Condensing boilers take centre stage in energy-efficiency drive

Remeha Commercial, boilers, space heating
Ticking all the right boxes — James Porter.

For reasons of affordability, reliability and practicality, condensing boilers are enjoying renewed popularity as the pragmatic solution to improved thermal efficiency — as James Porter of Remeha Commercial explains.

Climate change is one of the most serious threats we face today. If we are to halt the devastation caused by harmful energy-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, we must act now to improve our energy efficiency.

The UK has the highest percentage of energy-inefficient buildings in Europe, making them the key challenge for the building-services industry. This urgent need to address the energy performance of our existing building stock is underlined by statistics from the BRE stating that 60% of the buildings that will be standing in the UK in 2050 are already built, with 40% of these predating 1985, the year that Building Regulations for fuel and power were first introduced under Part L.

Using the energy we have as wisely as possible benefits the building operator, society and the planet, with the lower energy consumption reducing GHG emissions and running costs, which in turn help halt fuel poverty and provide greater UK energy security.

Legislation plays an important role in encouraging greater energy efficiency. In the UK, we are working towards meeting a national emissions reduction target of 80% by 2050 from base 1990 figures, with EU targets of 20% improvement in energy efficiency and 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. Helping us towards these targets are new regulations such as the latest ruling from the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) that will make it illegal for landlords to rent out the most energy-inefficient buildings from April 2018. This initiative will make it mandatory for commercial properties to have a minimum EPC rating of E before they can be let in 2018.

So where to start?

New boilers at Mirror Trinity Printing Group’s printing facility at Watford are expected to achieve energy savings of at least 30%.

Heating and hot-water provision is one of the single greatest end users of energy in a building, accounting for as much as half of the total energy use and associated emissions of greenhouse gases. This is recognised by the EU, which this September will introduce the Energy-related Products Directive (ErP) (EU Directive 2009/125/EC) for heating and hot-water products, imposing higher minimum-efficiency standards in a bid to remove less-efficient products from the market.

The new higher heating efficiencies required by the ErP will effectively make it mandatory to install high-efficiency condensing boilers below 400 kW on both new-build developments and existing heating and hot-water systems, even those currently using non-condensing boilers — underlining the importance of this technology in delivering energy-saving heat and hot water. Through its standardised efficiency levels, the ErP effectively sheds a spotlight on condensing technology as one of the most effective solutions to improved thermal efficiency.

The high efficiencies achieved by condensing boilers are just one of many factors leading to their renewed popularity. The saying goes ‘it all comes down to money’, and cost is certainly an influencer. The drive for improved energy efficiency can leave businesses and organisations juggling environmental and financial commitments. On the one hand, companies must demonstrate greener operation, whilst on the other there is the requirement to maintain profitability levels. Affordability, therefore, is often a necessary factor in the decision process.

Certainly, the recent drop in fuel prices has added to the appeal of gas as a cost-effective, clean-burning energy source for heating. More persuasive is the low initial investment for condensing boilers that continues to compare favourably with that of renewable-heating technologies, matched by rapid, significant savings in the form of a proven 30 to 50% drop in utility bills and a greatly reduced carbon footprint. Factor in the future energy savings, and the economic argument is stronger still. What’s more, the affordability of condensing boilers makes them a replicable solution, providing businesses with the option to raise energy-efficiency levels across multiple sites rather than investing the entire budget in one building.

Energy-efficient heating and hot water is provided for the Abbey Hotel in Bath by Remeha boilers as part of a complete redesign of the plant room that is expected to achieve 40% energy savings, amounting to up to £10 000 a year.

Practicality also plays a huge role in the new focus on condensing boilers. With some 80% of our buildings currently heated by gas boilers, often the only realistic solution to raising the thermal efficiency is to replace any inefficient boilers with a modern, high efficiency condensing boiler. Where manufacturers offer a range of condensing boilers built around a single design, the equipment is even easier to install, with low labour costs and minimum disruption. Take, for example, the hotels we have worked with that have carried replaced boilers during periods of full occupancy with no disturbance to hotel staff or guests and able to maintain their high standards and profitability.

Reliability and high performance also contribute to the appeal of condensing boilers. Following recent widespread reports of underperforming renewable technologies that have resulted in higher-than-anticipated energy-related costs, condensing boilers are viewed as the tried-and-tested solution that does what it says on the tin.

As with all technology, the secret to success is ongoing research and development to meet evolving needs. Many manufacturers now offer fifth- or sixth-generation boilers that have been fine-tuned to offer greater flexibility in system design — making them an adaptable, versatile component in today’s multiple equipment plant rooms. However, arguably their greatest role lies in raising the energy performance of our existing building stock. Affordable, highly effective and reliable, condensing boilers are a pragmatic win-win solution to greater financial and environmental sustainability.

James Porter is national sales manager at Remeha Commercial.

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