At Sustain, our expert engineers frequently work with a wide range of heating and cooling networks to improve energy efficiency. If you’re seeing significant heat, energy and money lost through your networks read on to discover our top 5 ‘go-to’ areas for improvement!
The first question we’ll ask when looking at a heat network: Is the system sufficiently insulated? You can significantly minimise heat losses from your network by ensuring that it is properly insulated with modern high performance insulation. Old, damaged or waterlogged pipework insulation can be a major point of heat loss and significantly reduce system efficiency.
It’s also worth looking at additional system components such as flanges (connecting pipework) and valves that may be left uninsulated producing further significant losses across a heat network.
In order to get a complete understanding of the opportunities for improvement you should perhaps consider a heat loss survey utilising an infrared camera. This will determine the current system losses and potential energy and cost savings from improved insulation.
- Conduct a heat loss survey to identify system losses (flanges and valves are often overlooked)
- Improve system insulation to realise both energy and cost savings
Time Clock Settings
A time clock determines the operating hours for a heat network system. It is crucial to the system’s efficiency that this is set up correctly- matching the heating and hot water demands of the network – and that the settings are reviewed regularly. Does the time clock align with the current operating hours of the building? Is the system configured to change for periods of shutdown and when the clocks change for daylight saving time?
If this process is laborious it may be worth considering upgrading the system to one with a degree of autonomy.
- Check whether the time clock is set up correctly to match the demand of the network
- Has the system been configured to change for shutdown periods / daylight saving time?
- Adjust time clock settings to reduce the network consumption
- Consider an upgrade if the system is confusing or laborious to use
Accurately controlling the temperature of a system is essential for ensuring it operates at maximum efficiency. Local temperature controls such as thermostatic radiator valves provide user control and help to maintain a constant temperature whilst reducing the demand on the heat network.
Weather compensation controls can further improve efficiency by ensuring that the boiler runs at the lowest possible temperature while still meeting the network requirements. This type of control significantly improves efficiency under partial load conditions – for most of the heating season in the UK a typical heat network is only providing a fraction of its maximum heating output to maintain the required loads. Note that any stored domestic hot water must be maintained at 60°C to reduce the risk of legionella growth.
- Review what temperature controls are currently installed
- Thermostatic Radiator Valves? Weather compensation controls?
- Investigate the potential efficiency and cost savings that can be achieved by improving controls
The water quality of a heat network can significantly affect the efficiency of the system. Any leaks may allow oxygen to enter the system, causing corrosion and reducing its efficiency. Limescale build up and bacterial growth can cause fowling of heating elements and increase health risks in hot water systems such as Legionnaires’ disease. To combat this it is crucial that proper system cleaning, chemical treatment and maintenance of devices – those which act to improve water quality such as strainers and air/dirt separators – is regularly carried out.
- Review the water treatment measures currently in place
- Enlist a specialist to undertake a water quality check and if necessary improve the water quality by installing treatment devices or cleaning the system
It is well known that the efficiency of a system reduces over time but when should you start thinking about replacing a boiler or heat network? We recommended that you review the efficiency of any system that is more than 10 years old. However, newer systems can also be operating inefficiently if they have been incorrectly installed or commissioned.
- Check the age of your current heat network(s) and determine how often they have been serviced.
- A Sustain heat network check will help to identify areas of inefficiency and provide recommendations for improving operational performance.
We Can Help
As an independent consultancy we have significant experience in improving the efficiency of heat networks. We can provide end to end support by conducting full system assessments and options appraisals for heat network replacements, right through to the procurement and installation of energy efficiency technologies and measures.
If you believe that your heat network could be operating more efficiently please get in contact to find out how we can help – we look forward to hearing from you.