Harry “Dutch” Dresser, Ed.D.
Maine Energy Systems
Sailors have competed for the America’s Cup in yacht races since 1851 making the “Auld Mug” the oldest international sport trophy. Over the course of those competitions the prevailing yacht design rule has changed a number of times, but in each instance simple limits on attributes like waterline length, sail area, etc. were set, but designers were free to work without constraint within those limits. The idea behind the rule is to allow designers free rein to create the fastest boats possible within the simple limits set for the period.
The same Royal Yacht Squadron that initiated the Cup races on the Isle of Wight in 1851, spawned the Solent One-Design racing boat in 1893. A one-design boat is built to very strict rules with every measurement on every boat required to be the same. The idea is that it is the sailors who will win the races, not the boats.
America’s Cup boats have changed from the first schooner to bring the trophy to the New York Yacht Club to the world’s highest tech catamarans over the 163 year history of the event.
The Solent One-Design was rendered obsolete by a rule change in 1907, fourteen years after its introduction. One Solent O.D. exists today, and it is considered a historical artifact.
Those who design rules with the intention of improving performance of anything should consider this comparison carefully. We are ingenious people. We solve problems lots of different, creative ways, and those solutions get to prove their mettle vying for favor in a competitive marketplace.
As wood pellet central heating systems are becoming more common in the Northeast, many organizations, agencies, and bureaucracies with no particular experience with the systems are anxious to ensure that they perform cleanly. This is a laudable goal that no one challenges.
Some of these groups have created “one-design” rules that they believe will currently deliver the cleanest performance from existing systems by insisting upon certain hydronic system design. The most common of these rules is the requirement that mass thermal storage be included in the system design. In some installations mass thermal storage reduces the number of start and stop cycles per day reducing particulate emission and increasing system efficiency; in some installations it does neither.
In the meantime, the Europeans, who have twenty years of experience with these systems, and who have designed the cleanest such systems in the world, are deploying systems with fewer start/stop cycles than they have been able to achieve with mass thermal storage by improving hydronic system design and operation. One such system is averaging three to four start/stop cycles per day in any weather in residential systems in two European countries. The rules the Europeans are required to meet are performance-based rules specifying maximum allowable particulate emissions levels and minimum required efficiency levels.
If those in positions to regulate or otherwise control the deployment of wood pellet central heating equipment would recognize the remarkable advantages that performance-based rules provide overall product development and assiduously avoid the temptation to mandate system design at any level, they would enjoy watching their goals be met in cost-effective ways.