Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Carl Turbitt, ABB’s UK HVAC Drives Team Leader, writes:  According to the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC), 40 percent of the UK’s energy consumption and carbon emissions come from the way we heat, light, cool and use the building we occupy.

Yet despite the significant opportunities available to improve the energy efficiency of these buildings, only 15 percent of the investments made in upgrading buildings have a focus on energy savings.

So why isn’t the proportion of investment bigger? Well spending by commercial building owners is, according to Energy Live News, expected to reach £565 million by 2023 on measures to improve building energy efficiency.  So the investment levels are certainly there.

There is also a clearly incentive for building managers to be thinking about energy efficiency, as the government-backed schemes like the Green Deal, CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme and Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) are incentivising businesses and building owners to reduce energy usage as much as possible and are making businesses more accountable for their energy consumption.

A report carried out by Navigant Research looked at the energy efficiency retrofits for commercial and public buildings, and found that a major driver to upgrade existing building systems was the payback period.

Payback on energy savings retrofits has been steadily decreasing over the years, but still remains a hurdle that many building owners and managers struggle to overcome when trying to secure the capital expenditure (CAPEX).  The justification for investment is sometime hard to explain and is often misunderstood, and therefore the investment needed doesn’t happen.

One way to overcome this hurdle is to ensure that the energy saving upgrades are the ones that are giving the maximum reduction in energy usage, and that the upgrades focus on the entire system and overall building efficiency and extend beyond a single component or system swap-out strategy.

While swapping out one component or system will have an effect on the energy consumption of the building, the real potential to save energy is being overlooked by not assessing the associated components and systems in the building. Carrying out an energy audit of the building is a way that this focus can be achieved.

The audit should focus on the applications that are running for the highest number of hours, as these are typically where the biggest impact on reducing energy consumption can be had.

A heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system is one such intense energy consumer that is often overlooked.  Carrying out an audit on a HVAC system allows the running hours, control mechanisms, fans, compressors and pumps all to be assessed, with the potential for any energy savings calculated by upgrading all these areas.

Fitting variable-speed drives in place of conventional control, the HVAC system can save between 30 and 70 percent in energy bills.  This is just one of several components in a HVAC system that if matched with a more energy efficient motor, optimised fans and compressors in one package can see even more significant reductions in energy consumption and energy bills.

To understand how much untapped savings potential lies in your buildings, contact the ABB Energy Appraisal Team.

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