The low-carbon-ready system

With the forthcoming arrival of the Heat in Buildings strategy and the update of the Building Regulations in line with the Future Homes Standard 2025, it has never been a more important time for installers to upskill to be able to create a low-carbon-ready heating system for their customers.

Most of us will remember the introduction of the HD-ready TV which gave the consumer a clearer picture (excuse the pun) about what they were buying compared to a standard resolution TV, so the introduction of a Low Carbon Ready System badge (figure 1, below) will help consumers and installers identify what steps need to be taken to upgrade the heating system to meet the required future domestic heating standards.

Governments’ challenge
One of the challenges that any government faces when introducing new policy is balancing the political, economic, social, technological, legislative and environmental impact of any policy change. Clearly the decarbonisation of our heating systems has a long-term environmental and economic benefit to society by lowering fuel bills and CO2 emissions through the use of low-carbon technology; however, the introduction or deployment of any new technology at scale will not come without its challenges. The Future Homes Standard to be introduced in 2025 will require new build homes to be future-proofed with low-carbon heating and world-leading levels of energy efficiency, but we cannot forget the millions of existing homes that will require some form of early adoption of retrofit measures to help the UK achieve its 2050 net zero target. The CIPHE is currently leading the way in low-carbon heating education and is working with government to help solve the skills gap conundrum that industry faces during the 2020s.

The skills that will help us transition
As the UK transitions towards a more technology agnostic low-carbon future, installers will need to be capable of designing and installing a wide variety of solutions such as heat pumps and hydrogen boilers, so understanding the key differences in system requirements is critical to protecting the consumer. Generally, heat pump systems will need to be designed for a ΔT of 5°C, whereas a condensing boiler system can operate at a ΔT as high as 20°C, therefore a whole-systems approach to the future is the way forward to ensure consumer satisfaction.

One step at a time What small steps can we take to make a retrofit heating system low-carbon ready? After all, we need to walk before we can run.

1 Before any heating system is installed you must carry out a room-by-room heat loss survey of the property to understand its needs.

2 Understand the consumers’ needs and behaviours, such as how they use their heating and hot water system.

3 Assess the existing heat emitters to see whether they are sized sufficiently to operate at a low flow temperature such as 55°C.

4 Ensure the pump and pipework is sized correctly to the ‘as designed’ system ΔT (figure 2, below).

5 Upgrade the controls to a more efficient form of control such as weather compensation and ensure the heat generator can benefit from the full use of its turndown ratio.

6 Ensure the system is balanced and the water is sufficiently protected.

7 Educate the consumer on how to operate the system more efficiently.

8 Correctly sized hot water system to meet the needs of the consumer and the heat generator type.

This article originally appeared in the October/November 2020 edition of P&H Engineering, the magazine for members of the CIPHE. You can find out more about becoming a member here.

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