Developing a market in low-carbon ventilation
Ventilating buildings while minimising carbon emissions is one of the challenges of the future, and one on which Vent-Axia is basing its market development.
In the current economic environment facing the construction industry it could be all to easy to sit tight hoping to ride out the recession. Ronnie George, managing director of Vent-Axia, has different ideas — preferring to look for new markets in which to sell the company’s products and to develop new products in response to ever-increasing pressures to reduce the energy used by buildings in the UK.
Vent-Axia’s expertise has long been in ventilation, with its product range covering residential and commercial buildings long having moved on from extract fans to full mechanical ventilation systems, with and without heat recovery. One of the most recent launches is demand-based energy-recovery ventilation to maintain a good environment in buildings while minimising energy consumption. Rather than just suck air and energy out of a building, the move is towards putting fresh air back into that building and transferring energy from exhaust air to fresh air.
Ronnie George’s perspective on the economic environment has lots of positive buts.
He acknowledges that private housing completions are predicted to be as low and 80 000 in 2009 — but points out that the Homes & Communities Agency will fund at least 180 000 new affordable new homes in the next three years. In addition, the ambition by 2010 to 2011 is to see a building rate of 70 000 homes per year.
Private commercial and industrial workloads are at the lowest rate on record — but Building Schools for the Future envisages a spend of £2.5 to £3 billon every year until 2011. In addition, the 2012 London Olympics presents business opportunities.
Another key market driver for Vent-Axia is the continuing pressure to reduce the energy used by buildings, with, for example, the Code for Sustainable Homes requiring all new homes to be zero carbon by 2016 and the 2010 revision to the Building Regulations expected to require a further 25% reduction in the carbon footprint of new buildings and reductions in the energy consumption of refurbishment projects.
It is against this background that Ronnie George claims that Vent-Axia is the first manufacturer to launch a low-carbon range of ventilation products for all the categories mentioned in the second paragraph. The company’s action plan for the future is largely based on reducing carbon emissions — both from its products in use and in its manufacturing facilities.
The Volution Group, of which Vent-Axia is a part, has four ‘centres of excellence’ — Swindon, Reading, Dudley and Crawley.
Ronnie George says that the Swindon factory is the only UK manufacturer of DC motors, supplying over a million to the HVAC market a year from this 7500 m2 factory. It is the key provider of Vent-Axia’s LoWatt technology.
The 4600 m2 plastic injection and extrusion factory at Reading operates 24 h a day producing moulding entirely for use by the Volution Group. Over 3.5 million fans are made each year, and there are five extrusion lines for rigid and flexible duct.
The largest site, at 11 000 m2, is at Dudley, and makes metal products, including Sentinel demand ventilation and Sentinel Totus D-ERV (demand-based ventilation with energy recovery). It also makes heat-recovery and Multivent products.
Finally, the Crawley site specialises in making unitary plastic fans. It has design and test facilities for rigorous product testing, including safety, airflow and climate chambers — BEAB approved.
The plan for new-product development for all market sectors (residential new-build and refurbishment and non-residential) is toward lower energy consumption and higher value to Vent-Axia — which is demonstrated by three newly launched product ranges.
Starting with the simplest, the Quadra domestic fan for through-the wall or ducted applications. These fans have LoWatt DC motors, and trickle and boost speeds can be set at installation in a range from 6 to 60 l/s. They have adjustable over-run timers, delay-on timer and self-programming humidity sensor. Quadra fans maintain a low specific fan power and use very little power on standby. They meet the requirements of Building Regulations Part F for intermittent fan systems and continuous mechanical extract ventilation.
More sophisticated and with greater capability to reduce energy consumption is the Sentinel Kinetic range of mechanical ventilation systems with heat recovery (MHVR). It is designed to be an SAP Appendix Q listed ventilation solution capable of 90% heat recovery.
As a whole-house, multi-room ducted solution, this system combines supply and extract ventilation in one unit. Warm, moist air is extracted from ‘wet’ rooms through ducting and passed through the heat exchanger before being exhausted to the outside. Fresh incoming air is preheated via the heat exchanger. LowWatt DC motors contribute to a specific fan power of 0.72 W/l/s. A significant benefit of heat-recovery ventilation is to reduce excessive moisture in the air to combat condensation and subsequent mould growth. Sentinel Kinetic units can be installed in a kitchen cupboard and come with a range of control options.
Pushing energy-efficient ventilation to even higher levels is the Sentinel Totus (D-ERV) demand-based ventilation system with energy (hot and cold) recovery. These units have EC/DC motor and a state-of-the-air counterflow heat-recovery cell to achieve up to 90% energy recovery. It is claimed to be the first D-ERV system in the UK to be independently rated and tested to EN308 for energy recovery. Its combination of features are claimed to reduce fuel consumption, energy costs and the carbon footprint of a building by up to 30% more than conventional crossflow energy-recovery ventilation devices. Its specific fan power at 25% of design flow is no greater than that at full flow.
Sentinel Totus on-demand operation can be triggered by a variety of room-occupancy sensors. They can include PIR sensors, with proportional airflow control from a combination of sensors for CO2, humidity or temperature. Information from sensors is used to drive the fan at the required speed for ventilation requirements. Units can be linked to a building-management system. Another capability of Sentinel Totus is to provide free cooling during the summer through bypass optimisation.
Ronnie George summarises Vent-Axia’s perspective on the future, saying, ‘Vent-Axia are focused to maximise the opportunity available during difficult trading conditions. We are embracing Lo-Carbon and continue to improve the carbon footprint of our activities and our products. It’s a long journey, but we have started.’