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Condensing boilers - a healthy option for the NHS

The UK will spend over £33 billion on heat in 2012. Yet many of our hospitals are still struggling on with wasteful, inefficient heating systems at a time when fuel prices are continuing to rise. High efficiency boilers are the affordable solution to reducing both energy use and fuel bills, says Mark Northcott
Whether it's carbon cutting', 'efficiency measures' or 'fuel savings', energy has become one of the most reported and discussed topics in recent months. Ever rising fuel prices combined with environmental concerns for the need to reduce emissions of harmful greenhouse gases are key concerns for us all. This is particularly true in the healthcare sector, where austerity measures have taken hold with brutal cuts to public sector spending. The challenge lies in finding ways of making the reduced funding stretch still further. Here, as in other sectors of society, it's time to look for energy saving measures.

One area where significant - and affordable - savings can be made is heat. Heat accounts for more than half of the UK's energy demand. The DECC's recently published Heat Strategy reported that, this year, the UK will spend over £33 billion on heat. Heat is also responsible for around 40 per cent of the UK's greenhouse gas emissions.

The Coalition Government has shown its commitment to creating a sustainable built environment by pledging that all new homes will be zero carbon by 2016 and all new buildings by 2019.

However, according to reports by the Carbon Trust and the Building Research Establishment, based on current construction and demolition rates, around two thirds of the buildings that will be in the UK in 2050 have already been built and 40 per cent pre-date 1985 (the year that Building Regulations regarding fuel and power were first introduced under part 1.)

The UK has some of the oldest building stock in Europe. The reality is that many hospital buildings fit into the 'old' category, possibly with old heating systems in place that consume high amounts of energy and produce higher than necessary fuel bills. Profitability is the key driver for all businesses. Today's high efficiency boiler and heat recovery systems can massively cut fuel bills and greenhouse gas emissions without huge capital expenditure. So, more than ever in these times of financial constraints, the most effective approach to achieving significant energy bill savings and helping meet our carbon reduction target of 80 per cent by 2050 on 1990 levels is refurbishment.

As the Heat Strategy states, refurbishment can significantly improve the fabric quality of older buildings. Old atmospheric boilers can waste up to 50 per cent of the energy they put up the chimney. In comparison, condensing boilers are highly efficient and reliable with efficiency levels of over 90 per cent.

Maximising efficiency
Better controls maximise the efficient operation of the boilers and produce an agreeable temperature for the comfort of patients and staff. The benefits are clear: high efficiency boilers can cut fuel costs by around 50 per cent and reduce the levels of harmful greenhouse gases such as CO2 and NOx by at least 90 per cent.

Equally important for the smooth running of hospitals and healthcare centres is modern, refined design - today's boilers are much smaller, lighter and more compact than before, making them quicker and easier to install with minimal disruption.

Even if space is at a premium, the high efficiency boiler can fit easily into the existing area, and through any doorway. With a choice of wall hung or free-standing boilers, skid-mounted or supplied on wheels, they are easy to manoeuvre into the plant room, making boiler upgrading a pain-free operation.

Heating manufacturers continue to innovate, challenging boiler efficiencies still further with condensing boilers and heat recovery devices that deliver even greater energy savings.

Sometimes the simplest steps are the most effective, delivering the greatest results. Refurbishing an old heating system is a real solution to reducing energy consumption and lowering carbon emissions - the only affordable and replicable option in many cases.

More than a sticking plaster
At Remeha, we look forward to working with consultants and contractors to help those in the healthcare sector look after their buildings and put more than a temporary sticking plaster over their ineffective heating systems to achieve real savings on their energy bills and work towards a more sustainable future.

//The author is managing director of Remeha Commercial//

25 May 2012

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