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Modern Heating Systems
Updated:Tuesday, March 4, 2014 - 12:17
The heating system at the forefront
From publicly available data and general information, it is commonly understood that the function (and energy efficiency) of space heating is performed to a great extent by separate products / equipment (e.g. the heat generator). The current policy framework covering heating is mainly focused on product specific requirements (Boiler Efficiency Directive, Gas Appliances Directive, Ecodesign and Energy Labelling Directives, etc). Setting ambitious requirements for energy efficiency, product health and safety, and other ecological criteria for individual products is of great importance.
Nevertheless, it is vital to understand that the true energy performance of the heating function is realised at system level, with the close interdependence and influence of each system component.
In this way, the energy-saving potential of modern heat generators will be realised only if the remaining components of the heating system are optimally coordinated with one another. Thus, the generation, storage, distribution, emission and control of heat should always be viewed as a complete system.
Optimum system solutions are available in the field of heating for new buildings and old buildings that are being renovated, as well as for all energy sources. The right choice for a system depends upon the framework conditions, particularly upon the heat demand of the building, its use, its positioning (climatic zone and facade orientation), its ground surface size, and, last but not the least, the preferences of the investors.
Adequate design and choice of system components
No one solution fits all. Choosing the appropriate system for the right conditions, as well as promoting all available highly efficient heating system solutions in an energy and technology-neutral way, are key to maximising energy performance.
- In order to design an appropriate heating system for a certain building, the heating demand has to be properly assessed and calculated. Possible heat losses also heed to be taken into account in a correct assessment (level of insulation of the walls / roof / heat distribution, type of windows, etc). This process has to lead to a correct dimensioning of the system components.
- The differences in climate across Europe greatly influence the choice and efficiency of a heating system. It obviously influences the heat demand itself as well as the number of days per year during which heating is needed.
- The type of building is also an influencing factor (single or multiple family houses, apartment buildings, space for offices, etc), as well as the positioning of the facades and roof area – for example, a well positioned roof (S / SE / SW) is favourable for the integration of a solar thermal component in the system. The surface and location of the building area are also key factors in the choice for geothermal systems.
- Economic feasibility and affordability are also of great importance. While it is generally acknowledged that investing in energy efficiency solutions is a win-win situation for all parties involved, it is desirable that the investment in the retrofit of a heating system should be made at a reasonable cost level for the end-user, instead of not being made at all.
Heating system temperature
From the over 120 million heating systems installed across Europe, it is estimated that three quarters of these systems run with high system temperatures (between 50°C and 80°C inlet temperature). Modernisation of these systems into low temperature systems (between 35°C and 50°C inlet temperature) can be an additional way to increase system efficiency and save energy (in this way, energy savings of +30% can be realised). The general principle is that the lower the system temperature, the more efficient the heating system.
Low temperature heating systems are suitable for office buildings, service buildings and residential buildings and can use a variety of fuels and renewable energy sources. These systems are available for different investment levels as well as for different building situations (new build or modernisation), using energy efficiently while providing a comfortable indoor climate.
Installation and maintenance
A vital role in ensuring and improving the energy performance of heating systems is held by installers in terms of adequate system choice, correct installation, maintenance and efficiency recommendations to end-users.
Knowledgeable and motivated installers are the first to be asked about heating systems by private households and may take over an active role in marketing of the different available solutions. Moreover, the landscape of available solutions has significantly changed and multiplied throughout the years, and a correct installation is vital for the adequate performance of the heating function.
The perception of modern heating technologies as well as user comfort risk to suffer greatly from bad installations. Such occurrences may lead users not to invest in new heating systems for fear of losing their known thermal comfort – correct installations and happy customers are often the best multiplier for positive modernisation messages.
During the use phase, preventive and regular maintenance of the different heating system components will lower energy costs, prevent costly repairs and prolong the life of the system. Different requirements apply across Europe for inspection and maintenance of central heating systems. In order to drive ahead the modernisation process, regular maintenance should also result in recommendations for system improvement, especially in terms of change instead of repair of old systems.