Jeff House, Baxi Commercial Division Marketing and Applications Manager, considers the energy saving choices open to education establishments in an age of increasing heating bills.
A Renewable Pledge
Remorselessly rising energy bills will be an unwelcome reality for the foreseeable future. The Government’s own projection is that by 2020 non-domestic energy bills could increase by some 25%, an estimate that takes into account the effect of special measures designed to keep increases to the minimum. Like all projections, this figure could be too low, about right, or too high. Whichever turns out to be the case, a not insignificant increase in energy prices can be expected. This is bad news indeed, not least for public service providers. This apparently inevitable situation is being exacerbated by the UK binding commitment to significantly reduce the level of UK harmful emissions by 2050. Principal amongst the actions necessary to make this possible is a crucial step change in the way we generate and use energy. Instead of the present almost total reliability on fossil fuels, there must be an increasing role for renewable energy sources, together with a concerted drive to improve the efficiency of energy use. This massive shift in attitudes and behaviour cannot be achieved overnight, but those practical steps that could be taken to bring about change are being hindered by the present economic situation. This includes Government support for the actions intended to help offset the inevitable increase in fuel bills. Perhaps the most significant is the choice of a renewable energy source that could be produced locally by an energy user. Microgeneration can significantly reduce demand on utility services, but the choice of which renewable energy source to select needs careful thought based on full information. This includes clarity on the technologies available, their suitability and any financial incentives. Providers of education services are typical of public authorities and organisations that are hard pressed to operate on reduced budgets, without the ongoing threat of increasing energy costs. Such bodies will be interested to know the steps that can be taken to offset the inevitable increase in fuel bills, even if the microgeneration decision is not possible.
The biggest users of energy in an educational establishment are its building services, with heating and hot water being by far the largest. These are essential services, which provide limited opportunities to restrict their use. Savings can be made, such as using more efficient taps thereby reducing water use, but the biggest savings result from installing equipment that operates more efficiently. Heating and hot water systems will be a key consideration in any organisation’s RMI strategy.
Even if plant and equipment have not reached the end of their effective service life, accelerating the renewal process may be cost effective in the long term when whole life costs of modern, high efficiency solutions are appraised. The heating industry provides equipment and system solutions that enable informed decisions to be made now that make the most of innovative design and new technologies. Solutions can be chosen that can respond and adapt to new demands should circumstances change, such as the application of a new or different microgeneration energy source. Choices include water heaters and boilers based on high energy efficiency condensing technology, combined heat and power (CHP) units that generate energy to contribute towards both a building’s electricity and heat requirements, with solar thermal and heat pump solutions that integrate with existing or new systems to reduce energy demand. This variety of choices enables decisions to be made to upgrade or replace an existing tired system, including the selection of a renewable energy source, so that the impact of increasing energy bills can be diminished. If a decision regarding the choice of a renewable energy source cannot yet be made, replacement ‘renewables ready’ equipment can be installed.
The heating requirements of two Boarding Houses, the Olympic short course sized indoor pool and a new Science Block at Oakham School, Rutland called for a fine balance of energy efficient solutions. Electrical power and heat is provided by quiet running mini-CHP units, perfect for applications where there is a constant demand for heat, which ensures maximum operational efficiency. Heating systems are supplemented by low emission, condensing boilers that qualify for additional credit under the BREEAM assessment scheme. Further energy saving is provided by high efficiency condensing water heaters, including a Queen’s award winning model, that service the hot water demand. There have been significant savings in running costs, not least because the locally generated electricity is sufficient to power sports facilities and some classrooms, whilst the energy efficient solutions selected have together greatly reduced the school’s carbon footprint.
The Bryn Alyn School in Wrexham benefited from Wrexham County Borough Council’s Secondary School Phase 2 programme by the construction of a new two-story Science and IT Block. Space heating within the new block is provided by a packaged boiler plant incorporating two wall-hung boilers, pumps, pressurisation system and heating controls. Factory built and tested, the ‘plug and play’ characteristics of the package enabled fast installation. Hot water needs are met by a solar thermal heating system, the solar panels mounted on the building’s flat roof, which pre-heats the hot water. This makes a significant contribution to reducing fossil fuel consumption, running costs and carbon footprint. The school typifies the commercial or large domestic applications where a continuous supply of hot water is required and the technologies deployed ensure a fuel efficient, cost effective and safe flow of hot water.
The refurbishment project at Range High School, Formby in Merseyside, involved replacing the existing oil-fired heating system with a gas-fired system in order to reduce both the school’s carbon footprint and fuel costs. The choice of systems was based on quality, efficiency, flexibility of control and the compact size of the boilers. The four floor-standing, 300kW condensing boilers selected deliver exceptional energy efficiency and ultra low NOx with an integrated system regulator control system.
The two gas-fired storage water heaters that complete the system have a fast recovery rate that guarantees hot water whenever required and an inbuilt high temperature programme fulfils regulatory requirements with regard to the control of Legionella. The operation of the gas-fired system is expected to reduce the school’s fuel bills by some £7,500 per annum. Should the school decide to add a renewable energy source at a later date, the system can be integrated.
These examples show that, faced by ever increasing energy bills, no education establishment should feel inhibited from taking action to reduce its carbon emissions and its energy costs. Any uncertainties about the implementation of Government climate change policies can be set on one side. Energy efficient heating and hot water systems can be put in place now, leading to immediate savings, without restricting the ability of the establishment to subsequently participate in any appropriate and financially attractive central funding initiative. Added value can be achieved by consulting a provider able to offer a one- stop- shop service, with experience and expertise across the range of technology solutions.