BRE reports on UK air conditioning installations in non-domestic buildings

BRE, air conditioning

Cooling in air-conditioning systems may account for about 10% of total electricity consumption in the UK according to a report from the BRE. The report also reveals that the proportion of buildings with air conditioning is increasing, estimating that in 2012 some 65% of UK office space and 30% of UK retail space was air conditioned.

The 2-year study was commissioned by the Department of Energy & Climate Change, now the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.

The report is freely available on the BRE’s website (url below) and provides key insights into how the energy is being used and the factors influencing consumption.

The study estimates that cooling in office spaces typically uses around 40 kWh/m2 per year. Air conditioning is frequently used even when buildings are unoccupied, for example in the evening and over weekends.

The analysis of Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) indicates that over half of air conditioning systems in the UK are split systems. Although only 10% of EPCs have air-conditioning recommendations, these mostly relate to more efficient equipment, including variable-sped drives and reducing air leakage from ductwork.

An analysis of the recommendations in air-conditioning inspection reports showed that they tend to be generic, with the focus on improving controls and maintenance.

In a sample of monitored offices, 77% of the energy used for cooling was in systems that exceeded the benchmark ‘typical’ consumption per unit floor area.

Installed cooling capacity is commonly significantly higher than the peak cooling demands that actually occurs.

The report also provides a summary of policy options for reducing electricity consumption for cooling in air-conditioning systems. They are classified into three types.

• Primarily focused on other energy uses, but which impact air conditioning.

• Specifically directed at air-conditioning components.

• Have a wider scope that includes air conditioning.

BRE has put together a dissemination plan aimed specifically at air-conditioning designers and technicians, building managers and smart-system designers.

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