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Neville Small, sales director at Potterton Commercial

In it for the long term

As more new schools are built, the installation of energy efficient, cost-effective products must be a top priority

Posted by Ed Brown | December 02, 2016 | Sustainability

As more new schools are built, the installation of energy efficient, cost-effective products must be a top priority. While it’s tempting just to focus on initial costs, it’s worthwhile to plan ahead to ensure a favourable return on investment. Here, Neville Small, sales director at Potterton Commercial, explains why investing in quality products and equipment makes for a reliable, efficient heating system in the long run.

This month Chancellor Phillip Hammond delivered his Autumn Statement, which included a £50m investment in the expansion of grammar schools across the UK. This, combined with the Department for Education’s pledge to commit £23bn to school buildings over the next five years, highlights the high growth potential in the school services sector.

When building a new school, it can be easy to focus on the initial capital cost of equipment, especially if budgets are tight, however, operational costs need to be taken into account too. 

This is where whole life costing comes in. Whole life costing should include a review of anticipated energy, installation, maintenance and servicing costs, alongside the initial cost of the product.  Then you can set accurate, realistic budgets for its operation, maintenance and repair. 

Whole life costing models can predict how much energy a boiler will use, and assumptions can therefore be made about how much it will cost to run (depending on fuel prices), and how much carbon it will emit. Although some energy efficient equipment will have a slightly higher capital cost, this can often be recouped very quickly as a result of lower energy use (and hence lower energy bills). 

Fortunately, it is now easier to select the most energy efficient products, with space heaters and combi space heaters of up to 70kW having an energy label (ranging from A++ to G) as a result of the Energy Labelling Directive (widely referred to as ErP), introduced in September 2015. Additional performance and efficiency parameters can be found in a ‘technical fiche’ and within product data/technical parameter sheets, which should be available on manufacturers’ websites and in installation instructions included with products.

A more in-depth analysis of whole life costs would also include the anticipated expenses associated with installation, maintenance, repair and servicing. 

The work involved in installing commercial boilers can vary – so it’s an area that’s definitely worth investigating. Some manufacturers have invested in making their boilers quick and easy to fit, and some offer cascade boiler frames or prefabricated solutions to simplify the installation process further. 

Within a whole life cost model, the costs for regular maintenance and servicing (which are essential for safety and reliability, and will also increase boiler life) should always be included. We would also add a cost for water treatment, as heating systems will perform better, more efficiently and more reliably with good-quality water circulating in them. 

Alongside this essential maintenance, unplanned, unexpected repairs must also be considered. In fact, there is a growing awareness that maintenance and refurbishment costs may amount to half of all money spent on existing buildings. Reviewing the reliability of a boiler’s individual components and the work required (e.g. which parts will need replacing and how often) can help to ensure there aren’t any surprise costs or disruption – although having a contingency budget is always advisable. 

A boiler manufactured from high-quality components and materials may initially cost more to purchase, but it will require fewer spare parts and repairs, contributing to a shorter payback period with less disruption and downtime. 

This might seem a lot to consider, but boiler manufacturers should be able to assist by providing an analysis of all the costs and revenues associated with a specific product, so that accurate, realistic budgets for its purchase, installation, operation, maintenance and repair can be set. 

Procurement decisions based purely on purchase price may prove to be false economy, costing more in the long run as a result of increased fuel bills or because products will need to be repaired or replaced sooner. Thinking about the long term is much more likely to deliver efficiency, cost-effectiveness and value-for-money. 

For further information please visit www.pottertoncommercial.co.uk

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