Stiebel Eltron saves the world with Green Technology . John Felgate becomes first global president.
OK, not really.
Did I get your attention with the headline?
Human attention is grabbed by the extraordinary. We tend to filter out the familiar and ordinary and the marginally different to allow us to operate effectively. If you had to re-absorb every detail of life when you re-encountered it we would be in a constant state of information overload. So, when you do walk into a room where your children have been playing, you probably won't take any note of the pattern on the sofa cover and the titles of the books on the shelves. You may only suffer a passing irritation at the toys all over the floor. But your attention will be irresistably and immediately drawn to the red paint on the walls. This is how we are programmed to recognise the things that need our immediate attention. But this survival technique has its downfalls in terms of our attention span for small and undramatic changes that can become cumulatively important when you apply them accross whole societies.
When it comes to our interest in green energy we are subject to the same behaviours. Apparent technological leaps get more coverage than small incremental improvements. There are whole journals dedicated to the new technologies of heat pumps and solar energy; and endless resources on green energy. But I’m not aware of a mainstream monthly periodical dedicated to shouting about new widgets that save 10% of energy in an existing electrical appliance (though in this internet age I dare say there is some dedicated individual out there collating the information). We are programmed to find this stuff only marginally interesting, and it turns up duly in the margins of our press.
Yet of course, small, incremental steps are how our green energy “Revolution” will really happen . We won’t switch the national grid over to renewable supply overnight and we won’t magically turn our ageing housing stock into a shiny eco homes with a carbon neutral footprint. What we actually need to first is reduce the amount of energy we use as well as start to generate our energy from greener sources.
So guess what? This time I am going to celebrate a few of the kinds of small change – and they typically come in the sexy and and exciting form of improved controls that reduce energy usage - that can start to add up to big differences. Bored already? Stay with me – the truth is when you engage with the little things, like looking through a microscope at apparently smooth objects, a whole new world of detail emerges.
At Stiebel Eltron our philosophy is that, no matter what the product is that we sell, we will design it to save energy. This means not only using renewable energy sources, but making a product as efficient as possible whatever its source of energy. First on my list of examples of this are point of use water heaters. These are typically installed where there is a low or intermittent demand for hot water. Cue the screaming headline,”Green energy scandal as village hall uses not much energy and wastes a little bit of it”. But to a village hall committee, every penny counts, and the energy savings from every village hall in the country (and there are over 9,000 recognised by the charity commission in the UK) begin to add up. So many of Stiebel Eltron’s water heaters feature “Thermastop” technology, which saves energy creating a barrier of air that stops heat travelling up the pipes and taps when the taps are off. This one little feature can save up to 0.4 kWh/d which equates to more than £20 a year on the bill and 76kg of CO2. Multiply that by 9,000 and the picture gets suddenly interesting.....And in addition to Thermastop, many of our point of use water heaters have intelligent, electronic control units that always maintain your required temperature precisely, saving up to 30% water and energy, compared to hydraulically regulated instantaneous water heaters.
How about electric heating? To say this is unfashionable is an understatement. It is, if you pardon the pun, just not hot at the moment. Yet on a recent project we worked on with a school replacing existing direct acting panel heaters with storage heaters that run on off-peak electricity. On top of this we used our EAC4 weather compensating system which adjusts the amount of store that a heater takes depending on outside conditions. It’s still electric heating, but the sophisticated controls offered by our products make it a far greener proposition, using far less energy and by helping spread the load on power stations (keeping production of electricity at a more even level, rather than firing up and slowing down power stations for peak and trough demand helps keep the CO2 emmissions lower).
Our bathroom heaters fall into the same category. Underfloor heating is fashionable and cosy underfoot in bathrooms, but floor space can often be insufficient to heat the room. Yet you want the wall space for a towel rail rather than a standard radiator. Using one of our bathroom radiators means you don’t need to turn on a heat pump or boiler to run a towel rail in summer and it offers the top up heating you need. And just to ram home the point about controls being key, they have time and temperature controls that win out in terms of efficiency over traditional towel rails that need to be turned on and off manually.
Insulation is another area which does not attract much in the way of headlines but has been quietly making huge contributions to our national energy saving efforts (which is why the RHI will insist on a well insulated home BEFORE it will pay out on renewable technologies). You might be suprised to know that Britain's energy usage for hot water heating has actually fallen by 30% since the 1970's due to better insulated tanks and more efficient systems (Source: Great Britain's Energy fact file 2011). Needless to say, our hot water cylinders all come with exceptionally high levels of insulation.
And how about this - some of our electric showers have a function that allows them to top up the heat levels of stored hot water supplies so that you can still mostly use solar energy to power your shower even on cloudy days.
So to conclude, our first step in sustainable energy use is to reduce the energy we use in every small way we can. Finding new, more renewable, sources of energy is also vital. But although it may be the immediately more attractive story, the change to renewable energy must go alongside a change in attitude towards energy use that sees every small saving in energy, in every type of appliance, as important.