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A lesson in heating

A lesson in heating....

Posted by Ed Brown | November 04, 2016 | Bricks & mortar

With the demand for school places growing at an unprecedented scale, we will no doubt see hundreds more schools being built across the country in the next few years. In turn, the requirements for new cost-effective, efficient heating systems will also increase. Neville Small, business development director at Potterton Commercial, highlights the key considerations when planning a heating system for a new build school.

Research by public sector procurement specialists Scape Group has highlighted the need for a massive school building programme in England to deliver more than 2,000 schools by 20201. Local authorities are predicting there will be 729,000 extra primary and secondary school pupils in the next four years, and to meet this shortfall, we will need to build an extra 1,744 primary schools and 378 secondary schools – the equivalent of two new schools a day, including more than 500 in London.

Any uplift in school building on this scale represents a fantastic opportunity for light commercial installers. So what should installers be mindful of when planning a heating system for a new build school?

Let’s start with energy efficiency. Schools will be looking for a heating system which will be cost effective to run, not only saving them money on their monthly bills, but also fulfilling their obligations to minimise carbon emissions.

Choosing the most energy efficient products is particularly straightforward these days, as light commercial boilers and water heaters fall under the Energy Labelling Directive (or ErP Directive). Since it came into force last year, space heaters and combi space heaters of up to 70kW now need to have an energy label with a rating ranging from A++ to G. When used alongside energy efficiency data, these labels can help installers choose between products which have the same energy rating.

For primary schools, where hot water will be for hand washing and catering only, a light commercial boiler, such as Potterton Commercial’s Paramount four 50kW, should be adequate to meet the needs of the building users. In a secondary school or college, where hot water demand may also include showers for changing areas, a separate hot water cylinder or direct gas fired water heater may be required and a suitably sized Paramount boiler.

From the outset, renewable heat solutions should also be considered as part of a high efficiency heating set up. A ground source heat pump is a particularly suitable choice for schools as most will have a large outdoor space where the ground loop collectors can be laid to extract the heat from the ground. The heat can then be used to heat radiators or underfloor heating systems. Solar thermal systems might also be a good option, to pre-heat the water coming to a commercial combi boiler to increase its efficiency.

Both solar thermal and heat pumps are included in the Government’s Non-Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) programme. The scheme provides financial incentives to schools, among others, to increase the uptake of renewable heating solutions. Participants can receive regular payments for 20 years to generate green energy. In short, installing renewable solutions will pay for itself very quickly.

As well as energy efficiency, another key point for school heating systems is reliability. Schools must be open daily so they need to be confident that their heating is up to the job. We would always advise installers to invest in a good quality boiler from a reputable manufacturer, and look for models with generous warranties for additional peace of mind.

For schools with a larger demand for heat, it will be worth considering installing more than one boiler, so that they can run in sequence. By setting up the plant in this way, the boilers will share the load when they are all operational and should one unit need to be taken offline for repair or maintenance; the remaining units can take the load so there’s no break in heat delivery.

For example, Potterton Commercial’s Sirius wall hung (WH) boilers were recently specified for a new school in Plymouth, specialising in sport, leisure & tourism, hospitality and event management for Years 10 and 12. The contractor specified two 90kW boilers for the Plymouth Studio School, to be installed in parallel to take 66 per cent of the heat load each.

With a high demand for hot water, the school’s requirement for DHW will be served by a separate high efficiency storage water heater. The separation of the heat and hot water plant in this instance will help to save fuel, as during the warmer months when space heating is not required, the Sirius boilers can be taken off line for servicing or turned off completely.

School staff were particularly pleased with the compact design of the Sirius WH boilers, how easy they are to use and how quiet they are in operation – all additional benefits that are worth considering when specifying a new heating system.

While there has been no announcement yet about implementing a revised schools building programme, there is clearly a need for it. Now is the time for installers to be doing their homework to ensure they understand which heating solutions make the grade for the new build schools of the future.

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