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As our urban centers grow, so does our demand for key resources, such as energy. Currently, cities are accountable for over 60% of resource use and an estimated 70% of global carbon emissions. In the Middle East particularly, countries have experienced unprecedented population growth, increased economic activity and consequently, increases in energy consumption. Integration of sustainable systems Fortunately, industry leaders and governments are placing sustainability at the heart of regional plans for urban development. The integration of sustainable systems is no longer a value-added benefit, but rather a necessary requirement. I believe a vital element for sustainable development in our cities is energy management. Energy is a costly commodity representing an average of 25% of all operating costs in office buildings. This cost, however, can be reduced by using energy management to optimize HVAC systems employed in a building. Effective energy management Energy management involves proactive tracking, systemic management and thoughtful optimization of energy consumption in a building, with the goal of improving energy efficiency. The concept of energy efficiency takes into account a variety of factors; we must consider system design, quality of installation and maintenance, efficiency rates and personal use. If we assume a system is designed with greatest efficiency in mind, its effectiveness is still deeply impacted by installation, maintenance and use. ‘Performance drift’ issues One challenge we face with the efficiency of HVAC systems is ‘performance drift’ One challenge we face with the efficiency of HVAC systems is ‘performance drift’. When first installed, and even in the first few months, HVAC systems operate immaculately. Over time, however, component efficiency and system conditions ‘drift’ away from the originally installed operating curve, meaning that efficiency and performance of the system can degrade incrementally. The deteriorating performance of HVAC systems has consequences, such as unnecessary use of energy, resulting in higher costs and emissions, in addition to reduced comfort for building occupants. Energy efficient HVAC pumps In order to truly have an impact on energy consumption, a holistic approach must be adopted. Only by carefully examining and optimizing each part of the HVAC system, can we then find ways to improve it. In my experience with Armstrong Fluid Technology, in the last decade, the technology for HVAC pumps has been enhanced to provide up to 70% energy efficiency savings through demand-based control and parallel pumping technology. These innovations enable the pumps to operate at optimum levels, consuming as little energy as possible. Innovative smart technology Systems that incorporate innovative smart technology enable more accurate system performance analysis and optimization. Pumps can function as highly accurate flow meters that provide valuable insight for building managers and operators. Data from the intelligent connected pumps can be collected through active performance management software, which enables the HVAC system to learn, predict and optimize to deliver even greater energy efficiency and cost savings through maintained optimized performance. Systems incorporating innovative smart technology enable more accurate system performance analysis Active performance management software Active performance management software enables real time and historical data reporting that directly demonstrates system efficiency and savings. Given the global shift towards sustainable building construction, legislation on energy reporting is inevitable, therefore employing systems with this in-built capability can prove to be extremely beneficial in the future. The software can also help maintain client comfort at all times by enabling predictive maintenance. Systems can provide alerts when they detect faults, allowing for early replacement before a full breakdown. This can be particularly helpful in mission critical applications such as hospitals. Importance of analyzed data in system optimization Without the ability to analyze data, buildings managers and operators cannot properly optimize mechanical systems Evidently, collecting data is essential for many reasons, including preventing, and even reversing, the loss of energy efficiency. Without the ability to analyze data, buildings managers and operators cannot properly optimize mechanical systems, which results in unnecessary energy use, insufficient maintenance practices and any related costs. There may be hesitation in the industry to incorporate more sophisticated systems as they require initial investment, however, the returns from using more efficient mechanical systems are impressive. Executing energy upgrades for HVAC systems Simple payback on energy upgrade projects is usually reached within 3 to 5 years. Furthermore, energy savings continue for the life of the system. Properly executed energy upgrades deliver up to 40% savings on energy consumption related to HVAC operation. Savings on that level for a large facility can be impactful for business operations. Energy efficiency is not ‘visible’ but has the potential to have a transformative effect on climate change, if embraced on a large scale. If we consume energy only as we need to, then we consume less of it. This, in turn, reduces our consumption of fossil fuels and consequently our greenhouse gas emissions. Aside from short-term benefits, such as costs savings and increased operation efficiency, energy management has the ability to help conserve energy for generations to come. Embracing energy saving solutions If we embrace innovative energy saving solutions in the building services industry, then we can begin to make a difference. With the recent launch of plans for sustainable development, such as the Dubai Master Plan 2040, green infrastructure, supporting solutions, will thrive. The global shift towards embracing sustainability has made individuals and organizations call into question their impact on our planet. Embracing sustainability is no longer a preference but a strategic business approach that helps to create long-term value on a social, economic and environmental level. The role of energy efficiency, and the systems that enable it, will inevitably play a key role in creating more sustainable buildings, communities and cities.
It’s no secret that climate change is one of the most pressing concerns facing our planet. We must act collectively on behalf of future generations to enact the change that will help us to avoid a climate catastrophe; and not least the HVAC industry, which has been, and remains, a major contributor to atmospheric greenhouse gases and global warming. In 2015, the UK Government, along with 196 parties entered the legally binding international treaty on climate change, which was adopted at COP 21 in Paris. For the first time in history, all nations committed to undertake the necessary, ambitious steps to combat climate change. Significant environmental milestone Whilst this was clearly a significant environmental milestone, how realistic is the 2030 deadline for zero Global Warming Potential (GWP), from the HVAC industry’s viewpoint? The refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pump (RACHP) sector is presently the largest of the F-gas emitting sectors. The RACHP sector is in fact the UK’s main user as well as emitter of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). HFCs are now the main refrigerants used in a broad range of RACHP applications Since the phasing-out of ozone-depleting refrigerants (CFCs and HCFCs), HFCs are now the main refrigerants used in a broad range of RACHP applications, such as commercial refrigeration and air conditioning. It is therefore unsurprising that the spotlight has fallen on the RACHP sector. However, the EU F-Gas Regulation, which was introduced in 2014, is helping to reshape the sector, and lowering carbon emissions. The regulation stipulates: A 79% cut in the GWP weighted quantity of HFCs that can be sold in the EU by 2030. Several bans which restrict the refrigerants that can be used in specific types of new RACHP equipment. Bans on servicing R-404A systems in medium and large sized supermarket and industrial systems as of 2020. New rules on leak prevention and mandatory leak testing. Industrial refrigeration equipment In response to these new rules, many operating in the RACHP sector have introduced lower-GWP equipment. For instance, in the small-medium building air conditioning market, ultra-low GWP (<10) equipment is now an available option. Whilst the sector is committed to lowering its carbon footprint and has made good progress to date, the target of achieving a zero GWP by 2030 seems slightly unrealistic for a number of reasons. Whilst there is continuous improvement to RACHP equipment, an issue is the long life span of many products. For instance, some industrial refrigeration equipment typically has a life span of 30+ years; which means that approximately half of the industrial refrigeration equipment currently in use could remain so until 2030 and beyond. Reducing environmental impact The replacement of existing equipment is constrained by the equipment’s lifecycle The replacement of existing equipment is constrained by the equipment’s lifecycle, therefore, assuming that there is no premature retirement or retrofitting of the existing equipment, then implementing new alternatives could take decades, potentially. In terms of reducing environmental impact, the industry is reliant on the development of new technology, and manufacturers implementing that technology in the design of new equipment, to provide low-GWP alternatives. We are constrained by the rate at which manufacturers can bring these new products to market. The RACHP sector is also complex and contains an array of sub-sectors. The rate of progress in developing products with lower GWP varies considerably by sub-sector. For example, in the refrigeration sector, in commercial and retail applications where condensing units are used, the progress in lowering GWP is proving to be very slow. Variable refrigerant flow However, when it comes to small-sealed units, on the contrary, an impressive range of new low-GWP products have been brought to market. We can see a similar story in the air conditioning sector, where progress on lowering GWP is rather slow when it comes to large variable refrigerant flow (VRF) and large-ducted units; whereas for water chillers, they are making excellent progress. GWP rating may not be the key consideration in choosing a suitable product In the RACHP sector, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all product. Different equipment is required for different applications. For example, where RACHP systems are located in areas with public occupancy (e.g., retailers), public safety becomes a key concern, and would therefore limit our product choice, as well as the refrigerant type which could be used. Therefore, GWP rating may not be the key consideration in choosing a suitable product, it’s about selecting the right equipment for the application. Providing thermodynamic properties When it comes to RACHP equipment, there is a huge variance in temperature levels. In refrigeration, equipment temperature ranges from 0°C to 5°C for chilled food, and -15°C to -40°C for frozen food. In air-conditioning, the temperature typically ranges between 10°C to 20°Cii. These significant variations in temperature levels require a range of refrigerants to be available, to provide the thermodynamic properties to suit the specific application. It is worth noting here that not all have low GWP ratings. Despite stating that some of the targets are unrealistic, I do however believe that as an industry, we can collectively work together to make a difference to our planet. Maximum gas recovery Here are a few practical ways we can help to lower our carbon emissions: Use low GWP alternative refrigerants in new equipment – This is the key to success in the long term. As I explained previously, the long lifecycle of some of the equipment means that it will potentially be many years before the existing repository of HFCs is completely obsolete. However, it is a realistic goal that by 2050, the current generation of high-GWP HFCs could be replaced with low-GWP alternatives. Recover F-Gases from equipment - Old equipment reaching end-of-life contains HFCs. It is illegal to vent these HFCs into the atmosphere. The F-Gas Regulation has a mandatory requirement for the old HFC to be recovered. This refrigerant should be reprocessed, recycled and reused. Although this does not directly reduce F-Gas emissions in the short term, it does encourage maximum gas recovery. Leakage-Detection systems Reduce the usage of HFCs in existing equipment - Interestingly, a large proportion of total HFC consumption is actually to top-up leaks from existing equipment. If we could make advances in the area of leak-prevention, through further development of leakage-detection systems, this would reduce the volumes of HFC inadvertently entering the atmosphere. I’d also advise businesses to regularly undertake leak testing and to keep records. The world needs the entire HVAC industry to lead and drive the change required to reduce our carbon footprint. We must champion the solutions for the climate change crisis. Equally, businesses have a responsibility to ensure they remain F-Gas compliant and that their air conditioning and refrigeration systems continue to work at peak efficiency.
In the coming decades, the government plans to phase out gas and oil boilers and replace them with renewable heating systems. To make this possible, to give us a shot of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, more people need to train as renewable heating installers. But when you were a teenager, if old people like Boris Johnson or George Eustice had told you that you ‘should’ choose a certain career, would you have listened? No, me neither. Yes, there will be plenty of environmentally motivated young people looking for a career that will make a difference in the world, but we cannot expect those people to carry the weight of the task ahead. Addressing the need for renewable installers The government has pledged to install 600,000 heat pumps per year in UK homes by 2028. It is an ambitious target, not least because there are currently not enough certified heat pump installers to meet expected demand. For example, at Boiler Guide, we are receiving 250% more heat pump enquiries than we were just 12 months ago. The Environment Audit Committee has warned that the UK is unlikely to achieve its net-zero carbon targets for all homes by 2050, without significant recruitment incentives for heat pump installers. Becoming an asset to the government’s ‘Green Revolution’ One route to success is for existing boiler engineers to up their skill in renewable technology One route to success is for existing boiler engineers to up their skill in renewable technology. This will certainly have a big part to play, as these people already have many transferable skills that will make them an asset to the government’s ‘Green Revolution’. However, given that more than half of Gas Safe-registered engineers are due to retire in the next decade, this is not a long term solution to growing the renewable sector. Younger generation to define the future of heating The second and more effective option would be for more young people and school leavers to choose a career in renewable heating. Of course, we cannot expect young people to make their career choice based on the fact that the government has targets. To strengthen the renewable industry’s frontlines, we need to speak directly to school leavers and young people, and to explain why a career in renewable heating could be a great choice for them on a personal level, as well as the planet. Here are some of the most compelling reasons why a young person should consider a career as a renewable installer. Renewable heating is the future From 2025, gas boilers will not be installed in newly built homes, and low carbon heating systems will need to be incorporated into properties as standard. Every existing home in the UK needs a heating system, and as fossil fuel boilers are phased out over the next 30 years, the renewable sector (including air source and ground source heat pumps, solar thermal, biomass boilers) will continue to grow. Heating installers are essential workers Young people should consider that during COVID-19, heating engineers were deemed, essential workers A major consideration for anyone choosing a career is whether the industry that they have chosen will provide them with long-term security, and the renewable heating industry certainly has that in its favor. To illustrate this point, young people should consider that during the COVID-19 pandemic, heating engineers were deemed, essential workers. Even when the country’s social and economic activities were halted, heating engineers were still needed. Renewable technologies are diverse While gas and oil boilers have dominated the heating landscape for many years, this is changing. In the next 30 years, it is likely that different properties will need different renewable heating systems, including plenty of hybrid systems, so the career promises plenty of variety and opportunities to diversify. In the future, a heating installer may be able to work not just with a boiler, but also with heat pumps, biomass, and solar. The more renewable technologies a person can install, repair, and service, the more varied, interesting, and lucrative their career will be. Renewable heating installers are in demand Because renewable heating installers, particularly air source heat pump installers, are in great demand at the moment, it is a great time for young ambitious people to be entering the industry. By getting started now as the industry is still blooming, they have the chance to corner the market in their area, and establish a positive reputation. Self-employment opportunity for renewable heating installers Renewable heating installers have the opportunity to start their own business and may work alone or with others Renewable heating installers have the opportunity to start their own business and may work alone or with others. This means that they will be in charge of their own hours, the projects they take on, and to an extent, how much money they earn. With the right business skills alongside technical knowledge, self-employment can be rewarding in multiple ways. However, for the many people that feel more secure when they are employed by a company and working with others, the industry could be ideal for them too. Renewable heating installers can be employed and they often work alongside other tradespeople, and as part of larger building projects. Many people cannot imagine a career that involves sitting in an office all day, every day. For people who enjoy being physically active, getting outside, meeting new people, and solving different problems every day, becoming a renewable heating installer is ideal. How to become a renewable heating installer There are several stages to becoming a renewable heating installer, and the training required obviously varies depending on the technology, the training provider, and the individual’s skill/experience. For example, a school leaver might begin by achieving NVQ Level 2 in Plumbing and Heating (or equivalent), as well as Water Regulations/Byelaws, Energy Efficiency Certificates, and G3 Qualifications. The NVQ typically takes around 1 year to complete alongside a practical apprenticeship. Renewable heating educational courses With that foundation, they can then move on to study Low Temperature Heating and Hot Water Systems (typically a 2-day course), a Heat Pump Foundation Course (2-day course), followed by a 1-day course specific to the type of heat pump they wish to install, i.e., air or ground source. Finally, renewable heating installers need to become accredited by the Micro-generation Certification Scheme (MCS), or an equivalent competency scheme.
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