The Rising Cost Of Gas (and what you can do about it)

Most people are aware by now of the ongoing situation with regards to gas prices in the UK. Since January 2021, energy prices in the UK have rocketed, seeing a 250% increase in the price of wholesale gas during a 9-month period. This has led to many commercial establishments re-assessing how they use energy, how they might save energy and thus protect themselves from rising costs. In this article, we’ll explore what businesses and organisations can do to not only protect themselves from rising energy prices by becoming more energy efficient, but also how taking such measures can reduce their carbon footprint in the process.

Take Control

Firstly, let’s think about heating controls and how they might be tweaked to reduce energy consumption. There are many ways that commercial boilers and associated heating systems in buildings are controlled. These days, there should at least be a thermostat and a timeclock involved (just like you have at home), but larger, newer and more complex buildings will usually have a fully integrated Building Management System (BMS) that controls the heating and ventilation automatically. With any type of control system, it’s important to make sure that they are set up to match the usage of the premises and the needs of the occupants.

A good example of this is how COVID19 has changed the way we use commercial buildings. An office building might only be occupied for two or three days a week since more people are working from home. As a result, the heating can be scheduled to only come on for the days that the building will be used, significantly reducing the gas consumption of the building. Assessing how a building is used, how it might have changed over time and whether the heating controls match the pattern of usage is a good place to start when thinking about conserving energy.

Out With The Old

Still hanging on to that trusty, 30 year old commercial boiler? It might be time to consider replacing it. Whilst older commercial boilers (usually with a cast iron heat exchanger) tend to be extremely reliable (they don’t have fancy electronics to go wrong), they can be extremely inefficient by modern standards. The biggest savings to be had would come from replacing a non-condensing commercial boiler with a condensing commercial boiler. Condensing technology has existed for a long time, with the first commercial boiler being installed in the UK in the 1980’s. However, in the commercial gas sector, the technology was adopted at a slow and conservative pace when compared to the domestic gas sector. This has resulted in many commercial boilers still in use today being of the non-condensing variety, particularly in older, less energy efficient buildings.

Due to the differences in how a condensing boiler works (we won’t get too technical here), much more of the heat is “captured” from the combustion process. This results in more heat being pumped into the building and less heat being wasted through the flue system. We can see this when comparing the flue gas temperatures of condensing and non-condensing boilers. A typical non-condensing commercial boiler will expel flue gases between 120 and 200 degrees Celsius and it’s estimated that a non-condensing commercial boiler wastes 20 to 25% of the heat it generates simply by releasing it to the atmosphere. Overall, non-condensing commercial boilers are around 50 to 80% efficient depending on the model and age. Conversely, a typical condensing commercial boiler will have flue gas temperatures of between 50 and 100 degrees Celsius and will have an efficiency between 90 and 99%. Bearing this in mind, fitting a new condensing commercial boiler could be a relatively quick and easy way of substantially reducing your gas consumption, resulting in a smaller carbon footprint and a lower monthly gas bill.

Let Out The Heat

Another problem that we find quite frequently is that heat isn’t being delivered into a building as well as what it could be. Your commercial boiler might be quite new and very efficient but if the heat isn't getting into the building, this is a problem that needs to be addressed. Certain parts of the building might be too cold whilst others are too hot. If the boilers and controls are working OK, it’s time to assess what can be done about the heat distribution.

Does your building have radiator covers or grills? Whilst a radiator cover might look nice, they can hinder the convection ability of the radiator panel. This means that the flow of air across the radiator is restricted and the heat won’t get transferred from the radiator to the air. It’s not always possible to permanently remove the covers as sometimes they are there to protect vulnerable occupants from touching the radiators (such as in schools and care homes) but ensuring that they are kept clean and free of obstruction is a good place to start.

If you find that some radiators are getting much hotter than others, it might be time to have the system balanced. This involves adjusting the valves on the heating system to maximise the hot water flow around the entire heating circuit. When water is being pumped around the building, it will always take the easiest route - or the path of least resistance. This can result in heat not getting to where it’s needed and sometimes whole sections of a building can be left with poorly functioning heating. Balancing a system is relatively straightforward and having it done in your building could achieve some impressive results.

Speak To Us

If there is anything in this article that applies to your business or premises, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us to discuss how we can help. Here at Bensons, we have a wealth of experience with all kinds of commercial heating systems and their associated problems; whether that's a commercial boiler replacement, a commercial boiler repair, or a full system balancing. We can advise you on the best course of action to take, what the associated costs will be and what savings you can expect to make by carrying out the improvements.

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Matt has recently joined the team at Bensons Gas after working as a National Project Delivery Manager.

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