An efficient combination

An efficient combination

Modern technological advances have led to ‘whole house’ products being promoted as the way forward for domestic heating. However, the most energy efficient homes will be those that aren’t reliant on one ‘appliance’ for heating and hot water, explains Gareth Ash, Product Manager at Ariston.
With the economic climate remaining flat, homeowners are constantly on the lookout for new methods of reducing their fuel bills. At the same time, they want the latest, energy-efficient and technologically-advanced domestic heating and hot water products in their properties. This, alongside increased awareness – and demand – for renewables, has resulted in an array of different products entering the market; but with so many options now available to installers, how can they ensure they are providing their customers with the best system available?
The method in which hot water will be supplied is often predetermined by the central heating system. Hot water requirements usually vary with usage – although this is often not viewed to be as important as boiler location, ease of installation, cost etc. Generally speaking, there are two types of system: instantaneous water heating, which heats water as required; and hot water storage, which (as the name suggests) stores hot water ready for use.
The first port of call for installers for hot water heating remains the gas boiler. According to the Energy Saving Trust, boilers account for around 55% of end users’ annual energy bills, so an energy efficient boiler will make a big difference. SEDBUK ‘A’ rated boilers offer significant reductions in fuel bills, while the addition of advanced controls, such as outside temperature sensing and modulating room thermostats, will further minimise energy consumption.
Of course, advances in water heating technology have led to other types of product entering the fray. Renewables are now increasingly being incorporated into new and existing systems as an efficient and cost effective way of producing domestic hot water. Indeed, the combination of renewables and domestic hot water (DHW) can be successful, as long as the system has been specified and installed correctly. So, with such an array of renewable technologies available to installers, which options are the best in terms of DHW provision?
One of the more popular choices for integration into a building’s heating system to provide DHW is solar panels. Solar DHW systems work for 12 months of the year, harnessing energy from the sun to provide comfortable levels of hot water, while reducing fuel bills and adding or enhancing value to a property. These systems are almost maintenance free as well as capable of supplying up to half of the average family’s annual hot water needs.
Plus, the Solar Trade Association has also stated that a solar DHW system will reduce the amount of domestic fuel used, in turn resulting in lower energy bills and reduced household carbon emissions. Indeed, typical carbon savings are reported by the Energy saving Trust as around 230kgCO2/year when replacing gas-fired hot water systems and 510kgCO2/year when replacing electric-only systems.
Integrating solar DHW into an existing heating system usually only requires minimal adaptations and, provided it has been specified and installed correctly, it ensures all hot water is provided free in the summer; the system is also able to provide up to 60% of a household’s annual hot water requirements. One of the necessary system changes is the incorporation of a new twin coil solar cylinder, the best of which feature low levels of heat loss, faster recovery and reduced heat up times.
The only disadvantage to solar DHW is that, unfortunately, not all properties in the UK are suitable for, or compatible with the technology – usually due to an inadequate roof area or the building facing the wrong direction to gain enough solar energy. Fortunately, technological advances have provided installers with another sustainable option: heat pumps.
High levels of versatility and adaptability have led to air source models becoming the most popular type of heat pump available. Air source heat pumps (ASHP) have excellent co-efficients of performance (CoP), require little maintenance and are quicker and easier to install than their ground source counterparts. Yet these products still have shortcomings, such as issues with size and unwanted noise.
While end users often tolerate these in return for financial and energy savings, manufacturers are still striving to create viable alternatives to the high powered ASHPs currently on the market by creating units centred exclusively on renewable hot water production. Newer, modern ‘adapted technologies’ of this nature enable more properties – especially those in off gas areas – to integrate renewable heating technologies and use them effectively, while removing the need for larger products.
Ariston has successfully developed a heat pump water heater with an integrated unvented cylinder. This provides quick and efficient hot water delivery, coupled with high CoPs – and is a viable alternative to traditional electric storage water heaters. On top of that, these units can be sited with ease, while reducing household utility costs.
If installers are to get to grips with fitting these new technologies, they need to have undertaken the necessary training. If their customers are to benefit from initiatives such as the Green Deal and the domestic RHI (expected to launch in Spring 2014), installers need to be registered under the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS), for which there are many training schemes available. The Association of Plumbing & Heating Contractors (APHC), for example, is already offering the Green Deal Installer Scheme to all approved installers alongside its Competent Persons Scheme (CPS) – while Ariston also offers its own solar courses.
Renewable heating products of this type will no doubt continue to enter the market, as end users look to incorporate them into their hot water systems. However, installers need to remain aware that there is no one individual, ‘whole house’ product suitable for all, and that every property has its own requirements, depending on its siting, energy supply and location. Only by installing the right products that meet these requirements can installers guarantee customer satisfaction, coupled with energy savings and lower fuel bills.