Embracing LZC technologies
The long-appreciated benefits of packaged plant for heating and hot water can be extended to incorporate low/zero-carbon energy sources, explains Jeff House of Baxi Commercial Division.
Environmental considerations are likely to be very much to the fore when the owners and operators of business premises are deciding how to best meet the space heating demands of their building. For new buildings, this focus generally derives from regulatory or planning requirements. For replacement or refurbishment projects, rising energy costs are likely to be a major influence.
Whatever the underlying influence, decisions regarding investment in energy efficiency are now likely to take account of not only up front capital expenditure but also the overall lifetime cost of ownership including fuel consumption and maintenance.
In addition to such concerns is the ever-developing raft of Government schemes designed to induce UK businesses to reduce carbon emissions, drive investment in micro-generation and promote energy efficiency.
As a result choosing how to best meet heating demands for commercial premises, whilst balancing environmental concerns, can be a bewildering prospect. This is where leading manufacturers can offer advice and solutions tailored to individual business needs.
The cost of purchasing equipment intended to improve building energy efficiency is the obvious starting point, with the next consideration likely to be the cost of installation.
The cost implications of co-ordinating delivery of the various components involved and arranging for their assembly at a single location can be significant. It is perhaps not surprising that a prefabricated system is, for many, the solution of choice. A packaged system enables tailored, individual design, is factory built and tested and generally requires only ‘plug-and-play’ connection to on-site services.
Off-site construction enables plant-room layout constraints and access limitations to be taken into account, thus easing delivery and ensuring speedy installation, which minimises interruption to business continuity.
Regular system maintenance and parts replacement will be major considerations, which are simplified if all components are provided from one source and covered by a single agreement. As far as space heating is concerned, the prefabricated solution will be the heart of operations, linking with and tailored to drive underfloor or radiator systems as specified in the initial design.
These advantages make the argument for prefabricated solutions compelling. But there is an extra dimension to be taken into account when the design of the space-heating system for a building is being considered.
The Government’s ongoing campaign to encourage the widespread switch by energy users away from reliance on grid-based fossil fuels to the use of micro-generation is of increasing significance. In simple terms, energy produced at an individual business location can be directly used on site.
For example, solar-thermal and heat-pump technologies are transforming heating-system design, with naturally occurring energy captured locally and often used in a pre-heat function, with peak-load back-up from boilers, thus reducing the building system call on grid energy.
CHP (combined heat and power) equipment not only generates electricity for immediate use on site, thus reducing the amount of electricity the building draws from the local grid, but also produces heat that can be used to serve building heating systems. Businesses, faced with meeting building performance obligations or objectives as well as escalating energy prices, are increasingly alert to the potential benefits of generating energy at the point of use. As a result, businesses are turning to heating-industry experts for information and advice on how best to apply these technologies to meet their needs.
Leading manufacturers provide solutions that enable the integration of LZC (low/zero-carbon) technologies into building heating systems, and there are on the market fully prefabricated heating systems with the ability to incorporate an LZC technology.
One particular skid assembly is designed to meet heating demand using high-efficiency condensing boilers, with the option of replacing one of the condensing boilers with the manufacturer’s own CHP unit. When considering this option, it should be borne in mind that the longer the operating hours of the CHP unit, the greater the economic and environmental benefits. Accordingly, if this option is taken, the CHP unit acts as the lead appliance with the condensing boiler meeting peak load, modulating to meet demand.
This packaged unit can be integrated with an additional appliance, such as a condensing direct-fired storage water heater, providing a complete solution for space heating and hot water.
Prefabricated solutions are not necessarily only suitable for larger commercial installations. A packaged unit is available that has been designed for the smaller location, meeting both space-heating and domestic-hot-water needs, that can integrate hot-water production w energy from solar-thermal or heat-pump technologies.
This broad availability of packaged systems, together with their inherent cost-saving characteristics, makes them an increasingly frequent solution of choice when commercial-building heating installations are being selected. Whether required as a dedicated space-heating package or to provide space heating and domestic hot water demand, this suitability is enhanced where the prefabricated system has the added virtue of being able to integrate with LZC technologies.
Jeff House is applications manager with Baxi Commercial Division.