Providing heating solutions
With the government aiming to dramatically reduce carbon emissions, the heating products and fuels used in commercial and industrial buildings have recently come under close scrutiny. However, there has been little consideration for the 600,000 commercial and industrial buildings located in rural, non-mains-gas areas, which rely on LPG, oil, electricity or solid fuel for their heating. Here, Laura Luty, Bulk Market Manager for Calor, explains why it’s important for rural premises to have a voice in the carbon emissions debate, and discusses some of the renewable and low-carbon options available for industrial premises.
As we all know, the UK government is currently focused on reducing carbon emissions – and improving the energy efficiency of heating systems installed in commercial and industrial buildings is a key part of this. However, a lot of the advice available is geared towards urban properties, and doesn’t really consider those in rural locations. Calor is therefore concerned that the owners of rurally based industrial premises – such as factories, warehouses, farms and processing plants – do not have a strong voice in the energy efficiency debate – and might not be receiving enough information to make the right choices.
Most businesses in the UK are of course fuelled by mains gas, so this is what many carbon emission calculations are based on. But in rural areas it’s likely that properties won’t be connected to the mains gas supply, with property owners relying on alternative fuels like LPG, oil, electricity or solid fuel for their heating, hot water and catering facilities.
There are new technologies available for buildings located in non-mains-gas areas, which can help industrial property owners to reduce their carbon emissions and energy costs. But, with many of the assumptions about carbon and cost savings being based on urban examples, we are concerned that there could be some confusion about the costs, payback and benefits for rural properties. Calor is therefore aiming to provide advice and guidance, and to point our customers in the right direction.
So, what is available? There are of course renewable solutions to consider, which use the earths free and natural resources to create energy. These heating technologies have elements that are zero carbon or carbon neutral, and the systems as a whole produce very few greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, some low-carbon solutions have been introduced too. Whichever avenue is chosen, these options reduce the consumption of fossil fuels and lower carbon emissions and energy costs – but to differing degrees.
Before making a decision it’s important to think about conventional fuels too. New technologies will usually need a supplementary fuel, so property owners will need another energy source to work alongside them. LPG can provide a clean heating solution for rural properties, with official figures stating that LPG has the lowest carbon emissions out of all the fossil fuels available in rural areas. In fact, LPG emits 19% less CO2 per kWh than heating oil.
In addition, with LPG there’s no risk of ground or water pollution – unlike with oil. Oil is one of the most frequently recorded types of water pollutant investigated by the Environment Agency in England and Wales and, along with fuel, accounts for over a quarter of all severe pollution incidents. In 2006 the Environment Agency was made aware of over 1,200 oil spillages. The owner of an oil tank is liable for leakage however it is caused, and business owners can face unlimited fines.
Being cleaner and highly compatible with renewable and low-carbon technologies, LPG can act as an ideal back up to a number of the options available. In particular, LPG can work in conjunction with solar thermal water heating, Combined Heat and Power (CHP) and a new, innovative, energy efficient Gas Heat Pump unit from Sanyo, which both heats and cools.
Solar thermal water heating is undoubtedly one of the most popular renewable technologies available, with the Solar Trade Association suggesting that 20,000 installations are being carried out each year. At Calor, we believe this is currently the most appropriate and viable option for rural property owners looking to improve their energy efficiency, coupled with an efficient LPG boiler.
Solar thermal systems utilise radiation from the sun, which is the most abundant energy source on the planet. For the system to work, solar collectors, in the form of either flat plate or evacuated tubes, are positioned on the roof of a building. Some collectors can be inset, to give a neater installation, while others are positioned over the top of the existing roof. The collectors absorb energy from sunlight and, in some cases, daylight. This energy is then transferred to a fluid, which is circulated around the system and through a specially designed solar cylinder, heating the hot water.
LPG is also an ideal fuel for low-carbon CHP units, which simultaneously generate electricity and produce heat at the point of use. In very simple terms, a CHP unit generates electricity from a single fuel, for example LPG, and uses the heat produced in the generation process as thermal energy for space and/or water heating. In conventional centralised power generation this heat would normally be discharged to the atmosphere and wasted, and there would be additional electricity transmission losses.
When installed, integrated and controlled correctly, CHP solutions can offer energy cost savings and significant reductions in carbon dioxide emissions. When compared to electricity generated from a centralised power station and the use of conventional heat-only boilers, a 30% reduction in primary energy needs can be achieved.
Some industrial property owners will also need to cool their premises during the summer months, and if this is the case an innovative and energy efficient LPG-powered Gas Heat Pump from Sanyo could offer a solution. Being marketed by Calor and distributed by Oceanair, the Sanyo product provides heating and cooling for non-mains-gas commercial applications with a limited electricity supply.
The product is a Variable Refrigerant Flow air conditioning system, comprising an internal combustion engine that drives a refrigeration compressor – which then produces heating and/or cooling. The Gas Heat Pump delivers environmentally friendly heat, and ‘free’ hot water if required, while providing energy efficient, innovative air conditioning and reducing electrical demand. The product is over 100% efficient; achieving 140% efficiency in heating and 160% efficiency in cooling.
The product is unique in that it’s the only three-pipe VRF system in Europe that can run on LPG. Being three pipe means it provides simultaneous heating and cooling, but there is a two-pipe option available for heating or cooling. The system only needs a single phase supply, rather than three phase, which electrical VRF systems require.
But before making any decisions and committing to an investment – which is going to be quite sizeable – it’s really important that commercial and industrial property owners can obtain clear and comprehensive advice, and understand what a renewable or low-carbon heating system will deliver.
We’ve actually heard of cases where rural property owners have opted for a renewable solution, but haven’t actually been that well informed prior to the installation. For example, we know of a commercial biomass installation where the property owner experienced major logistical problems with wood deliveries, not to mention being surprised about the large amount of wood required for the system to work effectively. In this case, an LPG boiler has now been installed alongside the biomass boiler.
Rural property owners must be given realistic expectations, and should have access to detailed information. Calor wants non-mains-gas businesses to be a part of the energy efficiency debate, and to have the opportunity to reduce their carbon emissions and fuel costs. We have been lobbying the government about this issue, and are working with leading manufacturers to make sure that LPG-compatible renewable and low-carbon options are available.