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Purewell VariHeat boilers installed at Canford School

Bringing down the cost of heating

Schools and universities can reduce energy bills by up to 35 percent with heating system improvements, says UK company

Posted by Dave Higgitt | May 01, 2015 | Facilities & buildings

As has been widely reported, it is now more important than ever for schools and education establishments to keep a handle on running costs and where possible minimise outgoings. A large overhead for schools is energy use – namely gas and electricity. Schools can be complex buildings to manage. They are often old buildings that are spread out across a site as well as split into teaching zones with different heating and hot water requirements. A simple review of the current boilers and water heating equipment, however, can show how inefficient products may be wasting energy and money.

Often products are selected based on the purchase price. However, in many cases, the real expense of the product selection is reflected in the running costs, including service, maintenance and energy. Energy overheads in particular can typically account for 85 to 95 percent of the total costs over the product lifecycle.

The first step is usually to establish the existing heating capacity and understand if there have been changes to the building which will affect the demand for heat or hot water and therefore the size of the boiler. Stuart Turner, national sales manager for Hamworthy Heating, often visits school sites to review their heating and has seen boilers as old as 50 years still being used. He says: “Although it is great these boilers have stood the test of time, they are now dated and operating inefficiently. In some instances we have found that the building and classrooms have had a change of use since the boilers were originally installed. This means the equipment may be heating up a much smaller or larger area and in some cases are not even needed. Modern boilers are capable of higher outputs from a single module so there may be the opportunity to reduce the amount of equipment in the boiler house, thus making savings in ongoing maintenance and service.

“The boiler needs to deliver the right amount of heat or hot water at the right time in the right place, otherwise energy is wasted. Getting the right sized boiler ensures the school is only paying for energy that is needed, resulting in lower fuel bills and ultimately lessening carbon emissions.”

Stuart believes that upgrading to condensing modular boilers and improved controls can give best value for money and enable schools to achieve real tangible benefits right away; reduced fuel bills and more comfortable building temperatures. He adds: “When selecting a gas boiler the first thing to look at is gas usage and cost. We encourage schools to look at their last three years of heating bills and we show what savings can be made and the return on investment of an upgraded heating system. This helps to justify the capital expenditure for the project.”

Reviewing whole-life costs means comparing the capital costs and operational costs for a school heating system. According to Hamworthy, it is quite possible to achieve real savings of as much as 35 percent on heating bills by using modern, efficient boilers and the right control strategy, with money previously spent on wasted energy put to much better use. As an example, the company has compared an atmospheric boiler system with a condensing boiler system in a building with heating continuously available on demand, seven days a week for a 39-week heating season. Costs have been based on a 25-year life and the operation and energy costs include inflation at 2 percent. The company’s findings were that: 

• energy costs (in particular gas) account for the highest proportion over the life of both products, typically 90-95 percent

• over the life of the boiler plant you could see a 35 percent saving in gas consumption – £220,000

• taking into account the initial outlay for condensing boilers, a saving of more than £200,000 can still be gained over the life of the boiler – an annual saving of approximately £8,000

• as a result of reducing the gas consumption there will be an associated reduction in carbon emissions – 35 percent

• newer condensing boilers can provide up to 80 percent reduction in NOx emissions over atmospheric boilers and are more likely to comply with the NOx level stipulated in ErP Sept 2015 (levels to be at less than 56 mg/kWhr).

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