RPA, ACCA, IAQA hold co-located convention

SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS — The Radiant Professionals Alliance held its first co-located convention and show with the Air Conditioning Contractors of America, the Indoor Air Quality Association and their joint B.E.S.T. trade show here in February. The nascent collaboration was hindered because the contractor groups — and their respective seminars — were forced into separate hotels, so there was less cross-pollination than had been hoped for. That problem will be eliminated at next year’s March conventions and show in Las Vegas when all the groups will be in the same hotel.

The collaboration with the two complementary associations are part of RPA Executive Director Ted Lowe’s commitment to expanding the playing field for radiant heating and cooling.

Hydronic stalwarts and RPA supporters who participated in the tradeshow included Apricus Solar, Caleffi North America, Daikin McQuay, Electro-Plastics, FLIR, Fluke, Grundfos Pumps, Mr. PEX Systems, Noble, Radiant Complete, Rheem, Roth America, Taco, Uponor, Viega, Warmboard, Webstone, Wilo USA, and both of the code bodies, International Association of Plumbing & Mechanical Officials and the International Code Council.

One of the RPA seminars featured contractor Dave Yates, F.W. Behler, York, Pa., and CONTRACTOR columnist, explaining how to sell high efficiency equipment even while being the high bidder.

Yates began by noting that comfort problems in a house created by a large single zone would typically be addressed by installing zone dampers and a bypass zone. While that might handle comfort problems, it doesn’t reduce energy use and operating costs. The way to do that, Yates said, is to switch to a European mindset that you only heat or cool the rooms that are occupied. He’s done that using mini-split air conditioners or heat pumps for 25-years without problems.

New modulating inverter drive heat pumps are the future of the industry, he said. The way an inverter work is that it takes 220V single phase and converts it to 360V DC and then inverts it to 200V simulated three-phase. That allows infinite modulation, uses only the energy needed at the time, and allows heat pumps to work without auxiliary heat to temperatures below 0°F. Efficiencies are 26 SEER and 12 HSPF, in the range of geothermal heat pumps. Yates noted that geothermal heat pumps will soon use inverters themselves, increasing their efficiency by another 30%. Because rooms are conditioned with separate indoor units, some units on the market allow simultaneous heating and cooling in different rooms.

Electronically commuted motors have started a revolution, Yates said, which started with HVAC blower motors and has now moved to hydronic circulators. Now that the heating and cooling equipment modulates up and down, the pumps and blowers can follow along.

Pump energy can be considerable, he noted. In the 10-zone hydronic experiment that is his own house, Yates discovered that circulators were using 1,186W when all 10 zones were on. He has switched to two ECM circulators and 10 3W zone valves, reducing his electric consumption for heat distribution by 93%. That discovery, he said, has altered the way he does business.

He sells high-efficiency equipment based on return on investment and a new term he invented, Energy Conservation Value. Energy Conservation Value, or ECV, is the annual cost savings from high efficiency equipment. Yates doesn’t give customers a price for equipment and leave it at that — that makes the equipment a commodity. Instead he focuses on the difference in price between a standard offering and a high-efficiency product and on the operating cost difference between the two.

His formula is to take the difference in operating costs and divide it by the difference in selling price to get to ROI. For example, a 95% efficient boiler may cost $2,500 more than an 82% efficient boiler. If the high efficiency boiler can modulate down to low temperatures as opposed to 180°F, it can save $1,000 per year in operating costs. The $1,000 in savings divided by the $2,500 price difference is 0.4, and 0.4 x 100 = 40% ROI.

Simple payback in this case is two and half years, but that’s if fuel costs don’t rise and they typically increase by 5% a year. Yates always shows customers the effect of increasing fuel costs on operating costs over a 20-year period. Yates ran the numbers on his own mechanical room change-out that cost him $3,485. Over a 20-year period he is avoiding paying $15,644 to the electric company for an average ROI of 24.67%.

On new construction the savings and ROI would be better, he said.

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