Making a mark for energy efficiency

Since a large proportion of energy is used in both commercial and domestic buildings – for heating, lighting and general power – a high level of carbon dioxide, the principle greenhouse gas associated with climate change and global warming, is emitted as a result.  In fact, according to Communities and Local Government, buildings are responsible for almost 50% of the UK’s energy consumption and carbon emissions. 
The consequences of not taking action to reduce these emissions are all too apparent – devastating floods and hurricanes are recent reminders of the serious impact climate change can have. 

And, as part of the process to reduce carbon emissions from the UK and other EU member states, the European Commission’s Eco-Design of Energy Using Products (EuP) Directive has been introduced to reduce the environmental impact of products throughout their life cycle. 
Focus on products
The EuP Directive’s current focus is on products which use large amounts of energy, although there are many product groups – or ‘lots’ as they are also known – being investigated with a view to being regulated.  They range from water heaters, boilers, PCs, copiers, faxes, printers, scanners, TVs, standby and off-mode losses, lighting and residential air conditioning and ventilation to commercial and domestic refrigerators and freezers, domestic dishwashers, washing machines and vacuum cleaners.
Water heaters, and indeed boilers, are a key focus because they are responsible for a large proportion of the energy used in domestic and commercial buildings.  In fact, water heaters are probably the single largest user of energy in many properties, as, unlike heating, hot water is used all year round.
An Eco-Design study into the water heating industry was completed in September 2007, and a consultation on how this might be implemented is currently taking place.  The recommendations were originally scheduled to be introduced during the first quarter of 2009, but this has now been postponed until 2010.         
As the consultation process is still taking place, we cannot be sure what the recommendations will be.  However, we believe it’s very likely that energy labels will be introduced for all water heaters.  Therefore they’ll be energy efficiency rated and marked like other domestic appliances such as washing machines, fridges and dishwashers already are.
Though the actual EuP ratings and methodology haven’t been finalised yet, it’s likely that the energy efficiency ratings for water heaters will go from A to G, as with other domestic appliances.  There is also talk of three additional ratings of A+, A++ and A+++, which will cover the inclusion of renewables, with ratings A to G covering conventional systems.      
Looking at the other end of the scale, it’s highly probable that the lower ratings of G, F and E will be gradually phased out in order for the UK and other EU countries to achieve even greater levels of energy efficiency.  So, in the future, manufacturers will only be making and selling higher efficiency water heaters, and the less efficient products will disappear. 
Good news
Once the EuP Directive is enforced in 2010, labelling will be much clearer and products will be tested more thoroughly, giving end users the opportunity to assess products on a like-for-like basis.  This is good news for building services managers responsible for specifying water heating systems, as it will obviously be simpler for them to identify the most energy efficient products.
And, with the cost of oil spiralling and the Climate Change Levy in place – which is effectively a tax on the use of energy in industry, commerce and the public sector – anyone specifying equipment in commercial buildings will be finding themselves under increasing pressure to reduce energy usage. 
On top of this there are Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs), which are required for all commercial buildings when they are constructed, sold or rented (mandatory from October 2008, with very few exemptions).  EPCs are actually another part of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, with the idea being to assess commercial buildings in terms of their efficiency; being treated in much the same way as energy using products. 
The new labelling scheme will enable building services managers to more easily comply with Part L2 of the Building Regulations too, which requires new non-domestic buildings, and in some instances existing ones, to be assessed for total annual energy usage and carbon emissions. 
Become more efficient
All of this means that, in order to continue being specified, today’s water heating products need to become more efficient.  We believe that the EuP Directive will actually make things much more transparent – preventing companies from making unqualified claims about performance and energy savings, and enabling leading manufacturers to differentiate their offering from lower cost, lower quality, less efficient products.
At Heatrae Sadia, our new product development has been geared towards energy efficiency and sustainability for some time – with the aim of producing products that are as environmentally friendly as possible.  Improving product insulation to minimise heat losses has been one of our key aims.  For example we have just improved the heat loss figures of our Megaflo HE unvented hot water cylinder by providing an insulated cover for the temperature/pressure relief valve.           
We are also looking to develop a range of renewable products to join our existing solar thermal water heating cylinders; Megatech and the Santon PremierPlus Solar.  Fortunately, hot water storage can be successfully integrated with renewable technologies such as solar thermal systems and heat pumps.  Any hot water produced by a renewable source needs to be stored in a cylinder, where it will remain until it is needed.  The cylinder is topped up by a boiler or an immersion heater (running on conventional fuels) when required.  
The renewable technology currently proving most popular is solar thermal water heating.  Solar thermal systems utilise the most abundant energy source on the planet; collecting energy from the sun’s rays and converting it directly into heat via collector panels or evacuated tubes positioned on a building’s roof.  This energy heats a liquid contained in the system’s pipework, which is then circulated through a solar coil located in the base of a specially designed cylinder.  This coil transfers heat to water stored in the cylinder – producing hot water.  Though in the UK the sun’s energy can only deliver a proportion of our hot water requirements, it’s still significant and the technology can really help to cut down carbon emissions and energy usage. 
There is a clear need for water heating products to become more efficient – and Heatrae Sadia fully supports this.  Legislation is a key driver, and the EuP Directive is already encouraging water heating manufacturers to think about environmental impact when they are designing and developing products.  By the time the EuP recommendations are implemented in 2010 there will already be a new generation of more energy efficient water heating products available for building services managers to choose from, enabling them to contribute to the reduction of carbon emissions in the buildings they are responsible for.

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