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Local lauded for sewage heat-recovery system

Lorraine Graves   Nov-29-2018

Lynn Mueller, founder and president of SHARC International Systems Inc., stands proudly outside Richmond's Gateway Theatre, heated and cooled thanks to his company's heat recovery system.

Photo by Chung Chow

Long-time Richmond resident Lynn Mueller is a man on a mission.

Because of the company he started and runs, SHARC International Systems Inc., Mueller was named a finalist for the national Manning Innovation Award.



“We see heat go down the drain. We recover all that heat when people shower, wash their dishes and all that stuff. We use it to heat more water or heat the building,” Mueller explains.

It’s worth it. Saying SHARC’s system in 500 per cent efficient, Mueller explains, “For every dollar in cost, we can recover five dollars’ worth of heat.”

SHARC’s heat recovery system works. It’s already operating at the False Creek energy centre under the Cambie Street Bridge.

“Our system heats a million square feet of apartments there.”

Energy that would otherwise be wasted is instead used to heat or cool 5,000 units in downtown Vancouver.

“A large portion of sewage water that leaves downtown is pumped through that pumping station,” he says, referring to the tall stacks to the east of the Cambie Street Bridge, at the south end. “We interrupt that flow, run it through a heat pump, recover the heat from that.”

In summer, instead of extracting heat, SHARC’s system dumps heat from the same buildings into the sewage water, allowing for the same system to air condition that million square feet at a much lower cost than usual.

The system is large.

“It goes all the way, delivering heat and cooling, from Cambie to Knight Street,” he says. As big as that installation is, Mueller says it’s going to double in size.

Six years ago, Gateway Theatre installed a SHARC system, becoming the first commercial building with the system.

“The City of Richmond was able to secure a federal grant for energy efficiency improvements. We worked with them to install the first SHARC system in the world.”

Mueller says as the waste water flows out of the theatre, the SHARC system, “takes care of all the heating (and cooling) requirements for the building.”

Mueller was a farmer in Alberta who became a refrigeration mechanic.

“I’ve always been cursed with a mind that does mathematics very very quickly.”

As the holder of over 500 patent applications in his lifetime, Mueller calls himself, “a serial inventor and entrepreneur.”

For his work with SHARC Systems, Mueller was one of only three nominees in all of the BC/Yukon district for the Earnest C. Manning Innovation Award. All winners of this national award were from Ontario with three from Toronto and one from Ottawa.

Mueller was thrilled to be nominated.

“To know the kind of innovation that comes in Canada, it’s just amazing the ingenuity and brilliance of Canadians. To be included in that group, as an older gentleman that has aspirations to make the world better, is great. It doesn’t have to rest with 20-year-olds; old farts like me can do stuff to make things better.”

With offices and sales on three continents, SHARC has gone global in their projects.

“We’ve just finished one in Washington, DC. It’s the greenest building in North America. SHARC provides heating, air conditioning and hot water for 170,00 square feet of the office building.”

When we think of sewage, we think of flushed toilets but, in reality, waste water includes water from baths, showers, kitchen sinks, dish washers, clothes washers. Most of our waste water has been heated before it flows out the drain.

“Every year in the world there’s 938 trillion litres of sewage goes into the oceans that has been warmed up 10 to 20 Celsius degrees. When you think how much ice that hot water can melt in the oceans, the effect is unnatural.”

Mueller gives back. Both in the soup he quietly makes and serves in the Downtown Eastside each Saturday night and with his firm: “I’m not working for myself anymore. I’m working to make the world a better place for my kids and my grandchildren, better for my grandkids and everybody’s kids.”

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