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Make school budgets stretch further

For many schools, heating and hot water costs can amount to half their annual budget which is why it’s never been more important to upgrade heating systems to ensure reliability and long-term savings. Jonathan Kidner, Product Engineer at Alpha Heating Innovation, explores further.

Alpha Innovation

The Government is keen for the UK’s building stock to operate as efficiently as possible to help it meet its carbon reduction obligations, and so it has introduced a number of new regulations over the past decade to encourage building owners of all kinds, and particularly in the public sector, to improve their energy efficiency levels.

The Energy-related Products Directive (ErPD), introduced to the UK on 26th September 2015, established minimum energy performance standards for all energy-consuming products, including boilers, with outputs between 70kW and 400kW. The directive states that the useful efficiency of these boilers when operating at 100% shall be no less than 86%, and at 30% load the useful efficiency should be 94% or higher.

The non-condensing boiler technology typically installed in commercial premises such as schools before this date is unable to meet these standards, and so was phased out and replaced with condensing appliances instead. Now, schools who are looking to upgrade their heating to lower their energy costs must consider installing a whole new system based on condensing boiler technology, rather than relying on the same technology that they have always done.

For those commercial Gas Safe registered-installers being asked to upgrade or retrofit school heating systems, cascade boiler systems offer a practical solution to ensure they comply with the new regulations, while also providing the high efficiencies that their clients require.

This can be particularly useful for schools, because it means new boilers can be installed in just a few days, allowing the engineers to complete the work during a half-term or holiday period, while the school is empty, so as not to disturb the students and teachers during term time.

While each individual boiler offers a certain level of central heating output, when several boilers are sequenced to work together in cascade, they can create a system with a total heat output that is far higher.

School heating system makes the grade

A community school near Bristol is set to benefit from four Alpha Heating Innovation ARES Tec condenser boilers as part of the complete renewal of the heating system. Specified for their exceptional energy efficiency, the self-modulating boilers will meet the hot water and heating requirements for the school whilst at the same time offering reduced running costs.

The Patchway Community School in Almondsbury had previously commissioned ARES Tec 900kW/300kW boilers as part of a heating upgrade in 2013 and these were linked to older boilers that had been in place for more than 25 years.

With the school looking to upgrade and overhaul its two existing plant rooms and heating systems – including 400 radiators and fan convectors – it was decided to link the existing ARES Tec boilers with additional ARES Tec 900kW and 300kW boilers in order to optimise energy efficiency and comfort levels for staff and pupils.

The main plant room had a reconfigured ARES Tec 900kW which was then linked to a newly-installed ARES Tek 900kW and a completely new pipe channel system. In the smaller plant room, the reconfigured ARES Tec 300kW was linked to a second ARES Tec 300kW. The boilers were fully compatible and integrated with a Trend Building Management System being used on site to deliver further energy efficiency and cost-effectiveness for the school.

The Alpha ARES Tec boiler features its own down-firing pre-mix burner, fan, ignition and safety controls to assist in the changing demands of the various buildings across the site.

The ARES Tec boilers have also been fitted with an additional plate exchanger, which separates the system from the boiler water. In the event of a fault, the plate exchanger can be easily dismantled, cleaned, and rebuilt again, avoiding costly section replacements.

Gary Pickersgill, Mechanical Engineering Manager at Howell Cummings Catering Equipment, said: “The efficiency and quality of the existing ARES Tec systems led to the specification of the two additional ARES Tec boilers. Despite the plant rooms being so small, these energy efficient commercial boilers offered ease of installation when linking up to flues and pipes. This was a logistically challenging project as the heating system upgrade had to be completed during term time with minimal loss of service.”

The ARES Tec’s integrated boiler cascade manager helps to provide a rapid warm-up time optimising the ever-changing demands on the boiler, common within larger buildings such as a school or college. Independently, if demand falls low enough, the boiler can run on the minimum output of a single module, minimising energy use. To ensure equal daily rotation and even running times, the boiler cascade manager alternates the ignition of the modules.

In addition, the commercial boiler features a number of other benefits to ensure maximum energy efficiency including heat exchangers that feature serpentine waterways to optimise heat transfer within the system, and a cast pin design that increases surface area to aid in boiler proficiency.

Jonathan Kidner, Product Engineer at Alpha Heating Innovation, said: “Our customers can see the benefits of the ARES Tec and the impact this system can have on comfort levels within the school environment. As well as being able to meet the energy demands of a school, these boilers are particularly suitable for retrofitting as they have a very small footprint for the output of boiler.”

For schools looking for ways to improve their efficiency and make budgets stretch further, upgrading their heating to a cascade boiler system offers a great opportunity to make significant savings in the long term, while also enjoying the reassurance that their heating systems will be reliable for years to come.

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