sustainable hot water for commercial buildings using solar thermal

Solar Thermal Applications for Decarbonised Hot Water

As a leader in the design and supply of solar thermal applications for the commercial built environment, Adveco looks at why the technology remains one of the best ways to decarbonise hot water without driving up operational costs.

Solar thermal applications deploy panels with fluid that captures and efficiently transfers solar energy as heat indirectly to the domestic hot water (DHW) system. As a high-temperature renewable source of DHW, Adveco solar thermal lends itself to working in conjunction with not only conventional gas heating but also other renewable technologies including Adveco’s air source heat pumps which can be used to provide pre-heat to solar thermal. This enables a variety of bespoke, hybrid applications to be considered to meet the varied demands of commercial buildings.

Whether a commercial hot water system uses gas or electricity, it will require a preheat source to reduce carbon emissions.

As a rule of thumb, new builds will invariably default to heat pumps. In contrast, properties with an existing gas connection will see greater advantages from the installation of solar thermal which can be extremely effective in reducing reliance on the gas boiler. Even so, offsetting costs in direct electric systems through use of solar thermal applications remains extremely advantageous.

Neither heat pumps nor solar thermal technology currently offers a standalone response for the year-round high temperatures, high volume and peak demands seen in commercial systems. Solar thermal can be combined with a heat pump (which is used to supply initial preheat) to top up heat to a minimum of 60°C required for commercial applications without using direct electric immersions.

A more compact alternative to solar PV for DHW, solar thermal is extremely advantageous where roof space is at a premium due to competition with other heating and ventilation systems on a project. This is especially true of urban projects where solar thermal’s silent operation is also desirable.

Whichever approach is chosen, making an accurate assessment of the needs and limitations of a building first is critical for the correct sizing of the solar thermal system.

Solar Thermal Applications For Carbon Reduction & Significant savings on Running Costs

A commercial system sized to support an occupancy of 50 will typically require 12-24 Rugged 2.24 m² flat plate collectors, whilst smaller systems servicing up to 12 occupants will employ just three to four panels.

Sized and installed correctly, each Adveco solar thermal collector can contribute up to 1400kWh per annum, providing electricity savings of £300 and more importantly reducing emissions of CO² by 322kg.

To ensure system longevity and return on investment, fluid within the solar collectors must be correctly managed. If left in the panel it can overheat, stagnate and leave collectors irreparable. Adveco solar thermal systems avoid this by incorporating drain back into all its solar system designs. This gravity flow approach reduces pump capacity requirements and energy use of the pump station to a minimum and will automatically drain fluid if power is cut without the need for working components. This makes solar thermal systems with drainback low maintenance with long operational lifespans. Fluid refresh is, on average, required every eight years but may last much longer.

With more than 800 systems deployed across the UK, Adveco’s solar thermal applications are an effective renewable which today offers clear cost savings for more rapid return on investment and a proven path to incorporating sustainability into the annual operation of commercial properties.

Discover more at commercial solar thermal hot water systems.

Heating & Ventilation Award For Adveco  

Adveco, the hot water specialist for commercial building projects, has received the Company of the Year Heating & Ventilation Award from Building & Construction Review Magazine.

Building & Construction Review, is a print and digital magazine in the UK supporting more than 15,000 readers monthly.  These readers include Specifiers, Facilities Managers, Directors, Senior Buyers, Project Managers, Site Managers, and individuals involved in Buildings Management.

Shortlisted by the editorial team for technical development and product innovation throughout 2022, as well as industry engagement through sales and field service support, Adveco has been recognised for its down-to-earth, practical response to the call for carbon reduction in buildings if the UK is to achieve the government’s target of net zero by 2050.

With more than 50 years of heritage in the design, supply, and servicing of robust, efficient, and cost-effective business-critical hot water systems, Adveco has risen to the challenge of helping the construction industry deliver sustainability into new commercial buildings as well as supporting the complex demands of refurbishing existing, outdated building stock.

With a proudly independent approach to innovation of sustainable hot water for commercial and public sector organisations, Adveco’s systems encompass a range of hybrid approaches that consist of heat pumps, solar thermal, direct electric water heating as well as high-efficiency gas-fired systems. All backed by a comprehensive range of hot water cylinders, ancillaries, controls, and the option for offsite construction.

“We are extremely pleased to receive this heating & ventilation award and be named one of Building & Construction Review’s companies of the year,” said Greg Brushett, UK sales manager, Adveco. “We are a tightly focused and highly competent team of application, sales and service engineers with unprecedented heritage in the commercial hot water field. We take great pride in the close working relationships we build with the specifiers, mechanical and health engineers who help create sustainable systems and the many facility and energy managers that use them. This award recognises all their hard work over the past year to help communicate the best and most cost-effective means of addressing carbon reduction across a host of varied sites with often unique demands.”

Read more in this month’s edition of Building & Construction Review 

Mission Zero – A Review of Net Zero Policy

Mission Zero is an official response to the November 2020 announcement by then Prime Minister Boris Johnson of a wide-ranging plan with ten key deliverables to drive what he described as “Our green industrial revolution”. This lay the groundwork for the government’s Net Zero programme to fully decarbonise the economy by 2050 and in 2021 the  Heat and Building Strategy. The plan has received criticism, not least for the lack of financial support, with major failings highlighted in subsequent independent reviews.

Now, we have the official government-commissioned review, Mission Zero is a 340-page report chaired by Conservative MP Chris Skidmore. As with previous net zero documentation, the government and review focus is skewed toward the domestic, with much focus on the decarbonisation of homes. From the get-go, we have argued that if buildings – which are responsible for as much as 40% of UK carbon emissions – are to be successfully decarbonised there needs to be a holistic approach that evenly tackles energy demand in domestic, commercial and industrial properties. Unfortunately, the review follows the line of thinking laid out in the original documentation, so is a missed opportunity.

Next Generation Energy Supply

In terms of tackling the big issue of energy supplies, the Mission Zero review calls for the introduction of a “cross-sectoral infrastructure strategy” that will focus on building and adapting energy supplies and systems to look at improving the low-carbon production of electricity, hydrogen and other liquid and gaseous fuels. This is at least an admission that more needs to be done to address the sustainability of national energy supplies. The removal of coal-fired power stations has cleansed much of the grid electricity supply, and the addition of solar and offshore wind has meant carbon budgets have so far been achieved. This grid is less ‘dirty’ and our electric carbon footprint is on par and will soon fall below that of natural gas. Electricity still has its issues, not least the cost, which is why clear direction on the production of hydrogen and other gaseous fuels, which are seen as potentially quick and cheaper to roll out through the gas grid, is so vital for meeting future energy and heating needs, especially for heavy industry and commercial properties with high energy demands, as seen in hot water generation.

The government is to make a decision by 2026 on whether the gas should be considered as part of national heat decarbonisation plans, again this focus is domestic, but early reports suggest that hydrogen is best suited to more industrial needs, at least initially. The review does call for the government to update its analysis by the end of 2023, “Of the whole system costs of the mass roll-out of hydrogen for heating, in order to ensure that the case for economic optimality and feasibility still holds.” That said, it is perhaps telling that the review which focuses so heavily on the domestic fails to mention the development of hydrogen boilers for the UK market, although it does call for hydrogen heating community trials to continue.

This continues to place focus on an electric-led path to decarbonisation, with warnings that desired rollout of heat pumps risks being undermined without investment in grid infrastructure. As such, the review urges the government and regulator Ofgem to make sure plans are in place for the longer-term secure investment in the electricity grid to deliver sufficient capacity of cheaper, low-carbon sources of energy.

The comparable costs of wholesale gas and electricity remain problematic, with the latter on average still costing 3.8 times that of gas, creating clear running cost issues for those considering moving over from gas to direct electricity as a source for heating. The review rightly exerts pressure on the government to honour previous commitments to review the existing levies on electricity as they “adversely incentivise the use of gas”. Levying policy costs and taxes on electricity bills keeps the price of electricity artificially high, which counters the message to adopt low-carbon technologies. Of course, the application of renewables in the form of heat pumps and solar thermal can greatly reduce the need for expensive direct electric water heating. Using the technology to preheat water helps offset potentially crippling running costs. But it is worth remembering that the high temperatures required for domestic hot water (DHW) reduce the efficiency of heat pumps. The cited coefficient of performance (COP) of 4 in the review for heat pumps and their stated subsequent greater efficiency than gas alternatives has to be questioned. Operating at optimum ambient conditions and in a low-temperature space heating mode such efficiency is attainable, but it is not ‘real world’, and should a system be tasked with supplying heat and hot water combined, as most domestic boilers are required to do, you are not going to achieve that level of COP. That will require more electrical energy to be input, with consequential rises in running costs. For commercial scale systems this is further exacerbated as minimum working temperatures need to reach 60°C for safe operation, heat pumps will therefore be pushed as hard as they can to deliver preheat working temperatures of 45-50°C in order to reduce carbon. But this comes at a cost so long as electricity prices remain high.

Better then to consider the application of solar thermal, a proven, robust renewable that once installed is essentially free to operate, ensuring a more rapid return on investment. When correctly installed and maintained, solar thermal will offset as much as 30% of the energy demands of a hot water system. This is where more support is required, with a replacement for the Non-Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme (NDRHI) which closed in March 2021. The review’s focus on heat pumps fails to address this situation, or the widely regarded failure of government-funded installation of heat pumps to jump-start wider adoption either domestically or across small businesses able to apply for support.

An End to Fossil Fuels

The Mission Zero review’s clear aims are to ensure a more rapid and effective strategy to move away from relying on fossil fuels for domestic heat in favour of heat pumps, to the detriment of alternatives and the wider impact of energy use in buildings outside of homes. That reflects the relative speed in which this review was conducted and published, so it is perhaps not surprising that much is skimmed over, whilst other elements feel partisan and certainly not independent.

This is most overtly communicated through the call to introduce a ban on the sale and installation of existing natural gas boilers on the market by 2033 to ensure the widespread adoption of heat pumps. Whilst this makes for good headlines and presents the review as making aggressive recommendations, as we have seen, it makes no mention of ‘hydrogen-blend’ or ‘hydrogen-ready’ appliances which are expected to circumvent such a ban, and account for almost all gas boilers and water heaters currently being sold, let alone ten years from now. On a commercial/industrial scale, high energy users will have to be exempt, simply due to the comparable electrical demands which would be needed for replacement and the punishing operational costs that would come with it. A ban would also effectively lead to the closure of gas-grid connections. The gas grid is both a relatively modern system of national energy deployment and the core, existing storage facility for future hydrogen production. The cost of closing and then reopening gas connections should hydrogen become a major tool in delivering net zero through the 2040s would be immense and counter-productive to the rapid and low-cost rollout imagined.

For commercial organisations seeking insight into the options for attaining net zero, the Mission Zero review unfortunately provides little impetus to generate greater support for the sector at a government level. The continued focus on domestic property is another missed opportunity to address the wider criticisms of how achieving net zero is to be realistically achieved.

If you are actively looking for approaches to introduce or increase the sustainability of your property, as well as controlling operational costs from energy consumption, addressing hot water demands is a good place to start. At Adveco we can provide accurate monitoring, correctly sized applications and provide a wealth of technology options from high-efficiency gas replacement through to heat pumps, solar thermal and electric water heating which can be optimised to your property’s specific daily needs.

The ‘Mission Zero’ review of net zero policy is available here.

Read The Adveco January 2023 Newsletter

Welcome to the New Year,  read the Adveco January 2023 newsletter where we look at the trends for DHW in commercial properties, off-site constructions and meet Vince Ng.

Click here to read the Adveco January 2023 Newsletter 



Adveco Appoints Vince Ng To Spearhead CPDs & Support National Accounts

Hot water specialist Adveco announces the appointment of Vince Ng as business development manager driving national sales accounts and Adveco’s continuing professional development (CPD) programme.

Vince will support Adveco’s portfolio of national accounts, including key brands across retail, hotels, restaurant chains and the public sector. Driven by government mandate and the increasing desire to decarbonise operations as part of a wider corporate policy that embraces the advantages of net zero for staff and customers, organisations can use the specialist knowledge Adveco can provide to address energy demands for business-critical hot water supply.

“Whether building brand new facilities or refurbishing existing buildings, Adveco’s application design services, specialist product portfolio and service contracts can help national organisations to control capital and operational expenses,” said Vince Ng, business development manager. “Critically by working in partnership with us customers operating UK-wide can reduce global warming carbon and harmful NOₓ emissions from their hot water (DHW) systems.”

A guaranteed supply of DHW is typically a more complex provision for commercial projects, often requiring bespoke applications that leverage a hybrid technological approach to achieve the necessary quantities and temperatures demanded. To help understand this, Adveco offers a range of CPDs and hands-on training for consultants, specifiers, engineers, installers and energy managers.

Adveco’s existing CPDs already cover sizing domestic hot water systems and maximising contributions from solar thermal. These are now joined by a new CPD, Best Practices for Electric-Based Commercial Hot Water Systems.

As organisations look to alternatives for securing low-carbon hot water this CPD session considers the options of achieving net zero in buildings by cutting carbon emissions through the electrification of water heating. It covers the specification of electric water heating, direct electric and low carbon methods including solar thermal and, in particular, air source heat pumps. This will provide an understanding of the challenges and issues surrounding commercial electric water heating and the importance of pairing kW to litres when designing a system and provide a clear overview of the next stage in the technological development of heat pumps.

“As a provider of hot water technologies, Adveco is proud to have a commitment towards the continued growth of knowledge and experience of professionals in the energy and sustainability sector. All our CPDs, including Best Practices for Electric-based Commercial Hot Water Systems, can be booked now with the training team as face-to-face or remote sessions,” said Vince.

Adveco is accredited with CIBSE for the provision of CPD seminars designed to contribute towards an individual’s professional development.

Book a CPD Seminar now