Moving towards a more sustainable future

Climate change is the greatest challenge we face today. James Porter, Sales Director at Remeha Commercial, looks at how heating manufacturers are paving the way for a more sustainable future with increasingly adaptable, high-performance energy-efficient and low-carbon heating solutions.

We all want to create a more sustainable world for our future generations. We all know that by reducing the energy we use, we can lower the associated emissions of harmful greenhouse gases, helping halt climate change and the devastation it can bring. The problem is often where to start. Buildings are big users of energy, responsible for 18% of the UK’s total carbon emissions according to the Carbon Trust. As the UK works towards meeting our legally-binding carbon reduction target of 80% by 2050, the heat is on to reduce the carbon impact of our buildings wherever possible. Heating and hot water in particular offers huge scope for carbon cutting as this service typically accounts for around half of a building’s total energy usage and its associated emissions.

Step One: Energy efficiency

Improving the energy efficiency of the UK’s high proportion of ‘energy inefficient’ buildings is arguably the greatest challenge facing the building services industry. Where heating is concerned, retrofit technologies offer the most practical, cost-effective solution. As commercial boiler plant supplies the heating in a significant percentage of the UK’s non-domestic existing buildings, the fastest, most effective route to more environmentally and economically sustainable heating is often through condensing boiler technology. However, this is just the starting point as manufacturers introduce more adaptable products to suit each project’s individual requirements, budgets and construction schedules, and to maximise thermal efficiencies.

Flexible cascade and rig systems

Cascade and rig systems are a prime example of how manufacturers are innovating for increased ease of installation and higher efficiencies. Operating multiple condensing boilers in sequence with a sequential control effectively improves the modulation of the boilers, enabling more accurate matching of the heat output demand. Installing condensing boilers on prefabricated and preconfigured cascade or rig systems requires less on-site labour whilst the easier, faster installation minimises any disruption and increases productivity for both the organisation and the contractor. Look for cascade systems that offer different installation options to accommodate irregularly shaped plant rooms. Alternatively, and particularly where refurbishment schedules are tight, opt for a bespoke designed and manufactured rig system that will exactly meet the specific requirements of the plant room for ultra-fast installation with all the additional energy and carbon-saving benefits.

Step two – renewables surge

The UK is targeted with producing 12% of its heat from low carbon or renewable sources as part of the EU’s 20:20:20 targets on climate change and energy. As we look to minimise our carbon impact at every opportunity, manufacturers are introducing versatile renewable solutions suitable for use on refurbishment as well as new build projects. Gas-driven heat pumps are one example of a renewable heating technology that can be installed as a ‘bolt on’ to an existing heating system to work alongside condensing boilers for robust low-carbon heating.

Accurate, detailed data

Historically, manufacturers have reported the highest efficiencies on their products achieved in test conditions, which has led to reports of underperforming equipment. Now enlightened manufacturers are providing consultants and contractors with detailed performance data on their products at different temperatures and heat outputs to enable consultants to calculate more accurately the achievable efficiencies and design accordingly. This greater transparency and collaboration within the industry, further supported by digital 3D Building Information Modelling (BIM), is critical to promoting best practice in heating and moving us to a more sustainable future.

Step three: Smart controls

Intelligent controls are widely acknowledged as one of the most important means of achieving higher efficiencies from both condensing and renewable technologies. Adding the appropriate controls will reduce heating requirements – and hence the energy demand – as well as enabling good integration of the various components to maximise the system efficiency and reduce carbon emissions. One of the latest advances is a bespoke, specially-configured control designed to maximise efficiencies on hybrid heating systems combining renewable and condensing technologies.

Step four: the carbon factor

Whilst installing energy-efficient and low-carbon heating equipment is often the main emphasis in reducing the carbon footprint of buildings, it is also worth considering the embedded carbon associated with the production of the product. Boiler ranges like the Remeha Gas 310/610 Eco Pro, for example, are fully recyclable at the end of life to support carbon reduction initiatives.

When considering the carbon factor, it can be useful to calculate the primary energy ratio (PER) of a product to assess the amount of usable heat energy delivered. Let’s take heat pumps – we might assume that each type has an identical PER. In fact, gas absorption heat pumps, which use gas as the primary energy source directly at the point of use, provide 98% of usable heat energy compared with the 45% of usable electrical energy of electric air source heat pumps (ASHPs) which are driven by grid-supplied electricity.

Energy efficiency and renewable energy are the two pillars of sustainable energy. Manufacturers have responded to the need for greater sustainability with a range of adaptable high-performance heating equipment that facilitates more flexibility in system design, helping reduce energy waste and increase our energy generation from renewable sources. At Remeha Commercial, we look forward to continuing to work closely with consultants and contactors, supporting organisations with intelligent heating systems designed to meet their individual environmental and financial requirements, and helping to create a more sustainable future.

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