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Bridging the Gap to NetZero – Part 2

Hybrid Heating – the validity of gas in future hot water applications

In part one we looked at why you might adopt a hybrid approach to commercial hot water and heating as a route to achieving Net Zero in commercial properties. In this second part, we consider the continued validity of employing existing gas technology… 

There continues to be a call for a wide ban on the deployment of gas boilers in new properties, with a date of 2025 often mooted. Such a ban, though focussed currently only on domestic properties, would no doubt have repercussions for the commercial sector if/and when it comes to pass.  But it is worth noting that ‘hydrogen-ready’ appliances would be exempt from any broad ban, so gas has a role to play in that mix of technologies driving us forward to Net Zero.

According to Mission Innovation (MI), an independent clean-tech research programme, half of the global emissions reductions required to achieve climate targets by 2050 depends on technology that still currently remain at a demonstration or prototype phase. Whilst development continues into the provision of new fuels such as green hydrogen – and we could be looking at at least a decade before this is universally available –  there remain clear cases, especially in terms of reducing running costs,  for retaining existing gas technology for commercial applications. We also recognise that the retention of existing infrastructure is critical for the cost-effective deployment of long term next-generation green technology, especially considering the large scale challenge of retrofitting existing properties.

Since 2015 the wholesale price of electricity has climbed 20%, yet gas prices over the same period are down on average 15%.  The difference between the wholesale market price of electricity and its cost of production using natural gas provides us with the spark spread.

Commercial Air Source Heat Pumps (ASHP).At the time of writing, the spark spread is calculated to be 5.7.  For a heat pump to break even against a 90% efficient gas boiler, the heat pump must demonstrate a COP of 5.15. The Adveco FPI32-6 can exceed this COP, but only at warmer ambient temperatures. Far more realistic is to use seasonal COP, which at 5.15 is beyond the capability of most current generation units. When assessing the efficiency of commercial air source heat pump (ASHP) technology, we calculate the ratio between the electricity invested in order to run the ASHP and its output, this is the COP. The COP can be influenced by a number of factors including the energy needs and energy efficiency of a property, quality of hot water and heating system installation, and once operational, the energy manager’s competency in maximising the system output. We would expect high performing commercial heat pumps to show a COP that range from 2.9 to a very high 4.7 due to variance in seasonal external temperature and heating flow temperature. The average ASHP system will typically exhibit a maximum COP much lower than the necessary 5.15. It is also worth considering that the latest generation of commercial gas boilers will exhibit even greater efficiencies, for example, RP MD Boilers.Adveco’s MD boiler range can achieve a NET combustion efficiency of 106%. This means gas has a key role to play in ensuring a hybrid approach remains cost-effective.

As we progress forward, hydrogen-ready commercial gas appliances (boilers and water heaters) will leverage high efficiency, economic fuel blends with the additional advantage of considerably diminishing the carbon impact of commercial properties.

We see hydrogen playing a valuable role in meeting the needs for heating the UK’s commercial buildings but it will never be a 100% solution. This is why gas appliances in combination with heat pumps remain the best, and most cost-effective to deploy and operate method for commercial organisations to decarbonise operations and drive a low carbon economy.

Whether or not ongoing Government consultation decides to recognise the importance of ‘hybrids’ with financial support, the simple truth is that for the broad majority of commercial organisations looking to refurbish, capital investment and operational costs for heating and cooling systems are a critical decision factor. Hybrid systems offer the best option now and in the longer term as new green gas options come into play

The Hybrid Balancing Act

To truly reap the rewards of a hybrid heating system its energy management system needs to be implemented as part of the smart grid, with flexible electricity tariffs. When electricity volumes increase, prices fall. In a smart grid, when the corresponding price signal reaches the hybrid heating system it will be able to optimise the use of renewable electricity in terms of cost and availability.

In view of the extremely high volatility of renewable energy sources (RES) electricity, there will inevitably be peaks in supply above demand for electricity. In particular, this naturally occurs at high levels of wind and solar radiation. At present, an excess supply of RES electricity is either decommissioned at production peaks or sold. In extreme cases, as has been seen in the Netherlands, this could lead to negative electricity prices. To counteract this uneconomic development, it is necessary to introduce flexible electricity prices and pass them on to customers in order to stimulate production-dependent consumption. If there are high quantities of renewable energy in the grid, a heat pump will supply the building with heating and hot water. In cold phases, the heat pump covers only a part of the necessary heat output in the case of a hybrid system with the condensing gas boiler taking over to cover the remaining heat requirement and, if necessary, provides a higher system temperature.

This load management, the smart balancing of heat pump and condensing boiler operation, not only addresses the lifetime cost of operating a system it can help with the support of grid capacity (with fiscal remuneration if selling electricity generated), stabilisation of reserve capacities and potentially reduce the need for grid expansion.

The ability to provide greater efficiencies through smart metering and the use of flexible electricity tariffs to reduce operational costs for a lower total cost of ownership across the lifespan of the system is advantageous. The opportunity to impact load management across the grid however is a real game-changer for businesses being held up as a major guilty party when it comes to the continued generation of greenhouse gasses. Hybrid systems, therefore, offer a fast, cost-effective and realistic means to address ageing and environmentally unfriendly heating systems.


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Bridging The Gap To Net Zero – Part 1

Hybrid Heating – A Practical Response For The Commercial Built Environment

Adveco looks at the changing face of commercial hot water & heating, and the increasing importance being placed on the development of hybrid applications to address the real-world challenges of achieving carbon reduction levels set by the government through to 2050.

Around 40% of UK greenhouse gas emissions are accounted for by heating, cooling, ventilation, the provision of hot water and lighting the built environment, and, according to 2019 figures issued by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), business remains the third-largest emitter at 17%. In order to achieve climate-neutral building stock by 2050 commercial organisations need support from the industry to provide immediate and practical measures.

Through the expansion of wind power and photovoltaic systems, the generation of electricity from renewables and the importance of electricity in the heating market is increasing, but natural gas still dominates. As attention shifts to a mix of district heating, heat pumps, wind and solar energy, studies show that over the next two decades renewable electricity will be crucial to the energy supply in the heating market.

That said, there remain strong differences with regard to the expected share of renewable energy supply. Independent research clearly argues for a multi-dimensional approach with an energy mix consisting of renewable energy and gaseous fuels with a high share of renewable energies. Studies that are more “almost all-electric” argue in favour of almost complete dominance of the heat pump, while the technology-open scenarios also predict large proportions of heat pumps, but also assume the use of gaseous fuels.

Just as electricity is becoming greener, via an ever-increasing share of renewable energy, so too over time will the gaseous fuels such as ‘green’ hydrogen gas and synthetics.

Why Take The Hybrid Route?

So, let’s consider the advantages of the hybrid approach. This, at the most basic for heating systems, consist of two heat generators, of which at least one is operated with renewable energies and one with fossil fuel. Often, a hybrid heat pump system consists of a heat pump (air source) designed for a system part load (baseload) and a gas condensing boiler for peak load, for example during the cold, dark winter months. In a fully hybrid heat pump system, both heat generators can cover the entire heating load, where the energy sources can be freely selected according to definable criteria including efficiency, emissions and price.

Commercial Air Source Heat Pumps (ASHP).

Compared to a conventional combustion heating system though, there will be issues of logistics and space requirements, but as hybrid systems are particularly relevant to buildings in which there is already a gas connection this is generally less of a concern. That said, a hybrid system will require two heat generators and two energy connections, one of which is an environmental heat source. This leads to higher complexity of the plant, requiring more effort and expertise from the system designer, supplier and installer. This all leads to higher CAPEX cost. It is typically estimated that the purchase and installation of a hybrid heating system compared to a pure condensing heating system is going to drive initial costs up by approximately 50 to 60%. So, what are the advantages that outweigh these initial costs?

For older commercial properties where a new heating system is required, but wider renovation is either not feasible or required, a hybrid system can control and avoid issues of project congestion when refurbishing, as the heat pump is used to supplement the pre-existing fossil-based heating system.  This helps to save costs as existing boilers can continue to be operated on the currently installed heat distribution, heat transfer and flue systems while the heat pump can benefit from an advantageous coefficient of performance (COP) in the right conditions and setpoints.

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. If the hybrid system is also equipped with a buffer tank and domestic hot water (DHW) tank the heat pump can achieve a high proportion of cover for space heating and DHW heating increasing the profitability of the system.

A hybrid heating system cannot only be controlled cost-effectively but it can also be optimised for CO emissions by selecting the optimal (ecological) heat generator whenever possible via an energy management system that incorporates smart metering.

Hybrid systems for commercial properties will typically be planned according to individual project requirements. In cold phases, the heat pump in the hybrid system can only take over part of the heating load due to the design. If necessary, the condensing boiler, especially on cold, dark days with high demand, but a limited supply of renewable energy, completely covers the heating load.

This versatility enables the energy manager to react to price fluctuations, especially in the power grid and possibly also in the gas grid.

Should the building envelope subsequently be renovated, the required heating load decreases and the existing gas boiler can take on less of the annual heating work or eventually could be put out of operation.

In part 2 we consider the continuity of using gas for future hot water applications

A Global Roadmap to Net Zero

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has published a global roadmap with more than 400 milestones, spanning all sectors and technologies – for what needs to happen, and when, to transform the global economy from one dominated by fossil fuels into one powered predominantly by renewable energy, such as solar and wind, to realistically achieve Net Zero by 2050.

Despite the current gap between rhetoric and reality on emissions, the IEA roadmap shows that; “there are still pathways to reach net zero by 2050. The one on which we focus is – in our analysis – the most technically feasible, cost‐effective and socially acceptable. Even so, that pathway remains narrow and extremely challenging, requiring all stakeholders – governments, businesses, investors and citizens – to take action this year and every year after so that the goal does not slip out of reach.”

To keep the world safe, scientists say that global heating has to be limited to 1.5C by the end of this century. To keep close to that mark, emissions of warming gases need to drop by half by 2030, and essentially hit zero in 2050.

The IEA report, Net-Zero by 2050 A Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector, envisions a global economy that is twice the size of today’s, with an additional two billion people but with an 8% drop in energy demand. This pathway, the report states, requires international co‐operation and “vast amounts of investment, innovation, policy design and implementation, technology deployment, and infrastructure building.”

The plan sets to achieve this with no carbon offsets and a low reliance on technologies to remove carbon from the air. Achieving the rapid reduction in CO2 emissions over the next 30 years requires a broad range of policy approaches and technologies. The key pillars of decarbonisation of the global energy system are energy efficiency, behavioural changes, electrification, renewables, hydrogen and hydrogen‐based fuels, bioenergy and carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS).

Fig 1 Solar, wind and energy efficiency deliver around half of emissions reductions to 2030, while electrification, CCUS and hydrogen ramp up thereafter

The direct use of low‐emissions electricity in place of fossil fuels, with a complete removal of new supplies of coal, oil or gas, is one of the most important drivers of emissions reductions outlined in the report, accounting for around 20% of the total reduction achieved by 2050. Global electricity demand more than doubles between 2020 and 2050, with the largest absolute rise in electricity use in end‐use sectors taking place in industry, which registers an increase of more than 11 000 TWh between 2020 and 2050. Much of this is due to the increasing use of electricity for low‐ and medium‐temperature heat.

As part of this electrification process, and with gas or oil heating currently a major source of carbon emissions in many countries, the IEA is calling for no new fossil fuel boilers to be sold, except where they are compatible with hydrogen. This is not the first time this has been mooted in the drive towards Net Zero, one that has already been questioned by the building industry in terms of bringing enough hydrogen ready product to market, and more critically securing trained installers to fit new builds. What the report does not clarify, in the drive to emphasise efficient buildings, is how the building sector can realistically address retrofitting old existing infrastructure. For the commercial sector, this is a major issue and one that Adveco is taking the lead on, developing hybrid applications to bridge the old to the new, and developing brand new technologies that drive sustainability of larger-scale hot water and heating systems. With a strong history of developing bespoke applications and a technology-agnostic approach, Adveco is well-positioned to support commercial organisations struggling to adapt to new demands for sustainability within new and existing buildings.

To meet the need for greener energy systems where all of the world’s electricity would be emissions-free by 2040, and to expand electricity provision to the 785 million people in the world who have no access at present, requires an enormous undertaking, quadrupling the current levels of wind and solar installations. The scale of the change proposed is unprecedented, Fatih Birol, the IEA Executive Director said, “The scale and speed of the efforts demanded by this critical and formidable goal – our best chance of tackling climate change and limiting global warming to 1.5C – make this perhaps the greatest challenge humankind has ever faced.”

The report has already faced some criticism due to the reliance on CCUS which remains an unproven technology, and bioenergy which would require a 60% increase in production. To meet this demand would require a 25% increase in plantations of energy crops and forestry to make liquid fuel or be burnt to generate electricity.

The IEA does, however, see a strong opportunity for hydrogen and hydrogen-based fuels. Demand increases almost sixfold to 530 Mt in 2050, of which half is used in heavy industry (mainly steel and chemicals production) and in the transport sector; 30% is converted into other hydrogen‐based fuels, mainly ammonia for shipping and electricity generation, synthetic kerosene for aviation and synthetic methane blended into gas networks; and 17% is used in gas‐fired power plants to balance increasing electricity generation from solar PV and wind and to provide seasonal storage. Overall, hydrogen‐based fuels account for 13% of global final energy demand in 2050, with hydrogen production almost entirely based on low‐carbon technologies: water electrolysis accounts for more than 60% of global production, and natural gas in combination with CCUS for almost 40%

Hydrogen production jumps sixfold by 2050, driven by water electrolysis and natural gas with CCUS, to meet rising demand in shipping, road transport and heavy industry

With the energy sector, according to the IEA, being responsible for around 75% of the emissions of greenhouse gases that are driving up global temperatures, limiting global heating to 1.5C by the end of this century, means emissions of warming gases need to drop by half by 2030 if they are to hit zero by 2050. The IEA warns that the greatest threat to limiting global heating is weak international co-operation, which after the mid-2030s would see the pace of emissions reductions worldwide slow markedly, delaying a global transition to net-zero by decades. This throws additional weight on those nations attending COP26, in Glasgow this November, to form major agreements on policy and co-operation.

It’s A Fair COP – Specifying ASHP in the UK

As a specialist in the design and provision of domestic hot water (DHW) and heating for commercial projects, Adveco is especially conscious of the need to correctly size and rate appliances for what are typically bespoke system designs. When specifying Air Source Heat Pumps (ASHP) for UK commercial projects, correctly establishing efficiency and calculating reductions in CO2 emissions is perhaps the most important element, given their specification for sustainability is increasingly a major facet of the investment in a building’s Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems.

Adveco has now extended its range of commercial ASHPs with the introduction of the Adveco L70. This high-capacity air-to-water monobloc heat pump is designed for the UK climate providing hybrid domestic hot water (DHW) and heating. In conjunction with Adveco’s bespoke application design, the L70 offers a comprehensive response for sustainable heating and hot water, providing high-efficiency, low-emission, low cost to operate systems for the life of a commercial building.

Rated 70kW for typical UK operation at 5°C but climbing to a maximum 90 kW from a single compact unit, and with a Seasonal Coefficient of Performance (SCOP) as high as 4.08 the L70 is perfect for large scale commercial applications and can operate as part of a cascade installation for projects demanding greater capacity.

With ASHPs offering greater efficiencies in low-temperature systems, the high-temperature demands of commercial DHW applications can be a challenge. Achieving working flow temperatures up to 60°C, the L70 supplies preheat for hybrid applications composed of combinations of plate heat exchangers, buffer vessel, with calorifiers, gas-fired boilers or direct-electric water heating providing essential additional heat to meet commercial requirements.

When analysing the value of an ASHP in terms of reducing CO2 emissions Adveco employs the carbon intensity figures from the new SAP10, with like-for-like calculations for 1 kWh of output, benchmarked against a modern, high-efficiency gas-fired system. When describing the efficiency of an ASHP, working flow water temperatures of 35°C are typically cited, but it needs to be recognised that this is insufficient for commercial applications. Even if a commercial building has achieved Passivhaus standards 35°C is not going to be hot enough to safely provide DHW. For this reason, Adveco recommends calculating emissions at a working water temperature from the ASHP of 55°C, this is then hot enough to provide realistic levels of preheat for a commercial hybrid DHW system.

Additionally, attention needs to be given to the Ecodesign established European temperature zones when calculating real-world figures. For most of the UK, the relevant defined temperature zone is ‘average’, where the lowest annual reference temperature for the ASHP’s SCOP is taken to be -10°C. For some Southern and Western UK regions, the ‘warmer’ Ecodesign temperature zone can be applied for calculation, where the lowest the reference temperature will only fall to 2°C. So give consideration to a project’s location when assessing potential reductions in CO2 emissions from the inclusion of ASHP in an application.

Designed to operate between 20°C and +35°C, Adveco’s L70, at -10°C can still easily generate working water temperatures of up to 55°C and will reduce CO2 emissions by almost 63%. Under the warmer climate zone’s conditions emissions can be reduced by almost 70% using a SCOP of 3.47.

Able to draw and transfer thermal energy from the air, under the right circumstances ASHPs represent an efficient way to significantly reduce the carbon emissions of a building. This does come at a higher price point compared to traditional gas-fired systems, so this can be an impediment to their adoption if sustainability gains alone are not enough.

Discover more about Adveco’s growing range of Air Source Heat Pumps

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.

The Adveco 2021 Product Guide Now Available

Hot water and heating specialist Adveco, has published its latest Product Guide for 2021 (PDF). This handy booklet provides a complete overview of Adveco’s current portfolio of commercial hot water and heating products. With the Government’s pledge to deliver net-zero by 2050, the commercial sector faces an increasing challenge to address the carbon emissions from buildings. The recent sixth Carbon Budget put the scale of the challenge into perspective, calling for a 78% reduction in carbon emissions by 2035 if we as a nation are to meet this long-term net-zero commitment.

Whether planning a new build or refurbishing existing buildings, Adveco provides a broad choice of appliances, controls and ancillaries for the design and manufacture of bespoke applications. Supporting the drive to a more sustainable future, Adveco offers an ever-expanding range of renewables; from its long-term provision of solar thermal systems to award-winning boxed Heat Recovery Units, and the latest commercial-grade air source heat pumps.

Wherever a project is located, Adveco can support with the optimal technology; from glass-lined water heaters for hard water areas to corrosion-resistant stainless-steel alternatives for soft water conditions, and renewables that address the limitations of regional climates.

With access to the latest hot water and heating technology, we can ensure your application is provisioned with highly efficient, low-emission appliances, that offer the highest quality, robust construction to ensure longevity and best value investment.

The Adveco 2021 Product Guide provides an easy reference for a range of boilers, buffers and thermal stores for heating projects. It also incorporates the A.O. Smith range of condensing gas and electric water heaters, all supported by Adveco calorifiers, plate heat exchangers and immersions for hot water systems. Also discover the advantages of Adveco offsite construction, providing complete prefabricated plant rooms for heating and hot water systems.

All Adveco’s products are supported by 50 years of industry expertise as the independent provider of application and system design, bespoke manufacture and aftersales service and support. All supplied at a quality only a specialist manufacturer can deliver.

Download the brochure today

Government Outlines Ten Step Plan In Drive Towards Net Zero

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced a £4bn package to:

“Create, support and protect hundreds of thousands of green jobs, whilst making strides towards net zero by 2050. Our green industrial revolution will be powered by the wind turbines, propelled by the electric vehicles and advanced by the latest technologies, so we can look ahead to a more prosperous, greener future.”

The plan is wide-ranging, with a clear focus on creating jobs and addressing climate change at the same time, but many have challenged the allocation of funds needed to deliver on the challenge.

The Prime Minister’s plan outlines ten key deliverables:

  1. Produce enough offshore wind to power every home in the UK, quadrupling how much it produces to 40 gigawatts by 2030.
  2. Create five gigawatts of ‘low carbon’ hydrogen production capacity by 2030 – for industry, transport, power and homes – with the first town heated by hydrogen by 2030.
  3. Making homes, schools and hospitals greener, warmer and more energy efficient, including an aggressive target to install 600,000 heat pumps every year by 2028.
  4. Accelerate the transition to electric vehicles by phasing out sales of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by the end of the decade.
  5. Advancing the provisioning of nuclear power as a clean energy source, with new plant likely to be located at Sizewell and a new generation of small nuclear reactors.
  6. Invest in zero-emission public transport for the future.
  7. Support projects researching zero-emission fuels for planes and ships.
  8. Develop carbon capture technology with a target of removing 10 million tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2030.
  9. Plant 30,000 hectares of trees a year.
  10. Create a global centre of green innovation and finance based in the City of London.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma has stated that the announced £4bn investment is part of a wider £12bn package of public investment, but to put that sum into perspective, Germany has already committed to a €7bn investment in hydrogen alone to deliver a filling station network and create a hydrogen-powered train.

Concerted efforts to further decarbonise the grid through offshore wind, nuclear power and a further a subsidy of up to £500m to develop hydrogen production, partly by excess energy from offshore wind, will continue to impact on the way new and replacement commercial heating and hot water systems will be designed. But there remains little indication of how these investments in the green economy will directly support commercial organisations coming under pressure to address ageing, inefficient systems. The Government failed to gauge the scale of demand from domestic sites with the Green Homes Grant, and this plan has extended that support for a further year to attempt to address the over-subscription already seen, and the same can be said for businesses that are facing a short timeframe to secure non-domestic RHI support, without a clear replacement being announced. The initial propositions for replacement commercial Green Grants, being excised.

The drive to see the installation of 600,000 heat pumps a year by 2028 is again a domestic focus, although hospitals and schools have been quoted in the same breath, and no doubt additional public sector funding is going to be extended to drive this adoption. But it is worth remembering that the demands and complexity of a commercial system based around a heat pump is decidedly more complex than a domestic installation. Even now, the domestic market is struggling to identify where the large number of competent, approved installers for these hundreds of thousands of heat pumps is coming from, and that scenario will be more deeply felt in the commercial space. The lack of provisioning for large scale retraining of installers is concerning, and again a failure to show support for commercial organisations that are increasingly being mandated to demonstrate clear and real investment in sustainable and low carbon technology seems to be a critical oversight. Especially given the percentage of emissions building stock contributes each year.

Labour MP Alun Whitehead, shadow minister for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, has stated that a mixed approach encompassing different technology types such as electric and gas solutions was the way to ensure heat decarbonisation.

“We believe in speedy progress on heat decarbonisation, but we need to see a horses for courses approach. This would include heat pumps – or hybrid heat pumps where appropriate – particularly in new build and off-grid properties; district heating islands in more urban areas; and a substantial expansion of green gas (bio-methane and hydrogen) in the system.”

The Labour Party expects gas heat, specifically from boilers modified for greener fuels, to be an essential part of the decarbonisation of UK buildings. Labour’s Green Economic Recovery strategy hints at the importance of hydrogen, and in sourcing greener hydrogen produced via electrolysis, for transforming how buildings get their heat. It also highlights the need to retrain workers and create new roles around greener energy and infrastructure, as well as supporting businesses to become more sustainable.

There remains a year until the COP26 UN summit, to be hosted in Glasgow, anticipated by many to be the most critical since the Paris Agreement in 2015. That gives twelve months to further define objectives and provide a clear path with meaningful inducement for the commercial sector if the increasingly aggressive timetable is to be met. The previous carbon budgets set by the government have been achieved, but the ‘easy wins’ are now behind us; future carbon budgets are no longer on track to be achieved and it will only get more difficult. This ten-point plan, should be seen as encouraging, establishing a more defined set of targets for the nation, but greater clarity is required and much still needs to be done in terms of ensuring their practical delivery.

Talk to Adveco today about how you can leverage renewables including air source heat pumps, solar thermal and heat recovery to drive sustainability within your commercial hot water and heating systems.

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.


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

For further information contact Adveco.

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

Making ASHP Work For Commercial Applications – Part 1

Understanding the Challenge of Air Source Heat Pumps (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

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.