Filling the education gap

Here at the CIPHE, education plays a key role, whether it’s supporting apprentices as they take their first steps into the world of hot and cold water supplies, sanitation and heating, or refreshing the memory of the experienced plumber or heating engineer (after all, we can’t be expected to remember everything!). The plumbing and heating profession is ever moving, changing and evolving, and new challenges arise, it seems, almost at will.

Evolving sector

The latest challenge we face in the domestic heating sector is low-temperature heating and hot water systems. Things are moving swiftly and those engineers who don’t embrace these wonderful, low-carbon technology heating systems risk being left behind.

Of course, boilers still have an important role to play in the heating of homes, especially in the replacement boiler market where they continue to be the best seller, but these are changing times. The sales of alternative heat sources to fossil-fueled boilers will continue to grow and, maybe one day, they will join steam heating and cast-iron heat exchangers in the vast UK heating museum.

So, what is the difference? How will the transition from the old to the new affect us? The difference is in the temperatures. Existing systems are used to working at 80°C flow/60°C return. The customer judged how well the heating system was working by the temperature of the heat emitter – the hotter the better. With temperatures close to 70°C/80°C, intermittent heating meant that the heating only ran when it was needed, usually in the morning and in the evening.

Low-temperature systems, however, will hardly ever run at temperatures much above 50°C and often less than that if underfloor heating is installed. The radiators no longer need to bounce off the wall with the heat. And with efficient weather compensation, 24/7 running becomes viable and economical. And the benefits to the environment in terms of preventing climate change are immeasurable.


Apprentices may find it easier to learn about low-carbon heating than experienced engineers


Coping with change

How can we lessen the impact on the profession and on the many businesses that have relied, and continue to rely, on the installation of gas, oil and solid fuelled appliances as a vital part of their business income? By turning to education to fill the gap in our knowledge as we have always done.

In many respects, the apprentice has it easy. They will be taught about low-carbon, low-temperature heating systems right from the start. Their education won’t be tainted by differing and conflicting temperatures. They will learn 55°C and less right from the get-go. But the more seasoned plumber might need a little help. That’s where the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering comes in.

Here at the CIPHE, in cooperation with LCL awards, a ‘Low Temperature Heating and Hot Water Systems in Dwellings’ qualification has been developed that is specifically aimed at the experienced engineer. By completing this comprehensive two-day, Level 3 course, the plumber/heating engineer can learn how to design low-temperature heating systems for both the new build and heating replacement markets. Add to this, the soon-to-be-released new section of the CIPHE Plumbing Engineering Services Design Guide which will deal with heating and low temperature heating systems, and you have the complete package in low-temperature heating design and installation.


In the near future, low-temperature heating will become standard


Coming soon

The CIPHE is looking at our Plumbing Engineering Services Design Guide in a new light. It has always been at the forefront of plumbing and heating design. Many colleges up and down the UK have this book in their inventory, and many a building service engineer has thumbed its pages for that vital piece of information, a constant source of facts and figures at their fingertips. Now, for the first time since 2002, it is being updated and hopes to reach engineers at all stages in their career from Level 3 and HNC/D to Foundation Degree, Level 7 and beyond. With the first update coming at the beginning of 2024, it really is a case of watch this space.

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