As readers of my blog know, I focus on the system approach to analyzing issues, because many of the issues that come up are due to an incomplete understanding of how various elements of a system work together to give the desired end result. So when someone uses the same approach to analyse another aspect of owning a home, I pay attention. I was privileged to be present at a discussion organized by Jon Eakes, a well-known advisor to homeowners (forty years, I believe), about the benefits of a system called Tri-Energy, developed by Martin Janssen of ABC Hybrid Energy Inc. This meeting was held on January 12, 2017, at the Holiday Inn Pointe-Claire, and was open to anyone who had an interest in the subject. A number of homeowners who already had installed the system were present to talk to other homeowners about their experiences. Simply put, the system benefits homeowners by using the equipment most homeowners already have, in a much more intelligent and efficient manner, thereby improving comfort, and reducing operating expenses.
One of the things that makes Quebec different
Homeowners who have a dual-energy system in Quebec already are eligible for the DT rate, which is a discounted rate compared to the regular rate. This rate is offered on the condition that when the temperature falls below a critical point (-12C), the system switches away from electric heat (or electrically-powered heat pump) to oil or gas, and the remaining electric energy usage is charged at a much higher rate (about five times the DT rate).
This arrangement means that for most of the year, while the temperature is above the critical temperature, the homeowners benefit from the lowest rate available to residential homeowners. Below this temperature, the heating system switches over to fossil fuels (oil or gas), and reduces the use of electrical energy. Most heating systems are set up to use either one or the other, but not both together.
Improving the dual-energy setup
One way that the system can be improved, is to use a hybrid approach, which allows the two different parts of the system to work together, using an intelligent controller that makes real-time decisions on how to balance the heat contribution. This is the approach that the Tri-Energy system uses. Of course, since every house and heating system is different, it requires some analysis to see which adjustments to the system are necessary to obtain the desired benefits.
The beautiful thing about this approach is that once the analysis is done, the controller (and some associated equipment) is programmed to the specific setup a house has, and is able to continually adapt to the conditions present, both outside and in the house. This results in a much more even maintenance of temperature, and can reduce quite dramatically the use of fossil fuels. Some homeowners at the meeting claimed that they went from needing 2-3 tanks of oil per season, to as little as a quarter-tank of oil per season. They calculated their payback time as being between 3-4 years.
Below are the links to the company, and to Jon Eakes’ discussion of the system.