Maximum efficiency is paramount

Buildings account for 44% of all UK greenhouse emissions – far more than either industry or transport. For anyone involved in designing, specifying, installing, maintaining or operating commercial properties, reducing the impact of the building services can have a an immediate impact on energy use, which is not only good for the environment, but also good for individual energy bills. Sharon Oliver, Marketing Communications Manager for Mitsubishi Electric examines some of the issues and identifies possible solutions.

With the major advances in VRF (Variable Refrigerant Flow) air conditioning over the past few years, the technology is now able to provide a viable and serious alternative to traditional methods of heating and cooling our commercial buildings, whilst also helping to reduce energy consumption, carbon dioxide emissions and often, fuel bills.

Not only can VRF provide simultaneous heating and cooling to help balance the load across a building, it can now transfer excess heat to the building’s water heating system to provide all the domestic water needed.

Adding mechanical ventilation with heat recovery units (MVHR) such as our Lossnay, and further energy savings can also be readily achieved.

Central to any drive for efficiency though is the correct use of any system and this is where the advanced range of control systems – some with Internet and Wi-Fi connectivity, can really make a difference. Maximum efficiency is therefore paramount because the cheapest and cleanest kilowatt of energy is the one you do not use.

With today’s modern commercial buildings and any major refurbishment, the primary driver towards energy efficiency is sealing the building’s envelope first, but as the energy consumed through the life of a building accounts for 83% of its total footprint, it requires the correct selection, installation, maintenance, monitoring and operation of the most energy efficient technologies available.

At Mitsubishi Electric, we have realised the important role we can play in helping to create a better understanding of the impact on energy use that the building services will have throughout the life of a building.

That is why we are actively engaging in dialogue with our partners, customers, and the wider construction industry because we believe that actively seeking collaboration with all parties involved is the best way to ensure the needs of the occupants are translated into the right solutions.

More and more, it’s realised that a building should anticipate – at the design stage – the heating, cooling, ventilation and power technologies to be used in it. How that equipment is then installed and maintained, coupled with the correct operation to suit the changing use of a building will also affect energy use.

We believe that there is an opportunity to engage with everyone involved whether at the pre-purchase, post-purchase, during the equipment’s working life and, equally importantly, at the end of life.

Our aim is to help individuals and businesses reduce the energy consumptions of their buildings and their running costs. We were the first manufacturer to talk directly to end user customers to understand their individual needs and concerns and we work closely with our clients to understand their requirements to ensure they end up with a bespoke solution perfectly suited to meet their specific needs

Air conditioning

Modern VRF air conditioning like the City Multi range is now inverter-driven, which allows the system to consume only the correct amount of energy, based on the need for heating or cooling at any given time. This enables the whole system to be much more energy efficient than traditional fixed speed air conditioning, which is only able to be on at full power, or off.

Our modern buildings are filled with heat generating office equipment and lighting, which presents a problem for anyone trying to maintain a stable and comfortable internal environment for staff and customers. At the same time, the pressure is on to find ways of reducing the impact of the built environment and the challenge is to deliver a heating, cooling and ventilation system that matches energy efficiency with complete flexibility of design and control.

We need air conditioning solutions that utilise sustainable energy resources to keep power consumption to a minimum, whilst providing the highest levels of comfort available.

Modern VRF can simultaneously heat and cool different spaces to balance energy use across a building and today, hot water can often be supplied from the same system. Providing heating and hot water as part of an integrated air conditioning system is far more efficient than traditional heating methods such as gas or oil and as a result reduced running costs and emissions can be realised.

Renewable heating

Rising energy bills, the need to reduce carbon emissions and the raft of challenging legislation are also driving the demand for alternative forms of heating to improve energy efficiency.

This is why we have developed renewable solutions to address these issues head on, with MCS-approved Ecodan air source heat pumps which can link to a building’s air conditioning to deliver hot water using the excess heat from the VRF unit.

These systems can also provide the heating on their own, or work in a hybrid situation alongside a traditional carbon-based heating system. They can deliver up to 688kW of heating so it is possible to specify renewable heating for just about any building.

Energy efficient ventilation

Poor indoor air quality can be attributed to many problems inside a building. Excess humidity causes dampness, rot and mould, whilst pollutants are known to be a major cause of damaging health issues such as asthma and eczema. Stale air is also believed to lead to a loss in productivity and low morale.

As the demand for improved energy efficiency results in increasingly airtight buildings, natural ventilation proves less effective and drives the need for mechanical ventilation. With increasing legislation, the challenge for designers, installers and occupiers of any building is to find ventilation that’s both effective and energy efficient.

Mechanical ventilation with heat recovery systems are specifically designed to supply fresh air into any building whilst simultaneously extracting stale air and, most importantly, recover valuable heat energy for maximum efficiency. These can also work in tandem with air conditioning and can help reduce overheating in buildings and decrease both heating and cooling loads.

Taking control

Operating a heating, air conditioning or ventilation system without the right controls can waste energy and prove costly to any business. Good controls will therefore benefit any application, large or small but with the huge choice of control systems available, careful consideration should be given to identify the correct control for each individual situation.

Variables such as user habits, energy consumption patterns and outside temperature can now be used to inform system management and control, and with today’s increasingly predictive systems, the benefits are easy to achieve too.

Monitoring and reporting capabilities are also increasingly requested by customers with major energy needs and required by both legislation and building regulations.

With modern systems using predictive algorithms, control interventions can even be made automatically to ensure optimum performance is maintained at all times reducing undue energy use and providing optimum comfort.

In larger buildings, such as hotels, more soph
isticated controls can be used to implement intricate control strategies, co-ordinate a large number of units, all dealing with the different room requirements and changing heat loads – and link to and control third-party equipment

There are now significant legislative drivers affecting the design and specification of equipment such as Part L and Part F of the Building Regulations, and these are designed to ensure that the right choices are made right from the start of a project to deliver the most efficient system, using the least energy. Building Energy Ratings and the EPBD (Energy Performance of Buildings Directive) also focus on how to maximise efficiency of equipment during the operating life of equipment.

So whilst the pressure is on everyone, the solutions are readily available right now.

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