Much research confirms the global dependence on carbon has had a significant impact on the environment. We can debate about who is responsible for creating the current state of affairs, but the more important questions are “can we make a difference” and “should we make a difference”? Most of us agree, as is evident by initiatives adopted around the world, yes, we can, and yes, we should.
It might seem simple to look at each building we design and decide that, in lieu of carbon-burning appliances, we will shift our choices to electric equipment. Here in the United States, the solutions are more complicated. Most of our electricity is generated by the burning of fossil fuels, in many cases coal, the least efficient and most environmentally damaging of the available carbon-based fuels. So until the infrastructure is upgraded, the most environmentally and fiscally responsible choice is to focus on efficiency.
The building systems most dependent on carbon-based fuels are the heating systems, both space comfort and domestic water. The average coal-burning power plant operates at an efficiency of about 40%. The average condensing boiler or water heating system can operate at an efficiency of about 90%, representing a huge energy savings. One can conclude that, until the infrastructure in this country is improved, it is much more responsible to use fossil-fuel burning appliance at the building site.
In order to recognize the greatest efficiency of condensing appliances they must be applied correctly. To capture the latent energy created during the combustion of natural gas, the water entering the appliance must be less than the dewpoint, as seen in the chart below (engineeringtoolbox.com), the colder the better. The average ground water temperature in the US is 54oF making domestic water heating an ideal application of condensing technology.
At UEP we represent some of the most-efficient manufacturers of condensing appliances available. For design and application assistance please contact us.