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Steelcare’s business demands that it keep interior air at its facilities consistently warm and dry. The associated gas and electricity bills can be tremendous. Using a made-in-Canada solar-energy solution, it has been able to reduce those costs substantially.

April 24, 2008  By  Rob Colman

The business: Steelcare, one of Canada’s leading industrial service companies.

The challenge: Reduce potential energy costs in the company’s new Plant 19 in Hamilton, Ont.

The strategy: The company chose to install a SolarWall® system to displace the energy associated with heating the ventilation air in the facility.

The results: Gas and electricity bills are substantially lower than comparable facilities elsewhere, making the facility 56 per cent more efficient than conventional construction.


Steelcare is one of Canada’s leading industrial service companies, providing sophisticated warehousing, inventory management and transportation to the steel industry.  

When the company’s Plant 19, located in Hamilton, Ont., was being designed, the company began looking at innovative ways to reduce the energy costs of their building, while still maintaining the necessary indoor environment.

Since the building was going to house steel coils, it was essential to control for the indoor temperature and humidity levels. To prevent condensation on the stored steel rolls, the ventilation air has to be continuously heated throughout the entire year, which is very costly and represents a large portion of the overall energy bill associated with the facility.

The solution
Steelcare decided to use a SolarWall system to displace the energy associated with heating the ventilation air.

The generic name for the patented SolarWall technology is a transpired perforated plate collector, a technology created by Conserval Engineering in the 1980s that has since been refined over a number of years. The perforated panel heats the air as it enters the building. The collector is all metal with no glazing on it.

“Because it’s all metal, it’s quite cost-effective and can blend into the side of a building, so it has a widespread  potential for use,” says Victoria Hollick, Vice-President Operations at Conserval Engineering. “The system also has the highest operating efficiency of any solar technology, and this is verified by testing, monitoring, and extensive usage.   Many people, when they think of displacing energy, think only of electricity, but in industrial facilities, heating bills can be two to three times higher than electricity bills. This means the opportunity for significant long term energy reductions is tremendous.”

“Since energy expenses were prohibitive in our other facilities, we had to reduce costs,” said Bob Edwards, Steelcare’s engineer. “After we looked at a lot of options, we got a (25 per cent grant) to put in a SolarWall system.

“With everything we did, our warehouse is 56 per cent more efficient than conventional construction, and the SolarWall system represents more that 20 per cent of the energy contribution,” he continues. “Using SolarWall was a simple way of capturing the sun’s energy and has helped produce a building that’s so efficient, we don’t use any natural gas in June, July and August to maintain the humidity in the building.”

A 140 m2 (1,500 ft2) black SolarWall system was installed on the south facing wall of the 8,000 m2 (86,000 ft2) building. The system draws in 3,600 cfm of air, and was designed to provide a temperature rise of 25-30 degrees Celsius over ambient temperature.

Steelcare’s installation was completed a couple of years ago now, and the air technology has proven itself, delivering substantial financial savings to the company.

“Our gas and electric bills are ridiculously low compared to our other facilities,” says Demetrius Tsafaridis, president of Steelcare. “Our gas supplier said we had better get our meter checked because it showed we are using way too little gas!”

Installation incentives
The substantial advantage of investing in a solar thermal heating system today is that at least 25 per cent of the cost is covered by government grants – 25 per cent is available through the federal ecoENERGY for Renewable Heat program, and businesses located in Ontario can take advantage of a matching solar thermal heating incentive program (which brings the total incentive in Ontario to 50 per cent). This will reduce the payback time substantially.

The other benefit industrial, institutional and commercial users can receive is critical points towards LEED certification. The system provided Steelcare with five LEED points, and was one of the reasons they were able to accumulate enough points to be LEED Gold Certified. Two points were obtained for optimized energy performance and three points were obtained for renewable energy.

The SolarWall technology has been used by companies around the world, including recent installations in Poland, Fort Drum (New York), and Toronto’s Pearson International Airport.

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