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Tailored products to meet energy-saving demands

With commercial building managers under increasing pressure from the Government to perform in line with the UK's green agenda, the close management of carbon emissions and onsite energy consumption are now top of the agenda. Phil Chilton explores how leading manufacturers are tailoring their product development to ensure easier installation, easier maintenance and energy efficiency to help installers meet demand
For many commercial building managers, the energy efficiency arena is new territory, but with each legislative change we are seeing a sharper incline in companies taking a leap into the unknown. More and more firms are specifying products that deliver cost savings through reduced energy consumption, even if this means a slightly higher upfront monetary outlay.

This upsurge in financial investment as businesses strive to improve their premises has driven improvements in the way commercial heating manufacturers tackle product development.

Whilst the needs of the end user remain at the forefront of industry-wide innovation, so too do the needs of the installer.

For heating engineers, time is money and creating systems that are simple and quick to install - and equally as easy to maintain - will always remain of great importance when designing new products if we are to maximise the opportunities being presented to us as an industry.

Leading manufacturers such as Dimplex are increasingly delivering commercial heating solutions which incorporate time-saving installation and maintenance features, whilst offering the energy efficiency credentials required by national and international carbon reduction commitments. For contractors and installers, this means a portfolio of high quality heating products and supplementary units to specify, ensuring the customer is happy and their time is spent as efficiently as possible - maximising profit margins on every job.

Ceiling heaters - easy access
One such popular heating choice is ceiling heaters, which can provide subtle heating where wall space is limited and fast response is needed. A popular choice in shops, offices and restaurants, these units remain a reliable option for both new build and refurbishment projects and by making subtle changes to the fabrication of the products, installers are now benefiting from quicker access to working parts for essential maintenance. Dimplex's recessed model for example now includes a hinged grille for convenience, which is proving a helpful addition when working in a busy public environment.

For commercial premises looking to optimise energy performance, ceiling heaters can be installed with a wall-mounted control unit designed specifically to offer more than just temperature controls. These controls can provide twin heat settings or a fan only mode, which allow the output to be matched to changing heating demands to keep energy consumption and running costs minimal.

Radiant heaters
A popular form of heating in leisure centres, community buildings and outdoor seating areas, radiant electric heaters only produce heat when the transmitted infrared energy is absorbed by people nearby, heating the person rather than the air around them.

Energy efficient in their own right, these products already offer significant energy and running cost reductions compared with gas heaters. Despite this, there is almost always room for improvement.

Leading manufacturers offer compatible Passive Infrared Sensors (PIRs) which activate the heater when movement is detected in the surrounding area to ensure energy is only consumed when really necessary. Using these sensors as an addition to a new or pre-installed radiant heating solution can optimise efficiency and deliver the highest possible financial reduction.

Air curtains
Research by the Carbon Trust and Bristol University shows that using an air curtain to prevent treated air escaping through open doors could save up to 30 per cent on system running costs. Further to this, a recent Carbon Trust study has highlighted that up to half of the 1.3 million commercial buildings in the UK could benefit from installing this technology. Couple these findings with a payback period as short as five months and it is clear to see why air curtains are being increasingly specified across a wide range of business premises.

To optimise the performance of this sought-after technology many decision makers are connecting them to low cost control switches, automated timers, Passive Infrared Sensors (PIRs) or to the building's BMS control system, so they can be carefully controlled to provide airstream coverage only when predetermined.

These simple yet effective control options ensure the air curtains are working to maximum efficiency when, and only when, required - keeping the long-term running costs of the building down to a minimum.

High power models such as the Dimplex DAB recessed range have also been designed with installation and maintenance front of mind. The range includes dedicated recessed units rather than standard units with separate recess kits, eliminating the need for additional construction works to deliver a far quicker installation time.

The energy saving agenda is clear but as carbon reduction targets continue to be squeezed, there is further stringent legislation on the horizon. These compulsory changes will force many in the commercial sector to invest further in new or improved heating technology and create new opportunities for installers.

Supported by continued product development from manufacturers to help save time, money and energy, there has never been a better time to grab those opportunities.

// The author is the commercial products manager at Dimplex //
10 March 2014

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