A measured response to rising fuel bills

Since their introduction combination boilers have been the default product type to meet the heating and hot water demand of average sized homes in the residential sector, especially in areas with mains gas supply. In the commercial sector, this combined approach was met by package solutions comprising not only space heating and water heating systems but also ancillary components, available in rig and skid format, although these best suited the needs of the larger installation.

However, prefabricated solutions have become increasingly popular as the practical realities of implementing EU and UK energy policies becomes more and more apparent, influencing everyday life. There has been a growing appreciation of this technology, which can offer reduced assembly and installation costs and life cycle energy saving, with plug and play advantages.

These attributes have led to an increasing number of contractors, consultants and specifiers recommending a package solution for larger commercial projects designed to reduce fuel costs and improve building performance.

The costly conundrum

An extra challenge in the design and specification of building services has been added in recent years, driven by energy policies and the requirement for energy consumers to switch from relying on energy derived from using fossil fuels to energy produced from renewable sources.

The Government is quite open with regard to the cost implications of its energy and climate change policies, and the forecast is that energy bills of medium sized business will increase by circa 46% by 2020. To help offset this effect, the Government has introduced a range of obligations, incentives and inducements to enable building operators to reduce their energy consumption.

The forecast from DECC is that if medium sized business consumers take advantage of these energy efficiency measures, the cost increase can be limited to around 26%. Two measures in particular are intended to encourage businesses to be proactive with regard to energy efficiency, Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) and Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI).

The CRC scheme requires large organisations that use more than 6,000MWh of electricity per year to measure and report carbon emissions. They gain credits for installing smart meters and complying with Carbon Trust (or an equivalent accreditation scheme) standards of energy management. DECC maintains that charging firms based on their energy use through the CRC will provide a financial driver for energy efficiency improvements. Such improvements may include the replacement of existing inefficient plant with the latest prefabricated solutions.

RHI was introduced in March 2011 and opened for applications from 28 November 2011. Currently the scheme applies to commercial energy users and provides payments for a maximum period of 20 years for measurable heat produced by an installation that utilises an eligible renewable energy technology. As the scheme is in its infancy, it was not until January 2012 that the first successful applications were announced.

Combined solution

Clearly, whatever the final and accumulative effect of the incentive schemes, fuel costs will increase to a considerable degree. This will be of particular concern to businesses and they will need as much information as possible regarding their options to enable them to make informed decisions. Industry professionals are able to give advice on a wide range of fuel-efficient services, products and systems.

As part of this process, market feedback indicates that there should be an additional option regarding energy efficient heating and hot water systems, namely a solution for the smaller business comprising a packaged unit, providing space heating and hot water. A single combi boiler, meeting these criteria and providing the inherent benefits of pre-fabrication, would open up a whole new market of opportunity. To be able to add this technology to a range of carbon efficient options when choosing how to comply with energy policy requirements, could make a significant difference for  residential care homes, small hotels, restaurants, retail shop units, health centres and many more commercial applications.

Leading players in the industry are, of course, aware of market trends and it should be no surprise that at least one manufacturer has responded to this requirement. Technical knowhow and expertise acquired over many years and awareness of energy using product performance standards and energy policy objectives, has enabled a unique new commercial combination boiler range to be brought into production.

The product, which was previewed at Ecobuild, delivers space heating and hot water from a bank of heat engines and a storage cylinder enclosed within a single casing. The condensing heat engines, with premix modulating gas burners, achieve 96% gross efficiency and heat hot water via stainless steel heat exchangers. The product is room sealed for use with either vertical or horizontal flue systems. Most importantly, the product can integrate hot water production with various LZC solutions thereby minimising the input required from fossil fuels.

The new boiler also has versatile control options for space heating and hot water profiles, including weather compensation with optimum stop and start, frost protection, module sequencing and load sharing.

Leading the way

This new product innovation is another example, of which there have been several in recent years, of industry initiatives leading to advances that enable businesses to respond to opportunities and challenges arising from the near-global drive to address climate change.

In many instances these advances have tax advantages under the Enhanced Capital Allowance (ECA) scheme and will reduce harmful emissions and help save on energy bills, as well as softening the impact of the initial investment required to achieve compliance with Government energy policies.

The decisions that businesses face are not made easier by an adverse economic situation, which is limiting the Government’s ability to fund incentive schemes.  Increasingly, businesses have to find their own solutions to minimise the effect of spiralling energy costs. They will, therefore, appreciate the help being given by the energy efficient products, systems and technologies available from the heating industry, leading to reductions in energy bills.

With such dynamic solutions, equipment can be purchased that delivers savings in the short term and enables immediate or later integration with developing LZC technologies. For a business to be able to delay selection and application of a renewable energy source solution until a later date will be particularly helpful. This will allow time for the practical application of CRC and RHI to be assessed without hindering the business from implementing a cost effective energy system, such as a packaged solution.

In the long term, businesses can be assured that the industry will approach the journey towards 2050 and the achievement of the UK carbon reduction goals in the same creative and effective way it has tackled the challenge since the transition to a low carbon economy began.

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