Perhaps no other manufacturing industry in the world is as well-positioned as the HVAC industry to have a positive environmental impact. Not only has equipment become more energy efficient during the past decade, the industry’s leading manufacturers are among the world’s leaders in making manufacturing plants and processes greener.
As John Mandyck, vice president, government and international relations, Carrier Corp., Farmington, CT, says: “Sustainability for any manufacturer can’t be about products alone. Green products have to come from green companies. We don’t think you can truly offer a green product unless it’s made in a green manner.”
However, there’s another consideration for manufacturers. Gary Clark, senior vice president of marketing, Goodman Global, Inc., Houston, TX, points out that customers expect HVAC manufacturers to be environmentally conscious; it’s not an extra cost that should be forced on the homeowner. “If a customer is sitting at home needing a new air conditioner and the dealer says, ‘I have one that’s $1 and another that’s $2, and the only difference is that the $2 one is green,’ the homeowner is likely to say, ‘Wait a minute, why am I paying for that? That’s the wrong type of green!’”
Fortunately, manufacturers are finding that investments made to make their manufacturing processes greener actually end up making the processes more efficient, which holds the line on — or even reduces — costs.
Green is More than Skin Deep
Carrier Corp. ships a product every three seconds of every hour of every day to some customer around the world. Given that volume, the company gives a great deal of thought to the environmental footprint of both its products and its manufacturing processes.
“We continually look inward to see how we can be the greenest company,” Mandyck says. For the 10-year period starting in 1996, Carrier doubled sales, but held energy usage flat. “That’s about productivity in our factories, but it’s productivity with a huge dividend for the environment in the amount of avoided carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that could have occurred. Much of what we accomplished was because we combined factories to make manufacturing more efficient, which in turn made them more energy efficient,” says Mandyck.
Carrier has embarked on a new set of goals for the fouryear period of 2007 through the end of 2010. “The goals include reducing our total greenhouse gas emissions — or our carbon footprint — by 12%, regardless of our growth,” Mandyck says. “It’s about making our factories even more energy efficient, and finding ways to reduce our carbon footprint in every other aspect of our operation. That includes the delivery of our products, the vehicles that we use to service our products, the airline miles we use to travel, and so on. It’s a comprehensive view of carbon, and a goal to reduce it in absolute terms.”
Beyond its carbon footprint, Carrier is working to reduce the packaging materials of its products by 10%, reduce water usage by 10%, and completely eliminate “materials of concern,” such as lead and mercury, from its products. This last goal largely involves working with component suppliers to change-out items that may be a source of those materials, such as fasteners or screws.
To ensure that Carrier’s products operate in the energy efficient manner in which they were designed, the company requires its factory authorized dealers to have at least half of their technicians certified by North American Technician Excellence (NATE).
“We’re going to sell many more higher efficiency systems, and we’re going to sell more non-ozone depleting systems. But if they’re not installed properly we’ll lose the environmental benefits that we’re trying to bring through new technology,” Mandyck says. “NATE certification is a great way to ensure the environmental benefits of our products are realized in the marketplace.”
Green thinking, Mandyck concludes, is more than skin deep. “We’re bringing green products to the marketplace that we can be proud of and our customers can be proud of,” he says. “We want to provide the assurance that not only are the products themselves green, but they were also made in a green manner that was sensitive to the environment.”
Good for the Environment and Business
Nordyne, St. Louis, MO, has been focusing for the past 10 to 15 years on eliminating waste and environmentally negative processes in its manufacturing operations wherever possible. As it turns out, the practices the company has adopted have been good for both the environment and the business.
“Nordyne recognizes our responsibility as a corporate entity to demonstrate good citizenship in the communities in which we operate, in our nation, and in our world. We accomplish this by using sound environmental practices and conserving resources, while striving to remain competitive and profitable,” says Michael Nix, vice president of operations.
The list of environmental, conservation improvement, and waste reduction initiatives at Nordyne is a long one.
“Nordyne has been very aggressive over the last decade in eliminating waste and environmentally negative processes from our manufacturing and office operations,” Nix says. “One very significant action eliminated vapor degreasing operations and the onerous chemicals associated with those processes from all of our operations. Where cleaning is still required to assure the quality of our components and products, Nordyne has adopted environmentally- friendly, water-based cleaning systems.”
Nordyne has also implemented the use of pre-coated metals on all of its products. This eliminated metal preparation/cleaning systems and painting processes used to clean, prep, and paint individual cabinet components. The use of environmentally negative chemicals, requirements to treat and process wastewater, high energy consumption ovens and heated wash systems, and a huge amount of water consumption were all eliminated.
Nix notes that the focus on green initiatives does not stop with Nordyne’s product and process improvements, but runs throughout the company’s business, operations, and supply chain. “Finding the intersection between environmentally responsible improvements, resource conservation, and positive business impact is possible,” he says. “At Nordyne we are and will continue to identify and focus on these opportunities.”
Doug Jones, Nordyne’s vice president of marketing and sales, says what contractors can expect to see from Nordyne is greater adoption of high-efficiency equipment, including products such as dual-fuel systems and integration of inverter-driven technology into the heat pump sector. “Manufacturers are developing more high-end, highly efficient equipment because there is a market for it. And as energy costs rise, that market will only grow,” Jones says.
The company also has a green marketing program at www.ecoLogicHVAC.com, to help homeowners and contractors identify its greenest products.
“Our contractors have found there’s a market for green, and people will pay more for high-SEER, high-AFUE equipment,” Jones says. “Some contractors tell us that their customers will buy much higher efficiency equipment than they need in their geography because it’s ‘the right thing to do.’ So, while long-term payback is important, protecting the environment is even more important to some.”
Preserving Raw Materials
A company-wide reduce-reuse-recycle initiative and a sharp eye on how to make the most efficient use of raw materials are among the many initiatives that help keep Goodman Global green.
“We’re employing a reduce-reuse-recycle philosophy with the entire manufacturing operation. We’re always looking at ways to reduce the amount of raw materials used as we manufacture high-quality, energysaving HVAC products, and the components and elements of those products,” says Clark. “We’re also looking at reusability and recyclability of the end product, as well as in-process materials.”
According to Clark, globalization, industrialization, and urbanization of the planet have caused higher demand for some basic materials used to produce HVAC products.
“As that happens, we need to be smarter, leaner, meaner, and more aggressive in how we make quality units with the lowest impact from digging up and finding those raw materials,” he says.
“For example, right now a lot of the aluminum in the world is recycled, but maybe copper isn’t quite at that level yet. So, if we’re using 10 pounds of copper today to make something, we look to see if we can reduce that to eight pounds, while enhancing viability, quality, and the integrity of the product.”
In some cases, the desire to be environmentally friendly ends up paying off in unexpected ways. Clark says Goodman recently began making its fan coils out of 5mm copper, and discovered that the smaller diameter coils actually enhanced the performance of R-410A units. “We arrived at a product benefit as an outgrowth of looking for a way to reduce the amount of copper we needed. It ended up being a performance and cost benefit that’s good for the manufacturer, the dealer/contractor, and the homeowner,” Clark says.
Goodman examines its manufacturing facilities to find ways of reducing the amount of energy consumed to make its products. It examines the recyclable nature of components and parts, and is working to reduce packaging.
“When a piece of Goodman equipment gets to the dealer or the homeowner location, we don’t want there to be an excessive amount of stuff to get rid of,” Clark says. “And we want the materials that we do use to be recyclable as well.”
On the dealer level, Goodman encourages its contractors to actively and aggressively recycle materials and reclaim refrigerant. “We expect our dealers to be environmentally conscious, and we know homeowners are looking for that, too,” Clark says.
Global and Local Steps
Trane’s commercial and residential businesses — both wholly-owned subsidiaries of Ingersoll Rand— have taken a number of steps to become more environmentally- friendly around the globe. The company has:
- eliminated chlorinated solvents for parts degreasing
- eliminated hexavalent chrome in its paint line washers and copper cleaning
- greatly reduced the amount of paints that contain high levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and replaced them with low VOC, water-based, or powdercoat paints
- eliminated the use of coal-fired boilers at its manufacturing sites, which significantly reduced the company’s greenhouse gas emissions
- conducted energy audits at the majority of its U.S. manufacturing facilities to help develop plans to reduce energy use.
Tyler, TX-based Trane is a member of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Climate Leaders Program, an EPA industry-government partnership that works with companies to develop comprehensive climate change strategies. Partner companies commit to reducing their impact on the global environment by completing a corporate-wide inventory of their greenhouse gas emissions based on a quality management system, setting aggressive reduction goals, and annually reporting their progress to EPA.
As part of Ingersoll Rand and its many global businesses, Trane participates in the “Progress is Greener with Ingersoll Rand” initiative. Green teams focus on identifying and implementing environmental improvements in the workplace, and encourage environmental responsibility at work and at home.
Given all of Trane’s green initiatives, “There isn’t one single activity – it’s the cumulative impact of all these on the environment,” says John W. Conover IV, president, Trane’s commercial systems business in the Americas. “Eliminating the use of chlorinated solvents and significantly reducing high VOC paint reduced our contribution to ground level ozone in the environment, as well as the amount of hazardous waste that has to be managed. However, given the global challenge of climate change, the most important impact on the environment has probably been our work to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.”
From what Trane’s contractor customers tell them, green is very important if you want to be on the leading edge and differentiate yourself in the marketplace. “Green buildings are more than a trend; they’re becoming fixtures in the construction and renovation marketplace,” Conover says.
“Mechanical contractors have real concerns about how they can deliver green buildings and still remain profitable. There are, however, opportunities for mechanical contractors to turn this construction challenge into a real success.”0 His advice: Proactively learn about energy saving technology and help end users profitably manage their carbon footprint.
“We see a growing desire to have energy efficient and environmentally responsible technologies. Offering these types of products and services is not just an altruistic activity; it’s also for sound business reasons,” Conover says. “More customers are seeing that sustainability is an essential business value, and are looking to do business with firms that share their values.”
The next installment of “Green Giants” will focus on the stewardship activities of HVAC contractors and distributors.
GREEN IN ACTION: A LOOK INSIDE A MANUFACTURING PLANT
The 750,000-sq.-ft. Lennox commercial factory in Stuttgart, AR, was the first plant to sign on for Arkansas’ Voluntary Pollution Prevention Program in the mid 1990s. Since then, the plant has eliminated the use of 16 of 17 targeted chemicals, while reducing the last one to only trace amounts. In the VIP2 program, Lennox produced nearly zero pollution and reduced hazardous waste generation by 97.3%.
“To reduce the carbon footprint of such a large facility, we’ve made a strong commitment to recycling,” says Denise Ernst, director of commercial marketing, Lennox Industries.
“Up to 30% of our steel is recycled content, and up to 25% of our copper tubing is made from recycled copper. Nearly half of our aluminum fin stock is recycled, and more than one-third of our cardboard liner and 100% of our medium board is post-consumer recycled content.”
In 2005, the plant recycled more than 15 million pounds of metal, including coils, aluminum, copper, and steel. Each year, more than 350 tons of cardboard is recycled, along with 30 tons of office paper, 100 tractor-trailer loads of wooden shipping pallets, and more than 2,500 pounds of aluminum cans.
In 2007, Lennox was honored for a fourth time as an ENERGY STAR® Manufacturing Partner of the Year by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of Energy. “Lennox is the first and only HVAC manufacturer to receive this prestigious award, which reflects our ongoing commitment to making and selling energy-efficient solutions that save money and help protect the environment,” Ernst says.