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Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) - Expert Commentary

The Low-Carbon Heating Toolbox: Making The Case Beyond Heat Pumps
The Low-Carbon Heating Toolbox: Making The Case Beyond Heat Pumps

At the moment, it seems as though a day rarely goes by without low-carbon heating hitting the headlines. Whether it is reports of ‘revamping’ the Clean Heat Grant, to include a ‘boiler scrappage’ scheme, which may offer home owners up to £7000 to make the switch to a low-carbon alternative, to speculation that the Prime Minister is under pressure to push back the 2035 ban on gas boilers, the debate on how and when the low-carbon heating revolution will happen is ongoing. BEIS Hydrogen Strategy We have also seen the recently published, Hydrogen Strategy from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) that cements its plans to develop technologies that allow hydrogen-powered heating in people’s homes. In addition to this, the Future Homes Task Force, including some of the United Kingdom’s largest property developers, regulators, suppliers and environmental groups, have agreed to the sector-wide Future Homes Delivery Plan, to build homes that are ‘zero-carbon ready’ and sustainable by 2025. Alternative energy, key to hitting net zero targets by 2050 What is also clear is that tackling the decarbonization of heat is not a one-technology solution According to the Climate Change Committee, in a report published in December 2020, the UK’s homes are responsible for around 15 percent of emissions. As a result, the need to install alternatives to traditional fossil fuel heating systems will be crucial, to hitting our net zero targets, by 2050. This will be the key challenge that the delayed Heat and Buildings Strategy, now due in the autumn season, will need to address. Therefore, what is also clear is that tackling the decarbonization of heat is not a one-technology solution. Target to install air source heat pumps in UK homes So far, much of the focus has been on heat pumps, as the UK Government has set an ambitious target of installing 600,000 air source heat pumps (ASHPs) in UK homes each year, by 2028. However, there are a number of challenges to achieve this goal, as house builders will need convincing to install heat pumps in new builds, and home owners and landlords will need convincing to retrofit older properties. Cost, a key issue in air source heat pumps installation Cost will also be a key issue, even with a government grant and ASHPs can be complex to install. They can also emit noise that breaches legal limits, if placed too close to a neighboring property. In addition, they won’t be suitable for all properties, as the needs of a 4-bedroom new build home are very different to a 1970s apartment, a Victorian-era terrace, a social housing property or an off-grid home. Computer-controlled infrared heating (CCIR) One of the alternatives is computer-controlled infrared heating, which addresses many of the issues faced by ASHPs Taking all of these challenges into account, BEIS has said that it is ‘uncertain’ what the ‘optimal solution’ is, when it comes to low-carbon heating. Certainly, there is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution for heating the UK’s homes, which is why it is vital that house builders, landlords, contractors, installers and developers explore the full range of low-carbon heating technologies that are available today. There are alternatives that can provide benefits that are much more likely to appeal to a wider range of end-user audiences. One of the alternatives is computer-controlled infrared heating (CCIR), which addresses many of the issues faced by ASHPs. High-performance heating Firstly, infrared is an intrinsically more effective source of heat than conventional convection heating, because it heats the material within a room, rather than the air, which can escape from doors and windows. CCIR systems also outperform many other low-carbon technologies, because the software within each panel constantly monitors each individual room and learns about the energy storage characteristics within it, adjusting its routine to maintain the ambient temperature within the room, maximizing its performance and using fewer units of energy, in comparison to a traditional heating system. KERS water heating system This keeps energy bills low, and meets increasing sustainability standards. Figures show that, out of 29 million homes in the United Kingdom, 19 million have an EPC lower than C. Together with Ambion Heating’s KERS water heating system, inefficient properties can be brought up to a minimum EPC C. CCIR also costs less to install than many other low-carbon heating alternatives CCIR also costs less to install than many other low-carbon heating alternatives. In a typical three-bedroom house, for example, the estimated cost of installing a CCIR system is around £6,000, compared to nearly £10,500 for an ASHP. They are also easy to install, whether they’re being retrofitted into an existing building or installed within a new build, because they can simply be wired into the mains, by a qualified electrician. Enhanced comfort and reduced emissions The heat CCIR provides feels more natural and comfortable, once the fabric of the room is saturated with energy, and it emits a comfortable, radiant heat. It also reduces humidity, as well as improves the air quality within a building, reducing the amount of circulating dust. In fact, in an independent performance review, CCIR provided the same levels of comfort within a room, using 60% less energy than a standard electric convection system, and on a par with ASHPs. Heating solutions for a low-carbon future While there is a real urgency, when it comes to decarbonizing heat, it’s vital to consider which technologies offer the most benefits to the end user. By understanding and investigating all of the alternatives to gas central heating, such as CCIR, the benefits will not only be felt in the short term, they are a sustainable solution for the longer term.

Maintain Excellent Indoor Air Quality With HVAC Upgrades
Maintain Excellent Indoor Air Quality With HVAC Upgrades

Indoor air quality (IAQ) has become an area of emphasis among those in the HVAC industry and on a national level. Homes, offices, schools, and everything in between are being reevaluated with the ambition of having the best IAQ possible. Maintaining a high level of air quality is an important factor in encouraging a cleaner indoor breathing environment, which can lead to the better overall health and well-being of our families and communities. Clean air is especially important now with more waves of COVID-19 hitting and the onset of seasonal sicknesses like the flu and colds on the horizon. Now is the time for HVAC manufacturers to implement solutions to make returning to everyday life more seamless as we venture back out into the world.  Mechanical HVAC equipment offers the perfect opportunity to improve IAQ in commercial facilities. Facility managers choosing to opt for enhanced air quality should focus on three areas for unit upgrades: controlled ventilation, dehumidification, and filtration. While there are countless minor changes one can make to improve IAQ, such as using exhaust fans to increase circulation, HVAC upgrades are the best and most efficient option to give building occupants the IAQ they need for maximum comfort and safety. Out with the old, in with the new Ventilation and the ability to control it are a necessity in maintaining a high level of air quality. Being able to control how much outdoor air circulates inside gives facility managers a tool to not only improve IAQ but also create consistent comfort for the building occupants.    Controlled ventilation creates an avenue to help occupants breathe easier, feel better and be more proactive Outdoor air tends to be cleaner than indoor air, so bringing air in from outside is vital. Controlled ventilation creates an avenue to help occupants breathe easier, feel better and be more proactive in your space. With the proper HVAC upgrades, you can make sure the ventilation rate is controlled in a manner that will be most beneficial and effective for specific situations. By pushing indoor air out and bringing new outdoor air in, you are effectively limiting the number of harmful pathogens from the commercial space. Limiting particles in the air It is important to make sure your HVAC system is running smoothly and efficiently, especially during a time like now when airborne pathogens are prevalent. With COVID-19 continuing to affect people, maintaining excellent IAQ is certainly a priority.  The removal of particulates from indoor air is a necessary process for HVAC systems. The ASHRAE recommendation for filtration is now MERV 13, which has increased from MERV 8 or MERV 10 in past years. The ability of the MERV 13 filter to grab smaller particulates floating in the air is a great advantage in maintaining IAQ. With an upgrade in HVAC filter equipment, dust, smoke, and other particulates can be reduced and greatly benefit air quality. Finding the humidity sweet spot If you live or work somewhere humid, you understand how miserable it can be outside, especially in warmer months. Even with temperature-controlled air inside, humidity can be present indoors. This can lead to not only an uncomfortable feeling inside but also a potentially harmful breathing environment. Mold, mildew and organic growth can all result from inadequate moisture removal.  With the proper equipment, your indoor air will be less humid, leading to a continued high-level IAQ That is why dehumidification is such an important aspect of keeping us comfortable and safe inside. The sweet spot when it comes to relative humidity is between 40 and 60 percent. If your HVAC can handle higher latent loads associated with outdoor air, you should not experience the sticky feeling that will come along with a humid space. More importantly, dehumidification assists in lowering the chances of mold or organic growth appearing indoors. Hidden mold or mildew can cause issues that may affect your respiratory system. With the proper equipment, your indoor air will be less humid, leading to a continued high-level IAQ. Upgrading your HVAC As we continue to learn more about the benefits of maintaining excellent IAQ, it is clear HVAC upgrades are part of the process. Having clean and fresh air in our indoor spaces has many advantages, especially when occupants are confined to common areas. Safety and well-being are priorities when dealing with the air we breathe. Efficiency makes a difference in IAQ performance, so making sure you have the most reliable HVAC equipment is a great way to improve indoor air quality and maintain an excellent IAQ. IAQ directly impacts the health, comfort, and even some of the learning outcomes of occupants in a space Pulling contaminants from the air through filtration, removing moisture with dehumidification, and bringing in fresh air from the outside by ventilation are all solutions for maintaining a high IAQ. It is through proper equipment and upgrades that we can continue to keep occupants safe and comfortable as best we can. IAQ directly impacts the health, comfort, and even some of the learning outcomes of occupants in a space. Improving each of these factors is important in creating a comfortable indoor environment that encourages an increase in fresh and clean air.   

HVAC Efficiency Enabled By The Smart Buildings Of The Future
HVAC Efficiency Enabled By The Smart Buildings Of The Future

In today’s world, we spend almost 90 per cent of our time indoors, in our workplaces, leisure areas and our homes. It is no secret that the built environment has been relatively slow in its embrace of information technology and automation. According to KPMG’s ‘Building a Technology Advantage’ report, fewer than 20 percent of construction and engineering executives, and major-project owners said they are re-thinking their business models, so as to incorporate new technology. Yet, it has now become a necessity, as energy efficiency becomes a more prominent topic discussion, which is leading to sweeping changes across all aspects of our lives and none more so than in the built environment. Commitment to net-zero emissions Governments are beginning to impose tighter restrictions on building use, energy consumption and emissions. Policymakers around the world are committing to net-zero emissions targets, with more than 60 countries pledging to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. For example, the European Union (EU) is committed to become a carbon-neutral economy, with net-zero emissions by 2050 and all new buildings within the EU must be constructed as near-zero energy buildings. Meanwhile, China has legislated that at least 30 per cent of all new buildings must be ‘green’. Smart technology to better manage HVAC Technology can help optimize energy consumption and create energy efficiency in our buildings Given this new trend towards energy efficiency in the real estate sector, smart technology is needed to better manage HVAC and energy consumption. Buildings currently contribute 40 per cent of global carbon emissions, a problem exacerbated by extreme weather conditions across the globe, which increases demand for electricity, as more people rely on air conditioning for cooling. Technology can help optimize energy consumption and create energy efficiency in our buildings, alleviating many of the problems that we have today. Technology enabled by the Internet of Things (IoT) can optimize comfort and safety, while providing remote operability and access to everything from HVAC systems to security cameras. At the same time, data collection and integration with cloud-based services allow for powerful energy efficiency measures. Designing and operating Smart buildings The concept and operation of smart buildings is not new. Architects and developers have been installing separate systems to control lighting and HVAC for decades. Later systems have evolved and helped building managers control access to different areas of a site, mitigate fire risk and protect against power surges. What is new is the addition of web-based platforms, in order to allow these verticals to integrate seamlessly with each other. The building of tomorrow is achievable today, using the latest in automation intelligence to control lighting, air-conditioning and heating. With these digital solutions, everything can be controlled remotely and allow for complete control, whenever it is needed most. Increased use of smart technology The first step in managing HVAC energy is to understand exactly how much is being used and where it is used. With this information at hand, managers can highlight areas for improvement, which in turn will help a building become more efficient and ultimately, save money. Another step in managing HVAC energy is including smart technology alongside your system Another step in managing HVAC energy is including smart technology alongside your system, as it can minimize maintenance costs. Predictive fault-finding can save maintenance time and labor, as well as minimizing downtime for expensive equipment or services. It is estimated that smart-enabled predictive maintenance is three to nine times cheaper than a traditional reactive approach. Tenant and occupant satisfaction are often also higher, as systems that experience failure can be identified, repaired and re-booted quickly. Smart building systems Smart building systems, such as ABB i-bus KNX ClimaECO and ABB Cylon BACnet solutions, can combine HVAC in one holistic solution, from central control and management of heating and cooling systems, down to room-level automation. Smart systems simplify the implementation of intelligent automation in modern buildings and using pre-installed algorithms, can make autonomous decisions on things, such as adjusting lighting and HVAC levels, to reflect time of day, external environment, occupancy levels or other variables. Additionally, data collection and data analysis enabled by IoT allows for increased knowledge and better predictions of use. Working with a smart building, which is interconnected, can act and learn on this data, while providing remote access to data and analytics for human oversight. The ROI of smart technology implementation In addition to legislation driving change, being ‘smart’ provides other real benefits for developers and owners. As a building adapts to the demands of its users or the goals of its managers, it can save energy, cut emissions and reduce energy costs. More effective and efficient use of power can save money, quickly repaying initial technology expenditure Comparing energy savings to the falling cost of installing a basic smart management system, smart buildings immediately prove their worth. According to HSBC, if a smart system delivered an energy cost saving of 25 per cent, on an installation cost of US$ 37,500, for a 50,000 sq. ft building, the annual savings could be as much as US$ 23,000, giving a payback period of less than two years. More effective and efficient use of power can save money, quickly repaying initial technology expenditure. HVAC and lighting alone can account for about 50 per cent of energy use in an average commercial building, but by incorporating smart automation, managers may see decreased energy costs of up to 30 to 50 per cent. Leading the fight against climate change Technologies, such as IoT and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are crucial to help us in the fight against climate change. These technologies help users, owners, operators and facility managers interact with the buildings of the future effortlessly, with personalized comfort and maximum efficiency. Artificial Intelligence and IoT is constantly in a state of evolution, as more applications for the technology are discovered. Given the ever-changing nature of technology, the possibilities for smart buildings in the future are endless.

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