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Preparing for the switch on

For schools that haven't yet assessed their heating capabilities, there is still time to prepare, says Potterton Commercial

Posted by Charley Rogers | September 24, 2017 | Bricks & mortar

Summer shutdown is a busy time for school estate managers who use the six-week period to schedule in building and system repairs. As school budgets have tightened over the years we are often finding now that only essential maintenance is carried out, with energy efficiency upgrades taking second place. Here, the performance of the school’s heating system is likely to be put to one side until colder months, or until a fault is actually found with the system.

This leaves many schools vulnerable to system failure. Although a mild winter followed by a hot summer will not put that much pressure on a heating system, a harsh winter will really put it to the test. With our temperamental seasons in the UK, schools can be unexpectedly left with inefficient or non-existent heating provision if systems aren’t checked beforehand.

October half term is not too far away, providing those schools that had to sacrifice HVAC maintenance this summer with an opportunity to prepare ahead of winter.

Schools which still run off old non-condensing boilers can gain the most by replacing them with more modern condensing models which offer high performance and cost savings. Condensing boilers are capable of achieving over 90 per cent thermal efficiency compared with 70 to 80 per cent with non-condensing models. They do this by using exhaust gases normally dispersed via the flue into the atmosphere. These gases are sent through a heat exchanger, which cools and condenses them back into liquid form or condensate which contains much of the heat otherwise lost. Replacing a non-condensing boiler along with updating controls can save up to 25% of energy costs, depending on consumption. However, installing a condensing boiler requires additional work on-site, such as replacement pipe work, new flues and a condense drain. This means it’s essential to assess a system sooner rather than later in case a project takes longer than expected.

With our temperamental seasons in the UK, schools can be unexpectedly left with inefficient or non-existent heating provision if systems aren’t checked beforehand

To ease the installation process and minimise the associated costs and time involved, some manufacturers have invested in making their boilers quick and simple to fit, and as light and as easy to manoeuvre as possible. For example, the Sirius Two WH boilers from Potterton Commercial are compact in size and lightweight. These attributes are particularly beneficial when boilers need to be hung on walls to save floorspace. If a cascade arrangement comprising multiple linked boilers is required, frames and prefabricated solutions can also simplify installation.

In addition to ensuring a constant, comfortable temperature for pupils and teachers, schools that upgrade their heating system to condensing technology will also benefit from improved energy efficiency, especially when replacing old, inefficient non-condensing boilers with efficient condensing boilers. That means reduced carbon emissions and energy bills – with the money saved being put towards other valuable resources.

Having worked closely with contractors and estate managers in the education sector for some time, we would always recommend that any upgrades and replacement works are carried out ahead of winter, to safeguard against any disruption which could result in school closures and higher maintenance costs in the long run.

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