Word or Two on Structure/Building Energy Efficiency

By Carolin Christine Petterson posted 03-26-2014 07:32


I’m aware that this entry isn’t exactly the bare-bones architecture but the thing is that companies with lower planning and execution budgets are forced to assign AT teams jobs of interior and energy consumption design draft (my exact case) and this article reflects considerations and problems we run onto in the process.

With the typical US family spending more than $1,900 a year on home utility bills, implementing proper heating/cooling controls is a right thing to plan for.

In fact, a research done in 2013 by Green Economy Revolution in UK showed that various thermostats and heating/cooling controls enables you to save more than 30% on electricity bill.

But why being concerned with building energy savings?

See this link:

Well, the answer seems simple.

First, it saves the top dollar and secondly, it is good for the overall economy and environment. Information provided by the Alliance to Save Energy tells that by using thermostats and energy controls, UK is currently using 56% less energy than it did in 1980. Further, being energy efficient offers a great way to lower CO2 footprint and be a great friend of Mother Nature.

It is estimated that if all households in UK and US alone were energy efficient, we could reduce the global greenhouse gas emissions by more than 2.2 gigatons each year. This is equivalent to taking all European and US trucks and cars off the road for 365 days.

But how to improve energy efficiency of our structures/buildings?

Proper Heating/Cooling Controls

Of course, this is not the only nor best way (some are proper planing of structures at design stage, consideration of natural insulating materials, building/structure orientation etc..) but with the best of these devices implemented, one should be able to keep building at a comfortable temperature with less cost and optimal energy efficiency.

In practical terms, this means we could achieve lower CO2 emissions and heating bills at the end of the month.

How Much Can You Save?

For example, no matter what the age of the boiler is, the right thermostat will enable it to automatically turn on/off. Further, heating controls enable us to choose the area of targeted building we want to heat, how hot we want it to be and for how long.

Here is the energy savings we can make in a regular 3 bedroom apartment assuming we heat it with gas:

  • Lowering thermostat by 1 degree, you lower your bill by $75 and your CO2 emission by 310kgs in a year.

Lowering The Temperature

Also see (climate change stats):

  • Installing the right thermostatic radiators and a room thermostat and using them effectively will save you between 70 – 150$ and reduce your CO2 emission between 310-650kg in a year.

Radiator Valve

  • Fitting your hot water tank with a tank insulation jacket will enable you cut your energy savings by between 20-30$ and lower your CO2 footprint between 90-130kg in a year.

Hot Water Tank Insulation Jacket

Room Thermostats

These operate by turning the heating on until the room attains your specified temperature after which they automatically turn it off until the temperature drops. Ideally, install room thermostat in areas of your room that have free flow of air. This is because they rely on free flow of air to detect room temperature and adjust heating requirements.

For optimal energy savings and comfortable living, thermostats should be set at the lower levels (18 – 21 degrees) and always turn it off once the air is warm outside.

A programmer room thermostat works in a similar way but allows you an added benefit of choosing to heat the room at different temperature at different times. If using different temperatures in each room, this can be achieved by using TRV’s on individual radiators.

Thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs)

These do not control the boiler. They only reduce the flow of water through the radiator chamber once temperature goes above a set setting. Just make sure its set at the lowest setting you are comfortable to save on energy bills.

Note that with TRVS you can’t use radiators covers; this is because TRVS depends on free flow of air to detect temperature, enclosing them would as such lower their effectiveness. However, if you already have a radiator cover that you cannot remove, it is still a good idea to use TRVs to regulate the heating as much as possible.

Zone Control

This allows you to heat only the parts of the room you want heated. It entails using different heating circuits for different rooms with their own room thermostat or programmable room thermostat. You can also mark zones using TRVS.

Cylinder Thermostat

This comes in handy if your hot water is held in a cylinder. It will keep the water from being hotter than it need to be by turning of the heat supply from the boiler. However, note that with these types of controls, setting temperatures high does not lead to faster heating of water. This is because they are normally installed in the cylinder and not in the boiler.

mixing Valve

They normally come in a scale marked between 60-70C which is hot enough to kill micro-organism in the water but also dangerously hot for human use. To be on the safe side, consider installing a thermostatic mixing valve which will automatically make sure that the water stays within comfortable levels.

Boiler Interlock

This is simply a system that turns your boiler off when it’s neither needed by the cylinder or the room thermostat giving you huge energy savings.

Boiler Thermostat

This is the one that directly controls boilers heating temperature. It controls the temperature at which the water will be pumped from the boiler to our home. It is the control that controls the efficiency of your room heating. Having it set at max means that your room will get hot faster and vice versa.

If you have both a room thermostat and a boiler interlock, the normal practice is to set the boiler thermostat high and allow the room thermostat to do their work.

Timing Control

Programmer Or Time Control

This allows you to turn your room heating system off when you are not at home or when you do not need it. It allows you to set on and off periods. Most of these energy saving gadgets will allow you to choose different times for your systems to go on/off thus enabling you to optimize energy usage during various times of the day and even days of the week.

Good book (short though) on energy efficient architecture: