Heating that doesn’t cost the earth

Cutting energy bills and meeting environmental targets doesn’t have to cost the earth. James Porter, National Sales Manager at Remeha Commercial takes a look at cost-effective approaches to improved heating efficiencies.

With increased legislation and regulations to meet, local authorities must improve efficiency wherever possible in their estate – often with very little budget. According to a report by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, 46 per cent of the final energy consumed in the UK is used to provide heat. Within a building, heating can account for as much as 60 per cent of a building’s total use and up to 40 per cent of its greenhouse gas emissions. It therefore follows that raising heating efficiencies is crucial if estate managers are to achieve significant energy, carbon and long-term financial savings.

One of the greatest challenges for local authorities is our existing buildings. The UK has the largest proportion of old and inefficient buildings in Europe. The Building Research Establishment reports that an astonishing 60 per cent of the buildings that will stand in 2050 are already built with a further 40 per cent of these pre-dating 1985, the year that Building Regulations regarding fuel and power were first introduced under Part L. The outdated heating systems in many public buildings means that energy is literally being wasted up the chimney resulting in unnecessarily high fuel bills and carbon emissions. These older buildings are often referred to as low hanging fruit: improving their energy performance through retrofit or refurbishment projects will go a long way to improving our energy security, as well as meeting both the government’s carbon reduction target of 80 per cent by 2050 and councils’ individual environmental programmes.

Fortunately, there are several cost-effective energy-saving heating options available that will deliver fast financial payback without draining the coffers. Retrofit technologies have advanced considerably over the last decade and now head up the energy saving technologies in terms of effectiveness, according to the Carbon Trust. To achieve the greatest reduction in energy bills and emissions and the fastest payback, the accepted advice is to replace old existing boilers with a modern condensing gas boiler.

Condensing technology offers the greatest efficiency. Research shows that a system that is five to ten years old operates at 70 per cent efficiency, whilst one that is over 15 years old drops down to just 50 per cent. Upgrading to a modern, 98 per cent efficient condensing boiler can therefore quite literally transform the energy performance of our existing buildings. This is underlined by the Energy-related Products (ErP) Directive that will be introduced later this year. The new directive will effectively eliminate from the market some non-condensing boilers up to 400kw, which could include atmospheric and pressure jet boilers, in order to improve energy efficiency across the EU member states. The Carbon Trust indicates that savings of around 30 per cent can be achieved from upgrading to a new high-efficiency condensing boiler, although our own experience puts the figure still higher, with data indicating that gas consumption and bills have more than halved in many instances.

This has certainly been the case for the energy management team at North Somerset Council who recently replaced ageing boilers at Castlewood, the Council’s new civic ‘hub’ in Clevedon, with Remeha Gas 610 Eco Pro condensing boilers. Steve Hodges, M&E and Energy Manager at North Somerset Council, predicts that the sequenced boilers will reduce energy use by at least half, a saving that will increase to as much as three quarters during the summer months, with a corresponding drop in fuel bills. “The energy and carbon savings… will help us take our efficiencies measures one stage further, delivering on our environmental commitments whilst significantly reducing our operating bills,” said Mr Hodges.

Over in Cambridgeshire, Roy Drayton, Engineering Services Manager at Cambridgeshire Country Council, opted for a complete redesign of the old boiler room at Shire Hall, the Council’s headquarters and main administrative centre. At the heart of the new system are three Remeha Gas 310 Eco Pro condensing boilers. The redesign also provided a solution to the existing asbestos problem which was removed before works began. Reliability was a key factor in the decision, according to Mr Drayton. He continued, “We also saw this as an opportunity to improve our energy efficiency and reduce both carbon emissions and fuel consumption in line with the Council’s environmental commitments. We now have an installation that exceeds expectations.”

Investing in high-efficiency condensing technology will deliver long-term financial savings through lower operating costs. However, in the current economic climate, the budget may not stretch to a full boiler house upgrade. For heating systems with atmospheric or pressure-jet boilers, estate managers will need to extend the budget to include new flues as well as boilers as the existing flues will not be suitable for a modern pressurised system. One option for heating systems using pressure jet boilers over 400kW is to consider replacing the cast-iron boiler and or burners as a pragmatic, cost-effective solution to improved energy efficiency. Organisations such as The Imperial War Museum North and Bristol University have both opted for this route to improved energy efficiency.

Advances in boiler technology mean that the same practical approach to achieving energy-efficient heating can also be applied to new build developments. When designing their new flagship student accommodation, Talybont Gate, Cardiff University chose to install boilers incorporating passive flue gas heat recovery technology as an affordable solution to meeting the low carbon requirements and raised efficiencies required by Part L of Building Regulations. The Remeha Quinta Eco Plus boilers recover what would be otherwise wasted energy, thereby achieving maximum heating efficiencies and minimum waste. At Talybont Gate, the recovered energy is used to pre-heat the two 2,000 litre cylinders that supply domestic hot water to the 179 en-suite bathrooms. For Cardiff’s Project Engineer Nigel Griffin, this has proved a quality solution to achieving “reliable, low-carbon, energy-efficient heating and hot water with a rapid recovery time and good financial payback.”

There is a wealth of affordable options for energy efficient heating. Managers of new and old buildings can benefit from huge reductions in fuel bills and emissions that will help stretch budgets further, make environmental targets achievable and conserve energy for future use. At Remeha Commercial, we look forward to continuing our work with councils throughout 2015, sharing our in-depth knowledge of our products and legislative requirements and advising on the most appropriate individual solution for improved heating efficiency.

www.remeha.co.uk – T: 0118 978 3434 – E: boilers@remeha.co.uk

This article originally appeared in Local Authorities Building Management Magazine

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