Heat energy consumption


In Northern Europe, households spend more than 60% of their total energy consumption on heating, and Latvia is no exception in this respect. Harsh and cold weather also affects the expenses of the company, so it is important to know where it is possible to save energy resources.

Other benefits can also be obtained by using energy-efficient solutions, such as improving the working environment, which can improve the productivity of the employees. The biggest losses of thermal energy are through parts of the building structure – walls, windows, doors, and various types of openings.

The most common heat losses

Heat seeks the place of least resistance to escape outside the building. Such places can be the gaps in construction and insulation, which is often called a heat or cold bridge. It can be described as a localised area of the building envelope where the heat flow is different (usually increased) compared to adjacent areas. In such areas, there is not only increased heat loss, but also related processes such as unexpected expansion and contraction of structures, condensation, increased humidity, and mould problems.

Heat bridges usually occur at wall/floor, wall/roof and wall/intersection joints, balconies, windowsills, window and door openings, building corners and other places where there is a gap between the structure and materials. Heat loss can also be caused by defects in materials, as well as improperly and carelessly performed construction works.

Assessment of building efficiency – energy audit of the building

An energy audit of the building is one of the best ways to find out how much energy a company is spending and how it could be reduced. It helps to determine the amount of energy consumed in each of the production stages, which of them has the highest, or lowest energy consumption, how much the particular equipment consumes, whether it works efficiently, etc.


To improve the operation of the company, the energy auditor makes recommendations or indicates priority measures for energy efficiency. Taking this into account, it is possible to reduce costs, increase production capacity and, in some cases, change the future financial plans of the company. Different types of energy audits are available depending on the type of company and the goals to be achieved.

Primary tasks for reducing energy losses

1. Temperature regulation

Reducing heat consumption does not always require large investments. Use the temperature adjustment options of the heater – do not operate it in the maximum mode unless necessary.

Use the maximum mode to heat the room quickly but lower it later. By lowering the temperature by 1 °C, it is possible to reduce the consumed electricity by up to 5%.

2. Regulation and control of ventilation

To reduce energy consumption, it is recommended to provide regulated ventilation during the operation of ventilation equipment which works only when necessary. It is possible to reduce the operating time, for example, in rooms that are not used regularly.

Equipment maintenance also plays a big role in the efficiency of ventilation equipment. If a mechanical ventilation system is used, it is recommended to ventilate by opening the windows fully for a few minutes.

3. Window selection and maintenance

Most of the heat in buildings is lost through windows and exterior doors. If a cool airflow is felt near the window or door, most often, the seal needs to be replaced.

From the moment of installation, the seal is exposed to various conditions, therefore, over time, it no longer performs its functions and undesirable airflow occurs. The effectiveness of the window seal can be checked by inserting a piece of paper between the frame and the window. If it can be easily pulled out, heat flows out and cold flows in just as easily. However, even when replacing the seal, it is important to consider the coefficient of thermal insulation "U", which indicates how much heat escapes through a certain area of the structure in a given time and is usually indicated on the manufacturer's label. Attention should be paid not only to the U-value of the window package but also to the total U-value, which includes the window frame.

Seasonal weather changes, improper installation, and poor-quality materials are some of the reasons why heat escapes through windows and doors and you should think about replacing them.

When selecting windows, you should pay attention to several performance characteristics:

  • heat insulation,
  • air permeability,
  • wind load resistance,
  • acoustic properties,
  • safety class.

4. Improvements to the heating system

The options for adjusting the heating system can be different. One of the easiest ways is to control heat consumption mechanically by installing manually adjustable radiator valves. In this case, the water supply to the radiator can be completely or partially closed, but it is impossible to set the desired room temperature exactly.

The second option is to install thermostats. They react quickly to temperature changes, so they use energy and heat efficiently. The body of the controller valve is designed to be mounted at the radiator inlet, considering the direction of water flow. The required temperature in the rooms is set by turning the tuning scale of the thermostat.

Another measure to increase the energy efficiency of the heating system is its balancing. The purpose of balancing the heating system is to allow the water to be distributed between the radiators in such a way that each radiator receives the calculated flow and temperature. Balancing is done by dividing the water between:

  • radiators,
  • mains and risers,
  • various heating loops.

If the heating system is not balanced, individual radiators receive too much flow, the power of these radiators is too high and the room temperature is too high. At the same time, other radiators receive too little flow, as a result of which they have a lower heat output and a lower temperature in the rooms.

Heating systems equipped with thermostats are partially balanced, but these valves can be in such poor condition that the system needs to be balanced to operate energy efficiently. Advantages of thermostats:

  • They are easily adjustable and maintain a constant temperature in the room.
  • They contribute to a better distribution of water flow in the system, as they balance oversized radiators to a certain extent, different use of rooms, and a generally unbalanced system.
  • Reduced thermal energy losses during room ventilation, even without closing the thermostatic valve.

5. Renovation of buildings

More complex measures require more time and financial investments. One of these investments is building insulation. To do this, an assessment made by a specialist is required, determining the current state of the building to create an individual set of insulation measures. The methods of insulating exterior walls, basements, and attics differ, so it is important to use the appropriate materials for the intended construction. When insulating a building, the benefits can be not only the reduction of heating costs but also a comfortable environment to be in.

Before deciding to renovate a building, it is necessary to assess its technical condition and carry out a detailed evaluation of the house. It is necessary to be able to carry out correct and suitable renovation of the building. To start construction works, it is necessary to prepare and submit the necessary documents to the construction authority. It should be remembered that construction works can only be carried out by registered contractors.

To avoid disagreements with the construction company, attention should be paid to the preparation of a high-quality contract, determining the deadline for the work to be performed, payment conditions, as well as actions in situations when the amount of renovation work, price, etc. changes. During the construction process, it is important to monitor the proper execution of the works. Proper maintenance of the building after renovation is a basic condition for long-term financial economy and maintenance of microclimate.

A component of quality renovation is the selection of suitable materials. It should correspond to both the specific construction and the type of building and premises.


Choosing materials of unknown origin, which are relatively cheaper, may cause problems in the long term because the desired effect will not be achieved, i.e., the energy-performance indicators will not be as good as expected, and thermal bridges may occur, which can contribute to further damage to the building. Therefore, it must be remembered that the materials must meet the standard of the specific thermal insulation group.

An insight into the choice of thermal insulation materials

1. Mineral wool

One of the most popular materials is mineral wool. There are two types of wool depending on the ingredients – glass and stone. Rock wool is made from volcanic matter by heating them, then forming them into fibres, and finally adding various binders and allowing them to harden. Glass-wool is similarly produced from quartz sand and recycled glass. Mineral wool is most often chosen for thermal insulation due to its low thermal conductivity. Stone wool is used for the thermal insulation of walls, partitions, attics, roofs, and floors, while glass wool is more often used for the technical insulation of pipelines.



  • breathable,
  • good sound absorption,
  • thermal stability,
  • good thermal efficiency,
  • easy to process,
  • can withstand high temperatures.
  • low vapour permeability,
  • causes itching with contact with the skin,
  • rodents tend to live in it.

2. Ecowool

Ecowool is a natural material that is produced from cellulose fibre by recycling wastepaper and adding antipyrines and antiseptics. No harmful or health-threatening additives are used during its production. One of the advantages is that the material fills building structures well, especially hard-to-reach places. Two types of installation are used – dry (horizontal or vertical) and wet. Wet installation of ecowool is used in open wall constructions, while dry installation is used in horizontal (walls, etc.) and inclined (attics, roofs, etc.) constructions.



    • natural and ecologically clean material,
    • good thermal conductivity (λ = 0.039–0.041W/mK),
    • no residues during laying,
    • anti-allergic material,
    • recyclable,
    • fireproof,
    • good sound insulation.
  • more expensive material,
  • during the laying process, mechanical processing is required,
  • the installation process is more complicated,
  • specialist help is required,
  • must dry for two weeks after wet application.

3. Lightweight expanded clay aggregate

Lightweight expanded clay aggregate as a material has been known for a long time. It is obtained by heating clay in a rotary kiln up to about 1200 °C. During this process, the organic components of the clay, which are evenly dispersed, are burned. Weight, size, and strength can be precisely controlled during the manufacturing process. Due to its low weight and durability, it is used for light filling in engineering structures, as well as in gardening. Most often, lightweight expanded clay aggregate is used to warm basements, attics, and mezzanine floors. Available both in bulk and as blocks.



  • natural material,
  • lightweight,
  • rodents do not live in it,
  • can be reused,
  • fireproof.
  • must not be used in rooms with possible exposure to moisture,
  • lower thermal efficiency compared to other materials,
  • blocks of lightweight expanded clay aggregate are more difficult to process.

4. Fibreboard plates

Fibreboard plates are produced from raw materials of natural origin. The main ingredient is curled chips, to which the binder – Portland cement and mixed water are added. These components make fibreboard plates mechanically strong and also increase fire resistance. The thickness of the curled chips determines the wide and diverse possibilities of the use of the material. They are mainly used for thermal insulation, in enclosing structures, in premises where it is necessary to provide sound insulation, as a decorative element, etc.



  • ecological, natural material,
  • fireproof,
  • high specific-heat capacity – 2100 J/(kg.K),
  • soundproof,
  • easy and convenient to process,
  • the material does not rot, rodents do not like it.
  • other materials have better thermal conductivity,
  • heavy material,
  • to ensure better thermal insulation, a thicker layer is required, difficult to use on premises with limited space.

5. Polystyrene foam

Polystyrene foam is a dense inorganic material that is filled with air during processing to obtain the desired properties of the material. As a result, the material contains 2–4% polystyrene foam and 96–98% air. Available in both bulk and panel form. White polystyrene foam is the best known, but grey with graphite particles is also gaining more and more popularity. One of the most available materials in terms of price. It is most often used for external wall and foundation insulation.



  • low price,
  • lightweight,
  • minimal water absorption,
  • diverse post-processing,
  • high thermal efficiency,
  • durable material,
  • easy to process.
  • petroleum product,
  • during burning, it produces poisonous gases,
  • does not decompose,
  • direct sunlight damages the material.

Building management systems

Building management systems or BMS are a unified and automated technology that allows building owners or managers to more conveniently and simply manage the processes and energy consumption in the building.

It enables remote control of lighting, heating, ventilation, air conditioning systems, motion detectors, video surveillance cameras, industrial processes and equipment etc. in a special programme. This system is best installed during the construction process of the building; however, it can also be installed in an already commissioned building.

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Heat recovery or recuperation

Recuperation is the recovery of energy for reuse. It is primarily used to recover heat energy from exhaust air in ventilation systems or hot water drains.

There are also various solutions so that the thermal energy generated as a side effect in the process of operation of various equipment can be useful in other equipment, for example, for heating the building. For example, thermal energy generated by the operation of large servers is used to heat buildings or prepare hot water.

Heat recovery or recuperation

1. Recovery in ventilation

Heat recovery ventilation has been widely used already for several years. Air exchange takes place without losing thermal energy, namely, outgoing warm air masses warm up (in winter – cool down) incoming ones, giving away their heat.

This technology makes it possible to recover up to 90% of the thermal energy that is conveyed through the ventilation shafts together with the used air.

The two most common types of recovery equipment: using a plate heat exchanger and a rotary heat exchanger.

2. Recovery in sewage

A lesser-known solution is a reclamation from sewage. The principle is quite simple – wastewater heat is used to heat water. Before the wastewater gives off heat, it needs to pass through various types of filters that separate impurities.

For the system to work effectively, an accumulation tank is installed, because the flow of wastewater does not always coincide with the amount of water required. If water is not needed at a particular moment, for example during the night hours, it is stored.

Heat recovery from sewers is most useful for buildings with a lot of hot water use, pools and showers, laundries and dry cleaners, the textile industry, food factories, residential homes, etc.

3. Ambient cooling

Heat recovery can also be used in the opposite direction – to cool the building from the outside cold source. Since Latvia is located in the northern part of Europe, we have not had a great need for cooling solutions, but as the summers get hotter, the demand will only grow. The cold energy in the ground and water bodies is most often used as a source of cold because using it has low production costs and greater energy savings compared to other cooling methods. In groundwater is chosen as the resource source, it is necessary to consider the drilling to obtain water at a temperature of 6–12 °C, which in some cases can then be used as technical water.

Benefits and advantages of using renewable energy resources

One of the essential elements to increase the sustainability of the energy system and reduce electricity bills is to increase the use of renewable energy in the heating system.

For example, it is possible to connect solar panels to a heat pump. When installing solar panels, the electricity produced is used to operate the heat pump. A previously installed heat pump can also be combined by adding solar panels. Heat energy can also be obtained with the thermal collector, which can be used for heating the building or preparing hot water.

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