Mike Hefford, Head of Renewable Technologies at Remeha Commercial, takes a look at the strategic benefits of energy management systems for heating
With the powerful combination of rising fuel prices, steep environmental targets, tighter legislation and increasing concerns over energy security, public and private organisations are more keen than ever to adopt energy saving measures.
When it comes to saving energy, heating is a good starting point: within the services, it is the largest user of energy in the UK, accounting for as much as 60 per cent of the total energy use of a building and 40 per cent of its carbon emissions. For the building services industry, the challenge is to raise efficiencies still higher with a combination of technologies that are designed to maximise a building’s saving potential and lower its carbon footprint. High-performance, low-carbon renewable technologies such as heat pumps and biomass play a key role in this and are widely specified as the prime source of energy for heating and hot water provision on new build developments. On existing buildings, complementary renewable technology ‘bolt ons’ and passive flue gas heat recovery devices are also increasingly specified alongside gas-fired condensing boilers for further reductions in energy consumption and carbon emissions.
Saving energy is, however, just the first step. Energy saving legislation such as the European Energy Efficiency Directive means that the need for organisations to demonstrate the energy reductions is becoming as important as making the savings in the first place. This is where energy management systems (EMS) play a key role. Not only can effective use of energy management systems, alongside energy savings measures, reduce energy usage by 20 to 30 per cent, but the data they produce provides the all-important evidence of the savings.
For the heating industry, there is a clear incentive to supply energy management systems in order to meet customer demand. However, supplying an EMS can bring still further advantages which are of particular relevance given the current concern over the ‘energy performance gap’ in building performance, or the difference between the predicted and actual energy consumption. According to assessments of real building performance by CarbonBuzz, actual energy use is between 1.5 and 2.5 times higher than anticipated, while other reports put heat consumption even higher, at between 1.5 and 6 times greater than predicted. This performance gap applies to both new build and refurbishment projects.
The reality, unfortunately, is that very few renewable installations are carried out in such a way as to reach their optimum efficiency level. While it can be tempting to blame the equipment itself, the cause is often due to the need for greater expertise and understanding of these sophisticated heating technologies. Systems that are poorly designed and installed can lead to the low-carbon technology failing to perform as expected, which will result in higher-than-expected operating costs. Including an EMS could uncover and resolve any potential ‘blips’ that might be preventing the system from operating at its maximum efficiency, helping the building operator save additional energy and contributing to the nation’s steep environmental targets by improving the energy performance of the building.
Furthermore, not only will the energy data provide the requisite evidence of energy savings for the customer, but it can also prove beneficial to heating manufacturers as validation of the efficiency figures quoted on their products in real life conditions.
At Lake House Care Home in Adderbury, near Banbury, an EMS is delivering these multiple benefits. The care home has replaced its existing heating system with the Remeha Fusion Hybrid, a bivalent heating and hot water system combining renewable gas absorption heat pumps and high efficiency gas-condensing technology with a fully-integrated, scalable building control system. Care homes need constant, reliable heating and hot water delivery. This bespoke system has been specially tailored to meet these needs with the inclusion of a solar buffer to the heating system to increase the temperature of the cold water feed and lower the energy demand. Heating manufacturer Remeha saw this installation as the perfect opportunity to produce solid test data on the Fusion Hybrid and has chosen to include an energy management system at Lake House over a two-year period in order to monitor the performance of the Fusion Hybrid system.
Mindful of the importance of good specification, design and installation, Remeha engineers carried out the entire installation project from the sizing of the equipment to its fitting. Key to the high performance of the Fusion Hybrid is its specially-configured building management control system which has been integrated into the existing building management system at Lake House to maximise energy and carbon savings. The BMS is operated through an integrated touchscreen control panel known as the Remeha Touch. The final step was to install an EMS in the form of pulsed heat and gas meters through the Remeha Touch to provide a constant flow of energy data for monitoring purposes.
The data from the EMS not only provides the operators of Lake House Care Home with a clear evaluation of their reduced energy consumption and the resulting savings, but simultaneously delivers tangible, real-life data on the performance of the Fusion Hybrid that support the high efficiency figures quoted by Remeha.
Whether the energy manager or heating manufacturer, it’s time to take a fresh look at the benefits of energy management systems: strategic use of this smart device can encourage lower energy consumption, promote smarter system design, achieve demonstrable energy savings and assist us in the move to a low carbon future.
This article originally appeared in Energy Management magazine.
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