Canadian Consulting Engineer

German hydronic heating technology held up as panacea

November 8, 2002
By Canadian Consulting Engineer

North American mechanical engineers and contractors should be taking more notice of German and European boiler and...

North American mechanical engineers and contractors should be taking more notice of German and European boiler and hydronic technologies, said a speaker at the massive ISH trade show in Toronto last week. This was the first time Messe Frankfurt’s ISH Show devoted to heating and plumbing has been to North America. It sprawled throughout the National Trade Centre, in an overwhelming display of mechanical gadgetry. In Frankfurt, Germany where the exhibition has its home, the annual trade show is apparently three times as large.
Paul Pollets, a mechanical contractor with Advanced Radiant Technology, spoke at the conference on advanced European hydronics heating. He said he had been “blown away” by German boiler technology when he first went over to Europe, and is “passionate” about its advantages. He said German boilers are 30 years ahead of North American equipment,
Pollets sees two big factors driving the German advances in energy efficiency. First is high fuel costs. European fuel costs five to seven times more than in North America. Second is the strict government regulation on emissions. He didn’t see the likelihood of the Bush Administration passing any laws cutting down on oil consumption. “Meanwhile we are going to war with Iraq … Go figure!” he said. Obviously, he thought he was addressing a mainly U.S. audience even though he was in Canada.
He gave details of a number of German technologies, among which were small wall-hung condensing boilers, pellet boilers and tile stoves. He praised the energy efficiency of Europe’s indirect domestic hot water tanks, and their use of smart circulator pumps. He noted that the Germans use plug and play equipment to cut down on electrical connections, and pointed out that all boilers in Europe have connections for laptop computers.
Aesthetics are different in Europe too. Pipes are left exposed on walls. Radiators come in vivid, primary colours — reds, yellows and blues. One manufacturer – Heizkorper – makes radiators in exotic shapes that resemble art pieces or animals. There are radiators with mirrors, shelves, and even some sculpted like animals for children’s rooms.
He showed snap-in-place floor hydronic systems, he praised the copper squeeze fittings that can make a joint in four seconds, and he pointed out that all pipe hangers are fitted with vibration isolation grommets so that there are no knocking pipes. “These systems make no noise,” Pollet said.
The German boilers are not only highly efficient (98%) but also constructed of composite casting metals, and very tough. Pollets showed a slide of a test done on a boiler where it was subjected to 555 psi and blown up like a balloon to twice its size, yet “still it did not leak.”
Research and development is a much bigger investment in German manufacturers, Pollets said. One boiler maker has 400 engineers doing R & D, whereas the largest U.S. boiler manufacturer has 10. Of course, the sophisticated Germany technology comes at a price.
“Sure it costs more,” he said, “but it is built to last 100 years.”


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