Specifier Review

Energy efficiency in building ventilation – are you ready for the new legislation?

For those of us involved in the building services sector, it feels as if we have been talking about the new Energy related Products (ErP) Directive for years. But now it is very much a reality, with the first Phase of its introduction in place. The construction industry is no stranger to the adoption of legislation to help improve environmental performance, perhaps not surprising when you consider that almost half of the UK’s carbon emissions are attributable to buildings. Since October 2010, the new Building Regulations have required property developers to achieve a 25% reduction in carbon emissions on new buildings – just one example in a long line of legislative moves designed to ‘green’ our buildings. Like the amends to the Building Regs, this new ErP legislation, mandatory from 1 January 2013, is part of the Kyoto Protocol obligation to increase the total share of renewable energy in the European Union (EU) to 20% by 2020, whilst increasing energy efficiency by 20%. In the longer term, the goal is to reduce CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050. Heating, ventilating and air conditioning – and therefore the fans employed in those systems – are now firmly within the remit of the ErP legislation and have a role to play in meeting these ambitious targets. Just how significant that role could be is illustrated by the fact that the biggest consumer of electricity in the UK is motor driven systems, with approximately 22% of industrial motor energy usage being attributable to fans. It is not just about applying this environmental thinking to new buildings. With an estimated 59% of the non-residential European building stock constructed before 1975, it is easy to see that refurbishment of existing buildings is equally important to our sustainability ambitions. 

ErP Directive: a ‘lot’ of information  

By its very nature legislation has to be comprehensive to accommodate all eventualities and the ErP Directive is no exception, broken down into a series of ‘lots’, with the adoption of the lots prioritised based on their capacity to achieve the most significant reduction in energy consumption. I could not hope to cover all the intricacies of the Directive in this article but hopefully I can provide an outline of some of the major points and what specifiers of HVAC systems now need to be particularly aware of in light of the new legislation. Starting with a note of reassurance: reputable fan manufacturers have been planning for the legislation for some time. At Elta Fans, for example, we have been working closely with alliance partners for more than two years, introducing the very latest developments in motors and impellers to ensure that we are in a position to offer the Best Available Technology (BAT) that meets all the requirements of the ErP Directive. The most important point to make is that from 1 January, 2013, certain fans are no longer marketable within the EU. Minimum efficiency levels have been established for fans, including all the principal fan types between 125W and 500kW input power. The efficiency level required is dependent on the category into which the fan falls but includes axial flow, centrifugal backward curved with housing, centrifugal forward curved without housing, centrifugal forward curved, mixed flow and cross flow. 

What to look for 

The new legislation has brought with it some new additions to the lexicon used in fan technology. Two of the most significant are specific fan power (SFP) and fan motor efficiency grade (FMEG). SFP is used as a means of quantifying the energy efficiency of a fan. It is a measure of the electric power required to drive a fan relative to the amount of air the fan circulates. It is not a constant for a given fan but changes with both airflow rate and rises in fan pressure. FMEG is based on a fan’s performance characteristics at a speed not higher than the maximum safe operating speed to obtain its optimum efficiency point. Both terms will increasingly be used in identifying the correct fan for a given application and must therefore be prominent in the fan specification details, not only in marketing literature and on websites but also in the product labeling and packaging for the fans themselves. It inevitably takes time for any new legislation to bed in but fan manufacturers need to ensure complete transparency in the information given to ensure that specifiers become familiar with the terminology and are able to select fans with complete confidence.  

Further guidance 

As I alluded to earlier, given the necessary limitations of this article, it is impossible to cover all the bases. Recognising the importance of the legislation to our business and to the businesses of our customers, we have developed a guide to the legislation, as well as a dedicated website (erpfans.co.uk), to answer many of the queries that we anticipate the market may have. We would also be happy to talk to anybody with specific queries and pass on the knowledge we have gained, not only from the R&D required in introducing a wide range of new products to meet the requirements of the Directive, but also from our discussions and involvement on various industry bodies that have been involved in its development. 

The focus on energy efficiency in the built environment is here to stay. Understanding how fans can help in this respect is currently under the spotlight – albeit one which, quite rightly, employs an energy saving light bulb.  

Alan Macklin 

Elta Group Technical Manager 

Elta Fans will be at Ecobuild on stand N3430 from 5-7 March 2013 at ExCel, London, offering the perfect opportunity for visitors to discuss the implications of the new ErP Directive and to see how products are developing to meet its requirements. In the meantime, further information is available at www.erpfans.co.uk