Broan-Nutone Energy Recovery Ventilators (ERV) (22)
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Forget the fact that heat pump installations in the average home could cost several thousand pounds more than a conventional gas boiler and that fully insulating those homes will add even greater cost to the homeowner. It’s not really the cost issue that could be the only potential bump in the road on the way to the target set by the UK Government, because a more pressing problem to solve will be the shortage of trained ‘green’ heating engineers that will be the key to delivery of the plan. Gas boiler production I’m sure I’m not alone within the industry in adding my support to any drive that leads to a more effective use of environmentally responsible sources of energy for home heating. And following the news that ministers are currently discussing a cut off date of 2035 for all domestic gas boiler production, with an earlier 2025 ban on their installation in new homes, it is encouraging to think that technologies with which we in the industry have been working for a decade or more, will finally become the norm, rather than the green exception. However supportive I and colleagues in the sector might be, we should not shy away from challenging the Government on the delivery of the targets it has announced, because currently we haven’t heard enough in the Government’s Heating and Buildings Strategy about the market’s skills shortage. Heat source technologies At Ameon we’ve been working with green technologies for over a decade, on large scale public sector The truth is that there are simply not enough heating engineers currently who are experienced in the installation of alternative heat source technologies, such as ground or air source heat pumps, and given that tens of thousands of new or re-skilled engineers will be required if the Government’s plan to install 600,000 heat pumps per year by 2028 is to be achieved, then the drive needs to be supported by the associated training provisions to help it meet its goal. At Ameon we’ve been working with green technologies for over a decade, on large scale public sector and residential developments but I feel that aside from building services infrastructure companies like ourselves and others in our sector, there isn’t currently a large enough skills base and therefore the infrastructure needs to be put in place to be able to train enough people to carry out the installation program. Low carbon technologies This could be more of a factor in the achievement of 2035 target aspirations, than even the potential public reluctance to embrace the technology for cost reasons. Whilst specialists in our sector have teams of qualified heating and ventilation engineers who are hugely experienced in low carbon technologies, it has to be acknowledged that their experience and skill set has taken considerable time and investment to develop; therefore I hope the Government hasn’t underestimated the vital importance of training. This could be more of a factor in the achievement of 2035 target aspirations You can’t simply ask domestic heating engineers, who are used to fitting conventional gas boilers, to switch to installing ground or air source heat pumps overnight. There are significant differences in the science and the technology, together with the requirement by law for engineers to be F-gas registered, proving that they are qualified in the safe handling of fluorinated refrigerant gases (F-gas), which are ozone depleting substances crucial to the heat pump delivery process. Conventional gas boilers Then, there’s the need for engineers to understand how to design low temperature water systems and avoid such things as Legionella bacteria creeping into the system. There is much more to learn for someone used to installing boilers that heat water to a temperature to pasteurize it, because the public health element is a key factor too. So there needs to be significant retraining and, of course, the time to create the infrastructure to deliver the training. The other related issues, such as where training would be delivered and who funds it can be more easily addressed. After all, the Chancellor has protected UK businesses at the drop of a hat in the midst of a pandemic, and the country has, in short time, created a hugely efficient mass-vaccination program; proving that anything is possible. Reducing carbon emissions Steve Baker, has warned of public anger if all implications of the Government’s plans are not explained Currently discussions in Whitehall include such ideas as homeowners being required to install ‘green’ heating before they can sell their property, or levying a surcharge on gas boilers to subsidize production of heat pumps: although no firm decision has yet been taken. It is reported that former Conservative minister, Steve Baker, has warned of public anger if all implications of the Government’s plans are not explained fully to homeowners, which is why I and others will add our voices to the many questions that really need to be answered. That doesn’t mean we in industry are not fully supportive of the Government’s aspirations. The public too appears to be broadly behind this move to reduce carbon emissions, particularly as gas boilers account for a percentage of CO2 produced annually; therefore it is an important area to focus upon if ‘net zero’ carbon emissions by 2050 are to be achieved. Newly trained engineers Roughly 85% of UK homes currently rely on gas for heating, which is around 25 million homes, so the scale of the change required is immense. Even if the UK had the qualified engineers to start from day one, which it doesn’t, the targets are ambitious to say the least. It is my view that investment in training has to be at the heart of the Government’s planning. That could be delivered on the job, in the classroom, or, as has become the norm during lockdown, via online platforms such as Teams, Zoom or Skype. So if the will is there and the resources are in place to fund training, the method is the easier part of the process. What’s less certain is whether the army of re-skilled and newly trained engineers can be deployed quickly enough to achieve the target set. The clock is ticking...
With ongoing efforts from governments across the globe to reduce carbon emissions and with an ever greater focus on sustainability, it is vital that the HVAC sector does its part in becoming more environmentally conscious. And, while there have been steps to become more sustainable, there is a huge amount that still needs to be done to make sure that many of the targets that have been set are attainable. In buildings, both large and small, industrial heating accounts for roughly two thirds of industrial energy demand and around a fifth of global energy consumption. Figures like this show the need to have efficient and environmentally-friendly HVAC equipment in place to make the crucial steps towards reducing the contributions these systems make to our carbon footprint. High energy consumption in construction sector A 2019 report by The International Environment Agency (IEA) showed that the buildings and construction sectors combined were responsible for over 30% of global energy consumption and nearly 40% of carbon emissions. This is indicative of the steps the sector needs to take to play its role in a more eco-friendly society, some of which are already underway. However, much more needs to be done if the UK is to reach its goal of reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050. As we envisage what a post-COVID world might look like, businesses and governments are continuing to put sustainability and lower carbon emissions at the forefront of their planning and the HVAC sector is certainly no exception. But with change in the sector a daunting prospect, decision-makers often don’t know where to start. Smart Technology use in HVAC systems Smart HVAC uses sensors that integrate with a building’s automation system With the constant growth and greater deployment of smart technologies within the HVAC sector, this is certainly a way that systems can become more efficient. Smart HVAC uses sensors that integrate with a building’s automation system. These sensors then collect information about conditions throughout the building. Heat waves are now a far more common occurrence in the United Kingdom. The Met Office estimates they are up to 30 times more likely and will be a bi-annual occurrence by 2050. It is important that any uptake in HVAC usage doesn’t lead to a drastic increase in emission generation. This is one of the areas where smart systems will become crucial. Many scientists have been unequivocal in their sentiment that heat waves are a cause of greater emissions and expect temperature records in the UK and Europe to be broken more regularly, so sites will need to be equipped to handle these conditions. Regulating temperature with hand-held devices With wireless systems now much more commonplace, temperatures can be controlled easily from hand-held devices. With these new technologies, those managing the systems can also benefit from remote monitoring and maintenance, reducing the need to travel to the site for yet another environmental incentive. To accompany the smart systems, equipment including smart thermostats can be installed to maximize HVAC efficiency. Other smart systems available to businesses include smart furnaces and air conditioning units that are far easier to operate than their traditional counterparts. Reducing unnecessary ventilation While global temperatures continue to rise, air conditioning usage has increased and has contributed to greater levels of energy usage. A huge amount of needless emissions are generated by unnecessary ventilation, contributing heavily to heat loss and overall energy wastage. Recirculation of air is a traditionally lower energy cost method of retaining heat and keeping emissions low, however, we must be mindful of the risks associated with recirculating air. The risk of circulating diseases is negated somewhat with heat recovery ventilation, which both removes the risk of disease spreading and improves energy consumption. Efficiency performance of new AC units Air conditioning units in particular contribute significantly to a building’s energy consumption Air conditioning units in particular contribute significantly to a building’s energy consumption, equating to 10% of the UK’s electricity consumption and as such it is important that we bear in mind ways to counteract the emissions this creates. Global energy demand for air conditioning units is expected to triple by 2050, as temperatures continue to rise year on year. The efficiency performance of new air conditioning units will be the key, when it comes to ensuring that escalating demand does not equate to greater emissions. Another issue for suppliers and manufacturers to address is differing rates of consumption for AC units in different countries, with units sold in Japan and the EU typically more efficient than those found in China and the US. Modularization Modular HVACs have also become increasingly popular in recent years. Modular HVACs are responsible for heating, cooling and distributing air through an entire building, with their increase in popularity largely down to their greater levels of energy efficiency, cost effectiveness, flexibility and substantial ease of installation and maintenance. Modular HVACs can be tailored specifically for workspaces and they often allow work to be done on the systems without disturbing the workforce, achieved primarily through rooftop placement. Commercial workspaces are larger and often require differing needs to residential properties and can cater to a wide range of the specific requirements of work and commercial spaces. As we strive for lower carbon emissions, it seems that this trend will continue and will become a key area in reducing emissions that HVACs have traditionally generated. System maintenance and training To meet government and industry requirements, many new buildings will require HVAC systems that can be maintained simply in order to perform in a more energy efficient way. Many companies are looking at ways to become climate neutral and significantly reduce their footprint Many companies are looking at ways to become climate neutral and significantly reduce their footprint. Companies are following the likes of German-based company, Wilo Group, who have announced they are committing to sustainable manufacturing by developing a new carbon neutral plant and HQ in the next few years. Lowering carbon footprint As we continue to move towards an ever more environmentally conscious society, it will be of paramount importance for companies, governments and the public to think about ways in which we can lower carbon emissions. Smart technologies will certainly be at the forefront of this, negating many needless journeys and making it easier for industries to adjust settings and tackle issues remotely. Greater levels of training will help equip us with the tools to make sure we are best placed to reduce emissions and be more sustainable as a result. While the steps outlined above do show some progress and measures we can take, there is far more that we can do as a sector to significantly reduce HVAC’s carbon footprint and once we have moved beyond the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, this will surely be at the front of industry leader minds.
The education field was faced with multiple challenges this past year. Not only did the COVID-19 pandemic bring the necessity of online learning, but it has also brought up necessary changes to physical schools and universities, when reopening time arrives. The health and safety of students, staff, and faculty has become a priority for directors of school operations, who have been working to properly adapt school facilities to this new reality we are facing. Ensuring health and safety of students Besides safety measures like the addition of hand sanitizers, reinforcing the use of masks and social distancing, these professionals were faced with an even bigger and more important issue: ventilation and airflow indoors. School facilities have many unique features that increase the concerns regarding indoor air quality. Occupants are usually very close together, considering that school buildings have four times as many occupants as office buildings for the same amount of floor space (EPA). Variety of pollutant sources According to the WHO, the virus can also spread in poorly ventilated and/or crowded indoor settings Other issues include tight budgets, the presence of a variety of pollutant sources (including specialty classrooms, like art, gyms, and labs), concentrated diesel exhaust exposure due to school buses in the property, and a large amount of heating and ventilation systems that may cause an added strain on maintenance staff. On top of that, schools usually have to worry about child safety issues, concerned parents, and wellbeing of faculty and staff. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the virus can also spread in poorly ventilated and/or crowded indoor settings, where people tend to spend longer periods of time and aerosols particles tend to be suspended in the air, which leads to the importance of indoor air quality in classrooms. Importance of natural ventilation and HVAC systems Natural ventilation and HVAC systems are the basic methods to bring clean air indoors, however, schools that rely only on these methods of ventilation need to be aware of their potential limitations. HVAC systems, for example, should have regular maintenance checks and filter changes, in cases where the system is less sophisticated, schools need to add new forms of air purification to effectively mitigate airborne pathogens. Studies showing quality of air in US schools Studies have shown that low-standards HVAC ventilation systems may contribute to airborne diseases transmission due to low air exchanges rates, poor maintenance and lack of high-efficiency filters. For this reason, portable air cleaners are becoming more and more popular to create a healthy learning environment. EnviroKlenz, an indoor air quality company, conducted real-life setting studies to show the quality of the air in schools in different areas of the United States. The study measured the amount of particulate matter in classrooms, with and without the use of additional portable filtration systems, which allowed for comparison and analysis of the benefits a portable air cleaner can provide. National EPA standards for indoor particulate matter The study also compared the current data to the national EPA standards for indoor particulate matter (PM), in order to evaluate the performance of the EnviroKlenz Air System Plus. The IAQ meters focused on PM1, which is about 1 micrometer in size (70 times smaller than the diameter of human hair!). The systems ran in operational educational environments, with daily schedules being carried out as usual and results can be seen below. School directors of operations also must pay attention to the different technologies available in portable air cleaners. With the growth of the industry, new emerging technologies have come up, and there’s still lack of third-party testing to prove their efficacy. Other technologies, like carbon filters, do not work against airborne pathogens and may release harmful byproducts back into the environment. EnviroKlenz Air System Plus EnviroKlenz Air System Plus, which utilizes a patented earth mineral technology to capture pathogens, is at 99.9% efficiency The EnviroKlenz Air System Plus, which utilizes a patented earth mineral technology to capture virus, bacteria and other harmful pathogens, is at 99.9% efficiency and is complemented by a medical-grade HEPA filter and UV-C lights, was also tested against a carbon-based air cleaner in a classroom. As shown below, the carbon system struggled to keep consistency, with peaks and valleys throughout the day. Meanwhile, when the EnviroKlenz Air System Plus was turned on, the PM1 levels were steadily low for over 4 consecutive days. Deploying portable air cleaners in classrooms Adding a portable air cleaner to classrooms and common areas will increase air exchange rate and mitigation efforts, but the long-term benefits go beyond the pandemic. Studies have shown that good indoor air and ventilation rates are directly linked with students’ academic achievements and can increase performance. High CO2 levels in a school environment are also associated with lower average annual attendance and worse individual test performance. Other long-term benefits include reducing symptoms of those who suffer from respiratory diseases and creating a favorable environment not only for students, but also for teachers and staff; while bringing a sense of comfort and well-being to parents and the community. Combined benefits of air filtration, ventilation, and purification “When we’re operating more normally, maybe we’ll be able to cut down on some of the traditional flu-peaks that schools have, or cold peaks, that kids just bring into school, by managing the airborne virus and bacteria quality,” said Peter Twadell, Head of School at Birches School in the US, and an EnviroKlenz Customer. School officials need to consider the combined benefits offered by filtration, ventilation, and purification methods to create the healthiest environment possible. Thinking in a pandemic-conscious mindset, air quality has gained the recognition it deserves in creating a proper and healthy learning environment.
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