An education in efficiency savings

Achieving a more sustainable lifestyle and cutting energy bills doesn’t have to cost the earth. James Porter, National Sales Manager at Remeha Commercial takes a look at the benefits for schools of adopting affordable energy-efficient measures for heating.

When budgets are tight, it is important to identify efficiency savings wherever possible. According to the Carbon Trust, UK schools could reduce energy costs by around £44 million per year which would prevent 625,000 tonnes of CO2 from entering the atmosphere. So where to begin? As the largest sole end user of energy, heating is a prime starting point, accounting for on average 58% of a school’s total energy use.

Energy and carbon savings

The UK has a high proportion of old school buildings with old heating systems in place. It is obviously not practical to knock down all our older buildings and build new schools from scratch. Instead, the sustainable answer is to refurbish them and make them more energy efficient. Gas boilers supply around 80% of heat in UK buildings today, so often the most practical and affordable solution to greater efficiency is to replace inefficient boilers with a modern condensing boiler. Research shows that a system that is five to ten years old operates at 70% efficiency, whilst one that is over 15 years old drops down to just 50%. Upgrading to a high efficiency condensing boiler with efficiency levels of around 98% can therefore quite literally transform the energy performance of our existing buildings. The Carbon Trust indicates that savings of around 30% can be achieved this way, although our own experience puts the figure still higher, with data revealing that gas consumption and bills have more than halved in many instances.

Flexible design, minimum disruption

Innovations in design mean that today’s boilers are lighter and more compact for more flexible installation. Forward-thinking manufacturers offer boilers that can be disassembled into parts where there is restricted access to the plant room, speeding up installation time and reducing labour costs. Prefabricated heating systems also make boiler replacements easier and more flexible to carry out, so that schools are no longer constrained to restrict such energy-saving improvements to the holiday period. Condensing boilers on a cascade system, for example, are delivered on site in a pre-assembled wheeled unit. This brings a number of advantages including reduced installation time, reduced labour costs, and improved quality control as the pre-configured unit is pre-tested and delivered as a whole system, from a single supplier, rather than individual components. Further, installing boilers in a modular design on a cascade system allows the heat output demand to be matched more accurately and more reliably in a fraction of the space.

Productive greener environment

Retrofitting condensing boilers helps a school lead by example as its improved thermal efficiency means it treads more lightly on the planet. The reliable heating, effectively controlled by the appropriate advanced control, also ensures a more productive learning environment for its students by achieving constant, optimum temperatures that promote greater comfort for increased attentiveness.

For schools keen to stretch the strained budgets further and help fight climate change, the good news is that the technology is here now to deliver affordable energy-efficient heating with rapid financial payback. Condensing boilers offer a versatile solution to immediate energy and carbon savings, helping schools achieve a reduced carbon footprint and lower utility bills. It’s time to take a new look at boilers: this effective and affordable technology is a practical solution to improved energy efficiency – even when the coffers are running low.

This article originally appeared in School Building magazine

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