What is really turning heads in Calgary's hot new home market is how easy the system is to install and maintain.
"When we wanted to set it up, the plumbing company sent four guys over," said Ron Bird, owner of Lifestyle Homes, "and three of them just stood around while one worker installed it."
Bird had five of the Conematic units installed to provide zone heating and hot water in a $1.7-million, 6,000-square-foot spec house in the upscale Lynx Ridge community. He was attracted to the system because it promised to deliver a cost-efficient, reliable and smart hydronic heat package that also met the guidelines of the Build Green program of the Calgary Home Builders' Association. "We were also concentrating on home comfort," he added. The fact that it is a local product didn't hurt.
Bird was not concerned that Lifestyle is the first full-scale residential application for the new system. "We always try to be at the forefront of technology," he said.
For Doug Smith, president of Conematic, Bird's testimonial is welcome but not surprising. Working with SAIT, Smith has had the system certified and rigorously tested both in SAIT labs and in 150,000 hours of field tests. "We know it works," he said. In fact, the system has already met every single technical requirement of Canada, the United States and even the Chinese government.
Unlike most hydronic heating systems that require a boiler, heater and extensive and complicated pipe fittings, the Conematic mounts on a wall, plugs into a standard 110-volt power outlet and has snap-in pipe connections.
"It is non-condensing, 90 per cent efficient, has virtually no emissions and will manage all downstream applications in heating, cooling and domestic water production," Smith added.
And it is super smart. Bird, for example, has the system's on-board computer matched to his IBM ThinkPad. "We could control the system from anywhere in the world," he said. But the Conematic is even smarter than that. The system has monitors that read the outside temperature and automatically adjust the home's heat levels - important in Calgary where winter temperatures can swing by 10 degrees C in a matter of minutes.
At Lynx Ridge, Bird is using the Conematic system for separate radiant in-floor heating on the main floor and second storey and for the garage floor, as well as for domestic hot water.
According to Smith's calculations, the advantages in the Lynx Ridge application include capital cost savings of 30 per cent and energy savings in domestic hot water equal to 90 per cent of a conventional gas-fired boiler. But Bird, whose company builds about 75 houses a year in Calgary, says the Conematic is so efficient that it would really shine in a lower-cost house. "We are planning to install the system in a $350,000 house we are building," he said.
The Conematic is not restricted to just the new home market, according to Smith. The extensive field tests included retrofitting the system, in February, into an existing house that had forced air heat and an air conditioning system in place. A CM-RU system provided heat to a low-velocity fan coil direct system using all existing ducting in the house. The fan coil was equipped with filtration for indoor air quality. The hydronic package supplied a 90-gallon indirect hot water system with the capability of zoned heat to a garage, studio and even towel warmers in the bathrooms. The house was also equipped with an outdoor sensor, several indoor sensors and programmable thermostat (both heat and air conditioning) and an isolated glycol feed system.
According to Smith, this was the first of several retrofits and demonstrates the capability in supporting and managing devices such as air conditioning, sophisticated filtration and humidification, and multi-faceted domestic water/radiant/underfloor integration.
Bird believes that hydronic heating - which has been expanding at 15 per cent annually in Alberta - will become the dominant heating system in Canada.
If he's right, the super small, super smart Conematic may become one of the hottest new products profiled in this year's Home Builder New Product Showcase. Smith, in fact, was hesitant to agree to the Home Builder coverage. "We are just starting up manufacturing and I am afraid of being swamped with orders," he said. HB