Proactive planning ahead of the winter months can help energy managers keep heating costs down in the colder months, reducing energy consumption and creating more comfortable buildings. Chris Meir, Sales Director at Remeha, identifies practical, low-cost steps for improved energy efficiency
As the days begin to shorten and temperatures to dip, energy and finance managers will be preparing for the increase in energy expenses associated with colder weather. Energy prices are continuing to rise steadily, so it’s advisable to consider carrying out efficiency improvements before the extra demand on the heating system puts added pressure on the budget.
After all, ensuring high-performance heating not only reduces emissions, energy usage and costs, but keeps associated emissions low while ensuring higher comfort levels for building occupants.
So with 80% of UK buildings relying on gas for their heating, what practical low-cost steps can be taken to improve heating efficiency and reduce associated costs?
Low hanging fruit – 48% gas savings
A plant upgrade frequently tops the list of quick wins to significant cost and carbon savings in the many buildings still using dated or inefficient commercial boilers.
The European Union predicts a 20% reduction in energy consumption and emissions when replacing older equipment with products (like condensing boilers) that comply with the tighter efficiency and NOx requirements of the Energy-related Products Directive (ErP).
However the real-world results can be far higher in our experience. The exact figure will depend on the nature of the building and the existing boilers. But time and again, our customers report impressive outcomes from retrofitting high-efficiency condensing boilers – a drop in gas consumption of 48% for one, an annual saving of £35K in gas bills and a carbon reduction of 217 tonnes for another. And these are far from isolated examples.
Even condensing models should be routinely replaced when they come to the end of their lifecycle to ensure optimum operation and efficiency. So it’s advisable to carry out regular condition surveys – and there’s no better time than the present.
Of course, a boiler replacement won’t be necessary in all buildings. But boilers are not a fit-and-forget technology – just like people and cars, they need looking after. An annual service and a good maintenance programme will ensure the best performance from boilers, maximising efficiencies and comfort levels while minimising building emission levels to comply with organisation’s environmental commitments.
Controls – 15% efficiency savings
The next consideration is the control strategy. Adding the appropriate controls enables boilers to operate at top efficiency levels while achieving and maintaining a consistently comfortable environment for building occupants and simultaneously reducing plant maintenance costs. Upgrading controls can deliver big savings of up to 15%, according to the Carbon Trust.
The minimum control strategy should encompass weather compensation, optimisation, full-temperature control, and sequential controllers for multiple boiler arrangements, all of which must be fully integrated into the Building Management System.
It follows that it’s worth identifying boilers that are supplied with time and temperature controls as standard if carrying out a boiler replacement. Look too for controls with intuitive interfaces as these will be straightforward to set and adjust – and therefore more likely to be used. Control settings should be checked on a regular basis as turning down the thermostat by just 1°C could reduce heating bills by 10%, according to the Energy Saving Trust.
Water quality – 7% savings
Addressing water quality should be an essential step in all boiler maintenance programmes as any contamination can affect both the performance and lifespan of boilers and the heating system.
If left untreated, sludge and debris can accumulate overtime in pipes and radiators, affecting the circulation of water in the primary circuit and heat output, and reducing the efficiency of the overall system.
In hardwater areas, a lack of water treatment can lead to the build-up of limescale in the boiler’s heat exchanger. This creates an insulating layer, inhibiting heat transfer to the water. A 1mm layer of limescale will cause a 7% increase in energy input to the boiler to meet the same heat demand.
Scheduling water treatment on an annual basis by a qualified technician can resolve both issues. However, water quality should be checked on a regular basis.
Insulation – 10% savings
Boiler insulation degrades over time and on old equipment can reduce a boiler’s efficiency by 10%. Insulation should be replaced when it is showing signs of wear. Similarly, the insulation on the associated pipework and valves should be replaced over time. This can result in further savings of up to 10% of the energy input.
As we head towards winter, it’s fortunate that there are practical, low-cost measures available to support improved heating operational efficiencies in buildings. Upgrading dated and inefficient boiler plant with well-controlled energy-saving condensing boilers will boost cost, carbon and NOx savings, while reducing gas consumption. And proactively implementing a regular boiler maintenance programme will ensure maximum comfort and financial benefits.
All of which makes everyone winners – even if the Beast from the East does make a return visit this winter.