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FUTURE TECHNOLOGIES are already present; they just aren't proven yet.

Heat pumps are a preferred solution

1. Image of drilling equipment used to sink test wells

1. Drilling equipment drills holes to help in
testing for a ground source heat pump
installation. Click the image for more information.

CanmetEnergy, Ottawa, has funding from three Quebec government agencies to design: (a) direct expansion integrated ground-source heat pumps; (b) secondary loop heat pumps; (c) divided geothermal field configurations and sizing, control strategies; (d) new refrigerants, and (e) new technologies at its Varennes, Quebec lab.

“In Canada, more than half of the energy produced is lost,” NRCan states on its website. However, the International Energy Agency indicates that 45 percent of the Kyoto CO2 emissions objectives “can be achieved through a more intelligent use of energy. Heat pump (HP) systems are the most promising technology for heating and cooling buildings,” NRCan suggests.

Its goal is a market penetration rate for all types of heat pumps of 10 percent in 2020, and research to enable smaller, more efficient, and less expensive heat exchangers (underground tubing) to be developed. There is also potential for using these units for district heating applications, with studies underway of existing community systems.

“Because of its thermo-physical and transport properties, and its environmental benefits, carbon dioxide, a natural fluid, offers the best alternative to synthetic refrigerants. A research project is underway to study the behaviour of a ground-source heat pump system using CO2 with a phase change in a secondary ground loop,” NRCan reports.

“DX systems are the preferred option for ground-source heat pumps in North America. However, designers face a lack of technical data to optimize systems and replace synthetic refrigerants to respond to environmental concerns.” The replacement of R-22 with a “green” refrigerant like R-410a will be studied. Another example of research that should realize marketable technologies.

Section Gallery

2. Diagram showing components of a typical ground-source heat pump 3. Diagram showing components of an air-source heat pump (heating cycle)

Factually Speaking

“We might even see the end of the combustion age in our lifetime.” — Anita van Wyk

Unique technologies for the future?

1. Image of a fuel cell unit

1. Fuel cells did not reward initial optimism.
Click the image for more information.

Will new heating methods come to the HVAC industry to gradually reduce fossil fuel’s domination of home heating? Please read on to see what the future may have in store for you ...

Since 2003, the Canadian Centre for Housing Technology has tested six small distributed combined heat and power (microCHP) plants that generate electricity, space heat, and hot water in single houses. Because microCHP plants use the waste heat from electricity generation, they are far more efficient than utility power plants, and because they generate on demand at the point of use, they may reduce peak loads and the need for larger electrical grids.

The first was an early version of the WhisperGen Stirling engine unit from New Zealand, and two later models were tested in 2005 and 2009. Two units had internal combustion engines: one by AISIN (part of the Toyota group), and another by a Honda unit, which has been marketed in the US. The most innovative microCHP plant was a Canadian-made fuel cell that converts fuel to electricity with no moving parts. All run on natural gas. They generate 0.75 to 6 kW of electricity along with larger amounts of heat.

Another promising technology are appliances that combine space heating, hot water, continuous ventilation, and heat recovery in one integrated, space-saving, energy-efficient unit. The eKCOMFORT consortium of six manufacturers was established in 1999 by Natural Resources Canada with seed funding from the federal Climate Change Action Fund, NRC-IRAP, and others to create prototype models. The models were installed and tested in test homes in 2001 and 2002 and contributed to the technology’s commercialization. In 2009, the first commercially available model, the Matrix™ by NTI, Saint John, NB, was tested against a system based on a condensing furnace, and found to be more energy efficient.

A novel heating project investigated by the Canadian Centre for Housing Technology was an electrolyzer which produced hydrogen from water, which was added to the natural gas stream of a high efficiency condensing gas furnace to reduce gas use, along with electricity.

Natural Resources Canada’s lab in Ottawa has tested cold-temperature air source heat pumps (ASHP) from the US and Japan. Unlike other ASHPs, these can continue operating efficiently down to about -25°C. So they can provide similar benefits to ground source heat pumps without the need for expensive wells.

Section Gallery

2. Image showing an integrated condensing boiler-furnace-domestic hot water-heat recovery appliance3. Image of an ECM motor4. Image showing two R-2000 test houses

Factually Speaking

“Show me someone who doesn't dream about the future and I'll show you someone who doesn't know where they are going.” — Unknown

The future for heating is coming!

1. Image of a house that puts energy back into the electrical grid

1. The Riverdale NetZero house in Edmonton, AB.
Click the image for more information.

Can a government-industry partnership develop zero energy homes by 2020? That is the research and development objective of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to meet that US Department of Energy goal. “The research objectives are to develop integrated energy efficient and onsite renewable energy power solutions that can be successfully used on a large production scale to reduce whole-house energy use in new homes by 50 percent in 2015 and by 90 percent in 2025!”

Natural Resources Canada and its Canmet Energy Labs have a more flexible timetable: “Innovative technologies for the heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVACR) appliances of Canada’s homes and buildings (including commercial and recreational facilities), are required to enable us to meet the vision of market-feasible net-zero energy solutions by 2030, and to reduce electrical demand at peak times.”

Consider that Natural Resources Canada spent a million dollars helping six manufacturers develop the eKOCOMFORT integrated mechanical systems in three years. Another company did it on its own in two! That type of competition just makes the future potential for advanced designs in current equipment and components and new appliances all the more fascinating. It will be the 19th and 20th centuries all over again — while we watch “over their shoulders” this time, and trying to keep up with the changes.

Calor of the United Kingdom has already launched its Baxi Ecogen combined heat and power (CHP) unit with a Stirling engine. Now its goal is to produce a “revolutionary new fuel cell CHP technology” to generate heat and electricity and reduce emissions — by 2012 — using the liquid propane gas (LPG) Calor has long supplied. US R&D focuses on the power side, generating electricity.

2. Pictured chart shows the NetZero house produced more than it used

2. This chart compares the energy profiles of a Canadian National Average home and an R-2000 home to the predicted profile of the Riverdale NetZero (RNZ) house on the basis of annual residential energy consumption and production. Click the image for more information.

Australia’s government wants to make clean coal by 2020-25. Canada is already deeply involved in Clean Coal. “Our scientists are exploring two pathways to clean coal technology: combustion (oxy-fuel or post-combustion) and gasification. Our clean coal innovations are facilitating the use of coal as an efficient, cleaner source of energy, and transforming the Canadian coal industry into a leader in the development of clean coal knowledge and technologies,” Canmet Energy reports. Coal makes up over half of the world’s energy supply.

Canada Mortgage & Housing Corporation (CMHC) launched its Net-Zero Energy EQuilibrium sustainable-renewable energy housing program in 2006. It “combines a wide range of technologies, strategies, products and techniques designed to reduce a home’s environmental impact to an absolute minimum” with the private and public sectors as partners. CMHC selected 15 project proposals to begin the program. One objective is to produce as much energy as the home uses each year.

This research actually began with the National Research Council’s “Healthy Home” in Saskatoon in 1976. The R-2000 Housing program, launched by Natural Resources Canada in 1982, was a North American energy efficient housing standard. There are many of these Net-Zero “demonstration” homes, most lived-in, all over Canada and the U.S., including the Mill Creek and Riverdale homes in Edmonton.

Factually Speaking

“I look to the future because that's where I'm going to spend the rest of my life.” — George F. Burns

Years of education and training stand
behind every heating appliance

1. Image of John Wisman

John Wisman.
Click the image for more information.

What makes your boiler, furnace, and all other heating systems special is the education and training behind their design, installation, and maintenance. Your heating technician is a skilled and knowledgeable specialist, with a five year apprenticeship to graduate as a journeyman and then regular upgrade programs as technologies change.

One example of this skill was demonstrated in 2009 by John Wisman, a 21-year-old from Brampton, Ontario. He first took top honours in Ontario and Canada’s national skills competitions for heating and air conditioning apprentices. John then went to Michigan in October 2009 to represent Canada in a grueling five-day international competition. He was a close second to a Buffalo resident.

He was then in his third year of his five-year apprenticeship. His trainers are Shane McCarthy, Ryan McCarthy, and others at the JTAC-Local 787 Training Centre in Brampton, and Raymond Patten, a teacher at Bramalea Secondary School where he got his start in HVACR education. He also works full time for a local contractor while completing his certification.

Techs still have to pass certification courses to become a gas fitter, one for each of three levels, to qualify for that licence, in Ontario for example. An oil heating technician takes other courses, including the Oil Heat Technicians’ course with the manual developed by the Canadian Oil Heat Association (COHA).

The Heating, Refrigeration, and Air conditioning Institute of Canada (HRAI) offers 70 HVACR technical upgrade courses under its SkillTech Academy, training 1,000 “students” each year in a partnership with Natural Resources Canada. And the Canadian Institute of Plumbing and Heating (CIPH) offers a range of courses, including the Hydronic Heating Installation course it developed a decade ago through its Canadian Hydronics Council.

These three associations were the prime supporters of this exhibit, as required by the Department of Canadian Heritage, to qualify to apply for a funding contract with the Virtual Museum of Canada to develop this documentary website.

All associations and organizations, specifically those in training and education, will be focused on “attracting youth to come to work in this industry,” points out Russ Morgan, current Chair of CIPH. “We have a great story to tell, but we need to do a better job of telling it.” “The cautious consumer image of HVACR systems in basements, on rooftops and in mechanical rooms will be replaced by public awareness of the positive impact the HVACR Industry has on the lifestyles of Canadians and the environment,” is a strategy outlined by HRAI in its 2010 Annual Report.

With the Baby Boomers beginning to retire, the ability of the industry to attract, train, and keep technicians and employees in all areas of operations will be critical over the next decade to continue to provide the equipment and services Canadians have come to expect.

Article Sources

Heat pumps a preferred solution to lose less energy, reduce its use

  • Research from the archives of the HVACR Heritage Centre Canada (DCSB #115).
  • CanMetEnergy Laboratories, Natural Resources Canada.
  • Canadian Society for Mechanical Engineering.
  • The Canadian Centre for Energy Information. Energy.
  • Welcome to CERI.
  • Technology News - CNET News.

Unique technologies for the future? Examples of systems being developed

  • Research from the archives of the HVACR Heritage Centre Canada (DCSB #59. HD1006R and DCSB #56, HD1006O).
  • “Ten Years of Achievement,” Canadian Centre for Housing Technology, Ottawa, 2008.
  • Canadian Centre for Housing Technology/Centre canadien des technologies résidentielles.
  • eKOCOMFORT, Advanced Integrated Mechanical Systems, Natural Resources Canada,

The future for heating is coming!

  • Research from the archives of the HVACR Heritage Centre Canada (DCSB #114).
  • National Renewable Energy Laboratory (US).
  • Natural Resources Canada, Canmet Energy Laboratories.
  • ‘Matrix’ by NTI-NY Thermal Inc., Saint John, NB.
  • Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) Building and Design:

Years of education and training stand behind every heating appliance

  • Research from the archives of the HVACR Heritage Centre Canada (DCSB #220).
  • Heating, Refrigeration and Air conditioning Institute of Canada (HRAI) and Newcom Business Media Inc., Toronto, Ontario, National Review, Fall 2010, p. 7.
  • Heating Ventilating and Air-conditioning Guide, American Society of Heating Refrigeration and Air conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), 1960.
  • Mechanical Business, September/October 2010, p. 22
  • Oilheat Technician’s Manual, Canadian Oil Heat Association, Markham, ON.


  • Research from the archives of the HVACR Heritage Centre Canada (DCSB #19, DCSB #115, DCSB #59).
  • Canadian Centre for Housing Technology/Centre canadien des technologies résidentielles,
  • NTI-NY Thermal Inc.,

Image Credits

Heat pumps a preferred solution to lose less energy, reduce its use

  • CCHTtenyearsofachievement_e.pdf, Canadian Centre for Housing Technology [CCHT].
  • Natural Resources Canada.
  • Ibid.

Unique technologies for the future? Examples of systems being developed

  • Canadian Centre for Housing Technology/Centre canadien des technologies résidentielles.
  • NY Thermal Inc.,
  • Canadian Centre for Housing Technology/Centre canadien des technologies résidentielles.
  • Ibid.

The future for heating is coming!

  • Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, “CMHC EQuilibriumTM Sustainable Housing Demonstration Initiative: Project Profile—Riverdale NetZero” (Ottawa, ON), p 1.
  • Ibid., p 2.

Years of education and training stand behind every heating appliance

  • Pam Douglas, The Brampton Guardian, Saturday October 10, 2009.