The cool and damp season is right round the corner, and with it come the innumerable usual tips for saving heating costs and energy, from intermittent ventilation to switching off stand-by devices. As project developers with an eye on sustainability, we believe they are all fine and good, but our focus is on truly substantial improvements in energy efficiency. The following article lists things you can do to cut back on the energy and running costs after completing a construction project and how they can improve the general indoor climate. The measures can be divided into the ones that do not require substantial investments, those with a moderate scope and other more extensive undertakings with longer payback periods.
This section includes the well-known tips to save electricity we mentioned at the beginning: Switch off electrical consumers instead of placing them in stand-by and intermittent ventilation etc. All of these steps require only a change in behaviour and at worst incur negligible costs with a correspondingly fast payback. But small households will need to maintain a system of conscious energy management to achieve long-term success with minor measures alone. Aside from keeping track of consumption and operations, this also includes financial planning and procurement, up to and including building analyses as well as planning refurbishments and new builds. But this takes us right into the domain of the more extensive measures.
Conscious energy management requires valid data and coordinated control. ‘Smart home’ solutions offer modern apartments and houses a broad repertoire of measures for the automatic control of ventilation, shading, heating and lighting, etc. based on demand and measured data. To ensure a comfortable indoor climate, for instance, sensors detect the outside and inside temperature at the window, measure the radiant heat from the ceiling and floor and then the setpoint value for the preferred room temperature. The formula for perceived temperature is: Room air plus average surface temperature divided by 2.
Room heating accounts for 70% and therefore the lion’s share of household energy costs, followed by electricity (around 16%) and hot water (approx. 14%), so a package of measures for automatic control is definitely a wise choice. And the effects are quickly noticeable.
This set of energy-saving measures will already incur more obvious expenditures such as for new windows, additions to or replacement of building services, heating systems and electrical systems in general etc. Payback periods of two to five years should be expected in this case. The use of ‘smart home’ solutions – as complete as possible – should be given some serious thought. Naturally, though, they will only work if the fabric of the building is still OK.
A simple measuring device you can buy in any DIY store is all you need to determine quickly and easily whether the (residual) moisture level in windows, ceilings or even masonry is too high. Not only would this impair the indoor climate, it will siphon off plenty of energy and require significant remedial action. This would doubtless belong in the last of the three sets of measures.
If the smaller steps literally vanish into thin air, there will be no alternative to conducting a rigorous examination of the entire building, along with its fabric. In most cases, this will quickly present the question of renewing the roof and the façade insulation. Doing so would vastly improve protection against heat in summer and cold in winter and enable detection and fixing of any issues with moisture. As a rule, heat insulation measures are always possible and advisable, even retroactively. But they are expensive and therefore come with a longer payback period.
Energy conservation measures are currently more relevant than ever before. Sustainability, environmental protection, living comfort and, above all, cost trends are all factors that are bringing their importance emphatically to the fore. Becoming aware of what comprehensive energy management actually entails and then, on this basis, defining initial measures is not a costly matter and can be implemented at any time. Naturally, we are on hand with advice if the circumstances happen to become a little more complex.