“These products will help them be as energy- and self-sufficient as possible,” he said. “The savings potential is huge because you are cutting down on the requirement for fuel to run generating stations.”
The @Source-Energy Pipes are engineered products, manufactured from reinforced precast concrete. Inside, a heat exchange system draws the heat out of the concrete. It functions as a standard sewer pipe and heat recovery system.
The concept is to capture and recycle the heat that is washed away in the sewer pipes from toilets as well as grey water from laundry, showers, dishwashers and daily use. A heat pump in the building operates and controls the system, transferring heat into the building in the winter and out of the building during the summer months, to be stored in the ground for use at a later time.
The @Source-Energy Wall system works in a similar way, but draws solar heat energy absorbed by concrete building walls. Interspersed photovoltaic (PV) cells also generate electricity, which can be sold to the energy grid.
The photovoltaic cells work on alternating current. Each panel has a microinverter, which means it works independently of the other, unlike most PVs that run in a direct current, reducing their efficiency.
The concrete walls also extract heat from the back of the solar cells. This increases the efficiency of the photovoltaic cell, improving PV output by up to 20 per cent, according to Palmer.
A 2,200-square foot private residence that used 100 feet of sewer pipe recovered enough heat energy to heat the house all winter. The @Source-Energy Pipe infrastructure has been installed at 18 new houses in Naneff Gardens, a residential development in Sudbury.
Palmer sees these products being useful in a variety of businesses – from the mining industry to tourist lodges and campgrounds.
The product is in its first year and Palmer said he is meeting with architects and engineers, planning future projects.
Rainbow Concrete has also introduced green energy into its core business. Since 2008, the company has made a conscious corporate decision to use biodiesel in its fleet of 70 trucks in order to decrease emissions. Purchased and transported from a southern Ontario producer and stored on site, the fuel has been a win-win proposition because it is price competitive, no modifications were required to the trucks and it has benefited the environment.
“The big win we are looking for is to reduce carbon in the environment,” said Palmer.
The company is currently using a 50/50 mixture of biodiesel and regular diesel. However, Rainbow Concrete’s maintenance manager Murray Carroll said he’d like to shoot for 100 per cent biodiesel.
“We’ll run a test program with a couple of units, monitor it and go from there.”
Carroll said he has noticed the benefits of the biodiesel. Initially, the fuel and oil filters were changed more frequently because the fuel was cleaning out the trucks’ fuel tanks and systems, much like a smoker who quits smoking and spends a period of time afterwards clearing his lungs.
“Initially, we had to perform an A-service on the trucks, which requires changing the fuel and oil filters every 250 hours (running time). Now we are performing a B-service, which requires the changes every 500 hours,” he said, adding that they’ve also upgraded the type of oil used, thus enhancing the performance of the vehicles and increasing the time between oil changes.
All the motor oil and filters are recycled.
Another green initiative is the use of nitrogen to replace oxygen and other gases to inflate the tires. Nitrogen provides a constant PSI (pounds per square inch) value, decreases oxidation and extends tire life. It also improves fuel efficiency.
Carroll said they are still collecting data about the tires’ longevity as they have only been using nitrogen for about eight months.
Palmer anticipates that as public awareness increases, so will the desire to act on initiatives that help save energy costs and reduce our carbon footprint.
“I think we are at the leading edge of where the wave (of environmental consciousness) will take us,” he said, reiterating that the benefits are huge in terms of the planet and money saved for individuals and businesses.