Mechanical systems have always been present in buildings, they control our temperature, give us water, and provide us with light. Looking into more efficient versions of these systems has only become practical in the recent years due to advances in technology which have lowered initial installation and purchase costs.
Before we look at specific mechanical systems to consider, its always important to remember:
- that depending on the scope, size, and location of your project, not all systems may be practical or beneficial
- to plan out your timeline of ownership in order to understand which systems will be most cost effective for you
- research the cost of your utilities - the prices of natural gas, electricity, and water - as this may help you decide the best solution for your project
With these ideas in mind, lets have a look at some of the most popular solutions and products that are on the market today.
Radiant vs. Forced Air Heating
Heating is a necessity here in Vancouver, and there really are only two realistic ways of heating your building. Although forced air has been the accepted standard for years and is still a favourite due to its low cost of installation, radiant heating is ideal in terms of comfort, flexibility, and efficiency.
Radiant heating uses a technology that dates back to the Roman empire believe it or not, and is achieved by having tubes of warm water run through your floors. The warm floors then radiate heat upwards through your building creating a very even and comfortable heat. Because radiant heating does not rely on forcing air throughout the building, floating particulate and dust accumulation is drastically reduced. Perhaps the most beneficial aspect of radiant heating is that you can completely remove the furnace which would be required to heat the hot air. Radiant heating uses the same boiler which heats the hot water for the fixtures in your home, offering a massive savings of up to 25% reduction in energy consumption versus a typical forced air counterpart.
*you can read more about radiant heating HERE at one of our other blog entries.
Vancouver’s climate does not necessarily require an A/C system as temperatures here are quite mild year round. For most clients, the summer temperature highs are quite manageable especially with the use of passive strategies alone - which we will talk about in our next post. Although, if your future building is large, or the utmost comfort is desired, we recommend energy star approved units, one perfectly suited to the application - we will work with you to find the very best solution for your project.
Ventilation, and Heat Recovery Systems (HRV)
Advances in building science and construction practices have allowed the exterior of buildings to be increasingly water and air tight, both very important qualities for Vancouver’s mild and damp climate. The problem here is that when your doors and windows are closed - especially in winter time - there is no fresh airflow throughout your building. When there is no way for fresh air to enter or circulate, your indoor air becomes stale and quality begins degrade as it gains particulate creating an unhealthy environment. In the summer time you can simply open a window to solve this problem, but in the winter, opening windows means major heat loss and therefore large energy consumption and high utility costs. The solution is to instal an “HRV” or a Heat Recovery Ventilator. This unit pulls fresh air from the exterior, filters it, then the air passes through a heat exchanger which brings it to room temperature by using the stale interior air as its heat source. Once the fresh air is heated it is sent into the building while the stale air is expelled outside.. This unit is infinitely more efficient than opening a window, and supplies the inside with filtered, warm, and fresh air, we recommend these to every client we deal with who uses radiant heat.
Water Saving Appliances and Fixtures
Saving water can be as easy as just being conscious of what you are buying. We can lend a hand and make sure you are making the best purchase for the environment and for you as the owner.
- Before purchasing faucets and shower heads, inspect their water consumption ratings and see that water saving spouts can be installed
Dishwashers and clothing washers are very large water consumers, make sure to look for water and energy efficient options - they are usually energy star certified
Energy Efficient Lighting
Has really only been viable within the last couple years due to the fact that energy efficient light solutions have been quite expensive, unreliable, and inaccurate. The unappealing and un-natural light sent out by LED’s are finally coming to an end as warmer tones similar to incandescents are becoming achievable. There are many reasons why you should consider LED lighting, the major ones include:
- up to 75% less energy used than a conventional incandescent bulb
- 40-50 times longer life span than a comparable incandescent bulb
- LED bulbs produce far less heat
If you are considering using LED lighting in your home, make sure that you are buying a quality product, as there are many poor LED products on the market. If you would like to consider LED lighting, we will find the very best quality product for the desired budget.
If any of these concepts or solutions are something that you would like more information on, please contact us. When working with us, we make sure that these systems will be integrated in to your project for maximum efficiency while maintaining function and aesthetics.