Sean Green, Senior Product Manager for Baxi Commercial, whose brand names include Andrews Water Heaters, Potterton Commercial and Baxi-SenerTec UK, considers the energy saving choices open to leisure and recreational establishments in an age of increasing heating bills.
As energy bills rise, the operators of communal buildings such as sports or leisure facilities will be concerned to take whatever steps are possible to reduce energy costs. A main concern will be the building services systems, which may well account for half of a building energy demand. The first and perhaps easiest action will be to ensure that energy using equipment is only switched on and drawing power when actually needed. Once this is done, facility managers will need to turn their attention to the considerable degree to which they are able to influence the provision and best use of the power on which building services systems rely.
Firstly, the amount of utility power being used can be reduced and the shortfall drawn from an alternative power source at considerably less expense, without needing the permission of the generating body. Secondly, the efficiency of the way in which energy is used can be improved without reducing the effective operation of equipment and systems. This welcome ability of individual energy users to be able to exercise such control is a consequence of the UK commitment to dramatically reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% of 1990 levels by 2050 and the EU policy aim of achieving a 20% reduction in energy use and a 20% increase in the use of renewable energy, both by 2020.
The way in which these targets are to be achieved is dependent on the direct involvement of energy producers, energy using product manufacturers and individual energy users. Although objectives are clear, the practical implementation of the measures designed to aid their achievement is causing confusion. This is being brought about partly by the present widespread economic difficulties, partly by the not unfamiliar stifling effect of bureaucracy and partly by the complexities of obtaining EU member state cooperation.
Grid power production is being fundamentally changed, with power stations converting to the use of alternative energy sources to reduce the previous high dependency on fossil fuels. Unfortunately, the cost of implementing this necessary and ongoing transformation is high and is leading to unwelcome increases in utility fuel bills. To help counter these costs, individual energy users are offered inducements to microgenerate their own power, using renewable energy sources. But full implementation of the supporting incentive schemes is suffering delay and obstruction due to lack of funding and bureaucratic complexity, resulting in take up running at only 10% of expectations.
Procrastination on the part of legislators is also a hindrance. A package of measures to govern the energy efficiency of products and the energy performance of buildings, with supporting labelling requirements, is considerably overdue. With some exceptions, these provisions will ensure that when a building system is refurbished or replaced, only products that attain the necessary standard may be used. As a result, building energy efficiency will improve, but these important measures will not come fully into force until 2015.
It is against this confusing background that building operators and facilities managers are faced with making far reaching decisions about their long term energy use. In some instances the information influencing those decisions is so unclear that no progress is yet possible. In others, uncertainty is causing hesitation and delay. But there are some considerations that are not affected by economic difficulties, bureaucratic hindrance or legislative dawdling.
Locally generated power based on renewable sources will generally use latent energy freely available in the environment. There are no production or delivery costs, only the cost of energy capture and conversion at the individual location. Significantly, the heating industry can supply proven solutions across a range of renewable technologies to enable their integration in new build and retro-fit applications. Another cost effective and well established alternative option is CHP (Combined Heat and Power). Most suitable for a building with a simultaneous electricity and heat demand consistently through the year, this technology generates electricity that can meet all or part of the building’s needs in place of grid power, as well as generating useful heat to service the building heating system. Of no less importance, leading manufacturers in the heating industry can provide condensing technology boilers and water heaters that fully comply with the known energy efficiency standards due to be given regulatory authority in 2015.
These absolutes, based on using or generating ‘free’ energy and maximising its efficient use, ensure enduring lower grid energy bills. The negative issues that distract from these certainties will be resolved, requiring only the full clarification, implementation and more enthusiastic application of incentive schemes, together with the formalisation of product and building energy performance standards. Consequently, the operators of many sports and leisure facilities have not delayed, but taken safe and cost effective action that will not be invalidated when the outstanding issues are resolved.
Oakham School, Rutland, a prestigious independent co-educational day and boarding school, has a wide range of sporting facilities, including 40 acres of games pitches and a dedicated sports centre incorporating a 25m indoor pool. Refurbishment of the heating system serving the swimming pool and sports hall was a challenge, bearing in mind the constant demand of the swimming pool for heat. The chosen solution was to use CHP technology to provide heat for the pool and to generate electricity to power the swimming pool, sports hall and several classrooms in the centre’s upper story, with the domestic hot water needs being met by a condensing technology water heater.
The chosen mini-CHP unit acts as lead boiler, supplemented by two condensing boilers that have high energy efficiency and ultra low NOx emission levels. The existing pressure-jet cast iron boiler is retained and programmed to operate at peak demand during low external temperatures. The selected condensing water heater services all the showers and wash hand basins in the changing rooms. The CHP unit runs continuously, with an electricity output of 5.5 kWe and a minimum heat output of 12.5 kWth, having a design life of some 80,000 hours. During the first ten months following its installation, the CHP unit ran for a total of 6,529 hours and generated 35,909 kWh of electricity and 89,867 kWh of heat, representing a significant saving in running costs and carbon emission.
The new Oswestry Leisure Centre has a range of facilities and offers a variety of activities for all ages, with, amongst other things, a strong commitment to carbon reduction. Designed in compliance with Shropshire County Council sustainability policy, the Centre incorporates a number of renewable technologies to minimize both carbon footprint and running costs. The performance specification for the building’s mechanical services included a solar thermal water heating system to supply pre-heated water to a water heater and accompanying storage vessel. This system supplies all the domestic hot water for the building, serving 38 showers, 40 wash hand basins, three cleaners’ sinks and two tea room sinks.
The array of eight glazed flat plate solar collectors required, which are Solar Key Mark Approved and mounted on the main roof, transfers maximum heat to a 900 litre, unvented twin-coil cylinder, which in turn supplies pre-heated water to a gas-fired condensing water heater linked to a 500 litre storage vessel. Solar thermal renewable energy technology, which forms the sustainable credentials of this system, together with the energy efficiency of the condensing technology water heater, provide ultra low NOx and CO2 emissions.
Refurbishment of the domestic water heating system at Premier Inn Brighton City Centre involved replacing existing water heaters located on the outside of the building. A long term solution was required that would improve the energy efficiency of the system as well as reduce running costs. Following a survey, it was decided to install new water heaters in an internal plant room on the top floor of the building to provide abundant, virtually instantaneous domestic hot water to the hotel’s 160 bedrooms, all with en-suite bathrooms.
To minimize disruption to guests during the installation of the four water heaters selected, the new units were positioned, with all new pipework in the plant room in place, before the system was drained down and connections made to the new distribution system. The models selected are particularly suitable for hotels and sports facilities, where the demand for water peaks at particular times of the day. The original selection brief was met, as a fast recovery rate and imaginative design, together with high efficiency and low NOx emissions levels, ensure that running costs are kept to a minimum.
The Right Track
Although water heating is perhaps the most persistent energy user in a building heating system, as energy is required to maintain water temperatures at a required level even when the taps are not running, it may not always be the biggest energy user. The type and purpose of a building will greatly influence the balance of energy demands and space heating may prove to be the greatest. To enable specific energy efficiency solutions to be selected for each function, in many locations the space heating and water heating functions are separated. In such instances, boiler energy performance will be the focus where meeting the space heating requirement uses the most energy.
For over 90 years the Loft Theatre, Leamington Spa, has provided the community with quality live theatre, which has earned a strong reputation nationally, in a succession of buildings with the most recent dating from 1968. An ageing boiler was the cause of concern, as the cost of heating front of house, backstage and bar areas was one of the biggest overheads. A high efficiency condensing boiler was selected as the replacement, to provide space heating using the existing radiator system.
The chosen boiler has inbuilt weather compensation, summer/winter changeover and time control features. Occupying considerably less space in the plant room than its predecessor, the replacement boiler offers fully modulating control for complete heating flexibility, which reduces energy bills whilst delivering ultra low NOx emissions.
One of the country’s premier visitor attractions, Warwick Castle dates back to the 13th century and regularly plays host to events ranging from medieval banquets to memorable weddings and other functions. For some three decades the heating system was reliably served by the same boilers, but time took its toll and the decision was made to replace the existing plant room system with three cast-iron boilers to serve the vintage cast-iron radiator system, as well as convectors.
The replacement units each comprise six sections and this sectional design removed any potential difficulties with access to the ground floor plant room. To minimise inconvenience to the castle’s day to day operation, the boilers were delivered and installed in a single day. These advanced units have specially designed heat-exchangers which incorporate multiple flue-ways and fins to increase the surface area, meaning that they provide seasonal efficiencies compliant with all relevant standards. A large chamber capacity ensures environmentally sound combustion and reduced CO and NOx emissions.
These examples show that the heating industry is, at this very moment, able to offer leisure, recreational and sports facility operators the means to directly influence the way in which their building energy requirements are produced, or put to the most effective use, or both. The opportunity is available now to significantly reduce building energy costs and carbon emission levels by integrating renewable energy sources, drawing on free latent energy, together with advanced high efficiency, low emission equipment.
These on-going savings begin to accrue as soon as the chosen robust and reliable changes are implemented, making totally unnecessary any delay caused by the perhaps understandable foot dragging by legislators and administrators. Even if a decision regarding the choice of a renewable energy source cannot be made, due to local considerations, energy efficient condensing technology equipment can sensibly be incorporated into building services systems, as heating and hot water units from leading manufacturers can be integrated with a renewable technology at a later date.
Baxi Commercial, Wood Lane, Erdington, Birmingham B24 9QP