Tighter regulations for NOx emissions from space heating are on their way in 2018 as the next phase of Ecodesign requirements comes into effect under the Energy-related Products Directive. Chris Meir, Sales Director at Remeha, looks at the implications for energy managers and refurbishment projects.
Government figures attributing around 45% of UK energy consumption and over 30% of greenhouse gas emissions to space heating alone point to the huge scope for efficiency gains in existing buildings.
Heating has already fallen back into the spotlight following the publication of the government’s Clean Growth Strategy. New legislation in 2018 from the European Union’s Energy-related Products Directive (ErP) will further encourage focus on heating performance. From 26 September 2018, Ecodesign requirements under ErP will enforce maximum NOx emissions of 56mg/kWh for gas and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) boilers and 120mg/kWh for oil-fired boilers.
The regulations, which apply to new space heaters (including boilers) up to and including 400kW on both new build and replacement projects, follow the more stringent ErP efficiency standards introduced in September 2015.
With EU legislation still applying in the UK until its formal departure date, and the government consulting on improving building efficiency, this new regulation is worth noting when planning boiler replacements.
Mind the NOx
The EU aims to phase out the installation of less efficient equipment across Europe by establishing minimum performance standards for new equipment. It predicts a 20% reduction in energy consumption and emissions when replacing older equipment with ErP-compliant products that will help achieve its 2020 targets.
Why the attention on NOx? The mandatory levels coincide with the growing scrutiny of NOx following worldwide recognition of the health dangers posed by air pollution. And while road traffic is a major contributor to outdoor pollution, non-domestic buildings – and their heating – also typically emit NOx. So reducing NOx emissions from heating is an important step towards achieving cleaner air.
For energy managers, the good news is that manufacturers have been continuously innovating to produce affordable, future-proofed low NOx heating solutions that meet the new challenges.
When it comes to boilers, condensing boilers remain the most efficient of all boiler technologies – around 11% more efficient than non-condensing boilers. With some condensing boilers now in their fourth or fifth generation and capable of achieving near maximum efficiencies, this is a proven, cost-effective solution to high performance heating.
In terms of NOx, again condensing boilers are ahead of the game. With ultra-low emissions at or below 40mg/kWh, the latest models are future-proofed to ErP 2018 NOx levels. At the same time, they meet the EU standard EN15502 Pt 1 2015 Class 6 for NOx and are eligible for maximum BREEAM credits, helping contribute to a higher environmental building rating.
Certain models are also certified for operation on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), providing a viable solution for organisations off the gas grid looking to switch to a more sustainable fuel source.
Reduced bills, reduced carbon footprint
With many public sector buildings relying on boilers for their space heating, what impact will ErP have on energy managers?
For new build and refurbishment projects, the focus will be on installing only ErP-compliant, high efficiency, low NOx heating solutions.
The next consideration should be to replace any ageing or inefficient boilers in older buildings with ultra-low NOx condensing boilers, and add controls. The Carbon Trust supports this view, highlighting boiler replacement as a key way to cut heating costs.
At the same, condensing boilers achieve more reliable heating, helping generate the more comfortable environment increasingly connected with improved occupant wellbeing, and ultimately greater productivity.
Maximising efficiency with manufacturer support
When installing condensing boilers, however, it is always advisable to seek support from the manufacturer, particularly on refurbishment projects moving away from non-condensing boilers. While the switch should be seamless, arranging a site visit from an experienced manufacturer to survey the existing boiler plant will help identify any potential future challenges – and the most appropriate solutions.
Using their in-depth knowledge of their products, manufacturers can also advise on how best to maximise the performance of the condensing boilers within the existing heating system. This might involve rebalancing the radiator circuits and adding weather compensation control, for example, thereby allowing the boilers to fully condense and optimise their efficiencies.
Sharing the heat load over multiple condensing boilers in a cascade arrangement is another approach to more efficient, reliable heating that also results in easier maintenance and servicing, cutting operational costs. Again manufacturers can advise on the best configuration for the individual project.
Manufacturers can also provide information on additional design factors that should be factored into the schedule and budget, including flueing and condensate arrangements. Or in the case of off-grid properties, it might be necessary to consider a change of fuel source to LPG.
These considerations are particularly relevant where several properties are involved, each served by a number of boilers. In such scenarios, implementing a rolling change programme is a practical means of ensuring a smooth changeover. With a planned, staged replacement programme there is adequate time to design and budget for the most appropriate solution that will maximise energy and cost savings. And as the phased replacements can be carried out in a live environment, this approach also minimises any disruption to the day-to-day operation of the building.
ErP – are you ready?
ErP 2018 is coming. It may be a legislative driver for change, but if it results in more comfortable, productive living and work environments, lower energy bills and cleaner air, everyone’s a winner. Fortunately, with today’s advanced, high efficiency, ultra-low NOx condensing boilers the tighter requirements of ErP and its considerable benefits are entirely achievable. And with the support of their manufacturers, energy managers could help make the huge potential for energy savings and emissions reduction in the UK’s existing building stock into a reality.
This feature was the cover story of the February issue of Energy Manager.