Subscribe to our free fortnightly newsletter and stay ahead with the latest news in edtech
Steven Evans, national sales manager at Potterton Commercial

Treat it right: boiler and heating systems

Safeguarding the performance of the boiler and heating system

Posted by Ed Brown | February 22, 2017 | Sustainability

According to Education (School Premises) Regulations, the minimum acceptable classroom temperature is 18°C. And both colleges and universities have to adhere to Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, which state that workplaces must be at least 16°C, therefore a boiler which operates efficiently is crucial for any educational premises. To ensure maximum efficiency is achieved, facilities managers should put in place a rigorous water  treatment programme. Steven Evans, national sales manager at Potterton Commercial, explains what this involves.

Safeguarding the performance of the boiler & heating system should be a top priority for all universities, colleges and schools. Not only does regular maintenance reduce the likelihood of breakdowns, but it also helps boilers to continue working at maximum efficiency. And with funding cuts on the horizon for 70% of London schools, any cost reduction exercise is welcome.

As the reliability of any building’s heating system is largely dependent on the quality of feedwater circulating through it, chemical water treatment should be an essential element of any maintenance schedule.

Best practice is to incorporate chemical water treatment into both the commissioning and ongoing maintenance of a heating system, including a system clean/flush and regular doses of inhibitor as required. This is critical to ensure boiler efficiency and longevity in any commercial heating system, large or small. Even completely new heating systems with new boilers and pipework need to be chemically treated as failing to invest in appropriate water treatment can result in corrosion and the build-up of limescale. Furthermore, failing to undertake adequate water treatment can invalidate manufacturer warranties in some cases.

Systems that are corroded become blocked with sludge and debris, which means the boiler must work harder and for longer, as the circulating water is unable to transfer the heat efficiently throughout the system. Meanwhile, limescale deposits on heat transfer surfaces will cause the boiler to run at higher temperatures for longer which - according to British Standards, BS 8558 - reduces efficiency by up to 30 per cent.

To combat problems caused by scale and corrosion, BSRIA, ICOM and leading boiler manufacturers all recommend flushing, chemical cleaning and the use of appropriate inhibitors.

In terms of the processes involved, the engineer should perform a chemical clean, ideally in conjunction with a power flush, as the first step, even if the boiler and pipework are new. If a new boiler is being installed on an old system, then the engineer should perform a gentle, neutral pH clean four to six weeks prior to the installation, followed by a more aggressive (though still neutral pH) chemical clean over one to two days, along with power flushing.

After this, an initial dose, topped up by ongoing use of a high-quality inhibitor will prevent corrosion and any further build-up of limescale, helping to maintain boiler efficiency and extend the life of the system.

Any water chemicals used must be in line with the boiler manufacturer’s recommendations, which can usually be found in the installation manual. As inhibitors need to be applied on an ongoing basis as required, it is important for the person responsible for maintaining the heating system to be able to find and refer to this information – so the installer should point it out at handover. We know of at least one case where a new commercial boiler, professionally installed in perfect condition, broke down under a year after installation because the incorrect water treatment chemicals were used. 

We suggest that water quality is routinely checked, and that it also becomes part of the maintenance programme. The ongoing testing of water quality can highlight any issues early on, and will indicate if inhibitor levels have depleted, helping to save money in the long run. This approach is again recommended by BSRIA, ICOM and leading commercial boiler manufacturers. The summer break is an opportune time to complete testing and maintenance work, as there is no disruption to students and teachers. It also means the system is running efficiently in time for the cold weather in the autumn and winter terms. 

Adding central heating filters as part of routine service and maintenance to capture any circulating contaminants within the system can also improve system efficiency and longevity, and is well worth the extra investment. Filters are not a substitute for chemical water treatment however, as they cannot prevent corrosion from taking place.

While product selection is obviously important, an ongoing maintenance schedule which includes chemical water treatment will also pay dividends in the long run by keeping any school, university or college’s heating system working at maximum efficiency.

For more information please visit



Subscribe to our free fortnightly newsletter and stay ahead with the latest news in edtech

Related stories

Debunking boiler buzzwords

Stainless steel or aluminium?

Getting the right heating mix for your school

Market place - view all


Gerflor is a group that creates, manufactures and markets innovativ...


Interface is a global leader in the design and manufacture of susta...

Tamlite Lighting

Tamlite Lighting was founded in 1967 at Telford in Shropshire and t...