The UK needs to cut carbon emissions by 80 per cent in order to meet 2050 targets. And with a third of those emissions coming from heating draughty buildings; insulation is key. But what should be considered when community heating is in the mix?
It is detrimental for buildings to be fully insulated to maximise their efficiencies; a statement that stands for all heating systems and not just community heating. And there are many benefits to fully insulated buildings; It will not only protect the heat produced to warm the building, but will create a healthier environment to live in, reduce energy bills and have a positive impact on the environment.
What should be considered when insulating communal heating systems?
Insulating a community heating system is similar to insulating any other building block. It requires a full review of the building to ensure that everything has been covered, and it is important to include all areas of the heating system, including the dwelling internals and the plant room.
1. Take a look around the building and review the schematics
It may be an obvious start, but taking a look around the building and how it is being operated will help you understand where inefficiencies may lie. Remember to review the schematics of the heating system too, it is important that you know where the pipework lies, and how your heat is being measured.
2. Protect your pipework
Insulating pipework helps to lock in the heat and protect it from leaking to unneeded areas. Insulated pipes means less energy is lost en route and the hot water will remain hot until it reaches its destination (therefore your pumps no longer have to work as hard to pump the heat and keep the water hot).
3. Hot plant room could mean lack of insulation
You can tell by just walking into the plant room if further insulation is needed. If the room is hot, it is very likely that more insulation is needed to protect your equipment and pipes. A Geo thermal camera can help you see how much heat is being lost from your plant room equipment.
4. Think about insulated valves
Using a geo thermal camera; you can see just how much an uninsulated valve can lose heat unnecessarily. You can use jackets or insulation wraps to protect and reduce the heat loss coming from your valves.
5. Regulatory metering points
It is a legal requirement for new builds to include both point of entry meters and heat meters for final customer metering. Installing both metering types to existing schemes too, can help measure the efficiencies of your heating system.
6. Keep in mind return temperatures
Reduced network flow and return temperatures and increased network delta T – improves system flow control by eliminating unnecessarily high system flow rates. This can optimise pump and pipework sizes and significantly improve the system/plant efficiency and energy costs, and save energy by reducing pipework heat losses.
7. Walls and cavities
Think about how and what the external walls and windows have been insulated with and when. Improving on the insulation will help with efficiencies. Take a look outside the building – are residents opening windows when it gets too hot on a cold day to cool their homes? If this is happening your heating system is working harder to heat the building.
Educating residents about how to use their heating systems, and to turn the heat down rather than open a window can make a significant impact to efficiencies of the system.
- When reporting on insulation requirements, look at the building as a whole
- Remember to review your schematic – are you metering your system?
- Insulate the full heating system as well as external walls
- Use geo thermal equipment to track and monitor your heat losses, inside and out of your building
- Educate your residents on their heating controls - do not open windows when warm, but turn the heating down instead