When it comes to renewable energy and low greenhouse gas emissions systems, there are three camps that exist in the HVAC contracting world:

  1. It is too complicated to deal with customers who are not interested — unfortunately, most contractors are not interested or scared of this.
  2. That is a great idea, let us investigate offering that — this is slowly becoming more prevalent.
  3. We already offer these services — some of the more notable examples include J.F Ahern in Fond Du Lac WI, Devine Brothers-King of Prussia, PA, Donnelly Queens Village, NY.

The first misconception is that we do not know how to do this type of work. The reality is you may already be doing this type of work and not realize it. Sustainable HVAC covers many different technologies.

  1. Combined heat and power systems are considered a renewable energy-based system. There are many different manufacturers.
  2. Waste Heat Recovery systems are considered a renewable energy-based system. Some examples are desuperheaters, boiler stack economizers, and using the waste energy from air compressors to provide comfort or process heat. Waste heat recovery has been done for a long time in the supermarket industry.
  3. Systems that use solar electricity without the use of an inverter are solar electric-based systems. There are many ductless systems that can provide grid and non-grid-tied systems. ThermaRay is just one of many brands I know. Evapco manufactures an evaporative cooler where the large motor was replaced by four ECM motors and solar electric panels where installed. A few chiller manufacturers produce systems that take advantage of the sun, and their chillers derive up to 50% of their energy during the day from it.
  4. Dehumidification and ventilation — where little or no fans are used are low GHG emissions systems. Think of regenerative desiccant systems — Air Green, Blue Frontier, and Mojave Energy.
  5. Hydrogen-powered boilers — Hurst will be coming out with them soon for large applications. Bosch has tankless systems.
  6. System monitoring — This can include remote system monitoring, indoor air quality, and emissions from the boilers and ovens in a plant.
  7. Indoor air quality (IAQ) — The healthier the air in a building, the healthier the people that work in the building. By using ERVS, you are bringing in fresh air, but also performing waste heat recapture.
  8. Increasing efficiency — iAir, and several other suppliers, have solar thermal panels that, instead of being used to heat water, are piped into the refrigerant circuit. The refrigerant is heated, helping it change phase from a liquid to a gas, allowing the compressor to run less often.

The second misconception is the paperwork. Yes, it exists. No, you do not have to do it yourself. Most contractors use subcontractors. The company that will take care of the paperwork is a subcontractor.

The third misconception is that technicians will not want to work on those systems. The older technicians may not want to, but the younger ones will. This can be a way to recruit will. To them, they see this as a way to help the planet. The systems are not as complicated as you may think. The manufacturers and reps are there to lend their support and knowledge.

The fourth misconnection is that my customers and prospects will not be interested. ESG is only growing with more businesses switching over to the framework. If you think about LEED when it first was introduced, most contractors said the same thing. Another way to phrase it is sustainability and ESG are LEED, but deal with the aftercare and existing facilities.

The last misconnection — I do not know how to engineer it. Before you started in HVAC, or plumbing, did you know how to do a load calculation? If you think of a solar thermal system as nothing more than a boiler, could you do the load calculation?

Imagine 10 to 15 years ago someone said to install water source heat pumps, but instead of using an evaporative condenser and backup boiler, you will drill into the ground and use pipe. People thought I was a little off. Ask yourself how large the geothermal industry has become.

Go back further and someone came to you and said instead of using a furnace or boiler we will use a system that can reverse the refrigerant cycle for heating.

The point I am making is that modern technology should not be feared. The worst that can happen is you learn and gain a competitive advantage.