District heating and cooling: a breakdown
Updated on July 7th, 2022
What is a district energy/heating and cooling system?
District energy or district heating and cooling systems consist of a network of underground insulated pipes that pump hot or cold water to multiple buildings in a district, neighbourhood or city. These systems may connect to just a few buildings, or to thousands of buildings, facilities, and/or homes across a city.
Modern systems combine district heating and cooling with heat and power, thermal storage, heat pumps, and decentralised energy, and are increasingly climate resilient and low emitting. District heating and cooling is an approach of implementing technology to co-ordinate production and supply of heating, cooling, and power, in order to optimize energy efficiency and local resource use.
District heating and cooling, and thermal metering
In a district heating and cooling system, a distribution network delivers water to residential and commercial properties to provide thermal energy, domestic hot water heating, and air conditioning, removing the need for individual boilers, furnaces, chillers, or air conditioners. In Canada, energy conscious communities are expanding their use of district heating and cooling, but one challenge these systems face is the ability to effectively measure and bill thermal energy consumption.
Thermal meters, or otherwise known as BTU or heat meters, can be installed throughout the structure to precisely measure the consumed energy in the system, making them essential for utility use monitoring and optimization.
Thermal meters provide property managers, condominium and homeowners’ associations, facility managers, and building owners granular data and actionable insight in their energy use. They also allow for accurate energy billing to individual tenants.
BTU meters have been proven to provide both financial and operational cost savings to building owners due to the associated drop in energy consumption. In addition to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and improving energy resilience, coupling heat meters with a district heating and cooling system can help attract private investment, thereby supporting local economic development.
Examples of district heating and cooling, and thermal metering coupling
Granville Island was seeking a thermal metering solution that would be able to properly allocate all utility usage by their market and retail tenants. QMC supplied, commissioned, and integrated an automated multi-utility metering system to allocate costs to over 100 market and retail tenants across the urban island.
As a result, Granville Island staff were able to consolidate their utility billing into one energy management system, with QMC providing billing services, as well as energy management software for the property.
Eau Claire Tower was looking for an integrated system that would link their electricity and thermal systems in an efficient and effective manner. QMC worked closely with Eau Claire’s electrical and mechanical teams to design and deploy an electrical and thermal energy metering system.
Eau Claire was able to collect meter data on one integrated network, allowing them to bill tenants more precisely, and provided advanced energy monitoring at this LEED Platinum property.
Otherwise known as BTU meters, thermal meters are used to measure energy from hydronic-based heating and cooling systems in multifamily applications, or for monitoring central plant systems. By coupling a district heating and cooling system with thermal meters, facility and property managers can effectively monitor the system’s efficiency, allocate heating and cooling costs, reduce energy use, and inform tenants.