For commercial property managers, specifying heating systems is largely determined by cost – the cost of the system to purchase and install and its annual running costs. However, with more and more legislation being introduced that is intended to drastically reduce the UK’s carbon emissions and the Government’s long term plan to make all new non-domestic buildings carbon neutral within the next 10 years, the environmental impact of a heating system has also become increasingly important in the specification process.
In the past, electric heating has been described as being both an expensive and carbon intensive way to heat a building. Based on the considerations above, you might be forgiven for thinking that this type of fuel, therefore, is not appropriate for commercial heating systems. However, there are several things to consider before reaching that conclusion.
The cost of energy for different heating systems is only part of the true running cost equation and there are many more important factors that need to be considered. The true cost to consider is the lifetime cost of the system, which not only takes into account the fuel used, but also the hidden maintenance costs, in terms of both time and cost.
Electric flow boilers, such as the Redring Powerstream Professional, do not burn fuel internally to generate heat and so do not have the safety risks associated with other fuel types. Also, unlike other fuel types, electric flow boilers do not need annual service checks and with virtually no moving parts to break down or wear out, they are extremely reliable. They are also extremely efficient at the point of use, meaning all the electricity used is converted directly into heat, unlike other systems where energy is wasted through the flue.
The controllability of electric systems is also a huge benefit for commercial properties and by linking them to movement detectors and timers it is possible to only heat areas of buildings when there are people present, reducing the cost of heating an empty property.
For larger spaces, such as warehouses and factories, where there are only a few people working, electric radiant heating eliminates the need to heat the entire fabric of the building and instead they can be used to heat people. This type of heating is also ideal for remote areas of buildings where people may be working. Radiant heaters, such as Redring’s Sunslim SL or Sunquartz SQ, offer instant, directional heat and are ideal for localised heating in large open areas.
Another issue can be doorways that are in constant use, causing uncomfortable draughts for staff and losing valuable heat to the outside. An air curtain, as the name suggests, provides an invisible curtain of air to separate internal and external environments, eliminating draughts and regulating temperatures inside a building. Thanks to the flexibility of installation, air curtains, such as the Redring Sunscreen RS, can be linked together to completely cover larger doorways and eliminate draughts and by connecting them via a building control system a greater level of energy management and reduced running costs can also be achieved.
Therefore, when the true ownership cost of a heating system and the need for flexibility is taken into account, an electric heating system can often prove to be a very attractive offer for commercial buildings.
In terms of sustainability, the argument against electric heating is not one concerning the efficiency of the actual products but how electricity is generated and the carbon output of that process.
There has been much talk recently of the Government’s plans to radically overhaul the UK power grid by 2030, achieving de-carbonisation of power generation by investing in low carbon nuclear power stations and renewable energy production. Indeed, renewable energy has long been on the Government’s agenda and, as a result, green electricity is becoming increasingly available from energy suppliers. With further investment and the Government’s target for 10% of all energy produced to come from renewable sources by next year, electricity is increasingly becoming the cleaner fuel option for heating systems.
In addition, electric heating systems are also ideal when incorporating renewable technologies such as solar panels or heat pumps. With the drive towards carbon neutral buildings and increasing Government pressure on businesses to be able to demonstrate a certain level of sustainability, being able to easily incorporate renewable technologies is clearly a huge advantage for electric heating systems.
There are also benefits to be had by opting for electric water heaters in commercial properties. The first consideration is whether to opt for an instantaneous or hot water storage system. Both options have their advantages so it is a case of working out which will best meet the needs of the building.
Instantaneous water heaters,
as the name suggests, provide hot water on demand as and
when required. Connected to the mains they can be installed almost anywhere as the pressure is mains fed. Plus, there is no requirement for stored water, which means there is no requirement for a tank, something that can often take up valuable space in smaller properties.
Stored water is heated either directly in the storage cylinder or from a remote boiler, with the two main types being vented and unvented. The advantages of the stored water option include high flow rates depending on the height of stored water or mains pressure and low maintenance costs when used in conjunction with electric heating.
Vented water systems rely on large volumes of stored water; with the weight of the stored water creating a sufficient flow providing it is lower than the stored water level. An unvented stored water system relies on mains water pressure to feed the water around the system
Instantaneous water heaters are available in various shapes and sizes to suit the application in question. If the requirement is to provide enough hot water for a single outlet and/or basin then often a point of use unit is going to be the most efficient option.
Redring also offers a number of economical hand wash units that are ideal for small washrooms, plus the Autosensor which is a touchfree spray hand wash unit, perfect for healthcare applications, such as doctor’s surgeries and dental practices where high levels of hygiene are imperative. Simple to install, they provide a quick-fix solution and a cost effective alternative to boilers or cylinders.
For situations that require more than one sink to be in use at the same time in applications such as hairdressers or busy washrooms, then a small storage heater is the most appropriate option as water temperature and power are not affected if more than one tap is on at the same time.
There are a number of vented and unvented solutions that are also classed as ‘point of use’ as they can be sited under the sink or mounted on the wall close by. The Aqualoy SWSS TP and the MW unvented water storage heater both come with a factory fitted temperature and pressure relief valve to ensure quick compliance with the regulations.
In larger buildings that require a number of outlets, installing a number of small, unvented water heaters is often a more practical and efficient solution than a central system. This option allows for greater flexibility both in terms of installation and maintenance.
A viable alternative
With increasing media speculation about fossil fuel supplies and the problems associated with relying on gas from other countries, electric heating systems can be seen to offer a viable alternative. When that is taken into account and the benefits in terms of true lifetime running costs outlined in this article, it
is easy to see why electric heating looks set to lead the way for the heating industry both now and in the future.