A holistic approach to energy management

When it comes to businesses using far more energy than they need to, which is an all too current occurrence, this of course leads to energy bills that are much higher than necessary and that ultimately misrepresent a building’s energy requirements. This issue becomes ever more concerning when coupled with the unstable economic environment. Put simply, considerable savings can be made by reviewing and upgrading building facilities to maximise efficiency and minimise expenditure. Des Franklin, European Sales Manager for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) explains more.

Over recent years, sustainability has become an increasingly important concern for businesses, not least because of Governmental carbon reduction targets and taxes, placing increasing pressure on businesses to respond. In my opinion, it is vital that businesses take a considered, informed and pro-active stance on energy management in order to ensure the long term viability of their buildings as well as the environment.

To help to enable this approach, I believe that the role of the HVAC industry, from suppliers to manufacturers and engineers, is to support, inform and provide tailored solutions to end-users that will produce tangible rewards, and in short, save businesses money.

New innovation

At present, many buildings are not capitalising on innovations within technology which are presenting opportunities for significant long term financial and environmental savings, because they focus, understandably, on limiting short term expenditure. Across industries, technology is evolving alongside broader societal commitments to reduce energy consumption and protect the environment, thereby saving resources.

Innovation in modern HVAC systems has also followed this line of development, producing options that offer energy efficiency and cost savings once upfront investment has been made. We’re talking relatively short pay-back periods for some equipment, so companies can quickly start to see rewards for their long term thinking.

The recent phase-out and upcoming ban of the harmful air conditioning refrigerant, R22, is a good demonstration of the industry’s commitment to the environment. MHI has responded to this issue by not only devising a scheme to provide advice and solutions for customers, but also by ensuring that all MHI air conditioning systems use R410a, a refrigerant with a much lower ozone depleting potential.

A significant proportion of responsibility for the worryingly high levels of wasted energy in today’s buildings can be attributed to a lack of coherence, fluidity and efficiency between systems within a building. Ensuring that facilities are operating collaboratively, rather than at the expense of the efficiency of each other, is key.

Taking a ‘big picture’ approach will go a long way towards helping a building to operate at maximum performance, yet minimum cost. For example, some buildings require simultaneous heating and cooling. In such instances, a number of different pieces of kit could be running at the same time, all competing against each other to heat water in one room and chill another. Separate systems for this are unnecessary and inevitably result in escalating fuel bills. As an industry, we need to be asking why this is happening, and, furthermore, what can be done to reconcile the situation?

Reclaim heat

Businesses that look to reuse energy, whether in the form of waste water or heat, will see savings as a result. Numerous systems for one building that require simultaneous heating and cooling can be consolidated by reclaiming heat. Centralising systems so that water can be heated in one area, whilst air can be cooled in another will provide a substantial improvement to the productivity of energy and offer the opportunity to save money.

The importance of reclaiming energy is further reinforced when taking into consideration that as much as 65% of the lifetime costs involved with chiller and heating systems are related to running costs. For this reason, improving efficiency, even by 10%, can save vast amounts of money as well as helping to hit environmental targets. So, if a business is spending £1million on electricity per annum, a saving of £100k would make a welcome difference to the bottom line.

With a broadly accepted consensus that gas, electric or oil boilers are a less-than desirable solution for space and water heating, heat pumps have emerged as the best option for buildings striving for sustainable solutions that generate financial rewards. As the benefits of energy efficient facilities increasingly speak for themselves, there’ll no doubt be a rise in the demand for and popularity of heat pumps, and more products coming to market as a result.

MHI’s latest product, the Q-ton is a perfect example of cutting-edge heat pump technology which has been meticulously developed to cater to the modern needs and requirements of buildings. The Q-ton is a rare breed in that it is an air-to-water heat pump, purely to heat water, which offers an efficiency of 430% using CO2.

Running costs can be cut by up to 58% (compared to a gas boiler), and whilst previous incarnations of air-to-water heat pumps have required additional electricity to reach the required water temperatures for legionella regulations, the Q-ton enables the heating of water to the ‘safe temperature zone’ without this. In fact, water can be heated up to 90°C without the need for any additional energy from a gas or electric boiler making this a truly revolutionary product – an example of how innovation can save businesses a fortune in the long run.

Greater efficiency

Alongside technological progressions, building regulations and standards have advanced and this has further affected the need to re-establish priorities in relation to building facilities. For example, modern buildings now boast much more effective insulation than in previous times, resulting in opportunities for a more self-contained, self-reliant style of space heating. Looking forward, space heating and cooling requirements look sure to diminish. With this in mind, it has become evident that focus should be placed on needs that will endure, such as sanitary hot water.

Whilst I appreciate current business constraints, it seems foolish that despite new technology being available, some businesses are not making steps towards greater efficiency, or at least planning to review their needs and install new kit in their buildings. No doubt the initial outlay required to purchase new equipment can act as a deterrent.

This outlook must change, so that costs involved with purchasing modern HVAC equipment are viewed as an investment, with major long term advantages. If a customer is reluctant to review and renew old and inefficient equipment, installers and engineers should be challenging this and ensuring that the best long term solution is implemented, and push to look at a building as a whole.

For those relying on older, inefficient HVAC systems, it’s not a case of if, but when, alternatives will have to be looked into. An intelligent, forward thinking approach, with expert industry guidance, should be adopted in order to enjoy the full benefits that a holistic approach coupled with modern solutions can offer.

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