The energy used to power buildings is responsible for more than 50% of UK carbon emissions. London alone emits around 44 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year – 8% of the UK’s total. The industrial, commercial and public sector produces 40% of this, with 38% generated by domestic premises. Public buildings in England and Wales are pumping out 11 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year at a cost of £4 billion per annum in energy bills, which, according to data released under the Freedom of Information Act, is more than Kenya’s entire carbon footprint.
The Climate Change Act has made it a legal requirement for the UK to reduce carbon emissions by 80%, from the 1990 baseline, by 2050. The Government has also set a target to cut CO2 emissions from its own buildings by 30% by 2020. To meet these ambitious, legal requirements, urgent action is required.
Green campaigners and opposition parties have called on the Government to invest in an urgent programme of refurbishment to reduce the carbon footprint of the public estate. Steve Webb, spokesman on energy and climate change for the Liberal Democrats, said instead of making a £12 billion VAT cut, the government should have spent that money making public buildings energy efficient, saving money and carbon in the long-term.
At the end of 2008, government think tank the Foresight Programme (FP) proposed MoT-style energy checks, with homeowners and property owners facing penalties if their buildings fail. A report by the FP, part of the Government Office for Science, wants these mandatory energy efficiency tests carried out every one to two years to force property owners into cutting energy usage. If sanctioned, this will come into force in the next three to five years. If the buildings fail the tests, the report suggests householders and factory owners should be denied property insurance or be prevented from selling the building. On the flip side, the report also said the Government should offer grants and subsidies with possible property tax rebates for those who do cut energy in their buildings.
The need to make buildings more energy efficient is gathering momentum and is likely to be enforced sooner rather than later. At the same time, the economic crisis is making people more aware than ever of the connection between energy efficiency and reduced heating bills.
One of the most effective ways to reduce a building’s energy consumption and cut costs is to replace an old boiler with a high-efficiency condensing boiler with weather compensation controls. According to the Energy Saving Trust, boilers account for around 60% of carbon dioxide emissions in a gas heated home. If everyone with gas central heating installed a new condensing boiler, the country would save over 12 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, as much as the annual emissions of over two million homes.
We would also save around £1.9 billion per year on our energy bills and enough energy to heat more than 3.3 million homes for a year. Replacing an old boiler, 10-15 years old, with a high-efficiency condensing boiler could save the customer up to 30% of their fuel bill. If the new boiler also has weather compensation controls, that figure would increase, with the installation cost more quickly recuperated by decreasing fuel bills.
Whatever the weather
Traditional boilers are not designed for the current UK climate. Heating engineers generally design systems for an external temperature of -1°C, or even lower. In the UK, temperatures only reach this level for a few weeks a year at most. This means, in mild winter conditions, basic boilers without controls will run inefficiently all year round, constantly cycling in short bursts, striving to drive the flow temperature up to 82ºC, only to then be switched off by the room thermostat when the required room temperature is exceeded. When the room temperature drops, the boiler will fire again, to reach the 82ºC flow temperature, and so on.
Weather compensation technology avoids this unnecessary stop/start operation of traditional boilers, immediately boosting efficiency. The controller works in conjunction with the external sensor that monitors outdoor temperature and adjusts the boiler flow accordingly. The built-in controller sets the flow temperature as cool as possible, so the return temperature will be such that it allows the boiler to condense for longer without compromising the heat in the property. This, combined with the modulation range of boilers, keeps the boiler on for longer in super-efficiency mode – rather than short cycles of lower efficiency, high temperature mode – which makes heating affordable all year round, not just during the cold winter months. Weather compensation controls also avoid large temperature fluctuations which adversely affect comfort levels.
Apart from the green issues and the fuel saving benefits, another key selling point for heating controls, and weather compensation in particular, is their ability to dramatically reduce the wear and tear on a boiler, prolonging its lifetime and maximising the customer’s return on investment – in short, happy customers, happy installers.
Keston Boilers has been at the forefront of industry opinion that believes heating systems should consist of a high energy-efficient condensing boiler complete with weather compensation controls as standard. To this end, Keston installs built-in weather compensation controls in its entire range of domestic and commercial boilers. This guarantees customers the most energy efficient and, therefore, cost-effective heating system.
As boilers should last for between 10 to 15 years, Keston also provides possibilities for future advancements, importantly, the ability to connect to renewable energy sources. The sophisticated, yet simple, controls provide a suite of options for the installer to ensure optimum performance is delivered to their customer at all times. There has never been a more vital time to improve the energy efficiency of a building and reduce fuel costs, and energy efficient boilers with intelligent controls are one part of the solution.
Furthermore, Keston Boilers is in favour of a recognised accreditation scheme for advanced system controls and their use. Such a scheme would establish industry-wide standards to acknowledge control technology, effectiveness, performance, and installation processes. This would raise awareness of control benefits throughout the trade, ensure products perform at their optimum energy efficiency, and ultimately secure more satisfied customers.
With the pressure to reduce energy usage gathering momentum, it is critical that all building services equipment runs as efficiently as possible. Weather compensation is just one, simple step to assist in the improvement of a building’s carbon footprint and with Keston this technology comes as a standard and free-of-charge part of its entire boiler range.