The role of manufacturers

Gerry Stapley
Gerry Stapley
Manufacturers have a major part to play in responding to climate change says GERRY STAPLEY. Climate change is one of the greatest environmental, economic and social threats facing our planet and is set to be the dominant environmental issue of this century. We all have a role to play to reduce the pace and magnitude of climate change. Manufacturers of equipment for heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HEVAC) have already taken up the mantle by developing new technologies, products and services — but they now need to step up a gear and accelerate the trend in raising the efficiency of energy use. The European Commission is doing much to draw attention on a European-wide basis via its ‘Sustainable Energy Europe 2005-2008’, an initiative that is driving the European Union’s own energy-policy targets within the fields of renewable energy sources, energy efficiency, clean transport and alternative fuels. Earlier this year the HEVAC industry welcomed the tightening up of Building Regulations. The mere mention of the letters L, F and P struck many chords across the industry — from manufacturers to contractors, architects and end-users. The tightening up of Building Regulations has spawned many new opportunities for companies by encouraging innovation and competition whilst also driving up standards — all good news for the industry as a whole. Viable legacy Sustainability is at the heart of legislation, and the Department for Communities & Local Government (DCLG) is committed to enabling us all to save energy and leave future generations a viable legacy. The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive heralded a watershed by requiring new and existing buildings to meet certain energy efficient criteria. The revisions to Part L introduced mandatory air-pressure-leakage testing of buildings to prevent unacceptable leakages that could affect the energy efficiency of buildings. It also set out standards for building work to minimise heat loss, conserve fuel, power and set maximum carbon dioxide emissions for whole buildings. These regulations in turn had a knock-on effect on the air-movement business and all that it encompasses — heating, cooling, humidity, ventilation and air filtration. With a greater emphasis on the reliance of fresh air to avoid overheating and designing out air conditioning, there is a preference for natural ventilation. However, natural ventilation does not always address a building’s cooling load and places restraints on occupancy levels and designs. Many opportunities This has presented manufacturers with many opportunities to flex their skills, examine alternatives and design to meet environmental conditions rather than meeting levels of demand. Chiller manufacturers have been quick to take advantage of the opportunities. There is no getting away from the fact that chillers release copious amounts of heat into the atmosphere. However, chiller manufacturers have responded the challenge by developing heat exchangers that can offer end users the option of recycling that heat for other uses. Free cooling also offers a major opportunity for energy saving. Many modern buildings have a demand for cooling even when the ambient temperature is low. Combining the cooling effect of outside air with the use of mechanical cooling when the ambient temperature rises above the desired space temperature provide substantial energy savings where the application permits. Environmental lobbyists often condemn air conditioning, but much of the criticism is unwarranted. The heat wave in July highlighted quite graphically that fresh air is not always an alternative. Even when windows can be thrown open, noise and traffic fumes are not conducive to a productive working environment. Moreover, if the experts are to be believed, we can expect similar weather in future years. Investing That said, the HEVAC industry is concerned and investing heavily in developing greener options and viable alternatives. Heat-pump technology is a key development as an energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly method of heating and cooling buildings. Both ground-source and water-source heat pump technology are viable alternatives, and house builders are looking to use this technology as an alternative to traditional heating and cooling systems. The Heat Pump Association, which represents over 25 companies, is dedicated to the implementation of applying technology (web site address below). The Government has also recognised heat pumps as a highly efficient low-carbon technology and recognised by the Clearskies initiative (www.clearskies.org). Ground-source heat pumps, for example, are included on the Government’s Energy Technology List (ETL). The ETL provides a valuable source of reference, listing over 9000 products. As specifiers become more environmentally aware, they frequently refer to the ETL (www.eca.gov.uk) to review what products and technologies are most efficient. In addition, the Government’s Enhanced Capital Allowance (ECA) scheme offers a commercial incentive for end-users buying equipment from the list (www.carbontrust.co.uk). Quest Research and development plays a key role in the quest for sustainability and the development of new products. Manufacturers need to be bold, and, indeed, many are already channelling their energies into better product design and componentry — hence gas-fired humidifiers, energy-efficient fans and pumps, air-handling units fitted with recuperators or thermal wheels to increase their efficiency. The air-distribution sector has focused on improving the design of grilles, louvres and diffusers, with smooth surfaces on units to minimise frictional losses in the airstream. Cost will always be an issue, but users will take up energy-efficient products if they are competitively priced. Moreover, as demand increases, prices will come down. Everyone involved in our industry needs to make substantial changes in the way they do business. Those that do will find themselves better able to compete and able to offer a broader portfolio to meet the growing demands for energy efficient products. Gerry Stapley is president of the HEVAC Association, 2 Waltham Court, Milley Lane, Hare Hatch, Reading RG10 9TH. He is also CEO of Eaton-Williams. www.feta.co.uk
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