The impact of Part L

Graham Williamson, Business Director of Commercial Heating at Ideal Boilers, discusses the impact that Part L of the Building Regulations have had on the commercial and industrial sector since they were introduced in April this year.
Part L2A and L2B of the Building Regulations for non-domestic buildings and the Energy Performance of Building Directive (EPBD) have been well documented over the last year. Specifically introduced to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by setting a minimum standard which commercial and industrial buildings must adhere to, the focus is on the whole fabric of a building to improve the building’s performance. It requires more energy efficient materials to be used to minimise heat loss, through better insulated walls, floors and windows, along with reduced air pressure leakage.

The impact of these regulations has, as a result, made the move towards high efficiency (HE) heating products in the commercial and industrial sectors inevitable. Mirroring the market changes in the domestic boiler sector when Part L1 was introduced in April 2005, demand for commercial HE products in the last six months has increased dramatically, placing the onus on manufacturers to respond to market demands by introducing new product ranges that meet and exceed these legislation requirements.

HE condensing boilers already account for approximately 51% of the commercial boiler market, a 12% rise compared to 2004. This is forecast to increase to as high as 65% by the end of 2006, highlighting the shift in demand from traditional cast iron boilers, which are declining by around 15% a year, to HE products. Overall, industry experts predict that the HE boiler market is growing at 20% per annum, and this trend is set to continue for the foreseeable future.

However, many manufacturers are concerned with this rapid drive towards high efficiency. Whilst it is currently too early to make predictions, the impact of new legislation has the potential to shrink the total market by as much as 4-6%, a trait that the domestic sector has recently experienced.

The commercial heating boiler sector is relatively small and very mature, with only around 20,000 new units sold every year. These new regulations have the potential to defeat the objective of reducing carbon emissions by turning the market towards repair rather than replace. It is possible that clients forced to consider replacing a standard efficiency boiler with a condensing (HE) boiler may consider the cost implication to be excessive and therefore put off the work until another day. At Ideal Boilers, we believe the government should consider introducing more incentives to encourage commercial property managers to look at replacing ageing heating systems to help reduce their fuel costs.

The move to condensing (HE) boilers in the commercial sector has been accelerated by the acceptance of wall hung condensing technology. These boilers, introduced in the late 1990s, have rapidly gained acceptance as a result of their potential product attributes, such as ease of installation, compact size and flueing flexibility. It is for this reason that condensing boilers now represent approximately 39% of sales and have opened the door to the acceptance of condensing technology.

It is clear then that since the Building Regulations were introduced in April that the move towards HE condensing products is gathering pace. However, when specifiers and installers are selecting products, it is vitally important that they consider each application in its own right. To gain maximum benefit of a HE condensing boiler, the system design and controls need to be integrated to provide the ability for lower return temperatures. Without this, a condensing boiler is only likely to operate slightly more efficiently than a standard type boiler.

Therefore, for real fuel savings and actual carbon reductions to be realised, the correct product selection is essential to gain the maximum benefits of a condensing boiler. A HE boiler will only condense when the system allows it to do so, quite simply when the return temperature is maintained below 50oC. Currently, few existing systems have been designed, or are even suitable for condensing, so these issues need to be considered if the full benefits of HE boilers are to be realised, especially in replacement applications, which equate to over 70% of all commercial boilers installed.

When considering a condensing boiler in a replacement application, there are a number of issues that a specifier needs to address. Modern condensing heat exchanger technology, through its compact design, is less likely to be tolerant to sludge and debris that an old system has built up over time, therefore a system may have to cleaned prior to fitting the new boiler plant to prevent premature failure.

Also, a large proportion of condensing boilers available today require a greater flow rate through the boiler to maximise performance and prevent damage to the heat exchanger. Typically, an existing system in the UK is designed on an 11°C difference between the flow and return, whilst most condensing boilers require a 20°C difference. For a condensing boiler to be installed effectively, existing pump duty will need to be verified and if necessary new pumps will need to be fitted. The difference can also affect radiator performance. Older flue systems that have been installed for a number of years can also be problematic, and may not be suitable for newer condensing boilers, particularly, the level of condensate that may be produced within the flue system.

However, with fuel prices continuing to rise year on year, it is vitally important there are energy efficient solutions on the market for commercial and industrial properties. At Ideal, we are constantly looking at ways of improving our product and service offering and have responded to the Building Regulations by introducing the new Imax xtra series. Launched in April of this year to offer greater choice for commercial and industrial heating applications, the floor standing Imax xtra is specifically manufactured to meet the needs of the UK market and exceed legislation, whilst building on the success of the Imax W and Imax Plus range of high efficiency condensing boilers.

Initially available in six models, with outputs from 80 to 280kW, the range will be further extended this summer to take the output range up to 560kW to cover all possible applications. The boiler design ensures high operating efficiencies at both full and part loads, with non condensing efficiencies of up to 97.7% nett (88% gross cv) at 80°C and up to 107.5% nett (96.9% gross cv) at 30% load in condensing mode.

Overall, the introduction of Part L2A and L2B has undoubtedly driven growth in the condensing boiler market. However, condensing technology for the commercial market will continue to generate debate within the industry as the market is more complicated than the domestic sector. Specifiers and installers will need to be aware of the product attributes of high efficiency technology in order to make the right selection for individual applications. Condensing boilers can offer significant benefits, but all the implications of fitting them must be considered before carrying out the installation, and they must not be seen as a solution for all applications.

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