Shared expertise can mean more efficient heating systems

As the construction industry continues to work towards instigating more collaboration amongst the different sectors of the supply chain, Darren Finley, National Sales Director for Ideal Commercial, addresses the part that manufacturers can play to ensure their input is timely, useful and beneficial to the project as a whole.

Recommendations for the financial and time savings benefits of a more collaborative approach to construction have appeared in reports dating back to the 1960’s. The idea gained real credence in the industry after the publication of Sir Michael Latham’s 1994 report ‘Constructing the Team’ and this was followed four years later by the Egan Report, which highlighted the need for Government involvement in the implementation of new, more integrated procedures, as well as the importance of viewing the delivery of services from the client’s perspective. The benefits of improved communication between the different sectors of the supply chain were extolled once more in the Government’s Construction Strategy, published in 2011. The business models therein formed the basis of the current Infrastructure Cost Review, which aims to reduce the cost of delivering the UK’s infrastructure projects by £2-£3 billion per annum.

With this in mind, boiler manufacturers have an important role to play in ensuring their expertise is easily available to building services and heating system designers at an early stage, since the delivery of a successful heating solution is based on the designer’s ability to match the available technologies as precisely as possible to the requirements of the building. The ideal result is a cost effective, high efficiency integrated solution that is straightforward to install and is expertly designed to maintain a comfortable indoor environment for the building’s occupants.

Finding boiler efficiency

Boilers are still at the heart of a majority of heating systems, although the design and efficiency of these appliances has improved dramatically over the last decade, with the latest models offering numerous technological advances. The correct type of boiler must be carefully selected to meet space constraints, control capabilities, integration with other technologies and various other factors.

Energy efficiency is one of the primary considerations in the specification of a commercial boiler. The most recent changes to Part L2 of The Building Regulations, revealed in July 2013 and due for implementation in April 2014, demand that commercial buildings produce 9% less carbon emissions compared to current standard requirements. Although this is applicable to the building as a whole rather than the heating system in particular, energy critical components such as boilers have a major part to play in ensuring these requirements are met.

The Building Regulations are technology neutral and do not mandate the installation of particular systems; however, there is no doubt that one of the most effective and straightforward ways of reducing carbon emissions is in the specification of high efficiency condensing boilers. Indeed, this approach will be unavoidable when the Energy related Products (ErP) Directive comes into play in 2015, which looks set to stipulate an increase in minimum boiler efficiency requirements that will apply to the installation of condensing appliances up to 400kW.

Modern commercial condensing boilers are highly efficient, with some models on the market offering part load efficiencies of 110%. In order to identify the most efficient products, it is useful to check if the appliance is listed on the Government’s Energy Technology List (ETL). Manufacturers’ products are assessed before being granted ETL status and the required part load efficiency for boilers increased to 108% in autumn 2012 following recommendations by The Carbon Trust.

Taking control

In order for a commercial condensing boiler to actually achieve its potential efficiency levels, advanced controls must be integrated that will allow it to operate according to the precise environmental needs of the building. The Non Domestic Building Compliance Guide is a good source of guidance, detailing the most effective methods of meeting Part L2, including recommended minimum controls packages for boilers in both new build and retrofit applications.

For new build projects, suggested control packages are broken down into boiler plant output brackets, although in all instances boiler systems must have timing and temperature control in addition to weather compensation (unless a constant temperature supply is required). This expands to include controls such as frost protection and two stage high/low firing for outputs of 100-500kW. For modular boiler installations, effective sequence control is essential to provide efficient part-load performance.

In the case of many larger applications, boilers will need to be integrated with the existing Building Management System (BMS). As each BMS will have a variable voltage, it is advisable to look for a modern boiler with a 0-10V boiler control input to enable quick and easy connection.

Space options

The compact size of modern boilers is another major design advantage, and is particularly beneficial in retrofit applications. Wall hung models can offer the ideal solution and leading manufacturers offer these boiler types in outputs of up to 150kW.

Corresponding frame and header kits will allow these boilers to be installed in either back-to-back or in-line cascade formation, resulting in the potential for even greater combined capacities of up to 600kW. As well as offering the potential for reducing floor space when installed individually or in cascade, wall hung boilers can also provide a time saving solution when mounted on a prefabricated floor mounted frame. Prefabricated boiler rigs can include all essential components including individual shunt pumps within each unit, single balance headers, sequence controllers, safety and isolating valves and a drain point – making it quick and easy to install and, in the case of retrofit applications, minimising downtime.

Wall hung boilers are not the only option if plant space is at a premium. Modern floor mounted boilers offer much smaller footprints compared to older models, with a compact design that allows easy access through a standard doorway. Some leading manufacturers offer floor standing modular boilers, with modules that can be stacked up to three boilers high, covering minimum floor area and offering even higher outputs to meet demand. This modular formation not only offers space saving benefits and prolongs the life of the heating system by ensuring each individual module runs for the same amount of time when used with a modulating sequencer kit, it also ensures each heating system will have reliable backup in case an issue occurs with one of the boilers.

Working together

It is clear that boiler design has come a long way even in the last decade, with numerous features available to ensure that energy efficiency legislation is met and that appliances can be installed quickly and integrated into existing systems.

To help ensure vital product information is accessible at all stages of a project, approaches such as Building Information Modelling (BIM) are increasingly being adopted by designers, building engineers and now by manufacturers like Ideal Commercial, who are contributing to BIM libraries to ensure that detailed information about their products is easily to hand. Championed in the Infrastructure Cost Review, BIM is a highly effective platform that allows members of the supply chain to share relevant product and system information at the very start of a project, ensuring a high efficiency heating system is designed bef
ore any building work is even carried out, minimising time and cost and ensuring compliance with Government legislation – both now and in the years to come.

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