New life of old houses – NCBR recipe

They are several decades old, use solid fuels and are not insulated. Old apartment buildings today are energy vampires that are the source of many problems for both residents and the environment. But it doesn’t have to be! Find out how this problem is being solved by the National Center for Research and Development through a range of innovative companies supported by European funds under the Intelligent Development Programme.

About 70% of single-family homes (3.8 million) in Poland are energy inefficient. To make construction part of the solution, not the problem, a wave of renovation is needed, including on the thermo-modernization of buildings and apartments. The work of innovators who, under the wings of the National Center for Research and Development, show how to do this in a friendly way for residents, the environment and the climate, fits in with the trend of the European Green Deal strategy.

“The problem of comprehensive thermal modernization should cover a much wider scope than before, and its implementation should be financed in a mixed model with the use of public and private funds. This is one of the key recommendations arising from the analyzes that have been made. conducted in the field of possible scenarios of the energy transformation in Poland “. The quoted quote is from the study of the Center for Climate and Energy Analysis. A specialized analytical center, which is part of the National Center for Balancing and Management of Emissions (KOBiZE ), has produced a guide that is a signpost for Poland to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. Similar conclusions can be drawn from many other studies on Poland’s energy transformation.

Reduce the demand…

While improving energy efficiency is critical, there are other challenges, as well as the road to low-carbon – and preferably low-carbon – homes. That is the aim of the National Center for Research and Development, which carries out nine innovative research projects with the support of European funds within the framework of the Smart Growth programme. If the prototype solutions prove successful and are widely adopted in the economy, important changes await in many sectors, including construction.

– One of our most important projects in the context of improving the energy efficiency of buildings is, in my opinion, “Ventilation for schools and homes”. As part of this, decentralized systems will be created that will be installed in individual classrooms or apartments. These systems will constantly monitor the room temperature and adapt it to your needs. This means that the heat obtained will be used optimally, which will significantly reduce the energy demand – says Dr. Remigiusz Kopoczek, Acting Director of the National Center for Research and Development. – Thanks to recuperation, the house will need up to 30-60% less heat than before. The colder the period, the more savings it will bring, he adds.

In Poland, the thermal insulation of the building is by far the most popular method of thermal modernization. But covering the walls with Styrofoam is certainly not enough, because only part of the heat “escapes” through the walls. That is why it is also very important to replace the doors and windows, the roof and the ventilation, because if this is not done, windows or window fans will still be opened in buildings in winter, resulting in a huge energy loss. Only then can we talk about comprehensive thermal modernization.

It is worth adding that the thermal modernization of a house from the 90s or earlier should be accompanied by an energy audit and adaptation of the heating system to the new reality. Because the demand for energy is falling sharply, it is not justified to scale up installations. Especially because it entails unnecessary extra costs.

… And offer an alternative to solid fuels

Due to the concern not only for bills, but also for human health, air quality and environmental protection, it is also very important to replace the heat source itself. Today, almost 90% of the coal consumed by households across the European Union is burned in Poland. Lighting the boilers every day costs time, energy and health. In addition, in older homes, wood is burned in addition to coal, making the problem even worse.

Unfortunately, obsolete stoves are still found in some 3 million households. As a result, low household emissions, which account for about half of air pollutants, are the largest source of smog in our country. On the other hand, in the case of the carcinogenic benzo(a)pyrene itself, whose annual standards are exceeded by several hundred percent in many parts of the country, domestic chimneys are responsible for as much as 90% of the emissions.

Replacing heating sources with ecological ones is the best solution to these problems. Best because it is comprehensive – it makes it possible to eliminate not only the low emissions of particulate matter or pyrene bezno (a), but also the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.

With this in mind, what’s worth betting on? The National Center for Research and Development, with the support of European Funds, proposes various solutions. These are mainly heat pumps, photovoltaic panels and energy, heat and cold storage.

– The advantage of heat and cold storage is that they can be installed in new, energy-efficient buildings as well as in existing buildings. Of course, we are talking about small warehouses that make it possible to store heat and cold at short notice, for example in the 24-hour period, explains Dr. Łukasz Adrian, who leads the “Heat and Cold Storage” project at the NCBR.

If the homeowner wants to install a heat pump, he must take into account that the demand for electricity will increase by up to half. Nevertheless, it remains an investment that pays for itself. And the older the building and the greater the demand for energy, the faster the return on investment will be. – The calculation is best when someone has photovoltaic panels and the building is equipped with appropriate insulation – emphasizes Maciej Chmieliński from the National Center for Research and Development, manager of the “Electric Energy Storage” project.

It is worth noting that the provisioning of energy storage has become more profitable from April 1 of this year. The new regulations abolished the existing discounts, so that prosumers are no longer so interested in supplying excess electricity to the grid.

Fight against energy poverty

Another benefit is the reduction of energy poverty. According to the Institute for Structural Research, 12.2% of the inhabitants of Poland struggle with it, ie about 1.3 million households (4.6 million people). Depending on the criteria used, other research centers estimate the percentage of households with energy poverty at 9-32%.

Today, up to 70% of energy consumption in Poland is spent on space heating. Reducing this demand through thorough thermal modernization combined with the replacement of heating sources with ecological sources will help you reduce bills as much as possible. It is therefore the best way to combat energy poverty.

Buildings of the future

This approach to energy management supports distributed energy, which many experts believe should be the main direction of development. Rode? The use of energy closest to the place of production is the most optimal and effective, and it increases the independence of households and energy security. These latter advantages are gaining importance, especially in recent times, marked by the Russian aggression against Ukraine.

– Thoughtful consideration of the energy demand in older structures can yield very tangible benefits. In the best situation, it can even make the owner of the building virtually free of costs for electricity, heat and hot water. It can be stated that such a house will produce more energy on an annual basis than the residents need. I am aware that these are not yet common solutions. However, at the National Center for Research and Development, we believe that’s what the future will look like. Our role is therefore to show that these innovations actually work in practice, which will encourage the market to adopt them on a large scale – sums up Wojciech Racięcki, Director of the Innovative Program Management Development Department at NCBR, responsible for the implementation of the innovative formula of pre-commercial procurement.

Invitation to participate in consultations

The National Center for Research and Development has 9 initiatives that support the implementation of the European Green Deal strategy. In the spirit of this transformation, thanks to the involvement of funds from European funds under the Intelligent Development Program, the Center is carrying out the following projects: of the future “,” Innovative biogas plant “,” Electric energy storage “,” Heat and cold storage”, “Ventilation for Schools and Homes” and “Housing Retention Technologies”.

The projects the contractors are working on offer Poland an opportunity for a cleaner environment, a healthier society and a modern, competitive economy. And there will be more. Market consultations that have been launched help with this.

– From 2018, we successfully implement projects in the form of ventures in the form of innovative public procurement. We are currently carrying out projects aimed at developing innovative technologies that support the implementation of the principles of the European Green Deal. To meet new challenges, we are looking for topics, research challenges or issues – in particular in the field of the European Green Deal, digitization, microelectronics – that will be the subject of projects carried out in the new perspective of European Funds for 2021-2027, in the methodology of innovative public procurement – says Dr. Remigiusz Kopoczek, Acting Director of the National Center for Research and Development. – This dialogue with the market is very important because it helps us to plan future initiatives rationally, creatively and ambitiously and to allow entrepreneurs and scientists to participate in this process from the very beginning. Suggestions on topics can already be submitted to us as part of the consultation – director Kopoczek encourages.

Do you want to know more? Watch 8 short films about NCBR companies that fit into the Green Deal strategy: Green technologies? I like it! – The National Center for Research and Development – website (

Detailed information about the 9 research projects of the NCBR can be found HERE.

How to submit research theme proposals as part of the consultations? Detailed information is provided HERE

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