Electric heating is part of the solution

Representing the new generation of electric heaters designed to comply with Part L of the new Building Regulations is the Euro-4 range from Chatsworth Heating. All the heaters in a system can be individually controlled from a main programmer.
Electric heating itself does not emit carbon dioxide, and nor need the generation of electricity from renewable and nuclear sources. DAVID RUMBLES reflects on a new future.With demand for energy very quickly outstripping supply, the global community has reacted slowly to address the issue of climate change and energy efficiency. Fossil fuels are finite and burning them has a severely detrimental impact on the natural environment, economic stability and the health of the world’s population. The UK Government has committed to meeting some tough obligations to reduce carbon emissions. Over time, these obligations will result in even harder-hitting Building Regulations, which will promote and reward the incorporation of clean, renewable energies. New rules This year has seen the arrival of the new Approved Document L of the Building Regulations (England and Wales). It followed a long period of consultation and has seen the rules for setting carbon targets and achieving compliance in new build change significantly. It was only a few years ago that natural gas was king and electricity was very much considered to be the poor relation in the energy world and with those responsible for specifying equipment. Electric heating has, and will increasingly have, a significant role to play in providing a sustainable energy solution. Many specifiers are looking towards electric solutions for heating and hot water for a number of reasons. Capital costs can be reduced by an average of up to £1000 compared with gas in new buildings. Electric solutions also offer build-speed benefits, as products are easier and quicker to install — with less time spent on site. A major advantage is flexibility of layout, without the need for difficult flue positioning, and overall lower maintenance and servicing costs. Careful selection of electric heating products enables specifiers to work within the new Building Regulations, which, in turn, will help the UK meet its climate change targets. UK natural-gas supplies are dwindling, and it is expected that by 2020 the level of dependence on imported gas will be as high as 80%*. With gas prices continuing to rise, the future for electric heating is therefore looking very positive. Electric heating Building-services engineers, specifiers and property developers are increasingly turning to electric heating, especially for high-rise buildings above four floors. Under Part L regulations, new builds using gas must now install condensing boilers, with very few exceptions, which invariably involves complicated flueing and pipework arrangements. In addition, expensive booster sets could also be required to physically move the gas to the top of the building, and safety issues must always be considered. The Energy White Paper of 2003 sets out the challenges for the UK to lead us to a cleaner and more efficient form of energy generation and distribution. This followed the DTI’s commitment in 2000 to pursue a target of 10% production of electricity from renewable energy by 2010 and 20% by 2020. The new Part L provides concessions for electric heating and Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP) conditions. Firstly, whole-building calculations allow for an assessment to cover an entire building rather than each individual property. This way it is possible to trade off lower SAP scores against other higher scores. For example, a South-facing property with less glass will fare better than one facing North with a high glass content. Under the old rules, the latter would fail and would need further work carried out to bring it into line. Now it is possible to calculate carbon-dioxide emissions for the entire building and pass, provided the whole scheme complies by not producing more carbon dioxide than the Target Emission Rate (TER). Renewables Secondly, use of renewables is something for consideration. If it is possible to achieve up to 10% renewable energy sources as part of the development, this can considerably elevate the SAP rating. A good example would be providing hot water for the penthouses from a renewable source such as solar panels placed on the roof of the building. This will have a favourable impact on the whole-building rating, improve the overall score and help achieve compliance. Part L also requires thermal insulation and air tightness within a building, and specifiers may also consider a whole-building mechanical ventilation with heat recovery which can supplement heat load and provide the required effective ventilation rates. The Electric Heating & Ventilating Association (TEHVA) is currently working towards the launch of a certification scheme for this element. Chatsworth Heating and other industry leaders are re-evaluating the way electric heating is marketed and working with customers on methods of achieving compliance on specific projects. It is possible to examine a scheme and make recommendations based on proposed materials which could have an effect on compliance. Sustainability is a term we hear frequently concerning heating, but this raises the question of how to define a sustainable building? How sustainable is gas if it runs out sometime in the middle of the 21st century or supplies become erratic due to the political climate? Nuclear power would allow the UK to move towards becoming self sufficient and would not produce any carbon dioxide whatsoever, apart from that produced when the proposed new power stations are built, although the problem of disposing of nuclear waste must not be underestimated. The question to be asked is whether this is better than continually pumping damaging greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. As part of TEHVA, manufacturers of electric heating can work with the Government and professionals to enable them to reap the benefits of specifying electric heating and hot water systems. Significant role Electric heating will increasingly have a significant role to play in providing a sustainable energy solution. By embracing a combination of initiatives and suitable products, specifiers, builders and developers can and will meet the requirements of Building Regulations and, in turn, contribute to alleviating the effects of climate change with electric heating. David Rumble is with Chatsworth Heating Products Ltd, Unit B, Watchmoor Point, Camberley, Surrey GU15 3EX.
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