System design efficient and controllable equipment

After first and foremost reducing the heat demand, and then appraising the options with respect to fuel supply, it is necessary to consider the most appropriate and efficient technology with which to deliver the residual heating requirement. With efficient heat distribution systems and controls it becomes more cost-effective to choose low-carbon options, typically more expensive than traditional carbon fuels. A full option appraisal should consider all the possibilities, and focus on the most efficient, economic and practical combination.

Meeting very low heating demand presents a real challenge to the design of heating systems. Europe is the best source of slow burn, low output biomass boilers that feature excellent turn-down ratios (Photo: the author)

Recently, conflicts have become evident as designers reduce the heating demand of houses to levels at which central heating is not necessary and challenge social expectation. Also, at low levels of heat requirement alternatives to central heating can be more expensive in capital or maintenance costs, and heat distribution at low levels of overall demand is difficult. There are few small boilers. A small number of super-insulated buildings have incorporated a wood-burning stove as the heat source, but it is unlikely that this would be widely acceptable as a solution.

The use of ambient heat or heat recovery systems should be an early consideration but, if not well designed, these can shift loads to electrical consumption, which works well in a context of hydro-power - which is why this is more common in northern Europe - but less well with the UK fuel mix. Systems are discussed under renewable energy in Chapter 11.

Where buildings are designed with very low heating requirements using high insulation levels and good airtightness standards, then active renewables can become the major provider of heating. Waste incineration, biofuels, wind, wave bio-gas and hydroelectric schemes can all be considered at the design stage. Other possibilities include district heating schemes based on a renewable fuel such as waste or woodchip. A number of demonstration schemes have been supported in recent years and the possibilities of funding support, as well as genuine benefits from life-cycle costings, should be investigated.

Guide to Alternative Fuels

Guide to Alternative Fuels

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