Commercial boilers meet demand

There are, and always have been, a wide variety of requirements to consider when selecting a boiler model for commercial applications. A number of factors such as building land, boiler output, efficiency, modulation range and size must all be considered and matched appropriately to each project. As a result, high efficiency commercial boilers are emerging on the market that have smaller footprints than ever before for the outputs available.

In this article we will examine the changes that have highlighted the importance of particular commercial boiler requirements, as well as looking at the ever increasing importance of energy efficiency and the LZC (Low to Zero Carbon) technologies that can be utilised alongside modern boilers to meet current requirements and demands for lower carbon footprint.

An end to spending

The Government’s response to the current economic downturn is to lower the country’s debt through a reduction in public sector spending, which will impact on us all. However, the commercial sector must find a way to continue operating in this testing financial environment by ensuring business expenses are fully justified and, where possible, reducing controllable costs.

One way in which businesses are looking to minimise their outgoings is by increasingly making the decision to remain in their current premises rather than expanding to a larger or more modern building whilst they weather the economic climate. There has also been a recent decline in the number of new buildings being constructed in the UK – a situation which looks set to continue for the foreseeable future – which means that there is increased emphasis on refurbishment in existing buildings.

Both of these situations generally present more of a challenge to boiler manufacturers in terms of available plant room space. However, even for the few new-build developments that are still being funded, the amount of space being allocated for plant room appliances is getting smaller and smaller. Space efficiency can be a key factor in the decision making process, particularly in buildings providing facilities such as serviced office space, whereby each square metre of floor space is a valuable commodity and owners are wishing to fully maximise their financial gain.

The importance of replacing old heating appliances, such as boilers, with high efficiency, low energy models that will minimise the building’s running costs, is another prime consideration for businesses. Consequently, the emphasis for boiler manufacturers now is on developing high output appliances that can easily be utilised even in very restricted plant room space, and are adaptable for any type of plant room application that may exist.

Energy efficiency

Energy efficiency is, of course, another essential factor in commercial boiler selection, one that has risen dramatically in importance over the last few decades in response to the global threat of climate change and concern about diminishing reserves of fossil fuels.

As a consequence of the world’s governments deciding to take action regarding these issues, namely as a result of the Kyoto Protocol in 1992 and ensuing meetings and summits, legislation has gradually changed. In the last decade, this has resulted in the widespread use of condensing boiler technology within commercial heating systems. Alongside this has been the development and introduction of LZC solutions, together with improvements in building design and materials such as insulation.

There are now numerous Government measures and building efficiency rating systems to ensure that energy use in commercial buildings is minimised. An example is BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology), the most widely used assessment method for buildings which actually sets a benchmark that is higher than regulation, providing recognition for well-designed, low carbon buildings.

BREEAM is also used as a condition for planning permission in refurbishment and new-build projects. Therefore, high efficiency condensing boilers with low NOX emissions that can be integrated with LZC technologies, such as heat pumps, are often selected in the pursuit of a high BREEAM assessment to ensure planning permission for building work is granted.

Another initiative that is proving very effective is the Government’s ECA (Enhanced Capital Allowance) scheme, which offers businesses enhanced tax relief for investing in equipment that is listed on the ETL (Energy Technology List). Many modern condensing boilers can be found on this list, thereby offering both environmental and financial benefits to businesses and further encouraging the installation of high efficiency appliances.

Meeting the need

As a result of these considerations, leading boiler manufacturers have developed boilers that are smaller in size and that will meet current legislation regarding energy efficiency, thereby offering a solution that will reduce a building’s running costs. In terms of design, the boiler’s footprint is key and the latest boilers are measuring typically a maximum of around 760mm wide and between 915mm to 1340mm deep, whilst still being available in high outputs typically of up to around 300kW. When installed in cascade of, say, 12 units, the maximum output could be up to around 3600kW.

Other important design factors for these floor standing units include the position of the burner and location of the boiler connections. When positioned on top, this not only allows for ease of servicing but also means the appliance can be set right back against a wall and close to other appliances, further reducing the amount of plant room space required.

Linking with LZC

In turbulent economic times, there is always the somewhat conflicting issue of whether or not to increase spending on the capital cost of new, LZC technologies in order to control rising fuel bills. Compared to moving premises, though, the cost of installing LZC technologies is significantly less and this is fast becoming the preferred option for many businesses, particularly those that will be making financial savings through the ECA scheme. Where a commercial boiler provides space heating, the most efficient design is to use these alongside direct-fired water heaters for domestic hot water generation and then to integrate a separate LZC technology to work on each aspect of the system.

For instance, a ground source heat pump could be installed to satisfy the base thermal load for building services space heating, with the boiler itself providing supplementary heat during periods of peak demand. In an installation with an underfloor heating circuit, utilising a ground source heat pump would maximise performance through water outlet temperature control, enabling heating boilers to be used for the higher temperature radiator circuits.

For the hot water system, popular and effective LZC technologies include solar thermal water heating systems or air source heat pumps. Some leading manufacturers offer these LZC options alongside their high efficiency boilers and water heaters, resulting in a one stop shop solution for fully integrated boiler house facilities. This can include full technical support from the design stage, if required.

Weathering the storm

Over recent years, emphasis on the importance of plant room space has increased and the issue of energy efficiency will continue to be a prime consideration as long as our reliance on fossil fuels and traditional heating appliances like boilers continues – a situation that looks set to remain for the foreseeable future.

Leading manufacturers will continue to develop products to meet the most recent requirements,
as well as exploring new ground in the realm of LZC technologies that will lessen our reliance on fossil fuels, therefore reducing carbon emissions whilst helping businesses to weather the economic storm by minimising the running costs of buildings.

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