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Case history of the month

DATELINE 1 APRIL 2014: “How green can you be?” is the message from major energy users Gulley Bull Ltd, who undertook a multi-faceted approach to saving fuel in their head office. They combined magnetic fuel conditioning, which offered a 20% saving, with two kinds of boiler water treatment. One, a simple cartridge containing special stones developed by a NASA scientist, changes a property of water to improve heat transfer by 25%. The other is a patented secret additive which prevents large steam bubbles forming in the boiler and also improves efficiency by 25%. Their building had solid walls, and was hard to insulate, but their energy manager’s researches uncovered a paint additive containing ceramic microspheres which, because they contain a vacuum, act as perfect insulators and promised a 30% saving on their heating costs just from redecorating the offices. Finally, they replaced their heating timeswitch with a control which claims to cuts fuel use by 16% by intermittently turning off the heating, saving fuel without sacrificing comfort: “an ingenious idea which took our total fuel savings to 116%” according to Gulley Bull spokeswoman April Fulstryk.

Super-thin insulation

Super-thin thermal insulation is in my sights at the moment. There are two categories: (a) multi-layer foil and fibre; and (b) paints or paint additives. The insulating effect of multi-layer systems is basically equal to the same thickness of whatever insulating fibre they use, but there is some additional advantage where they are installed with an air gap either side, since they create an extra cavity which has a certain thermal resistance. Their reflective foil will impart additional thermal resistance by preventing radiation from the hot to the cold face of the cavity. But note, however, that after filling with ordinary fibre, the hot and cold surfaces of the cavity can no longer see each other, and heat transfer is solely by conduction. So BOTH techniques eliminate radiative transfer across the cavity and the foil therefore imparts no advantage.

Insulating paints meanwhile, even if composed of material with high thermal resistivity, will have totally negligible effect because the insulating layer is microscopically thin (under 0.3mm by my calculations, based on coverage data in the advertisements). Claims that their ingredients reflect heat are unsound because those so-say reflective materials are buried in the paint layer; to reflect heat the SURFACE of the paint would need to act like a mirror to infra-red radiation.

Link: Energy management training