is also slated for refurbishment in the coming decades. The electricity operator recom­ mended the province procure 4,000 MW of new energy capacity, equivalent to powering the City of Toronto, to keep up with demand by 2025. Approximately 1,500 MW of that need will now come from natural gas generation. Without this additional natural gas generation, the IESO would have to rely on emergency actions – like conservation appeals and rotating blackouts – to stabilize the grid, like what California has experienced. This supply crunch comes as demand for electricity is expected to soar alongside the adoption of electric vehicles, further driven by Ottawa’s 2035 zero-emission electric vehicle mandate. Electric vehicle use is expected to increase the amount of electricity Ontario uses for transportation from 900,000 MWh in 2023 to 26 million MWh by 2042. There will be additional demand for future electrical capacity from rail transit electrification, industrial electrification and the regulatory push for building electrification. The IESO was tasked with reporting on the feasibility of a natural gas moratorium – specifically, phasing out natural gas-produced electricity by 2030. It concluded that doing so would cost $27 billion, hike monthly residential bills by 60% (or roughly $100) per month, as well as cause rotating blackouts and an unreliable grid. The report highlighted that Ontario still needs natural gas generation to provide variable production flexibility in the GTA as well as during extreme temperatures. Once the situation with nuclear power generation has stabilized, non-emitting forms of supply will be added to the system in time to keep pace with demand growth. The province will also need to decide what kind of low-carbon energy production it wants to have going forward. The IESO provided a general idea of what might work, such as a mix of energy storage, imported electricity, solar, wind, hydroelectric, and a big emphasis on nuclear power, including small nuclear modular reactors. With that said, the IESO noted, the options will change as the technology does. This begs the question: why are building codes and municipal green building standards rushing to implement zero-emission or net zero energy-ready homes by 2030 or sooner if decarbonizing the grid will take at least another two decades? Should there not be some greater policy and implementation alignment between the various levels of government? The underlying fundamental of achieving net zero energy or zero emissions may be less abrupt if homes and buildings continue being electrified by emitting forms of power generation. This deeper dive into the future of Ontario’s electricity supply mix drew my attention to a recent analysis put out with the assistance of the Net Zero Energy Housing Council and National Resources Canada, which looked at the THERMAL POWER PLANTS SOLAR PANELS GAS HOLDERS CONSUMERS CONTROL CENTRES POWER STATIONS WINDMILLS DAMS TRANSFORMERS STOCK : MACROVECTOR / FREEPIK A reliable smart grid requires planning, investment and time for upgrading infrastructure.
  • 13. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023 measured versus predicted energy performance of net zero energy and net zero energy-ready homes. What caught my attention was some of the glaring discrepancies between predicted and actual energy use, both in terms of energy use, natural gas consumption and solar photovoltaic power generation. Although it was only a small dataset of homes, the results show that actual energy use was roughly 40% higher than predicted, natural gas consumption was 165% higher than predicted and solar generation achieved 78% of what was anticipated. Some of the lessons learned and explanations of the notable discrepancies point to the fact that the air source heat pumps may not have been operating as predicted, potentially due to incorrect cut-off temperatures, excessive cycling, inadequate airflow or inadequate modelling by HOT2000. With respect to the less-than-predicted solar power generation, potential reasons for the shortfall point to solar systems not meeting their intended performance output, shading and inadequate modelling by HOT2000. Looking at this holistically, regulatory policy pressures are driving up the demand for more power generation as cars and homes/ buildings are forced to be electrified, yet aging nuclear power generation infrastructure is requiring more power be supplied with natural gas production. So, we are pushing homes off natural gas and cars off gasoline to instead power them with additional electricity derived by burning natural gas. This counterintuitive and ironic phenomenon will be impacting disjointed municipal, provincial and federal policies heavily for the next 10 years – and even the next 25 years as we work towards decarbonizing the electrical grid. This becomes even more concerning as you consider the actual performance analysis of those net zero energy-ready and net zero homes, which used significantly more energy and natural gas and achieved less solar power generation than anticipated. The underwhelming performance of these homes is not meeting the very objective of creating net zero energy- ready building codes, which is further exacerbated by the current power generation situation facing Ontario over the next 25 years. It’s the same as advertising an electric vehicle (EV) to have 400 kilometres of range when it can achieve only 260 kilometres in reality (which is why there are currently several class action lawsuits against various EV manufacturers). Now don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying we should stop what we’re doing and proceed with business as usual. But these municipal green standards and the net zero energy-ready measures may need to be revisited if they are not delivering the intended results of significantly reducing energy consumption and, more importantly, natural gas emissions. Instead of regulations simply pointing to net zero energy-ready specifications by a certain date, we may need a more strategic and realistic natural gas transition strategy to better inform the decision-making process as building regulations evolve to achieve climate change objectives. This is where more moderate approaches can serve us well, especially over the next 10 to 15 years, until new non-emitting power generation capacity comes online. On the transportation front, solutions like hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles have a role to play in combination with purely electric vehicles. With respect to our residential sector, the same line of thinking should apply – regulatory and technical provisions should emphasize fuel- switching technologies (hybrid heat was featured in my last article) and taking advantage of off-peak electricity with ever-advancing battery storage technology (solar isn’t the only solution). Most importantly, wherever all these differing government policies ultimately land, they must be mindful of the current housing affordability challenge consumers are facing. It’s not just a matter of affordability for getting into a suitable home or rental, but maintaining affordability of the ongoing utility rates as well, especially given the looming infrastructure costs to deliver a decarbonized grid. All I’m trying to say is: let’s keep an open mind. It’s not all net zero or bust. Over the next 25 years, there will be so many new technological developments and advancements. Government policies need to be able to adapt and evolve as technology does – otherwise, they will prevent any out-of-the-box thinking and simply force us down a single path with blinders on. BB Paul De Berardis is RESCON’s director of building science and innovation. Email him at deberardis@rescon.com. 11 The report highlighted that Ontario still needs natural gas generation to provide variable production flexibility in the GTA as well as during extreme temperatures.
  • 15. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023 But the other “soft” reason is human – that is, long-term benefits to people. Iain Stuart, a married dad of two young kids – and national sales manager for Carlisle Spray Foam Insulation Canada – agrees. After graduating from the Univer­ sity of Windsor with a BSc in biology, Stuart started work as a tech for a mineral wool insulation company. The biology degree included physics, which helped him understand the technical side of insulation. He eventually moved into architectural sales to promote better insulation to architects. After nine years, he moved to Carlisle Spray Foam as general mana­ ger and is now national sales manager. Spray foam, he felt, had great potential for reducing energy consumption and positively impacting global warming. And Carlisle’s product, he felt, was particularly effective. “It’s the spray foam with the highest long- term thermal resistance (LTTR). That term is kind of like R-value, but it’s the nomenclature used in the spray foam insulation industry.” As an industry, foam insulation has undergone changes due to increased requirements to reduce global warming potential in its manufacturing. Spray-applied foam insulation offers insulation value as well as reduction in air leakage in the building envelope. Typically, builders have used half- pound or two-pound foams to ensure air barrier continuity, especially in areas where it is difficult to maintain continuity of sheet-applied air barriers (such as rooms over garages). What builders may not realize is that two-pound foams have increased structural stability, which is an advantage to both air and vapour barriers. The Carlisle product, Stuart says, is also the “most dimensionally stable in Canada.” In other words, Stuart explains, “you measure a cube before placing it in an environmental chamber for 28 days. Every foam will change in that chamber, but ours has the least amount of change.” He says some spray foams can shrink, which is what Carlisle aims to avoid. Its R-value is the highest in Canada, at 6.7 per inch (four-inch thick foam), and is capable of getting into nooks and crannies in the building. Another benefit is “zero field issues, so zero headaches for builders,” Stuart adds. “It’s so consistently stable that there is no shrinkage and no need to fix once it’s installed in new homes. That takes a lot of worry, time and effort out of a builder’s hands.” The foam is such an effective product that Campanale Homes selected it to use in its low-HERS zero energy-ready demonstration home. “Campanale builds a lot of top-shelf homes with low HERS ratings,” Stuart says. “And they wanted to try something new and better to achieve the lowest HERS score possible.” The project is a test case for the builder to eliminate the use of a 6 mil 13 The Miracle of Spray Foam Insulation sitespecific / ALEX NEWMAN I f people’s eyes glaze over when you tell them about spray foam insulation, it’s because they don’t understand the big picture. It’s hard to imagine that something as simple as insulation could have such an impact on global warming. But it does. Just follow the money if you don’t believe it. There’s about US$1.39 billion in the global spray foam insulation market and it’s growing over 6% each year. Overall, it’s a $27 billion industry and climbing due to the growing demand for energy- efficient buildings that reduce heat transfer and energy consumption. Two pound foam is commonly used in garages to reduce air leakage and enhance homeowner comfort.
  • 16. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023 14 poly air vapour barrier in the main walls. Further, four-inch foam in the wall cavities will increase insulation levels to 26.8 (4" × 6.7") while also increasing airtightness. Lastly, the foam will increase the structure’s strength against extreme winds by adding lateral strength. While the product has excellent qualities, spray foams in general are not 100% enviro-friendly. As Stuart explains, “spray foam has a matrix of polymer and gas bubbles within bubbles, and originally the industry used chlorofluorocarbons [CFCs], which create holes in the ozone layer. To change that, the industry did eventually shift to hydrofluorocarbons [HFCs], which do not contribute to ozone holes. But it did produce green- house gas and therefore contributed to the potential for global warming.” However, the industry continued to research and develop to meet the chal­ lenge by minimizing Global Warming Potential values (GWPs), with each unit equivalent to one CO2 molecule. The old HFC was equivalent to about 700 or 800 CO2 molecules, but as of January 1, 2021, the industry began using hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs), which has a GWP of just one. “Clearly, the improvements are significant,” Stuart says. It’s an industry-wide standard now, and all spray foam manufacturers must use it. Manufacturers can also up their game with an environmental product declaration (EPD), which reveals exactly how they make their products. This standardized document, Stuart says, “was pushed by architects and designers to force everyone in the industry to show their cards, so to speak. And it allows builders and architects to compare each product.” There are some housing forms Iain Stuart, Manager, Sales for Carlisle Spray Foam Insulation. SANTEEZ Y MEDIA
  • 17. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023 that work better with mineral wool batt insulation than others. It’s less effective in townhomes because the walls between the units need to be up to spray the foam in, whereas in a detached home you can spray the foam onto studs before installing drywall. But Carlisle has been working on designs to install spray foam into homes built very close together. To be more competitive, the com­ pany recently completed ULC fire-rated designs for one-hour and two-hour fire ratings. To date, builders have been restricted to mineral wool in homes built very close together because of that insulation’s fire retardancy. So how does a builder get a hold of this product? If a builder wants to use Carlisle foam, they need to go through a certified contractor. “That’s because of the National Building Code, which requires spray foam contractors to be certified through a certification body. There are only a small handful of certification bodies in Canada,” Stuart explains. Mixing chemicals must be done right, Stuart says, which is why it’s critical to abide by the rules. “Our name is on that product, and we’re known for quality and we want to keep it that way.” It also makes financial sense to use a certified installer rather than take a DIY approach by the builder, he adds. “The equipment is expensive and needs to be maintained regularly to ensure product performance.” While spray foam costs about double what fiberglass batts cost, Carlisle is looking at ways to be competitive. Their incentive program is just in its infancy but it shows the company’s desire to work with builders. Carlisle also offers a warranty covering up to $50,000 for material, labour and relocation costs (if a homeowner has to move to a hotel while issues are being fixed). “No other Canadian spray foam company offers that,” Stuart boasts. BB Alex Newman is a writer, editor and researcher at alexnewmanwriter.com. 15 Homeowners, contractors, and builders rely on ROCKWOOL® for dependable insulation solutions. More than a rock, ROCKWOOL stone wool insulation is made from natural stone and recycled material. In addition to being inherently non-combustible, the products resist fire, repel water and absorb sound - releasing the natural power of stone. www.rockwool.com What it’s made of makes all the difference. ROCKWOOL Comfortbatt® An exterior insulation product for use in both new residential construction and renovations where wood or steel studs are used. ROCKWOOL Safe’n’Sound® A residential insulation product for interior walls constructed with wood or steel studs, where superior fire resistance and acoustical performance are required. ROCKWOOL Comfortboard® An exterior non-structural insulation sheathing that provides a continuous layer of insulation around the building envelope.
  • 18. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023 16 featurestory / ROB BLACKSTIEN N o one would ever argue that carbon reduction is a bad idea. On this much, we can all agree. However, the road to meeting national and global carbon reduction goals is rife with challenges and obstacles. In Ontario, for instance, what would happen if every house in the province magically converted to electrically run mechanical systems tomorrow? Well, for starters, the power grid would go down. But we’d also have millions of Ontarians unable to afford to heat or cool their homes, thanks to ridiculously high utility bills – not to mention the cost of replacing all those fossil fuel-burning appliances. And while a full-scale switch from natural gas to electricity would be great for the environment, cost is a major concern – especially right now, when a lot of people are struggling financially. Even with the provincial electricity rebate, the high price will prove untenable. A bridge in the form of less expen­ sive – yet more environmentally friendly – solutions is clearly required, and thankfully there are companies that recognize this dynamic and have been working to solve it for some time. Enter integrated combination hybrid (also known as “dual fuel”) heat devices. Airmax Technologies Inc. and Glow Brand has been at the combination boiler game for many years and has already dabbled in the next evolution: hybrid devices (see “No Country for Old Ways” in the winter 2020 issue, page 16), a solution that first surfaced just before the COVID-19 pandemic. (For more about Airmax, see “Boiling Over the Competition” in the fall 2018 issue.) Panasonic is newer to the game but is already considered a household name in the ductless split heat pump technology sector. Sonny Pirrotta, North American Sales Manager – IAQ Solutions, says the company will launch two new central heat pump solutions this fall: an all- electric option and an electric outdoor heat pump with a cased coil capable of universally matching up with any gas furnace or combination system. He expects the universal option to really help increase adoption because it’s ideal for builders and contractors who are hesitant about changing what they are used to. Pirrotta thinks builders will be more open to this because, if you pitch a pricier solution than what they usually use, all builders hear is that sound when adults speak in Peanuts cartoons. The beauty of this solution is that, if something goes wrong with your AC unit but your gas furnace is still dependable, instead of replacing the AC with another massive condensing unit outside, you can swap it with a slim, quiet, inverter-driven condenser that’s capable of co-existing with your furnace. Voilà! One less fossil fuel appliance. Panasonic and Airmax are current­ ly working on integrating Panasonic’s cased coil and outdoor unit with an Airmax Hydronic Air Handler and Glow combi boiler to create a system that will heat, cool and handle domestic hot water (DHW). This is the kind of solution that “builders are looking for,” Pirrotta suggests, because it checks the low-cost box (because the dual fuel capability means they don’t have to use premium- priced cold-weather heat pumps) and it’s one less mechanical piece required. One of the best parts of this type of solution is that the homeowner has a measure of control in terms of utility costs. “It all comes back to the cost of the energy you’re buying,” Airmax P.Eng Brian Jackson suggests. MIDDLE GROUND Shifting from fossil fuels to electricity won’t happen overnight, but integrated combination hybrid heat systems help bridge the gap.
  • 19. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023 “When you give the homeowner a hybrid heating system, they’ve got flexibility. They can choose at which point they shift the energy,” he adds. Because the heat pump’s efficiency wanes as it gets colder, “it makes sense at a certain point [to not] use the heat pump.” The use of a Honeywell heat pump specific WIFI enabled thermostat with outdoor sensor for remote adjustment gives the homeowner an additional level of control. Pirrotta says that, in an effort to phase out fossil fuels, new builds in places like B.C. and California no longer include gas appliances. “But that won’t work very well in Ontario,” he suggests. Not yet, anyway. Jackson says the government is starting to view electric appliances – especially heat pumps, which are very efficient – much more favourably. And if a heat pump is identified as the primary heat source, the EnerGuide rating drops 10 points using HOT2000 modelling software, he adds. This is how heat pump technology surged in popularity, Jackson explains, because designers figured they didn’t need an efficient combi system, high- performance windows or R-60 in the roof. The thinking, Jackson says, is “all I gotta do is put a heat pump in.” Heat pump efficiency declines in the dead of winter, simply because they use heat from the air and there isn’t a lot of heat. There is a point where back-up energy makes sense. The idea here is to use the gas-powered combi system to heat the home in December, January and February (and have it make DHW) while using the electric heat pump to heat and cool the house for the other nine months. In other words, about three quarters of the year, we won’t be using much fossil fuel in a home powered by such a solution. Of course, the other reason why such a system makes sense is that, as we alluded to above, you can’t simply shift to electric overnight. Jackson explains that, in the race to reduce carbon, “policy makers and advocates seem to be on a mission – at any cost – to move to electrical-based hot water and space heating systems.” That’s a fine concept in theory, and while some people recognize the issues associated with such a rapid change, “most act blind,” he says. Electric-based HVAC systems will require more power, but our capacity for power generation and distribution is already mature. Nuclear plants? Well, they’ve exceeded their expected life cycle, Jackson suggests, and we’ve all seen time and time again that our power distribution infrastructure is not exactly robust. Further, nuclear power plants cannot be shut down at night. As a result, there is a huge surplus of electrical generation. Utilities reward off-peak users with low time-of-use (TOU) rates. GTA homeowners could run their heat pumps at night (11 p.m. to 7 a.m.) with electricity costing 2.4 cents per kilowatt, or 75% less than the peak rate. Combine these truisms with soaring electricity costs, and it’s clear that we need to move to a hybrid heat 17 Brian Jackson, P.Eng (left) of Airmax Technologies Inc. and Sonny Pirrotta of Panasonic Canada Inc. show off the demonstration unit. Combination hybrid heat: High velocity air handler and heat pump cased coil used with a combi boiler. This system was also installed in Country Homes’ super-semi.
  • 20. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023 AIR CONDITIONING IN SUMMER AIR SOURCE HEAT PUMP IN SHOULDER MONTHS DOMESTIC COLD WATER SUPPLY DOMESTIC HOT WATER SUPPLY AIR CONDITIONING IN SUMMER AIR SOURCE HEAT PUMP IN SHOULDER MONTHS DOMESTIC COLD WATER SUPPLY DOMESTIC HOT WATER SUPPLY 18 system that provides flexibility to the homeowner, at least for now. “This system is efficient and can reduce CO2 emissions by up to 50%, and hedges against near-future brownouts and escalating electrical energy costs,” Jackson summarizes. However, getting to this point hasn’t been seamless. For Airmax in particular, it’s been a long, hard road to bring this technology to the masses. Nearly a decade ago, Jackson says the company began testing its equipment towards the CSA P.9- 11 standard, which was written to clarify how all the components in a combi system perform when they’re connected together. At the time, he says, they were using Airmax and Glow equipment combined with other vendors’ wall-hung water heaters. With just one lab in Canada, trials were very expensive, costing around $14,000 to $15,000 to test one fan coil with one heater, Jackson explains. Considering Airmax/Glow makes seven different water heaters and eight different fan coils, testing them all was “not feasible.” All told, Jackson says they spent close to a quarter million dollars on testing. “When I reflect back, I’d have to say I believe the standard’s intent was good, but it may have missed the mark,” he suggests. One of the main issues is application oversight. Testing results are documented in the Combo Performance Specification Summary, which outlines the efficiencies of the equipment, all the components, set points and power consumption. In the field, for the system to achieve the stated efficiencies, everything must be duplicated in terms of installation and equipment, meaning the exact same water heater, fan coil, storage tank, thermostatic mixing valve, DHW set point, heating set point, pump, and options (outdoor air reset). However, Jackson says, HVAC designers and energy modellers seek a high thermal performance factor from the P9-11 tests to input into software. The result is oversized equipment that offers capacities at 150% to 300% of the heat load. “This is just bad design,” he explains. It results in massive energy loss because “the system is going to cycle on and off, on and off, and the efficiency is going to be absolutely horrid.” Unfortunately, the testing favoured large burners, leading to theoretically higher efficiencies for software inputs. The upshot? The manufacturer is spending all this money on testing and contractors are misapplying it, yet everyone is accepting that it’s being done properly. “So, after we ended up doing quite a few tests, we said ‘you know what? We’re out.’” At the end of the day, even a high- efficiency system can become highly inefficient when it’s not being used in the right situation. Solutions must be designed with heating capacity, DHW ➊ Glow Brand combination boiler ➋ High velocity air handler ➌ Panasonic cased coil for 3-season heat pump ➍ Panasonic inverter heat pump ➎ Thermostat ➏ Outdoor sensor
  • 21. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023 capacity and overall system efficiency factored in. “When they don’t look at all three items, you can end up with a system that’s good on paper but actually is quite horrendous,” says Jackson. “Frankly, we got sick of fighting it.” Yet Airmax and Glow Brand continues to seek ways to innovate. It’s currently trying to make its gas- fired equipment run on hydrogen blends, which will mean zero GHGs. This technology is quite advanced in Europe, and we’re finally starting to see applications in Ontario. We currently have Glow Brand product that can run on a 20% blend but we do not have a standard to certify to. Last year, Enbridge announced the first hydrogen blending initiative in North America for 3,600 homes in Markham. It’s just a 2% hydrogen blend, so it does not exceed the thres­ hold that requires creating a standard. That’s why Airmax’s and Glow’s development is going “very slowly,” Jackson explains, as committees are currently exploring what it will take to write a standard for this type of product. For now, adoption is stunted, and even once there is a standard, we’ll need a full-scale infrastructure replacement to take full advantage because the existing equipment will not provide the same result, he says. Therefore, Jackson predicts, hydrogen will likely first become popular in the industrial sector before any widespread residential adoption. Realistically, integrated combination hybrid systems are the best path forward for the time being. “When you evaluate where we are now in HVAC designs, where the legislation is going and the limitations of our current infrastructure, the hybrid solution is the best, most cost-effective solution,” Jackson concludes. Right now, it’s a win-win-win approach, he adds. The homeowner gains the flexibility to choose their dominant fuel, the builder doesn’t have to pay a large premium for a cold climate heat pump, and the environment wins with less fossil fuels being employed. Jackson says that, given the current landscape, we could be using this solution until close to the midpoint of the century. “The infrastructure problems will not be remedied any time soon, so we may be using the hybrid system going forward for 15 to 20 years.” More importantly, if we’re going to meet our carbon reduction goals, this may be the only chance we have, Pirrotta says. “There is no doubt in my mind that, by having integrated low-carbon hybrid heating solutions that are reliable, [it] will speed up the adoption by builders and contractors,” he predicts. “Without adoption of these types of solutions, we will quickly realize that meeting carbon [reduction] goals will almost be impossible.” For our money, that’s a darned good reason to give these types of solutions some serious consideration. BB Rob Blackstien is a Toronto-based freelance writer. Pen-Ultimate.ca    19 519-489-2541 airsealingpros.ca As energy continues to become a bigger concern, North American building codes and energy programs are moving towards giving credit for and/or requiring Airtightness testing. AeroBarrier, a new and innovative envelope sealing technology, is transforming the way residential, multifamily, and commercial buildings seal the building envelope. AeroBarrier can help builders meet any level of airtightness required, in a more consistent and cost-effective way. Take the guesswork out of sealing the envelope with AeroBarrier’s proprietary technology.
  • 22. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023 20 buildernews / HOWARD CHAU Now It’s Personal…Again This is a follow-up to a previous article, “Now It’s Personal,” from the winter 2022 issue, which recounts how Howard Chau and his wife, Dalin Vornn, recently purchased an all-original, 20-year-old subdivision home and made replacements to everything from mechanical systems to thermal improvements. Superior hot water delivery for everyday life. I have analyzed the utility bills for two full years: one year prior to the mechanical upgrade and one year after. The data shows a 19% savings for natural gas and an 11% savings for electricity. The natural gas savings are due to the installation of a combination system. AO Smith’s ENV50N condensing water heater and an AirMax 70e LV air handler replaced a condensing furnace and power-vented hot water tank. The electricity savings came from a 16 SEER, two-ton air conditioner and electronically commutated motor (ECM) in the AirMax air handler. In addition, the basement insulation was extended from R-12 half height to full height, and the attic insulation increased from R-31 to R-60. Based on the REMRate modelling, these insulation upgrades resulted in a 4% savings in natural gas. The takeaway is that the combo system saves about 15% when the attic and base- ment improvements are accounted for. It’s important to note that the condensing tank does not modulate as other combination hot water heaters do. Further, the smaller output was enough to provide portable hot water and was sized to meet the new combo standard, namely CSA B-214. After these improvements, the designed heat loss on my house was 32,000 BTUs per hour. If the Code harmonization moves to Tier 3, this system is robust enough to heat the reference house, which is about 26,000 BTUs per hour. The experiment was a success as we proved a house built to the 1997 Building Code, with a few improvements, can be heated with a relatively small combination system. BB Howard Chau is senior technical advisor at Clearsphere.
  • 24. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023 22 sitespecific / MARC HUMINILOW YCZ “The experience opened our eyes to the need for offering builders a turnkey solution to on-site renew­ able energy development, so we opened RGC Energy, a renewable division of our company,” says Rinomato. The formation of RGC, established two years ago, was the result of considerable planning and coordination with the Ontario Energy Board (OEB), different levels of government and utilities. Under licence with the OEB, RGC offers a unique and sustainable solution to meet the energy needs of homebuilders, homeowners, community builders and businesses across Ontario. The company designs, installs, owns and operates residential and commercial solar systems, selling the electricity generated through net metering directly to the occupants. Rinomato describes RGC as a third- party ownership model that is unique in Ontario. “Partnering with Country Homes, it allows for an integrated approach, working closely with builders and local utilities in the planning and development phase of projects,” he says. “By offering competitive pricing structures that protect against rising energy costs, combined with excellent customer service, we help homeowners and businesses save money on their energy bills and reduce their environmental impact.” Solar Solutions for Builders C hristian Rinomato, head of sustainability at Country Homes, a division of Rinomato Group of Companies, is an enthusiastic proponent of low-carbon building. In 2022, his company was the proud recipient of the Canadian Net Zero Builder award in the RESNET Cross-Border Builder Challenge for its discovery homes in a Milton development. With a net zero goal, the project set out to explore the inclusion of renewable energy by pushing the capabilities of the buildings, the built environments and the new technologies involved in all-electric homes. “The experience opened our eyes to the need for offering builders a turnkey solution to on-site renew­able energy development.” STOCK : PETOVARGA
  • 26. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023 24 RGC offers homeowners three pricing options for the clean energy generated by its systems: 1. A power purchase agreement, where the homeowner pays for the electricity generated from the solar system, similar to how they would purchase from a utility. (They don’t pay for the solar panels.) Set up as a net-metering account, homeowners will see a decrease on their utility bill for using solar. They will receive credits for extra unused solar energy generated, which is fed back to the grid as clean, renewable energy. 2. Rent the equipment. Homeowners can opt in to a rental agreement for the equipment, which includes the use of solar energy and all maintenance required for the system. They are billed a fixed monthly fee. 3. Purchase the equipment from RGC, the cost of which is included in the final purchase price of their home. In addition to residential build­ ings, RGC has worked on several commercial building projects in Vaughan. Similar in structure to its residential model, the installation offers companies several advantages: increased property value; no upfront investment; predictable energy pricing; a visible environmental commitment; a contribution to their environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals; and, the obvious one, substantial savings on electricity costs. For both residential and commercial applications, RGC coordinates with local utilities to appropriately size the infrastructure to accommodate solar within the community, and works closely with project management teams to ensure that timelines and deadlines are met. The timeline for solar installations is minimal – usually completed within a day. The system is managed by RGC both remotely and via technicians if there are any issues. All equipment comes with a warranty for performance and workmanship, which RGC manages to ensure that they are maintained. According to Rinomato, RGC Energy is currently working with Country Homes on a pioneering 400-home residential subdivision project in Brampton, which he says will be solar- powered and on the path to net zero. “RGC is leading a new wave in solar energy accessibility as we transition to a net zero world, looking first to utilize solar energy in the Ontario market,” he says. “With our Milton project as a springboard, this will involve a focus on clean energy, a more balanced grid and an increase in electrification.” In keeping with this mantra, Country Homes is currently partnering with an electric vehicle (EV) charging manufacturer to offer EV charging as standard in its single- family homes, with level 2 chargers in its subdivisions, low-rise and hi-rise multi-family homes. Rinomato acknowledges that there are challenges (and opportunities) ahead. “On the building envelope side, there’s a potential to help consumers reduce their electrical load,” he says. In the bigger picture, he adds, microgrids and community net metering should be considered. A microgrid is a self- contained electrical network that allows consumers to generate their own electricity on-site and use it when they need it most. With community net metering, excess electricity generated in a community can be sent to the grid for credits, which can be shared by multiple residents and businesses. “We need innovation in low-rise subdivisions, including work on microgrids and community net metering to allow for solar energy growth in the sector.” BB Marc Huminilowycz is a senior writer. He lives and works in a low-energy home built in 2000. As such, he brings first-hand experience to his writing on technology and residential housing and has published numerous articles on the subject. With community net metering, excess electricity generated in a community can be sent to the grid for credits, which can be shared by multiple residents and businesses.
  • 28. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023 26 industrynews / BALRAJ BANGER H ave you noticed you have rooms in your home that feel just the right temperature, all year round, while others feel too hot or too cold in the summer or winter months? Assuming your HVAC system was designed, installed, and maintained professionally, the reason for the inconsistent temperatures may be due to the lack of air balancing and air duct leakage. With the former, homeowners incorrectly assume the reason for this room temperature discomfort is an undersized furnace or air conditioner. Their fix is to install supplementary heating (i.e. room heaters) or cooling (i.e., split/window air conditioners) devices, which is costly and increases your utility bills. The Raj Volume Damper (RVD) is a device that will help eliminate the hot and cold spots in your home caused by imbalanced air distribution. Along with improving home comfort, it will reduce your utility bill and your carbon footprint. It is a manual device that will make your home more comfortable and save energy. To maintain comfort in a room, the conditioned airflow rate must be as per the HVAC design for your home, however this air flow rate is different for summer and winter. Current practice uses a device called a volume damper, installed near the floor register (where the air is discharged into the room) using a wing nut to achieve this airflow rate. The position of the volume damper needs to be adjusted by a qualified technician and locked based on the designed air flow rate, throughout the home, based on the season. Access to the wing nut is required to lock the volume damper to the necessary position effectively. Unfortunately, the wing nut becomes inaccessible during construction after drywalling. Air Balancing sets the volume damper position to the designed airflow rates. Being close to the furnace, the basement and main floor supply runs deliver higher airflow. The supply runs on the second floor; being farther from the furnace provides less airflow. It is necessary to regulate the airflow among these supply runs as well as sealing supply ductwork. As the wing nut of a conventional volume damper is not accessible after drywall, effective air balancing cannot be achieved with the conventional volume damper. Another way, as mentioned in building code, is adjustable and lockable volume control devices such as registers. But as the register is not sealed to the air supply boot, the air leaks. No air balancing report is provided by the home builder for your home, and it is not required by Building Officials. Some municipalities may start to ask for this report from the homebuilder as a condition of occupancy. In summary, despite installing efficient and expensive equipment, you may have uneven heating and cooling in your home unless air balancing is performed for your HVAC system. RVD, developed by Pioneer HVAC Putting a Damper on Bad Air Distribution Balraj Banger, CEO of Pioneer HVAC systems (left), and Sarabjit Banger.
  • 29. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023 Systems, is designed to be adjusted to any position during air balancing without the need of a wing nut. It will lock itself and it can be easily adjusted to a new setting. The RVD ensures almost 100% of the designed air flow rates can be achieved provided your HVAC system is designed, installed, sealed and maintained professionally. RVD is engineered to last. The superior materials used during the manufacturing process ensure years of trouble-free service for homeowners. They can perform the seasonal air balancing on their own home without bearing any additional service costs after the initial commissioning of the system by the experts. RVD can be installed during your home construction phase but due to its unique design, RVD can also be installed in a fully finished home with few exceptions. Prior to the introduction of the RVD this was not a possibility; today it can replace the conventional volume damper in your home. Sarabjit Banger points out, “the most challenging part of replacing a conventional volume damper with RVD is taking out the screws at the supply boot end.” Banger highly recommends installing the RVDs for the main floor and basement before finishing your basement. “It gives homeowners the ability to direct more air flow to the top floors,” he adds. John Godden of Clearsphere has many years of experience balancing forced air systems and thinks this is a much needed improvement to any duct work system. Balraj Banger’s achievements include developing India’s first dual suspension bicycle, building a proto- type in 2010. In the same year he also built a prototype for the programma- ble digital inverter, designed to save domestic energy costs akin to Tesla’s Power Wall launched in May 2015. As homes become more thermally efficient, air distribution systems become the key to comfort. With the advent of “zoned” systems and air balancing with sealed duct work, proper controls and balancing dampers become a vital part of a high performing distribution system. RVD has Patent Pending status for its design in various countries. Contact 416-312-8466 installation of the RVD. Visit www.pioneerhvac.ca for more information. BB Balraj Banger is the CEO of Pioneer HVAC Systems Inc. 27 As homes become more thermally efficient, air distribution systems become the key to comfort. This rating is available for homes built by leading edge builders who have chosen to advance beyond current energy efficiency programs and have taken the next step on the path to full sustainability. BetterThanCode LowCostCodeCompliancewith theBetterThanCodePlatform BetterThanCodeUsestheHERSIndex to Measure Energy Efficiency TheLowertheScoretheBetter Measureable and Marketable 80 60 40 20 This Platform helps Builders with Municipal Approvals, Subdivision Agreements and Building Permits. Navigating the performance path can be complicated. A code change happened in 2017 which is causing some confusion. A new code will be coming in 2024. How will you comply with the new requirements? Let the BTC Platform – including the HERS Index – help you secure Municipal Subdivision Approvals and Building Permits and enhance your marketing by selling your homes’ energy efficiency. betterthancode.ca Email info@clearsphere.ca or call 416-481-7517
  • 30. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023 28 buildernews / MARC HUMINILOW YCZ Enter Job Ready, a program initi­ ated three years ago through the Ontario Ministry of Labour’s Skills Development Fund, administered by the Ontario Home Builders’ Associa­ tion (OHBA) acting as the program proponent. The Job Ready Program matches unskilled employees with qualifying homebuilding organiza­ tions across Ontario, managing all aspects of employee recruitment to provide builders with pre-qualified, screened, safety-trained, PPE- equipped and onboarded candidates. Employees participating in the Job Ready Program receive ongoing weekly support to ensure their success with their new employers. Entry-level construction roles include general labourers, carpentry assist­ ants, warranty assistants, sales and administrative support, décor centre assistants and more. At the end of an employee’s three-month paid placement, the builder can receive a wage subsidy of up to $1,500. “In the next 10 years, 92,000 trades­ people will be retiring. That will create a massive gap,” says Sajida Jiwani, chief financial officer and chief operating officer at the OHBA. “Not only will we need to recruit a staggering 116,000 workers in that time, but we will also need to build 1.5 million homes.” EnerQuality, Canada’s market leader in residential green building programs, is the delivery agent for the Job Ready Program. buildABILITY Corporation, a company dedicated to promoting innovation within the housing industry, is acting as the employer recruiter. “We’re seeing a ‘silver tsunami’ because of retiring trades and we need a good system to replace them,” says buildABILITY president Michael Lio. “Builders need skilled trades – electricians, framers, plumbers, etc. – and unfortunately some have resorted to stealing them from their competitors. Our proposition is for employers to hire unskilled labour and develop the talent, like the NHL draft.” Lio says there is no shortage of people looking for work. “You have all these prospects available to hire and mentor. They are a real investment. I tell employers you can develop your own talent and grow the new crop of skilled labour.” The program has already started to make a difference, according to Lio. “There are challenges in the marketplace, and human resources are so important. Job Ready is a program designed to meet the needs of employers. We talk to them on a regular basis, asking them how the program is working and how to improve it.” Bob Schickedanz is owner and president of FarSight Homes, a family- run company that has been in business since 2000. “Being a small company with no HR department, the Job Ready Program fills a niche for us,” he says. “It’s like a direct conduit. Participants get basic safety training, and as a bonus, they’re already interested and signed up to an immersion program in the industry. It’s a great pre-vetted program for small builders like us – we set out what we need, they send us candidates, we interview them, and we decide if they’re a good fit for our team.” Another small developer, Huron Creek Developments, has had six employees come through the Job Ready OHBA Job Ready Program Tackles Labour Gap C anada’s homebuilding industry is at a crossroads. With the current high demand for new housing, and skilled tradespeople retiring in droves, one of the main challenges facing homebuilders is how to attract and retain new employees to fill the gap in their labour force.
  • 31. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023 Program. “They started on our sites in general labour – anything from sweeping to cleaning up and, onto the next level, teaching them how to install construction locks, edge and screw down floors, and do Energy Star audits on our homes,” says Huron Creek vice president Rick Martins. “Job Ready is a great program that taps into a market we didn’t have access to,” Martins adds. “More importantly, it’s allowing us to work on day-to-day business and not have to worry about recruiting.” That said, retaining employees has been a challenge. “Some of them left for bigger bucks offered by larger construction companies. But, because of supply and demand, they’re often subject to seasonal layoffs or unpaid days when the weather is bad. We carry our employees through the winter and, if it’s raining, we’ll send them on another site to work indoors,” he says. “The Job Ready Program is helping employers, but it’s not perfect,” admits OHBA’s Sajida Jiwani. “Two weeks of employee training is great, but it may not be good enough from a builder’s perspective. Builders are also looking for skilled trades. That’s why we’re now doing a pilot program with Skilled Trades College of Canada which offers a four-week bootcamp – hands-on training in a full-scale indoor building project, including plumbing, electrical, drywall and framing – to give participants a better understanding of the job site.” According to Jiwani, five employees in the first cohort of the pilot are still employed, and after two cohorts (21 students), only one student did not move on. “The challenge for us with Job Ready has really been the building industry itself,” she adds. “Our members have supported the program, but we need their continued buy-in.” Builders who are interested in participating can visit ohbajobready.ca. BB Marc Huminilowycz is a senior writer. He lives and works in a low-energy home built in 2000. As such, he brings first- hand experience to his writing on technology and residential housing and has published numerous articles on the subject. 29
  • 32. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023 Hiring? Wecanhelp. The OHBA Job Ready Program will fill your entry-level roles with trained candidates. Accesstoapoolofvettedandtrainedentry-levelcandidates Matchwithentry-levelworkerswhoareeagertojoinyourjobsite Receiveupto$1,500infinancialincentives Sign up today: ohbajobready.ca 30 Camp Scugog offers an outdoor camping experience for children, youth and mothers. Scugog’s safe, fun and diverse community is specifically designed to address the needs of those affected by poverty and other barriers. We believe that the development of positive attitudes and values is paramount to building a strong sense of self and community. The Cross Border Challenge and Project Futureproof are proud sponsors of this life changing summer camp experience. The 2023 Cross Border Builder Challenge Dana Leahey, Camp Director, for Camp Scugog, accepts donation from the Cross Border Challenge Golf Tournament in May of 2023.
  • 33. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023 So where do we turn? One could argue that we simply shift to purpose-built rental housing. Not just condos, but well built, comfortable, efficient housing for the massive population influx we’re experiencing. Certainly, higher- density housing has become a necessity in both small and large communities across the province. Semis, towns and multi-unit residen­ tial buildings (MURBs) have become commonplace. But something is missing. Tiny homes. Not just those seen on TV, fit to a trailer bed, able to move anywhere. Yes, there’s growing interest in a simpler life and everything these homes can offer. But there’s a growing segment of the population looking for that little plot of land to call their own, with shared common space, at an affordable price. Tiny homes need to be in the neighbourhoods we offer, with a legitimate design standard integrated. They need to be celebrated within our communities as part of a healthy housing continuum alongside semis, towns and MURBs. I’m talking tiny homes constructed on a permanent slab-on-grade foundation, built above building codes 31 A Tiny HVAC Challenge fromthegroundup / DOUG TARRY U nder the crushing weight of the cost of housing, combined with the rise of variable rate mortgages with fixed payments leading to infinity mortgages, housing affordability continues to spiral out of reach for more and more Canadians. It’s increasingly apparent that we need a paradigm shift in thinking, from industry stakeholders to community leaders, various levels of government, and the most vocal NIMBY leaders. Housing affordability continues to spiral out of reach… It’s increasingly apparent that we need a paradigm shift in thinking. A tiny footprint requires right- sized heating. RENDER : DOUG TARRY
  • 34. BETTERBUILDER.CA | ISSUE 47 | AUTUMN 2023 32 in energy performance. They need to be very inexpensive to maintain and operate in keeping with the overall theme of housing affordability. Depending on the price point target, these units would be in a mix of singles, semis and towns. They’d range from an accessible bungalow (approximately 400 square feet), to two-bedroom units (600 square feet), to a three-bedroom family unit (around 800 square feet). Yes, a family home as small as 800 square feet with a little yard and access to child- friendly community green space. So why can’t we simply build them? Prejudicial NIMBYism is the single greatest contributing factor. I don’t mean your traditional neighbourhood “no to anything not the same as what we already have” complaint picketing City Hall. I mean City Hall itself, and existing municipal bylaws, that make it difficult to create a new, needed housing type under 700 square feet when often the requirement is a minimum greater than this for single- family housing. I’ve been very fortunate in working with my local municipality, the City of St. Thomas, and project partners Sanctuary Homes and the YWCA towards the creation of an affordable tiny home project for the YWCA called Tiny HOPE, advancing the concept as a solution to our downtown housing crisis and siting the project on brownfield lands that were run down. The City has been supportive of going smaller to the point of wanting to see this type of housing offered in more communities. It’s a wonderful example of working together towards a common goal. However, the existing Ontario Building Code has some limitations – specifically room and stair size requirements, which are a significant challenge when looking to utilize bedroom lofts off a ladder. Huh? You can buy a bunk bed with ladder access to the upper bed, but according to an Ontario government online bulletin1, “Ladders to a second storey do not comply with the Building Code requirements.” Clearly a good deal of thought needs to go into adding second floor space in a tiny home, especially in utilizing the space under the stairs. This leads us to HVAC. The loads are so low on these units that a traditional system isn’t going to work. Our preferred design is a cold climate air source heat pump unit, with heads in each bedroom and the common kitchen/family space. An electric wall mount or baseboard heater is located near the exterior door and in the bedrooms for backup heat, with a towel warmer in the bathrooms for chilly mornings. The Building Code still requires fresh air, and with closet space at a premium, a location for an energy recovery ventilator (ERV) proves challenging. There are some excellent small ERVs on the market, and we found spaces above the stacked washer dryer, water heater, and in a bathroom void space. Getting fresh air in the open living space and bedrooms was perhaps the greatest challenge with bulkheads/drop ceilings a necessary evil. I would have preferred ERV bath fans with jumper grills between the bathroom, hallway and bedrooms, but we wouldn’t meet Code compliance. We’re looking forward to the start of our Tiny HOPE community build next spring after our winter fundraising campaign. I’m also eager to see this type of housing included in our upcoming community designs as a needed affordable option on the housing spectrum. A special thanks to Tom, Michael and the entire team at McCallum HVAC Design for working with Doug Tarry Homes on creating a unique design solution for Project Tiny HOPE. BB Doug Tarry Jr is director of marketing at Doug Tarry Homes in St. Thomas, Ontario. 1 www.ontario.ca/document/build-or-buy-tiny- home/building-code-requirements City Hall itself, and existing municipal bylaws… make it difficult to create a new, needed housing type under 700 square feet when often the requirement is a minimum greater than this for single-family housing.