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Heat recovery

Find out how heat recovery systems to recover and re-use waste heat can reduce your organisaton's energy consumption

Hot air balloons (heat recovery)

Heat recovery is the collection and re-use of heat arising from any process that would otherwise be lost. The process might be inherent to a building, such as space heating, ventilation and so on, or could be something carried out as part of business activity, such as the use of ovens, furnaces and the like. Heat recovery can help to reduce the overall energy consumption of the process itself, or provide useful heat for other purposes.

Ventilation systems bring cool fresh air into a building using fans in Air Handling Units (AHUs). The AHUs also contain heating coils to allow the fresh air to be raised to the required temperature by the buildings boiler. The air continues to be heated by the occupants and equipment in the room and all this heat energy is lost when the air is extracted and dumped into the environment.

The addition of heat recovery means that some of the heat contained within the extract air can be recovered. The heat energy is passed into the incoming fresh air effectively pre-heating it and meaning the boiler needs to add less heat. The two air streams need not mix directly to allow the transfer of heat.


Sources of 'waste' heat

You're likely to have sources of 'waste' heat in your building whether you are in an office (e.g. from the heating or ventilation systems) or a factory (e.g. in an industrial drying process or compressed air system).

Waste heat from the following common sources often presents opportunities for cost-effective heat recovery:

  • ventilation system extracts
  • boiler flue gases
  • boiler blowdown
  • air compressors
  • refrigeration plant
  • high temperature exhaust gas streams from furnaces, kilns, ovens and dryers
  • hot liquid effluents
  • power generation plant
  • process plant cooling systems.

Use the Heat recovery checklist (CTL142) to help you decide whether your building is likely to have any of these types of sources.


Improving the energy efficiency of heat generation

Where it's possible, the most cost-effective use of waste heat is usually to improve the energy efficiency of the heat generating process itself.

Common uses (or 'sinks') for recovered heat include:

  • pre-heating combustion air for boilers, ovens, furnaces, and so on;
  • pre-heating fresh air used to ventilate the building;
  • hot water generation, including pre-heating boiler feed water;
  • space heating;
  • drying;
  • other industrial process heating/pre-heating;
  • power generation.

In most cases, heat recovery is far more efficient when the heat source and heat sink are coincident - meaning they are physically close together and occur at the same time.

Heat recovery guide

Heat recovery guide

This 57-page guide gives information on the various types of heat recovery technology and techniques and how you can apply them to your business.  It is intended for anyone who has responsibility for the efficient and cost-effective operation of buildings, or those who use an industrial process where heat might be unnecessarily wasted.

The guide will help you understand the basic principles of heat recovery as well as some of the common terminology.  Heat recovery application charts by building type and process type help you decide which types of heat recovery application might be of interest to you.

The main part of the guide is divided into sections which reflect the key applications for heat recovery in buildings.  It includes principles of operation, where heat recovery is appropriate, tips for implementation, investment and payback, benefits and case studies.  

Guide contents

  • Introduction
  • Heat recovery: the basics
  • Heat recovery applications: boilers
  • Heat recovery applications: refrigeration
  • Heat recovery applications: ventilation
  • Heat recovery applications: industrial processes
  • Next steps

Publication date August 2011: Publication code CTG057

Information in this report was correct at the time of publication


Further guidance on heat recovery systems

We have the following publications available for free download:


Energy efficiency support

If you'd like to improve energy efficiency of your organisation, see our services to find out how we can help.  This includes financing and implementation support for organisations seeking to invest in energy efficient equipment.


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