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Take the efficiency route

Adopting energy-efficient measures is the cost-effective approach to rapid energy, carbon and financial savings, says Chris Meir
As we enter the heating season, the thorny topic of energy continues to dominate headlines, provoking discussion and argument as it affects all sectors of society. Not only is the price of energy at an all-time high and predicted to continue rising, but there are fears over our national energy security due to concerns over the ability of the energy industry to secure enough supplies to homes and businesses. The political row over the controversial 'fracking' process to exploit shale gas is just the latest twist in the energy saga.

Of course, long term, our goal is to meet our energy demand from renewable energy sources. However, renewable technologies still require substantial financial investment which may not be possible during the current global economic crisis. The need to reduce our energy consumption, both for financial and environmental reasons, however, remains unchanged. The EU has set three energy-related targets for 2020: a reduction by 20 per cent of CO2 emissions, an increase of 20 per cent in renewable energy generation, and an improvement by 20 per cent in energy efficiency. While energy efficiency might not be the most exciting option available to a building operator, there's no denying that it is the most cost-effective and rapid means of reducing energy consumption, operating bills and greenhouse gas emissions. In terms of energy security, few would deny that it is cheaper to save energy than import it or generate more.

For the UK, which has some of the world's oldest, most energy-inefficient buildings, improving the energy efficiency of our old commercial building stock is of particular relevance. For while there is rightly emphasis on the energy efficiency of new build developments, more than 60 per cent of the buildings that will be standing in 2050 - the year the Government has set itself to cut UK carbon emissions by 80 per cent - have already been built, according to the Building Research Establishment (BRE).

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) reports that emissions from buildings account for 36 per cent of the UK's total greenhouse gas emissions and it predicts that there is scope for emissions reductions of 74 per cent by 2030. The financial incentives are no less enticing: the Department of Energy and Climate Change claims that large businesses could save almost £2bn through their new Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) being developed as part of the UK's implementation of the EU Energy Efficiency Directive.

For businesses and organisations looking to improve their efficiency, heating and hot water generation is a good place to start as it accounts for a third of the UK's total energy usage and around 40 per cent of our carbon emissions, according to the Carbon Trust. Furthermore, when it comes to the UK's high percentage of old commercial building stock, retrofitting a modern condensing boiler is often the only energy-efficient heating option due to the nature of the building and design of its existing heating system.

It's generally recommended that any boiler between 10 and 15 years old should be replaced with a modern, clean burning condensing model. For a relatively low financial investment, the benefits are immediate energy savings, with the potential to halve fuel bills and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 90 per cent.

The small dimensions of new boilers combined with the ability to disassemble certain models where access is awkward means a quicker and easier installation process. Consequently, any disruption or downtime is minimal, resulting in greater productivity for a business. For an educational establishment, there is greater flexibility in planning a boiler upgrade as this does not necessarily have to be carried out outside term time.

Advances in condensing technology have resulted in the arrival of a 'super condensing' heat recovery system in the shape of Remeha's Quinta Eco Plus that achieves maximum combustion efficiency of 107 per cent, one hundred per cent of the time - even on an old system at 82/71 deg C flow and return temperatures. These passive flue gas heat recovery systems are particularly appropriate for installation into old heating systems that require more heat as they recover otherwise wasted energy for the benefit of space heating or pre-heating domestic hot water.

Finally, to ensure that the boiler and heating system operate at their maximum efficiency, we advise adding the appropriate control. The minimum control strategy should encompass valved zone control, thermostats and timers. Further improvements and energy savings can be achieved by sequential control of boilers, two zoned temperature and time control, and weather compensation.

// The author is national sales manager at Remeha Commercial //
10 September 2013

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