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Specifier beware

23 November 2011

Retrofitting energy saving technologies to existing systems has the potential to deliver major energy and cost benefits, but specifiers need to evaluate the available solutions thoroughly, says Tony Willis of Sabien Technology

Given the pressures to reduce their energy consumption and carbon footprint it’s little wonder that building operators are looking for fast energy-savings solutions. So it’s also unsurprising that there are now many retrofit products on the market, that promise to deliver significant energy savings with a fast return on investment. Some of these live up to their promises while others may fail dismally. The specifier’s challenge, therefore, is to evaluate the options thoroughly and ensure that any proposed solutions will delight the end client, rather than disappoint.

Boiler dry cycling is a case in point, where boilers fire to replace the heat lost through standing losses rather than in response to a genuine demand for heat from the building. There have been many attempts to address boiler dry cycling in the past but early technologies typically either delayed firing of the boilers irrespective of the building’s demands, or altered firing patterns based on historical data rather than real-time activity. Both methods compromised comfort levels and interfered with other controls installed on the system.

So a solution that genuinely meets the end-client’s needs must never compromise comfort levels and must work in harmony with other controls, such as a BMS or weather compensation.

It’s also important to ensure that the technology supplier can deliver the project with little or no disruption to the end-client. For example, through its dedicated project management team, Sabien installed 82 of its M2G intelligent boiler load optimisers for Lincolnshire County Council in just 6 weeks, during normal working hours and while the boilers were in operation. The result was 15% energy savings through preventing boiler dry cycling.

Sabien is also continuing the ongoing installation of M2G across BT’s 7,500 UK buildings in a contract with a total order value of £1,179,488 since 2009.

Specifier beware

When considering a retrofit project, therefore, there are a number of key considerations:

 How does the technology actually deliver savings?
The supplier should fully explain the control strategy and methodology

 Do the controls use real-time analysis?
Avoid controls which lower the boilers set points/thermostats
Avoid controls which have fixed time delays
A control which does not operate in real time will not respond to real time demands

 Can you be sure that any retrofitted controls will not impact on existing control configurations?
The majority of commercial buildings have fully optimised BMS, weather compensation and sequencing controls
It is imperative that any additional controls do not conflict with the existing controls

 What is the track record of the supplier?
Which other organisations have installed their technology?
Ask to see case studies and data
Ask to speak to their clients

What support can the supplier provide?
Do they have the infrastructure to deliver the project?
Can they implement the controls across the estate within time and budget – with limited impacts on you

Will the controls work with all applications?
i.e. hot water only, heating only or both?

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