This year has been one of real seasonal changes for the UK, with the nation experiencing both very cold and very hot weather patterns over the last twelve months. In March, the infamous ‘Beast from the East’ swept the country with blizzards and freezing temperatures. In comparison, the summer saw the UK basking in a heatwave, bringing with it sweltering offices, schools and homes.
Such fluctuations in weather can have cumulative effects on energy management in buildings, placing greater demand on the capacity of technologies such as heating, cooling and ventilation.
During very cold periods for example, buildings can take longer to heat up efficiently. Cold temperatures also encourage users to raise the temperature of heating, placing additional pressure on boiler components, particularly after a summer season where heating systems are not needed as much. Similarly, as condensing boilers operate best at part load, their performance is not optimal when operating at maximum capacity.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, spells of very hot weather can overwhelm cooling systems. Refrigeration circuits in central cooling plants can struggle to reject additional heat within occupied spaces and often shut themselves down to prevent damage.
Increased use of technologies can have financial implications for public sector organisations, causing energy bills to soar, particularly with older, less efficient technologies, which require longer operating hours to get a space to a desired temperature.
The good news is that there are plenty of opportunities available to public sector organisations to enable them to prepare their energy systems to cope with seasonal changes, as well as to make significant cost savings.
For a start, upgrading old systems, such as outdated boilers, to more modern efficient technologies is an excellent first step. Benefiting from newer, less vulnerable component upgrades effectively reduces energy consumption and will bring about financial savings at the same time.
Replacements may require an upfront cost; however, the benefits speak for themselves as newer models are not only more resilient – reducing maintenance costs - but are more efficient and run at a lower cost. This brings advantages when they are used for longer periods such as when heating consumption is increased during cold weather. Plus, new, more efficient technologies are developed with the risk of weather fluctuations in mind, given the increasing awareness of climate change.
Building fabric insulation is another great option to reduce reliance on heating and cooling systems, retaining heat during severe cold weather, while simultaneously reducing cooling demand in poorly insulated air-conditioned buildings. Thermal storage systems can similarly reduce the load on building heating and cooling systems during times of peak demand. The use of heat recovery in ventilation systems, which sees ventilation air pre-heated or pre-cooled by room air, is another good opportunity to increase system efficiency at minimal cost, reducing the effort needed by boilers or cooling plants to maintain correct internal temperatures.
Installing Building Energy Management Systems with intelligent controls, such as weather compensation and minimum temperature settings, enables the heating to react in time to temperature changes. They can automatically adjust to changes in weather, ensuring heating is increased when cold spells are expected rather than being used suddenly, mitigating the risk of boiler failure in sudden cold conditions. Increased resilience to total system failure can also be added via modular schemes which ensure that parts of the system can compensate for others if needed.
During hot periods, upgrading cooling plants to more efficient models can reduce cooling consumption. Alternatively, replacing air conditioning with evaporative cooling can be effective. Free cooling systems, which take advantage of favourable weather conditions to enable refrigeration plants to be shut down for long periods, save significant amounts of energy and cut carbon emissions.
The benefits of upgrades are clear however, financial barriers can understandably prevent such energy upgrades from being implemented. Fortunately, working with funding providers, such as Salix Finance, which provides 100% interest-free loans to the public sector for energy efficiency projects, can alleviate many of these obstacles. Over the past fourteen years, Salix has funded thousands of energy efficiency schemes for the public sector across the country.
To find out how Salix can help your organisation visit: www.salixfinance.co.uk