Invest to save

In times of austerity, the temptation is often to sit tight. But with fuel prices continuing to rise, it’s time to stop blowing money up the chimney and take the energy efficiency route to heating. 

Across Europe, we read of strikes and demonstrations in response to harsh austerity measures. Here in the UK, the public sector struggles on in the face of brutal cuts, challenged with making savings wherever possible to stretch the reduced budgets. In this deep financial crisis it is perhaps natural to question any financial outlays, yet where energy efficiency is concerned, it pays to spend money in order to save money, to ‘invest to save’.

Heating is a case in point. Together with hot water production, heating accounts for nearly half of the UK energy use. According to figures from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), it will have cost the nation a whopping £33billion in 2012 alone – and fuel prices are continuing to rise. The UK has some of the oldest buildings in Europe, many of them in the public sector, many with old, inefficient, wasteful heating systems in place literally blowing money up the chimney as they ineffectually warm their buildings. For organisations such as these, investing in energy efficient measures for heating is the perfect starting point to making important fuel and carbon savings.

At the heart of the UK’s energy strategy is the move towards a low carbon nation and the Government is encouraging the uptake of renewable technologies for heating to achieve this long term goal. Yet these technologies require substantial financial investment and are still financially dependent on public funding – which may or may not last. The need to reduce our energy consumption, both for financial and environmental reasons, however, remains unchanged: the launch of DECC’s first national Energy Efficiency Strategy aims to kick start “a revolution” in UK energy efficiency across all sectors and help organisations make important fuel and carbon savings in this time of financial crisis.

Where heating is concerned, the simple, affordable, pragmatic and cost-effective approach to substantial energy savings is still the condensing boiler. This is particularly true in older buildings where often refurbishment is the only possible energy saving option. The good news is that the modern condensing boiler has come a long way. Manufacturers have continued to innovate, developing smaller, lighter, more versatile and adaptable, fully modulating gas condensing boilers that offer higher efficiencies and cleaner combustion than ever before.

From an environmental perspective, upgrading to a modern, high efficiency condensing boiler would make rapid progress in carbon reduction a real prospect for some 60 per cent of the existing building stock. The cleaner, greener condensing boiler could reduce the levels of harmful greenhouse gases such as CO2 and NOx by at least 90 per cent, which would go a considerable way to meeting our steep carbon reduction target of 80 per cent by 2050 on 1990 levels.

The financial incentive is equally compelling. Upgrading to an energy efficient boiler can cut fuel costs by around 50 per cent. Add the appropriate advanced control to maximise the efficiency of the boiler and this figure could increase. Or leapfrog technology with a heating system that incorporates heat recovery devices and achieve even greater savings with a new attainable seasonal efficiency of 107 per cent NCV at 82/71°C flow and return temperatures.

If the initial outlay is a problem, it is worth investigating the Carbon Trust-approved financing schemes available from some manufacturers for approved energy efficiency products. Typically, payments are offset against the energy savings so that the products not only pay for themselves in the first year or so but continue to deliver savings on a yearly basis.

As for the inconvenience factor, the downtime involved in removing the old system to install the new, again manufacturers have risen to the challenge to make refurbishment projects quicker and easier to carry out. The modern boiler is smaller and lighter, able to fit into any existing space or through any doorway, and often supplied on wheels for easier manoeuvrability. Some models can even be disassembled where access is particularly difficult, to be quickly reassembled inside the plant room.

As fuel prices continue to rise, the viability of energy saving heating products becomes ever more tenable. For while the cost to upgrade to energy efficient products remains fixed, the savings they deliver will increase exponentially as fuel costs continue to rocket. Think about it – investing in energy saving heating would deliver substantially greater payback than investing savings in a bank at the current rate of interest savings!

Investing in energy saving heating is a ‘win-win’ proposition, a self-supporting strategy towards energy efficiency. As fuel consumption is reduced, operational costs will fall with organisations that operate several buildings benefitting greatly from increased savings. Invest in an energy efficient heating scheme in one location and the savings it will deliver can subsidise further energy savings in other buildings. Where energy efficient heating is concerned, ‘invest to save’ makes perfect, sustainable and financial sense.

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