An oldie but a goodie! Green Technology fuels new venture at Hogg


Printed Apr 27, 2011  by “The Record

Green technology fuels new venture at Hogg

Hogg:

Record staff

Peter Wagner (left), vice-president of business development at Hogg Fuel & Supply, and home comfort specialist Ryan vanDyk display a heat pump system the company’s EcoHome Technologies division is selling.

KITCHENER — Hogg Fuel & Supply Ltd. has been around so long, it used to deliver coal and wood products by horse-drawn wagons and sleighs.

At the company’s sprawling four-hectare site at the east end of Hill Street in Kitchener, the main building houses huge tanks of heavy-duty lubricant and smaller oil drums stacked to the ceiling.

Seven Hogg “card lock” stations around the Golden Triangle dispense gasoline and diesel fuel to delivery trucks, and if you’re planning a construction project, the company sells ready-mix concrete and gravel as well.

Founded by William Hogg in the village of Waterloo way back in 1876, the company hasn’t survived this long without changing with the times.

“Concrete was something we got into to keep our home-heating oil drivers busy in the summertime,” says Peter Wagner, vice-president of business development at Hogg.

A few years ago, the growing popularity of geothermal technology caught the company’s attention. Geothermal heating systems draw their energy from a network of pipes buried underground, but the inconvenience of installing them in smaller urban lots was a deterrent to city customers.

At the same type, heat pump technology, which is often combined with geothermal, had improved dramatically.

What if the company could combine the two to achieve the benefits of geothermal, but at a more reasonable cost to city-dwellers?

Thus was born EcoHome Technologies, a division started by Hogg last year to sell residential heating and cooling systems.

Hogg still sells geothermal systems for rural customers with lots of land, but for urban residents it has come up with a handful of different configurations using air-source heat pumps and solar energy.

Heat pumps operate on a closed-loop system using refrigerant gas that’s either heated or cooled by the air or the ground. When the air or ground does not provide an ideal temperature, the system is backed up by an electric boiler. Because it’s a closed loop system, there are no emissions, says Wagner.

Electricity is expensive, but when combined with a heat-pump system the cost per British Thermal Unit (BTU) is cheaper than natural gas, he argues.

The growth of the tech sector has brought a better-educated, greener-focused homeowner to the area who might not be as interested in conventional heating and cooling systems such as natural gas furnaces and traditional air conditioners, Wagner suggests.

EcoHome can offer a solution that’s 90 per cent as energy-efficient as geothermal at 60 per cent of the cost, says Ryan vanDyk, who was hired last year from another heating company to promote the EcoHome line.

He describes EcoHome’s solution as a “mixture of old and new technology” in a hybrid system.

EcoHome has five different systems, ranging in price from about $13,000 to $80,000 for a large geothermal solution. “All use existing technology in a custom configuration,” says Wagner, who has been with Hogg about seven years.

He won’t reveal how many EcoHome systems have been sold, except to say the product has gone into its second-generation using a modified configuration.

The Hogg family sold Hogg Fuel & Supply to E & E Seegmiller Ltd., a local construction company, in 1972, but Hogg is still run as an autonomous unit, he says.

It has 60 to 80 employees depending on the time of year. Its top-selling product is fuel followed by ready-mix concrete. Its fuel is sold under the brand name Transit Petroleum and its lubricants are sold under the name Transit Lubricants.

EcoHome does not have a separate employee group. Workers help out in all divisions depending on the need, Wagner says.

In five years, he’s hoping to extend EcoHome’s sales to include all of southern Ontario either through a distribution arrangement or the acquisition of other companies.

chowitt@therecord.com

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