How Some Vancouver Buildings Are Lowering Operating Costs

By Will Wilson, Sustainability Manager, Pace Solutions

The pandemic forced most Vancouver businesses to work remotely, inspiring business owners to review their overhead costs. The independent research firm, Conference Board of Canada, reported that most businesses had only 20% remote staff prior to the pandemic, but even after the quarantine was lifted, 60% remained working from home. 

Although that percentage is slowly shrinking, the future effect on occupancy could mean whole floors sit empty in buildings across the lower mainland.

As a result, building owners and managers are reviewing their operations for ways to cut costs. Despite low occupancy or vacancy, building owners still need to heat their buildings to prevent costly maintenance issues. Heating, which is typically achieved by a gas-fired hydronic boiler system, is one of the largest operational expenditures of any building. 

As life slowly normalizes, commercial buildings still require heating.

Along with high heating bills, buildings also contribute over 25% of the greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in Vancouver. Other than replacing boilers with expensive high-efficiency systems or occupant participation, building owners and managers have little opportunity to improve heating efficiency, lower CO2 emissions and reduce energy costs. 

To help building owners reach these objectives, British Columbia’s largest natural gas provider, FortisBC, is offering its customers a substantial rebate on the first verified “hydronic additive” for boiler systems, EndoTherm®. It has proven to lower boiler energy consumption and emissions by up to 15%, helping buildings reach GHG emission goals with no new equipment or downtime. 

Compared to upgrading the boiler -- which has a simple payback of 10-15 years -- the average simple payback from adding EndoTherm is less than two years. In most cases, the rebate helps shorten that return to a single heating season.

Field Tested

EndoTherm was applied to a boiler system in a commercial building located in Vancouver’s downtown core. With a boiler BTU rating of 3,000 MBH and a system volume of 4,500 litres, the building averaged 5000 gigajoules (GJ) of natural gas usage and 301 tonnes of carbon emissions annually, totalling $42,500 p/y. 

The addition of EndoTherm resulted in lowering usage by 625 GJs and emissions by 37.6 tonnes of CO2, with an annual savings of $5313. That calculates to a 12.5% total reduction in costs, usage and emissions. With the FortisBC rebate, the simple payback was only 13 months.

How EndoTherm works

Boiler systems use water or a mix of water and glycol to transport heating and cooling. The high surface tension of water limits heat transfer causing the system to run inefficiently, consuming excess energy. 

When added to any hydronic systems at a low concentration, EndoTherm reduces the water’s surface tension by 60%, significantly improving heat transfer between the water and the heating unit which can include heat exchangers, radiators and air handling units. [Fig. 1] The increase of heat transfer allows the building to heat quicker and the boilers to run under more energy-efficient conditions. [Fig. 2]

Pace Solutions Corporation. 2020

Figure 1 - Improvement to heat exchange

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Pace Solutions Corporation. 2020

Figure 2 - Time and fuel required to reach set points.

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Is Your Building Eligible for the Rebate?

EndoTherm and the FortisBC rebate apply to nearly all hydronic boiler systems. To apply for the rebate, contact Pace Solutions for more information. Pace offers EndoTherm® as part of its Eco Program, which reduces maintenance costs and protects buildings’ systems. To learn more contact sustainability@pacesolutions.com or visit pacesolutions.com.