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With the UK committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050, drastic action is needed by the government. For new-build homes, there’s a gas boiler ban coming in less than five years’ time. And for older properties, it’s likely that gas prices will continue to rise, to encourage homeowners to switch to a more sustainable alternative. Renewable heating market With this in mind, the renewable heating market is growing rapidly, albeit from a very small base – but with targets in place to keep the momentum up. The government has committed to install 600,000 heat pumps into new homes by 2028. The government has committed to install 600,000 heat pumps into new homes by 2028 People who are already living in (old and new) properties heated by renewable technology should be applauded for pioneering it – but understandably, not everyone has the confidence to give up a solution they’re familiar with, and to step into the relative unknown. And that’s why the value of transitional technologies cannot be over-estimated– both to homeowners who want to live more sustainably and to installers looking to adapt and future-proof their businesses. But the role that hybrid heat pumps can play in accelerating progress on the road to zero has been somewhat overlooked to date. Hybrid heat pumps Hybrid heat pumps combine the power of a heat pump with the familiarity of a high-efficiency boiler. The two appliances work together to provide heating and hot water, providing the ideal replacement for a combi boiler as a first step towards introducing renewable heating technology into the home. Compared to a traditional gas boiler, hybrid heat pump systems can reduce CO2 emissions by as much as 55% and have been proven to deliver up to a 50% reduction in energy bills in homes in the UK. Our Daikin Altherma hybrid heat pump’s smart programming helps to save up to 35% more energy than a traditional condensing boiler by automatically determining the most economically and energy-efficient operating combination based on energy prices, outdoor temperatures, and indoor heat capacity. Heat pump share The hybrid system’s operating mode can be shifted to more electric heat pump share As well as being quick to install, hybrid systems are designed to look and operate like a conventional boiler system and deliver like-for-like performance and comfort levels. And to give homeowners peace of mind, the heat pump can act as a back-up for the boiler, and vice-versa – meaning they’ll never be caught short. Hybrid systems are best-suited to smaller homes in urban areas, that are likely to have a combi-boiler, and where the shell of the building is not energy-efficient enough to rely on electricity alone. But as the efficiency of the building is improved and upgraded over time, the hybrid system’s operating mode can be shifted to more electric heat pump share. And while there’s a lot of talk about new homes in the renewable heating debate, hybrid technology is ideal for renovations and boiler replacements. Heating system replacements We estimate that there are 1.1 million homes across the country that would be well-served by a hybrid system. That, combined with the benefits of hybrids for both installers and consumers, is why we firmly believe in hybrid heat pumps’ potential to support a faster, easier, and more affordable transition to low carbon heating in this country. Every homeowner who buys a Daikin Altherma hybrid system gets a high-efficiency boiler for free When consumers are looking at heating system replacements, we know that complexity and disruption are barriers to purchase. Fortunately, neither is an issue with hybrids. While hybrid heat pump systems can be installed with a household’s existing boiler, to help increase uptake, we’re running a special offer at the moment whereby every homeowner who buys a Daikin Altherma hybrid system gets a brand-new, high-efficiency boiler for free. Low carbon technology And there’s no need to lose valuable floor space to a hot water cylinder or to make changes to the radiators. Hybrids aren’t just good news for homeowners; they represent a real opportunity for installers, too. At the moment, there are 1,000 heat pump installers in the UK and around 125,000 gas boiler installers. We need to transition these boiler installers towards low carbon technology – not just to drive progress on the road to net zero, but to help their businesses stay relevant and competitive. This year, in partnership with 11 of our Daikin Sustainable Home Centres across the UK, we’re running a free nationwide training program to help installers enter the renewable heating market with hybrid heat pumps. eco-Friendly hybrid solution Reducing electricity prices isn’t enough to encourage people to change the way they heat their homes Installers who complete the day-long course can expand their portfolio and gain the skills to upgrade customers to an eco-friendly hybrid solution. Reducing electricity prices isn’t enough to encourage people to change the way they heat their homes; more needs to be done to make new, clean technologies accessible and appealing. We’re doing what we can to incentivize homeowners – and installers – to embrace the possibilities of a hybrid heat pump system, but a clear funding mechanism from Government is needed as well, specifically to help with the upfront cost of upgrading (free boiler or no free boiler). While the now-closed Green Homes Grant explicitly included hybrid heat pump technology, there’s a big question as to whether the same hybrid solutions will be included in the Clean Heat Grant – the details of which are expected later this year. The answer to that question needs to be ‘yes’.
In 2019, the UK became the first major economy in the world to pass laws to end its contribution to global warming by 2050 - a landmark moment on the road to net zero. To meet that target, owners and managers of commercial buildings are increasingly facing more standards, regulations, and legislation to promote carbon reduction. This may pose challenges when it comes to investing in building service technologies, but the net-zero goal also provides an opportunity to embrace new approaches to the design and operation of commercial buildings. Heat commercial buildings When we look at reducing the carbon impact of a building, heating is an important factor to consider. Heating and hot water are significant contributors to a building’s carbon emissions. In fact, they create nearly a third (32%) of the total carbon emissions in the UK. Luckily, the technology to heat commercial buildings in a more energy-efficient, renewable way is already out there - in the form of heat pumps. There is legislation focused on the provision of heat to commercial buildings that need to be considered So, what benefits can heat pumps offer, and how can building managers be sure that they are the right solution for a commercial space? There are already regulations in place to help reach net-zero – from the Climate Change Act in 2008 to the Green Growth Strategy in 2017. More specifically, there is legislation focused on the provision of heat to commercial buildings that need to be considered. Energy efficiency standards Part L of the Building Regulations states that non-domestic buildings should be moving to low-carbon heat sources, the minimum energy efficiency standards means it’s illegal to let any property with an EPC rating of less than band ‘E’, and the Non-Domestic RHI has been extended until 2022, in order to help overcome barriers to investing in renewable heating. There is also growing interest in embodied carbon in commercial buildings, and considering the amount of carbon produced by a building across its whole lifecycle, it’s important to understand the full environmental cost of the extraction, processing, manufacture, delivery, and assembly of every single product or material used. Conventional electric heating The government has already set a target of 600,000 heat pump installations per year by 2030 Needing to consider all of these factors may seem like a lot, but it serves to show that focusing on renewable heating now is the best way to future-proof commercial buildings for years to come. Heat pumps are central to reaching this decarbonized future, with the Carbon Trust finding that heat pumps have the potential to deliver CO2 savings of up to 70% compared to conventional electric heating, and up to 65% compared to an A-rated gas boiler. The government has already set a target of 600,000 heat pump installations per year by 2030, and the Committee on Climate Change estimates that 19 million heat pumps will need to be installed by 2050 to achieve the net-zero goal. Offering renewable heating To reach this goal, uptake needs to maintain momentum. As well as offering renewable heating, heat pumps allow for a reduction in running costs and increased efficiencies, and are increasingly becoming the first choice for building managers planning renovations - because they are designed for both retro-fit and new build, are easy to design and install, and are scalable to work with other systems. In the years since heat pumps first became available, the choice of heat pumps has expanded This means they’re a suitable solution for almost any space, and are even able to work alongside existing heating systems in a hybrid situation if required. A heat pump is an ideal solution for commercial buildings, it’s just a case of finding the right one for the job. In the years since heat pumps first became available, the choice of heat pumps has expanded, and building owners are now able to select exactly the right equipment for a building’s requirements. Combining residential homes For example, heat pumps can now work at higher temperatures, meaning they are a great option for spaces like hotels, hospitals, and leisure centers where there is a high demand for hot water at peak times – removing the need to use a gas boiler. This is also a compelling case for heat pumps in mixed-use buildings – which is a burgeoning space in the UK-built environment. Buildings which combine residential homes and commercial businesses have a wide variety of heating and cooling requirements within the same structure. Traditionally, this is where gas boilers, combined heat and power systems, or electric water heating would have come in. Heat pump installations Modern heat pumps can also be applied in buildings alongside other technologies Now, high-temperature heat pumps – like the 40kW Ecodan QAHV – can deliver hot water up to 90°C, helping businesses increase the efficiency of hot water production while slashing their carbon footprint. Other heat pumps can offer options for a modular approach, so that multiple devices can operate in one system. This means that the multiple-unit system can cascade available units on and off, to meet the required load of a building. It also means heat pump installations are scalable, and can work for a small doctor's surgery through to entire district heating projects. Modern heat pumps can also be applied in buildings alongside other technologies, and boost the renewable element of a project – reducing the requirement for heat energy. Commercial heat pumps Finally, to satisfy these needs without compromising on sustainability and the green imperative would have been challenging, before the advent of commercial heat pumps. Reaching net-zero and moving to renewable technology is now a priority for everyone. For building services professionals, there is a real opportunity to lead the way, and encourage clients to take a new approach to heating and hot water in commercial buildings. The heating equipment we install will be in a building for at least a decade, so installing a heating system based on fossil fuels might risk leaving the building as a ‘stranded asset’ in the future. Making the move to renewable heating will help ensure buildings are meeting efficient and environmental standards for years to come.
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.
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