Clean air matters! Let’s make Poland free of smog

Not many of us are aware of where smog really comes from. It would seem that the greatest pollution comes from towering factory chimneys, spewing billows of smoke. But nothing more misleading. Since the main contributor to smog is the so called “low-stack emission” i.e. fumes from solid fuel boilers, stoves and furnaces in private households. When we realize that in Poland out of about 5.5 million residential buildings, over 5 million are single-family houses, we can say that the scale of the problem is really huge.

In Poland, buildings that were built in the communist period, are still the majority. They are characterised by much lower construction standards, what contributes to even greater emissions and smog. The smog issue is closely related to the problem of energy poverty. In an attempt to avoid high heating costs, many households choose low-cost fuels, what leads to the emission of highly hazardous substances. Thermal retrofit is the first stage in the process of upgrading the energy efficiency of buildings. A wellinsulated building prevents heat loss, what results in lower heat consumption.

It is estimated that the output energy consumption of a house before energy renovation is about 341 PJ, whereas after thermal renovation it falls to the level of about 148 PJ. That is to say, 193 PJ of energy could be saved through thermal retrofit of single-family houses, what gives 57% savings in heat energy for the single-family housing sector alone. Thermal retrofit projects would contribute to the reduction of harmful dusts such as:

  • Benzo(a)pyrene (o 44%)
  • PM 2,5 (by 22%)
  • PM 10 (by 23%)

Thermal renovation of homes as a method to combat smog!
We refer to thermal renovation or upgrade many times, but what does it actually mean?

In general, thermal renovation means all measures that are taken with the aim to reduce the heat demand and consumption and to increase energy efficiency of homes. The first thing to do is thermal retrofitting i.e. proper thermal insulation of the building. This project requires a considerable financial outlay, but ensures savings in the future, since thermal insulation leads to a significant reduction on heating bills. Not many are aware of the fact that this is thermal retrofitting that best ensures thermal efficiency improvement. In addition to savings of energy needed to ensure human thermal comfort, it also contributes to a dramatic reduction of the emission of harmful substances and, in consequence, to the reduction of SMOG in Poland.

The upgrade or replacement of entire heating system in the house should be the next step. Since an insulated house uses less energy, it is possible that a heat source (boiler) with lower output will be needed. Such a boiler would be optimal and the cost of purchase significantly lower.

What happens when a house is not insulated properly and how to check whether your home is well insulated?

In Poland, the buildings that should be first considered are those, which were built before 1989 and use solid fuels for heating (wood, brown and hard coal, anthracite, graphite). Old buildings are leaky, what leads to extensive heat losses.

The best way to check the quality of thermal insulation of the house is thermal imaging. Thermal photos can detect any leaks or deficiencies in the insulation of the building. It is recommended to carry out a thermal imaging testing in winter, when the outside temperature drops below 0°C.

Thanks to thermal imaging, we can observe temperature distribution across the tested surface and the location of thermal bridges – locations with lower thermal performance.

W jakiej kolejności prowadzona powinna być termomodernizacja i czy ma to wpływ na nasz domowy budżet?

Aby działania przez nas podejmowane były miarodajne każdy budynek przed rozpoczęciem działań powinien zostać poddany audytowi energetycznemu – czyli oszacowaniu parametrów technicznych i ekonomicznych przedsięwzięcia, który powinien poprzedzić wybór rozwiązania optymalnego. Nie jest to jednak obowiązek   co niestety może prowadzić do przewymiarowania np. w wyborze kotła.

Bardzo ważna jest kolejność prowadzonych działań podczas termomodernizacji-NAJPIERW TERMOIZOLACJA PÓŹNIEJ WYMIANA ŹRÓDŁA CIEPŁA, w innym przypadku dojdzie do przewymiarowania, czyli wybrania sprzętu nad wymiar potrzeb, gdyż zapotrzebowanie na ciepło w domu, który nie został ocieplony jest co najmniej dwa razy większe.

Te zmiany początkowo wymagają niemałego nakładu finansowego, należy to jednak traktować jako inwestycję w zdrowie, komfort oraz mniejsze rachunki za ogrzewanie w przyszłości, czego niestety wielu z nas nie bierze pod uwagę.

What should be the stages of thermal upgrade and how does is affect our household budget ?

To ensure that the upgrade is efficient, the building should be subject to an energy audit prior to upgrading, i.e. an inspection survey and assessment of technical and economic aspects of the project should be carried out prior to the selection of the optimal solution. This stage is not obligatory, however, resigning from the energy audit may lead to oversizing e.g. wrong boiler selection.

The sequence of actions taken to upgrade thermal performance is crucial here – first thermal retrofitting and the replacement of heat sources should be at a later stage, otherwise the equipment may be oversized that is the equipment selected may have parameters that are excessive for the needs, as the heat demand in a house that has not been insulated is at least twice as high.

These changes require a considerable financial outlay atinitial stage, but this should be seen as an investment in health, comfort and lower heating bills in the future, what unfortunately is not taken into account by many of us.

What is the impact of thermal upgrade on air quality?

The most important is the awareness that an efficient insulation of new buildings and retrofit insulation of existing buildings will contribute to the reduction of energy losses, what in the long-run will results in the reduction of pollution emitted during combustion of fossil fuels, this is the first and most important step to reduce SMOG in Poland. If all the houses in Poland were properly insulated, the harmful dust would not be produced and released to atmosphere in such a quantity.

Therefore, we should remember that the problem of clean air affects us all and we must be aware that this is us that can change it and we can fight together and try to make Poland smog-free.

Weronika Mrzygłód, Marketing Specialist, Bolix

Last Updated on October 29, 2020 by Łukasz