Failing to drive the uptake of room temperature controls is the single biggest missed opportunity to improve the energy efficiency of EU homes, according to a recent report from the European Building Automation Controls Association (EUBAC). Gareth Ash of Danfoss reviews the report and its findings for the UK market.
Based on a country-by-country analysis from the European Environment Agency, the EUBAC report provides an in-depth study into energy use and heating costs in EU homes, including millions of dwellings across the UK. Not surprisingly, perhaps, it found that heating is the most significant energy use in residential buildings, accounting for between 48% and 69% of the total domestic energy consumption in 24 of the 28 EU countries. It also showed that two thirds of EU homes are heated with a ‘wet’ central heating system, typically comprising a centralised boiler circulating heated water to radiators in each room. According to the figures, 26 million houses in the UK have this type of system, which is among the highest in the EU. Around 66% of these dwellings have thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) but almost a quarter of these are older, less effective manual radiator valves (MRV), while nearly 9 million homes have radiators with no TRVs.
The study calculated the potential energy savings of replacing MRVs with modern TRVs in Gigawatt hours (GWh). For the UK this was estimated at 18,111 GWh. For Danfoss, these figures are no surprise and yet successive regulations and initiatives, including the UK government’s recent Boiler Plus, have failed to acknowledge the importance of TRVs in domestic heating control. Apparently, TRVs were not mandated under Boiler Plus as they were believed to be already widely installed. However, the EUBAC report found that there are about 500 million uncontrolled valves still mounted on radiators in homes across the EU, wasting energy and money year after year.
Individual room control
So why are TRVs such a significant factor in reducing energy consumption? As any professional heating installer knows an uncontrolled radiator valve runs non-stop, even when the room has become warm. However, a TRV can be set to heat a room to the required setting. Once the room temperature reaches that setting, the valve turns the radiator off. When the room temperature drops again, the TRV turns the radiator back on. According to the report fitting TRVs to provide temperature control in individual rooms and so reduce wasted energy could lead to fuel cost savings of up to 30% or even higher. This level of control could also help to ensure that the energy saving potential of increasing home insulation or upgrading a domestic boiler is actually achieved.
At Danfoss, we believe this new study by EUBAC provides compelling evidence that energy costs for millions of households across the EU, including the UK, could be reduced significantly by upgrading heating systems with basic TRVs. In fact, the report suggests that EU citizens could save a staggering €12 billion on their annual energy bills and reduce CO2 emissions by about 29 million tonnes if all of the 500 million radiators with uncontrolled valves in the EU were upgraded with TRVs. This estimate is based on an average energy saving of 18% when installing a TRV, a conservative figure that could turn out to be significantly higher. Considering the full installation cost, including work, EUBAC’s research indicates that the average payback time on thermostatic radiator valves is just two years. And if you compare that to the 20-year minimum lifetime of a high quality Danfoss TRV, for example, the potential savings once installed are huge.
Despite increasing concerns about the need to improve the energy efficiency of our homes, the EUBAC report argues that there appears to be a lack of what it calls concrete action to ensure that heating systems are installed with effective controls. In order to achieve the potential savings, it concludes that the EU needs to introduce the necessary regulatory framework to increase the uptake of TRVs, particularly for new buildings and for existing buildings at times when the heating system is being refurbished – as well as incentives where regulation is not appropriate. As we prepare to leave the EU, we believe it is imperative that the UK heating industry continues to promote the proven benefits of fitting TRVs. Given the research conducted by the EUBAC and other studies, and since the purchase price of these high efficiency valves can be similar to uncontrolled valves, surely it makes sense to fit every radiator with a TRV.
Highlights from the EUBAC report
• About 40% of EU homes with radiator heating are equipped with uncontrolled manual valves.
• EU citizens would save nearly €12 billion per year on their energy bills if they installed thermostatic radiator valves.
• EU homes could save 130 TWh of energy per year.
• EU CO2 emissions would be reduced by about 24 million tonnes.
• The cost of these upgrades would be paid back in energy savings in just 2 years.
• Replacement of installed thermostatic radiator valves older than 20 years could deliver additional 30 TWh savings.