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Opportunity knocks in commercial arena

Commercial buildings in the UK are crying out for heating engineers to help reduce their running costs. Bryan Gates tells Heating and Ventilating Review about the opportunities this is providing installers

The way we power our buildings is always popular on the news agenda. When gas prices are on the rise, like we saw last winter, the papers are full of stories about what this means for the public, and their wallets.

But it’s not just homes that are affected by soaring bills. Think of all the non-domestic buildings we use on a daily basis. The office, gyms, schools, universities, pubs, restaurants, shops; the list goes on and on.

These buildings will all differ in size, but will most likely be substantially bigger than the average home. That means there’s a lot more space to heat, and a lot more money wasted if the building is inefficient. These organisations will be keen to make sure they’re creating and using their heating in an intelligent way.

Facilities Management is one of the fastest growing professionsin the UK, with the British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFI) estimating it’s worth between £45bn and £90bn. These are the people that can help make buildings more efficient, and they need installers’ help.

The office

A lot of people spend their working day in an office, so it should be a shock to read that poor energy management is costing some offices £100k more than it should do, according to research by commercial property management specialists Jones Lang LaSalle

The research found offices with poor energy management are spending up to £225,000 per year on running costs, while offices managing energy well only have to pay out £125,000.

It’s no different for schools. The Carbon Trust estimates that schools could reduce energy costs by around £44 million per year, which would prevent 625,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere. According to, more than 20 per cent of energy consumed by schools is wasted, and simple good housekeeping can reduce fuel bills by 10 per cent. This means there’s a lot of potential work out there for installers who have the knowledge and skills to improve the energy efficiency of buildings.

Carbon Reduction Commitment

Large public and private sector organisations have an obligation to improve their energy efficiency, under the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) Energy Efficient Scheme. The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) estimates these organisations account for 10 per cent of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. This mandatory scheme affects supermarkets, water companies, banks, local authorities and all central government departments.

For these organisations, installers don’t need to sell the benefits of energy efficient improvements, because those who don’t comply with CRC face financial penalties. This means they’ll be keen to hear about ways to cut their energy costs, and stop wasting heat.

What measures can be taken?

Fortunately for installers, the same measures that are used to improve energy efficiency in a home can be equally effective in non-domestic properties.

The majority of a school’s energy use (on average 58 per cent, according to the Carbon Trust) is space heating, and there are many ways schools can make this process as efficient as possible.

A regular service – once a year for a gas boiler, twice a year for oil – is very important and could save as much as 10 per cent on annual heating costs (according to the Carbon Trust), as installers will be able to find and fix any problemsin the system that are stopping it working to its full potential. There’s also the chance to add water treatment chemicals which can help get rid of any contaminants, seal leaks, hush noises coming from the heating system and protect it for the future.

Upgrading heating controls could also have a big impact. Controlling the temperature and time settings means as little heat as possible is wasted, and big savings could be made. For schools it’s recommended (DfES Guidance 0029/2000, Standards for School Premises) that rooms with normal teaching should be kept at 18°C, circulation spaces (such as corridors) and areas with high levels of activity (like the sports hall) should be 15°C, while special needs schools or areas with very young children should be kept at 21°C.

It’s also important to make sure the rooms are only being heated when they’re in use, and not after school or during the lunch break for example.

A case study carried out by the Carbon Trust at Richard Whittington School in Bishops Stortford highlights the effect heating controls can have. The school hadn’t updated its heating system since its installation in 1977, and the controls were old and inappropriately set. With a £6,000 investment in boiler controls, the school’s heating costs were reduced by 21 per cent, providing year-on-year operational savings, and the initial cost outlay was paid back in four years.

Grässlin’s range of QEG programmers even have a feature that lets the heating engineer set a boiler service reminder. When it’s time for a service, the reminder will display the installer’s contact details, so all the customer has to do is get on the phone and book one, which means guaranteed work for the installer and a lot less hassle for the customer.

So for installers looking for extra work, it could pay to look at the opportunities in non-domestic buildings.

// The author is Grässlin’s UK sales and marketing director //

1 July 2014


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