Taking the green route to energy savings

How energy-efficient is your heating? Take a fresh look at retrofit as a practical, affordable means to significant energy savings, says James Porter, National Sales Manager of Remeha Commercial.

As the energy companies announce a proposed 10 per cent hike in fuel bills, concern rises over how many more householders will slip into fuel poverty. The impact on the public sector is also significant. Budgets already slashed by cuts to public spending must now stretch to cover increased energy bills.

Amidst the confusion surrounding what some see as David Cameron’s U-turn on the green levies policy and general uncertainty over how the self-professed ‘greenest Government ever’ will prepare the nation for a low-carbon future, the case for energy efficiency has never been stronger. The International Energy Agency (IEA) names energy efficiency the ‘first fuel’ in its recently published inaugural Energy Efficiency Market Report which shows how energy savings from energy efficiency measures in the 11 IEA member countries far exceed the output from any other single fuel source.

Energy consumption is directly linked with greenhouse gas emissions, so adopting energy efficiency measures not only reduces fuel bills and operating costs but helps organisations fulfil their environmental commitments. The good news for local authorities is that relatively simple, affordable energy efficiency measures will bring rapid financial savings and significantly lower the carbon footprint.

Take heating, for example. Together with hot water generation, it can account for as much as sixty per cent of total energy use, according to the Carbon Trust, yet around half of this figure is likely to be wasted – often due to the old inefficient heating systems in place. Replacing old boilers with a modern condensing boiler is the simplest, most cost-effective and often the only solution to achieving rapid reductions in energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. As a general rule, building managers should look to replace any boiler over 10-15 years old with a modern condensing boiler. Today’s high-efficiency, fully-modulating condensing boilers already exceed the required efficiencies standards outlined in the Energy-related Products (ErP) Directive that is expected to come into force in 2015. Smaller, lighter, easier to install and maintain, they are highly efficient and reliable and proven to more than halve energy bills and reduce the levels of harmful greenhouse gases such as CO2 and NOx by as much as 90 per cent.

Farley Junior School in Luton Borough Council is a case in point. VSRW’s recommendation to replace the school’s existing atmospheric boilers with Remeha condensing boilers on a cascade system as the first phase of the project, with low temperature radiators and fan heaters added a year later to allow the boilers to operate at a reduced maximum temperature, resulted in the school more than halving its energy usage and bills, reducing carbon emissions by 53 tonnes a year and lowering its carbon footprint by a further 15 per cent in the second year.

Innovative design was also the secret to success at Woodlea Primary School in Surrey, which had ventilation, location and asbestos problems in its existing basement plant room. A large percentage of the UK’s existing building stock is in dire need of repair, a fact which has been linked to asbestos problems. At Woodlea, Kier Facilities Services, Surrey County Council’s Property M & E Team and Remeha Commercial built a boiler enclosure that would effectively create a remote boiler house for central heating and domestic hot water services, allowing all future maintenance and operation to take place securely from the outside. Helped by the ease of assembly and installation of the three boilers on a cascade system, the enclosure and boiler installation were completed in one day.

Smart system design is an essential component for maximum energy efficiency in boiler plant renewal and it is advisable to include an allocation for additional complementary technologies in the budget. Controls are the first point for consideration as they ensure that the boiler operates at its highest efficiency level. We recommend that the minimum control strategy should encompass valved zone control, thermostats and timers. The Carbon Trust suggests that lowering set points by one degree could bring a reduction in an annual heating bill of up to eight per cent. Further improvements can be achieved by two-zoned temperature and time control, weather compensation, and sequential control of boilers.

Passive energy saving technologies such as flue gas heat recovery recover what would otherwise be wasted energy, passing it back into the system for the benefit of space heating (underfloor heating or low temperature radiators) or pre-heating domestic hot water. At new build developments where budgets will not stretch to the more expensive renewable technologies, these heat recovery systems are an affordable, greener heating alternative, as M&E Consultant Simon Luff of F.P Hurley & Sons discovered at Taunton Academy in Somerset. On old heating systems that by their nature require more energy to heat, this ‘super condensing’ technology delivers around 10 to 15 per cent higher efficiency levels than condensing boilers regardless of primary circuit temperatures.

Retrofit appeals on both a financial and environmental level, requiring relatively low initial investment and bringing minimal disruption due to fast installation. What’s more, while the cost to upgrade to energy-efficient boilers remains fixed, the savings they deliver will increase exponentially as fuel costs continue to soar. Put simply, it’s win-win.

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