Energy crisis – what to do to make the next heating season less painful

The rise in energy prices has shocked many European countries. Although we are already counting the days until the heating will be switched off in cities, experts suggest that you should not relax and should take immediate action to prepare for the next season. It is unlikely that heating will become noticeably cheaper but fixing your heating system can reduce energy consumption by up to 35%, which will not only save money but also reduce energy imports.

The rise in energy prices has shocked many European countries.
The rise in energy prices has shocked many European countries.
Daugiau nuotraukų (1)

Apr 26, 2022, 1:15 PM, atnaujinta Apr 26, 2022, 1:16 PM

Heating prices will remain high

This heating season has been a real test for all heat consumers. While the hardest hits were cities and residents who heat with gas, those who produce energy from biofuels have also seen their energy prices rise. Electricity, which in principle mirrors the price of other energy markets, reached a 20-year high on NordPool this winter.

Given the geopolitical situation, it is unlikely that we will see lower prices in the heating season next year. At least, it will not return to the level of the last heating season. However, according to the experts, residents of apartment buildings can take the initiative to reduce heat losses significantly.

„We have been involved in the modernisation of buildings for many years, and we have many examples where the heating system of an apartment building can save up to 35% of heat energy just by renovating it, a so-called mini-renovation. At current heating prices, we are talking about a lot of money,“ says Saulius Blaževičius, project manager at Danfoss.

Experts agree that all apartment blocks need to be modernised to save energy and improve the quality of life. However, this is a major investment, and the state, which is actively involved in this process, can only support a certain number of projects each year, so it looks like the process will take some time.

Pending actual modernisation, any apartment block can get its heating system in order. The cost of this work is estimated at up to 10% of the full cost of modernisation but can save up to 35% of heat.

Part of the heat is released outside

„One of the biggest problems in old blocks of flats is unbalanced heat flows. While people in some flats are freezing, those in others are heating up. To maintain hygiene requirements, the building manager is forced to increase the heat flow to the whole building so that the coldest flats maintain at least the minimum allowed temperature. Meanwhile, most of the house receives excess heat, which is released through the windows,“ says Blaževičius.

The first thing any apartment building should do is assess the condition of the heating unit itself. A modern heat unit should be automated to automatically supply a higher or lower thermostat temperature according to the outside temperature.

The second step is to balance the heat flow between the risers by installing balance valves so that each receives the same amount of heat. In old houses, it is often the case that the staircase closest to the heat point receives the highest amount of heat, while further down the staircase, the thermostat gets progressively colder.

The third step is to distribute the heat between the floors by installing thermoregulators so that each apartment receives the right temperature thermostat and can be heated as much as it wants to be, not as much as it gets.

„Next comes the system upgrades, which are more comfort-oriented but also help to save money. With smart electronic thermostats, they can be programmed to save even more by reducing heating when you’re not at home when you’re asleep,“ says S. Blaževičius.

There are also still some blocks of flats where the hot water system is not up-to-date, and you have to wait for the hot water to come on every time.

Return on investment in 2-3 years

According to the specialist, the cost of upgrading the heating system depends on the building and the existing heating system and the level of upgrading you want to do. Automating the heat point itself can cost up to €2000. The complexity of the work and the number of dwellings will determine the price. Typically, it ranges from €4/sqm if only the hot water system is to be upgraded to €50/sqm if you are going for a full-scale upgrade.

„The more complex the work, the higher the price, but the more savings you make. We calculate that on average, the investment pays for itself in 2-3 years, although at current heating prices, this can happen in 1 heating season,“ says Blaževičius.

In the past, several calls for the minor renovation were launched, and apartment communities that responded could expect to receive state compensation. There are currently no active calls, but the responsible authorities are considering the possibility of resuming funding for minor renovation. But, according to Mr Blaževičius, at the current heating prices, it is worthwhile for residents to invest in their heating systems without waiting for compensation.

„If you just want to live more frugally next autumn, you need to act now – it will take a long time before you agree on what you want and find a contractor. Contact your building company or, if you have a housing association, call a specialist to assess the situation. Sometimes even very small changes in the heating system can have incredible results,“ recommends S. Blaževičius.

He points out that a modernised heating system not only saves money but also brings many more benefits. „From a personal perspective, there is an increase in physical comfort. From a global perspective, it means lower heating costs, less dependence on energy resources in our country, which is particularly important at this time of year, and less impact on climate change, because, as we say at Danfoss, the greenest energy is the energy that is not used,“ Blaževičius notes.

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