adapting to new technologies and approaches

2021 – Adapting to new technologies and approaches

The UK’s construction industry is familiar with adapting to new technologies and approaches to provide the latest and most efficient responses for creating better buildings.  2020, however, was unprecedented, but what does this mean for 2021? Looking forward, key trends within the industry include Covid-19 care, greener response sand efficient use of property space.

Coronavirus has attacked every corner of the UK, impacting the majority of businesses and therefore the wider economy. Despite vaccines, Covid-19 is now something we all must learn to live with, it has accelerated change and requires a re-evaluation of how buildings are conceived and used. As a specialist in the provision of commercial heating and especially hot water, Adveco is well versed in the design of systems to support the maintenance of hygiene within their buildings, critical for the ongoing prevention of the spread of Covid-19. There has never been a greater need for access to wash stations. Scientists have proven washing hand in warm, soapy waters for more than 20 seconds can reduce the spread of Coronavirus more efficiently than hand sanitisers. Additionally, hot water (at a minimum of 60°C) needs to be readily available for cleansing of materials and surfaces to prevent the spread further. With these requirements comes a need for more efficient systems capable of meeting these increased demands to be incorporated into commercial buildings. With the demands of maintaining a safe two-metre distance, space has become even more valuable. The hospitality sector is already struggling with the challenge of balancing revenue losses from reduced covers and are looking at how to create alfresco spaces to adapt to this new normal. Packaged plant rooms offer companies a means to use minimal space whilst still maximising efficient systems, freeing up valuable internal spaces or making use of dead spaces which are not customer friendly. This is also a fast, relatively low impact method for refurbishing hot water systems.

Despite all the chaos of Covid-19, it also brought into razor-sharp focus the effects of pollution. This was all too obvious when the world stopped for a moment and the effects of pollution decreased and allowed the environment to thrive. It proved to be a rallying cry for decarbonisation in 2020 and will continue to create headlines throughout 2021 and beyond. It remains a core focus for the construction and HVAC industry that will continue to strongly push for more wide-reaching frameworks to deliver eco-friendly technology and buildings to meet the challenging goal of achieving Net Zero by 2050.

Through exclusive technical partnerships and our in-house design function, Adveco can quickly adapt to these changing needs and help innovate products and systems to directly address the evolving challenges of decarbonising commercial buildings. We recognise that there is no single technology that delivers the entire answer, but there is no doubt Air Source Heat Pumps (ASHP) will play an important part, as will new green gas technologies towards the end of the decade.  This makes hybrid system approaches all the more valid for supporting the near-term transition of commercial organisations to a more sustainable track that reduces their building emissions and operational costs.

UK needs to cut emissions by 78% by 2035 to meet net-zero

Under the original Climate Change Act, the UK pledged to cut net emissions by 80% by 2050. Now, it will need to deliver a 78% reduction by 2035 if it is to meet its long-term net-zero commitment. That is according to the Climate Change Committee (CCC), which has published its Sixth Carbon Budget for the period between 2033 and 2037.

The CCC described the budget as the toughest yet with chief executive Chris Stark saying that the UK will need to decarbonise at a faster pace in the next 30 years if the net-zero target is to be met. Stark explained that the Committee has deliberately opted to ‘front-load’ decarbonisation – more will need to happen in the 2020s and the earlier half of the Sixth Carbon Budget period than in the latter half and the 2040s. Heat, and the broader decarbonisation of buildings, is one of the major priorities identified by the CCC which has based its calculations on a scenario in which 40% of the emissions reductions needed will be delivered using pure-technology solutions.

The new recommendations will see heat supply drastically transformed from its current reliance on natural gas if the country is to decarbonise all aspects of the UK’s infrastructure and economy. The budget has set a mandate for fossil fuel boiler installations to end across the UK entirely from 2033, with fossil fuels phased-out from heating in public buildings by 2025 and in commercial buildings by the following year. It added that these stricter targets to phase out higher-carbon technologies in public buildings would also support a government aim of realising a 50% reduction in emissions by 2032. The 2033 date has been set to take account of the typical 15-year turnover of boiler stock, while also allowing for the scaling-up of supply chains to deploy heat pumps at a mass scale.

The recommendations aim for 37 per cent of public and commercial heat demand to be met by lower-carbon sources as of 2030.  According to the CCC, heat pumps should cater for 65% of the predicted need, 32% of heat should be provided by district heating systems, whether low or high-temperature supply, with a further 3% from biomass by the end of the current decade. By 2050, CCC estimates that 52% of heat demand should be met by heat pumps, 42% from district heat, with hydrogen boilers covering the remaining 5% of national demand.

One caveat, however, was that since the dates operate alongside the deployment of low-carbon heat networks and planned regional rollouts of hydrogen conversion of the gas grid, the phase-out outlined may not apply in any areas designated for these alternatives. This makes a nod to a net-zero that derives balance between pure hydrogen systems and electrification, both delivering decarbonisation of heating. It also highlights the danger of supporting one technology and ignoring another when the pace of development is so much steeper and will continue to be so as we move towards 2050. To this end, the CCC is using what it describes as a ‘balanced pathway’ scenario upon which to base its calculations and that its delivery will require ‘systems change’ and a ‘whole economy approach’ to decisively meet the UK’s legal target of fully eliminating and offsetting carbon emissions by 2050.  Under this ‘decisive’ decarbonisation plan, the CCC has warned that a sizable majority of change must be made within 15 years.

Talk to Adveco about how we can help you create more sustainable heating and hot water applications for your buildings.

Space To Develop Hot Water & Heating

Space To Develop Hot Water & Heating

How relocating heating and hot water systems in commercial buildings can drive real value from underutilised space…

The most valuable asset any business or organisation has is space, space to grow, develop and drive advantage. Within the built environment the drive for more space is a balancing act between granting applicable and preferably comfortable space for those using the building and meeting the infrastructural and systemic needs of operating the building.

There typically has to be some kind of give in the drive for creating or freeing up useable space if that activity impacts on the necessary systems, in particular heating, cooling, lighting and water.

Hotels are a great example of this drive to reclaim usable space. The hospitality industry is one of the most competitive there is. Hotels are continually fighting with the competition to offer the most affordable rates, the best amenities, and the most outstanding guest services — all while also making a profit. The easiest way to charge more for a room is by adding space to it, or by adding more rooms in total. Either way that is going to help improve the bottom line. The same goes for restaurants, where maximising floor space means more tables. Whilst hoteliers and restaurateurs will look to every square centimetre of their properties for opportunities to maximise revenue, other organisations will have very different drivers. Consider schools, where larger class sizes have increasingly driven a demand for teaching space. How many schools have had to surrender playing fields to locate portacabin style classrooms which are obviously not ideal?

This brings us to the kinds of underutilised or wasted ‘dead’ space in and around buildings. Internal space is potentially incredibly valuable, so leveraging external space to free it up can be truly advantageous. The question is what can be given up to makes such gains? The simple answer might be your HVAC plant.

Plant rooms, or boiler houses as they were known, vary from purpose-built to jury-rigged spaces used to accommodate heating and hot water systems. Basements are typically repurposed in older commercial buildings, whilst it is not unusual to find them tucked in amongst other rooms creating a mixed-use setting. Wouldn’t it be advantageous to separate such building services and relocate them away from those using the building whilst improving the efficiency of the system for a host of benefits including lower operational costs and reduced emissions?

Simply upgrading to a new gas condensing boiler or electric water heater can deliver notable efficiency improvements over models from just 10 years ago, and today’s modern appliances pack that into much more compact, space-saving formats. So, you could gain greater capability from a smaller footprint in your plant room, and potentially reclaim a few square meters. But what if you could reclaim the entire plant room?

Refurbishing plant to a new location may sound drastic, but that needn’t be the case. Increasingly the construction industry has embraced the idea of offsite construction, creating modular units or systems that are pre-installed and ready for relatively quick and simple connection once delivered to a site. The process streamlines a construction programme along with offering numerous savings as site work is dramatically sped up. Now, this process can be as easily applied to refurbishment projects as it is to new build. All you need is an underutilised space. For many commercial buildings that means flat roofs, yards or car parks, spaces that are inexpensive to adapt, require low to no maintenance and have either been ignored or are underused.

With the proliferation of car ownership, it might at first seem unlikely that the car park is being underused. But the drive to encourage walking, cycling and car-sharing has had an impact, and developers who have previously pushed for more open parking space than ever before are now being challenged to repurpose some of that space. In terms of Identifying functional opportunities to better leverage this space, the siting of plant fits the bill. Turing over just one or two car spaces can have a dramatic impact on the capability of heating system, providing enough square meterage to easily accommodate a mid-sized packaged plant room offering, for example, a boiler cascade and heat exchanger assembly. Or the space could be used to locate Air Source Heat Pumps (ASHP) that drive system sustainability whilst lowering CO2 emissions.

Relocation to flat rooftops is especially valuable. This is truly ‘dead space’ for most buildings, but it provides a broad opportunity to relocate heating and hot water plant safely and more securely. A simple crane lift is all it takes to locate a prefabricated plant room, and these can be of considerable size and complexity should the roof space be large enough to accommodate. Additionally, the space lends itself to locating hybrid systems that integrate renewable and sustainable technologies. We have already mentioned the use of ASHPs, and a rooftop placement not only typically supplies unimpeded airflow, the noise, though relatively low, now becomes almost unnoticeable to those on the ground.

Flat roofs are also perfect for the installation of solar thermal systems, where a framework is constructed to align the collectors for optimal energy collection. That energy is then transferred to the building’s water system. One of the biggest threats to the efficiency of a solar thermal system is the heat loss between the collector and hot water storage, which results from potentially long pipe runs from the roof to the plant room. By locating the plant room on the roof, pipe run is minimised as are thermal losses, so you get more energy for your investment.

These are just a few examples of where Adveco’s application design, system prefabrication and expertise in hybrid and renewable technology can help maximise underutilised space. Modern, high-efficiency systems deliver new versatility for addressing changing demands of the building whilst still reducing operational expenditure on energy and helping drive actual sustainability within an organisation.

If your business or organisation is looking to

Talk to us today or read more about our renewables and packaged plant room systems.

Funding Retrofit For Public Buildings.

Funding Retrofit For Public Buildings

The Government’s Public Sector Decarbonisation Fund is a £1b fund being made available now for the upgrade of public buildings and social housing to make them more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly. Projects with a focus on decarbonisation of heating and hot water will undoubtedly be a priority when granting funds as, according to 2019 figures issued by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), heating, cooling, ventilating, and providing hot water and lighting for the built environment still generates 17% of greenhouse gas in the UK.

Part of a wider £3b plan to upgrade the UK’s buildings, the plan has been generally welcomed, as it is hoped to support up to 120,000 jobs across the construction sector, as well as boosting local investment through local job creation.

Designed to aid public sector organisations in England, including central government departments, agencies, local authorities, and especially schools and NHS Trusts. The plan’s intention is to improve buildings’ operational performance, reduce CO2 emissions, raise comfort levels for staff, plus reduce in building-related complaints and maintenance backlogs. This is to be achieved through the specification and installation of energy-efficient and low carbon heating measures.

However, the fund is only being made available for a single year, and since its announcement in July, has raised queries over whether government departments and local authorities have the time or resource to spend this effectively. Facility and energy managers responsible for public sector real estate should already be exploring their options for project design and delivery, not least because of the wider concerns over project timescales in the wake of Covid-19. It is, therefore, crucial to be scoping out retrofit projects as soon as possible.

At Adveco, we have almost 50 years’ experience supporting the refurbishment of public sector heating and hot water systems. While studies show that over the next two decades renewable energy sources (RES) – a mix of district heating, heat pumps, wind and solar energy – will be crucial to the energy supply in the heating market, we would lean towards more technology-open scenarios that not only predict large proportions of heat pumps but also assume the use of gaseous fuels. Just as electricity is becoming greener so too can the gaseous fuels which will contain larger shares of renewable ‘green’ hydrogen gas and other synthetic fuels by 2050. This supports the adoption of a hybrid approach that combines new and existing technologies, which we not only see as more practical but is both cost-effective and less influenced by the volatility of a RES electricity-only approach. The hybrid approach is especially valid when it comes to refurbishing old and inefficient systems, as well as extending viable systems where fresh demands outpace the original scope of the application.

From the latest high-efficiency, ultra-low emission condensing gas and water heaters to electric appliances, sustainable solar thermal and air source heat pumps, Adveco is deliberately positioned can support the introduction and integration of the latest technology. Typically, the latest generation of appliance not only is more efficient, but it can also offer a far more compact footprint, so makes refurbishment simpler, and without needing extensive building work to accommodate plant require less capital expenditure. If systems require scaling up to meet increased demands for heating and domestic hot water (DHW) then refurbishment can quickly become more complex, and if a hybrid system is employed, greater space may be required for the dual systems, as well as additional controls and pipework. Should the availability of space be an issue Adveco can design and build off-site prefabricated plant rooms that make full advantage of unused space, such as flat roofs, to expand capabilities.

If a hybrid heating system is chosen, it offers great advantages for cost-effective control, for example, a hybrid heat pump/gas boiler system is able to reduce the maximum power consumption of a system by smartly balancing the heat generators for greater efficiencies and lower operational costs whilst guaranteeing high system temperatures to ensure the comfort of those still living or working in the building during refurbishment work. And, by selecting the optimal (ecological) heat generator whenever possible (via an energy management system) it can also be optimised for CO2 emissions. Should the building envelope be renovated, the required heating load decreases and the existing gas boiler can take on less of the annual heating work, and it could eventually be put out of operation.

An extra £50m will fund social housing through a demonstrator project for the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund (SHDF). This UK-wide demonstrator scheme will see grants supplied to upgrade the energy efficiency of over 2,000 of the worst-performing social homes. Again, Adveco has a long heritage designing and delivering multi-occupancy applications for heating and DHW.

To secure climate-neutral building stock by 2050, public sector facility managers desperately need help to achieve practical and cost-effective sustainability. At Adveco we can help with a full-service application design team who can provide an assessment of your properties’ demands and correctly size an application. We can help recommend the optimum appliances to deliver highly efficient systems that provide the best value in terms of capital and operational expenditure, whilst meeting the need to reduce emissions. Our commissioning service also ensures installation is carried out correctly and the system is safe to operate, which then unlocks long-term manufacturer quality warranty service.

If you haven’t started to scope out your project, or need aid, please contact us today about your project.

Making ASHP Work For Commercial Applications – Part 2.

Making ASHP Work For Commercial Applications – Part 2

The Hybrid Approach

In part one, we considered the challenges and limitations of an Air Source Heat Pump (ASHP) only system, with particular focus on the problems commercial organisations faced when retrofitting existing properties with new heating and hot water applications. In this concluding part, we look at the advantages of adopting a hybrid system approach based on ASHP technology…

A hybrid approach where an ASHP is deployed in a packaged combination with a gas boiler and control system presents an attractive alternative, retaining the element of gas boiler technology that customers are comfortable with. Plus, it also offers better compatibility with existing heating distribution systems and thermal demands of higher heat loss buildings meaning less adaptation is required. There are also technical advantages, such as the ability to optimise heat pump efficiency and switching to the gas boiler at times of network peak.

The facility of two heat sources to meet the demands for space heating and/or hot water is especially relevant for the commercial sector where bespoke system design is often required to meet the particular needs of a project, such as applications with a high heat loss. In this case, the gas boiler can be operated to meet peak demands on the coldest days, allowing the heat pump to be reduced in size compared to the capacity of a pure electric heat pump system.

Installing a heat pump alongside an existing gas boiler, together with a control system also makes sense in retrofit installations, especially, in applications where a relatively new boiler has been installed, which should be highly efficient, and which can be retained for peak heating loads. The key challenge technically is to ensure that the control system for the ASHP and existing boiler operate together efficiently.

In such cases, given that the ASHP does not replace an existing heating system, the driver for installing the system is largely to reduce running costs and make quick gains towards improving environmental performance.

Hybrid systems based around an ASHP are likely to require some system refurbishment in many retrofit installations in order to ensure that a substantial proportion of the annual demand is met by the heat pump (though this is likely to be lower than a pure electric system). Even so, when including the cost of a gas boiler replacement, the cost of refurbishing heating systems for the installation of a hybrid system should be lower than in the case of a single heat pump system. This is due to the reduced heat pump capacity requirement since the boiler can provide higher flow temperatures to meet peak heat demands. When comparing the cost of a heating system refurbishment opting to install a hybrid system versus a ‘pure’ ASHP system a reduction in comparative costs of as much as 50% could be achieved (Source: Frontier Economics).

Once installed, levels of carbon savings are generally slightly higher when allowing for hybrid solutions – suggesting that up until 2030 hybrid solutions could be consistent with meeting carbon targets. Although the average cost-effectiveness of carbon abatement is somewhat lower than in the scenarios which exclude hybrids. These savings are estimated based on comparison with a standalone ASHP, assuming that a hybrid system will use a smaller heat pump with a capacity reduced by as much as one third. For a hybrid ASHP system, expectations will be for the heat pump to meet as much as 75% of the annual heat load, the remainder being met by a gas boiler. This delivers similar operating costs and comparable CO and CO₂ savings at current grid carbon intensity (the reduced heat pump coverage of the overall thermal demand can be compensated by the ability to run the heat pump at closer to optimum efficiency).

Whilst the long-term use of hybrid systems may be perceived as not fully consistent with meeting carbon targets and they can equally be limited by space requirements and noise issues that also affect standalone ASHP installation, there remains a strong argument for their use across the commercial sector.

In the long term, hybrid systems should fall behind pure electric systems in terms of carbon benefits as the grid decarbonises and may become less cost-effective if volumes of gas supplied for the heating drop. But looking out to 2050, innovations in the provision of hydrogen and green gas, using extant infrastructure which currently supports 85% of UK heating, means hybrid systems may prove to be a defining low carbon option. One that provides the means to support the very particular, practical needs of the commercial market with versatile, cost-effective systems, all without sacrificing the drive to lower emissions as part of the process of achieving net-zero.

Read about Adveco’s compact commercial FPi ASHP range and prefabricated packaged systems for a hybrid approach.

Making Air Source Heat Pumps (ASHP) Work For Commercial Applications - Part 1

Making ASHP Work For Commercial Applications – Part 1

Understanding the Challenge of ASHP

Commercial organisations face a somewhat unfair challenge as they are held by the Government to be leaders in the move to control and reduce carbon to achieve net-zero by 2050, yet are limited by the technology options that the Government is showing active support for. The current drive, without a doubt is to push Air Source Heat Pumps (ASHP) to the exclusion of other technologies. Neither high-efficiency gas boilers with ultra-low emissions nor proven sustainable systems such as solar thermal have received much love in the latest round of grants supporting the commercial sector. In particular, the decision not to provide support for those opting for hybrid solutions that bridge the technology gap in the most cost-effective manner shows a focus on the finish line, but a failure to grasp the actual challenges the commercial sector faces right now. So, what are the options with ASHPs, and what is a realistic path to take today?

Unfortunately, we cannot control the weather, but despite that, ASHP technology does still present an opportunity to significantly improve the efficiency of buildings across the commercial sector. Because an Air Source Heat Pump is reliant on the ambient air, the Coefficient of Performance, or COP, is going to be affected by both the source and supply temperatures. The heat provided is at a much lower temperature, so a heating system will be required to operate at low temperature for optimum efficiency and may have to be kept on for a longer period to be fully effective. Such a system could well require a significant upgrade to a building’s electrical supply and heating infrastructure. However, to maximise the ASHP efficiency, the lowest possible flow temperature needs to be achieved, and that requires a building to be highly efficient in terms of heat loss. When working with new builds, the ability to drive high efficiency in the thermal performance of the fabric of a structure means a well-designed commercial heat pump system is more than capable of providing all the heating needs for a business and, in the long term, represent good value for money in savings from reduced energy bills, as well as helping commercial premises bring down that all-important carbon footprint.

But in isolation, this demand for low heating temperatures and low water usage will be impractical for many businesses, especially when retrofitting a property, which can highlight the limitations of ‘pure’ ASHP systems. This becomes particularly obvious when ASHP is to be deployed for the provision of hot water, especially if there is a large daily demand. Domestically we would expect a minimum storage temperature of 50oC, but this rises to 60oC minimum for commercial environments. This has a considerable impact on the ASHP’s running efficiency and therefore the running costs. Additionally, by generating hot water at 50oC and not 70oC, the storage volume will have to be considerably larger than that associated with a typical gas boiler. To achieve necessary water temperatures requires greater considerations of space planning and type of hot water cylinder the system will require.

With early to market performance of heat pumps falling below expectations, and a higher capital cost relative to the conventional gas boiler alternative the uptake of ASHP in commercial business on the gas grid had, until the drive to achieve net-zero, been limited. Now commercial operations are actively seeking to use ASHP, but are still running up against these same issues, which is why, with the current capabilities of ASHP technology, a hybrid approach for commercial applications remains attractive. Both in terms of installation and operation, whilst still gaining the all-important running cost savings and reduced carbon emissions.

In part 2 we explore how a hybrid approach can deliver significant value from ASHP technology

Read about Adveco’s compact commercial FPi ASHP range

Adveco packaged plant room.

Packaged Plant Rooms – A New Paradigm for Site Safety

Adveco discusses how off-site construction techniques for commercial heating and hot water can alleviate pressures of cost and timescale on construction sites whilst also helping improve Covid-19 safety precautions…

There is no doubt that we are going to face long term changes in the way construction projects operate during and in the wake of the current Covid-19 pandemic. Worksites are already having to adhere to stricter policy on where and when workers can traverse and engage on-site, and, in accordance with Government recommendations, the responsibility for their safety lies squarely on the shoulders of the host – not only for incumbent staff but also for any visiting contractors or customers. Ultimately this is all to ensure anyone on site does not become compromised. This means further stretching the usually difficult, and therefore costly, co-ordination of equipment and controls installations required for a building. Such complexity is typical, for instance, when creating and installing modern heating and hot water applications.

New world, new approach

Adopting offsite pre-fabrication as part of your project is therefore highly advantageous, reducing time on site required of specialist contractors, which is both more cost-effective and safer for all involved.

Adveco combines deep engineering understanding with a wide prod­uct offering and experience in full system design to provide a single source of supply for the delivery of complete packaged plant rooms containing heating and hot water systems tailored precisely to fit the specific needs of a project.

All work is carried out in a controlled, purpose-made environment. This means should there be any forced downtime on-site due to a local lockdown, the assembly work at Adveco will continue as planned. With no distractions from other typical construction site activities or issue we can ensure your plant room work is more rapidly progressed and, with a controlled factory environment, optimal manufacturing conditions are provided for quality control. Unlike the general conditions found on a construction site.

Locating all production work offsite also means the plant room element of a project can also efficiently progress at the same time as other groundworks or site installations. As the plant room arrives with all appliances, controls and ancillaries pre-fitted and connected – using stainless steel (heating) or copper (DHW) crimp pipework – as standard, there is no need for extended plumbing and electrical installation. This helps drastically reduce on-site labour demands and allows for more rapid progression of project timescales, despite social distancing requirements.

To achieve the best results, you will need to finalise facets of decision-making relating to hot water, heating or cogeneration of power early on in the project to allow for increased lead-in times. Once production commences it becomes more difficult to accommodate changes to a bespoke pre-fabricated system. This is why Adveco’s expert design engineers will work closely from the start with your project team to accurately size and design a system that meets the exact needs of the project on day of delivery.  All that is required is for flues, external pipework and final electrical connections to be completed on-site.

Adveco has broad experience of developing small to very large packaged plant rooms, embracing a wide range of cost-effective to operate and renewable technologies, from high-efficiency gas and electric boilers and water heaters to heat recovery units, micro CHP, solar thermal and Air Source Heat Pumps (ASHPs). These are all brought together to deliver a wide range of bespoke applications that can transform the operational nature of a commercial property, reducing emissions and improving the efficiency of hot water and heating for lower ongoing costs. The fact that these systems can also be delivered in a manner that is also much safer for all involved on-site shows the tremendous advantages to be gained from this approach.

Discover more about Adveco’s Packaged Plant Rooms

Berry Court care home plant room installation.

The Cogeneration Gap – Part 3 Caring for the Environment

We have considered the reasons for implementing m-CHP in new builds and upgrading care homes. In this third and final blog in the series, we consider one last deciding factor, the environmental impact of local cogeneration…

The carbon savings have long been an advantage of Combined Heat and Power (CHP), and can still be achieved, but that is changing because grid-supplied electricity is getting much cleaner. There has been a strong downward trend in emissions from electricity production since 2014, due to the increases in wind and solar power and the closure of coal-fired power stations. But on average, CHP provides a carbon benefit over the year, though the actual intensity fluctuates both seasonally and daily. On most days where carbon intensity is more than 188g/kWh CHP will provide a benefit. CHP will be carbon advantageous at some times of the day and not at others, but looking at the average carbon intensity of electricity generation from 2013-2017 even in the summer months when demand falls, the carbon intensity never fell below 200g/kWh, so CHP was always beneficial in this period in terms of carbon savings. Carbon intensity of the grid is higher when it is dark and cold, and CHP requires a thermal load to operate so naturally aligns itself with the higher carbon intensity when it provides greatest impact and savings.

In the future smart controls will adapt CHP run times to ensure it operates when it is most carbon advantageous.  For a CHP that runs for 14 hours per day, for example, the smart controls will ensure that the 10 hours when it does not operate align with the clean grid periods and not when the carbon intensity is the highest.

Even so, we recognise that the value of carbon savings with CHP will continue to reduce in comparison to previous years. Instead, attention is now turning to Nitrogen Oxides (NOX) savings. A by-product of the combustion of hydrocarbon fuels, NOX are a major contributing factor to poor air quality, the most toxicologically significant being a combination of nitric oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO₂). It can cause lung irritation and respiratory infections as well as being linked to cancer, asthma, strokes, and heart disease. The Royal College of Physicians believes it directly leads to as many as 40,000 deaths each year. This has led to widespread recognition that more needs to be done to address NOX emissions and the care sector needs to be seen to be addressing emissions that are a by-product of its activities.

Although all CHP with a catalytic converter is cleaner than the grid, taking in to account electrical efficiency, the wider CHP industry, as an average, has the same NOx emissions as large scale power generation. The downside for CHP has been that carbon-based power generation historically was located outside of major urban areas, but the drive for low carbon buildings is bringing even more potential emissions into our cities. Most CHP are likely to have a slight positive impact on air quality nationwide, but because those installations will typically be in urban/residential areas that CHP will have a negative impact.

Therefore, localised NOX emissions from ‘dirty’ cogeneration is becoming a concern. Where CHP is used to offset condensing boiler run hours, if the CHP is dirtier than the condensing boiler then the local emissions are worsened. Despite air pollution and NOX mainly arising from road traffic – half of current NO­X pollution in major urban areas is attributed to vehicles – emissions from decentralised energy production are now being seen as a contributing factor. It is therefore of great importance that the NOX emissions from new CHP units are lower than condensing boilers if they are to have a positive effect.

Our own assessment of cited NO­X emissions from CHP manufacturers shows wildly fluctuating numbers, ranging from 64 mg/kWh to a highly concerning 596 mg/kwh, and older units were far worse. Consider the 2018 EcoDesign limit for CHP is 240mg/kWh! And I would argue that this number is now far too high given the changing attitude to, and awareness of the dangers of NO­X emissions.

Despite heat recovered by the CHP being considered NOX neutral, it is vitally important to recognise that there is a considerable difference between ‘dirty’ CHP and the latest generation of low-NO X CHP. One such class of low-NO X appliance are the micro or m-CHP units, where we can cite emissions levels as low as 11mg/kWh. For a unit of 20kW electrical output, with a gas input of 70kW, in a situation with an average annual run time of 6,500 hours for a standard application such as a care home, the yearly NOX emission from a ’dirty’ CHP will be 109.2kg/year, compared to 4.55kg/year for the latest generation of m-CHP. And remember, this option is also improving local air quality because the m-CHP is used to offset the run hours of a condensing boiler which at emissions over 30 mg/kWh is dirty compared to the CHP.

Conclusion

Comparing CHP with other local energy generation technologies, today we can still show that it has lower running costs than a heat pump, plus has both higher savings and an easier install than PV. Without doubt, a CHP can provide useful energy cost savings for a building, so it always makes sense to run existing CHP, and makes sense to purchase for the right type of building.

Mid to high occupancy residential care homes are particularly apt and upgrading to CHP in these facilities will provide a good payback period and be a solid investment over the decade, so long as a guaranteed maintenance schedule is put in place.

Finally, selecting the right CHP can provide carbon savings and more importantly, as we look to the future, can help improve local air quality for a building.

At the end of the day, the building and its use should drive the decision making, but for the care home, perhaps the greatest advantage of all is the assurance that residents will have a continuity of comfort through the provision of heating and hot water. It is in this role that m-CHP delivers a business-critical need in the care home environment.

TOTEM T20 CHP unit (Combined Heat and Power unti) in a residential care home.

The Cogeneration Gap – Part 2 Embracing CHP

In the first part of this short blog series on the application of micro-CHP within residential care homes Adveco explained why CHP (Combined Heat and Power) is often chosen for new builds. In this second part, we turn our attention to why you would upgrade existing facilities to m-CHP…

The cost of deploying CHP within care homes is, without doubt, the deciding factor for the majority of managers. When calculating the operational cost savings, we need to take the cost of the offset electricity and thermal energy, and deduct the costs of the energy coming in, in other words, the price of the gas, and the maintenance costs. The other key input is the number of run hours per year that the CHP appliance will operate.

A CHP is very different to a boiler, which other than an annual service you would typically tend to forget about. Inside the CHP casing is a gas-powered automobile engine, with high stressed moving parts that will require necessary repairs over time that could reduce savings. So, you need to be aware of the ongoing investment needed when operating CHP to support regular pay as you go maintenance and repair. Once the cost of maintenance is factored in, the operating costs can be determined based on electricity and gas prices.

To understand what these operational costs look like, I am going to cite current figures based on the installation of a TOTEM T25 micro-CHP unit. From our experience, these are typically the size of a unit a larger care home will install. Firstly, being gas-powered, the CHP is a far better option when the cost of gas is less than electric, which has been the trend since 2015. Currently, based on medium non-domestic rates, a T25 will save £1.50 per hour that it runs. Let’s consider the expectation on run hours per year, many CHP units that have gone in will run relatively short hours per year just to increase the efficiency of the building to meet carbon requirements. Looking at the demands of the London Plan, for example, 2,500 run hours may be sufficient to meet the additional carbon savings demanded. At that lower run rate, the CHP is still going to save £3,750 savings per year.

This may not be enough to provide a true payback, but are interesting savings in an inherited, new building, where the cost of the CHP is part of the cost of the building and does not have to be proven to pay back. The decision is only to run it and save £3,750, or not and save nothing.

Upgrading to CHP

But what if you want to upgrade your plant room, when is right to Include CHP? The technology offers a number of advantages, the micro-CHP is especially easier to install, passing through a standard 60cm doorframe and able to be installed internally, avoiding the need for external space or rooftop placement which would be needed for say solar photovoltaics (PV) which is another common choice for onsite energy generation. CHP also offers better payback than Air Source Heat Pumps (ASHP) and with inclusion in the Government’s new SEG payments, you can profit from additional energy generated by selling it back to the grid from your CHP at a guaranteed tariff. There is also the bonus of increased resiliency for your DHW and then there are the running cost savings.

The cost of a T25 is £50,000, with savings per hour (including maintenance) of £1.50, so it requires 33,333 run hours to achieve payback. Saving just £3,750 per year means the only driver is carbon savings and that would not alone warrant the investment in an existing building.

If the building is right for CHP, then it is worth considering as an upgrade. CHP saves money when it runs, it’s the opposite of a boiler which costs money when it runs so we want that to be off and the CHP on.  The ideal applications are ones with large DHW loads where people are residing. With a large care home, the expectation would be to run a CHP 24 hours per day during the heating season, dropping to 12-14 hours per day outside heating season. This gives us an average running of 18 hours per day throughout the year or 6,700 run hours per year. That equates to a five-year payback, and with 10-year  operating plan in place the potential savings will be £50,000 if your building is suited to the technology.

Alexandra House, operated by Care South, is a two-storey, 58-room residential care and nursing home in Poole, it has a T20 CHP working in conjunction with a custom-built 2500-litre buffer vessel, as well as a cascade of two AO Smith Upsilon 110 boilers and two AO Smith IT500 indirect calorifiers. This is all supplied as a complete package, alongside ancillaries and backup heating components via electric immersion elements. The design of the hot water and heating system at Alexandra House is projected to achieve more than 7,100 CHP run hours per year, resulting in annual carbon reductions in excess of 44.5 tonnes and providing expected energy savings, inclusive of CHP maintenance costs, of £7,500.

In the third, and final part, we will take a look at the environmental impact of m-CHP and explain how it can deliver energy and heat whilst reducing a care home’s emissions…

CHP for residential care homes (Combined Heat and Power).

The Cogeneration Gap – Part 1

Often seen as an ideal application within the residential care home, in this short blog series Adveco discusses the argument for onsite energy cogeneration, the operational costs, the environmental impact and highlights the increasing performance gap between ‘dirty CHP’ and the latest generation of highly efficient micro-CHP…

Whether building a new residential care home or refurbishing an older property to be fit for purpose, the importance of energy provision has risen up the agenda, resulting in a proliferation of on-site power generation. According to a report by Centrica Business Solutions (The Energy Advantage Report, June 2018).

“…more than 80% of commercial operations are expected to invest in on-site power production to generate up to a quarter of their electricity requirements by 2025.”

One popular choice has been the deployment of combined heat and power (CHP), also known as cogeneration. This is the simultaneous production of usable heat and electricity from a single process and source of fuel (typically gas) and is one of the most effective methods available to significantly increase the energy efficiency of a building. With an engine directly coupled to a generator, similar levels of efficiency to that of a conventional source of power can be achieved, and by locating such an installation on-site at the point of consumption, the usual energy losses associated with power transmission through the grid are eliminated.

Additionally, thermal energy is extracted from the CHP process by recovering the waste heat produced by the engine and generator during the power generation process. This drastically reduces the amount of fuel energy lost to the environment as exhaust, instead using it to contribute towards a local heat demand. With a significant continuous demand, such as would be typically seen in a residential care facility a CHP unit can run for very long periods of time and thus drastically reduce the reliance on conventional boiler technology and improve the overall efficiency of a building, reducing emissions and making financial savings.

Understanding the advantages of CHP

For operators and managers of care facilities, there are two basic questions to ask. If you have CHP what should you do with it? If you don’t, should you upgrade your plant room to include CHP?

I want to make it clear that in my opinion there are enough benefits that you definitely want CHP, but you may not want to buy it outright. CHP will have an environmental and cost savings impact in any building, but it only provides a payback case on Capex in the right type of building. That is why you may not want to invest in the technology.

If your building already has CHP it is because someone made the decision to select Combined Heat & Power based on either a financial or an environmental reason. But there are notable differences in between those who design, and those who operate the building.

Designers have historically chosen CHP based on carbon savings requirements from things such as Part L, or the London Plan, which other UK cities will mirror, rolling out their own equivalent local environmental policy.  Designers need carbon savings to get planning permission for a project to be built. It is the most important thing for the designer, and it is the minimum that must be done to successfully complete their job. That is why the designer selects CHP. If you inherited a building built in the last five years with CHP, then it was probably selected for SBEM carbon savings to meet Part L.

So, in this scenario you have CHP, but if it was installed purely for carbon savings, then we have to accept that may not be the most important thing to the end client and their facilities management team. Foremost is the functioning of the building, so the priority is the reliability of supply of heating and hot water, next is the operating costs of the building, and this is then followed by environmental concerns like NOₓ and carbon emissions.

It needs to be recognised that CHP is a support technology, as opposed to a critical technology. Water heaters and boilers are critical equipment, if they break down it influences the heat and hot water supply to the building, and therefore the comfort and safety of the residents. CHP, like many renewables, makes no difference to the reliability of the supply. Whether it is on or off the building still has heating and hot water. If you have inherited a CHP, then you need to decide what you want to do with it.

Shutting it down is an option. You could turn it off and forget about it.  If you do that then you will pay no maintenance, nothing for energy consumption by the unit and, there will be no loss of heat or hot water supply. You will not have any carbon savings either, but, since the building regulations are not policed you can, unfortunately, do this.

Alternatively, you can pay for maintenance and energy and then start reaping the rewards of operating the CHP. Rather than using just gas or electric water heaters for all the domestic hot water (DHW) needed for washing, cleaning, showers and baths, the CHP will supply heat captured from its operation to warm, or preheat stored water. The CHP can supply as much as 90% of the hot water needed by the care home with the water heaters used to ‘top-up’ the water temperatures and meet periods of high demand for Part L systems. CHP is also a great way to build a guarantee of consistent hot water service. Typically, a care home system will operate two or more water heaters, but should one fail it would result in a reduction in available hot water. With the addition of a CHP able to preheat at least 60% of a care home’s hot water needs, residents and staff should not see any obvious change in their hot water services should a water heater fail.

In part two we will consider the cost of operating CHP and gauging when and if you should look to upgrade to the technology…