Five steps to light commercial success

With a number of new light commercial boilers on the market, and current Gas Safe qualifications permitting the install of boilers up to 70kW; there has never been a better time for domestic heating engineers to tap into the light commercial sector. Steven Evans, National Sales Manager at Potterton Commercial, lists the top five things installers should consider when making the move.
For small, non-domestic buildings such as doctors’ surgeries, restaurants, shops, community centres and schools, a boiler output of 70kW or less is usually more than adequate to meet heating and hot water demands. Since engineers can fit these products with domestic ACS qualifications, capitalising on these light commercial opportunities is the perfect way for installers to grow or diversify their business.
However, there are a few things to bear in mind when selecting the right light commercial boiler for the job:
1. Meet the demand
The first thing to consider is the level of demand and distribution of heating and hot water required. While most households operate in a similar way, with peak times for heating and hot water in the mornings and evenings; commercial premises can vary drastically in their usage. A community centre, for example, may need to heat one or two large spaces a few times a week and provide a small amount of hot water for handwashing and catering areas, whereas a retail space will need heat for most of the day, every day, but very little demand for hot water. Closely matching demand and supply will result in the boiler running to its maximum efficiency and the end users being happier with the performance of their boiler.
2. Maximise the space available
Since light commercial premises often do not have the luxury of a dedicated plant room, product selection is heavily dependent on the amount of space available. Wall-hung boilers such as the Paramount four 50kW model are very popular and offer a neat and tidy installation. It is lightweight – just 61kg – and compact at 480mm wide, making it an ideal solution for tight spaces.
Wall hung boilers do of course have limitations, particularly in older buildings such as listed buildings or those with unstable walls. In these cases, a floor standing boiler is a great alternative. Newer models have very small footprints and can fit into even the most compact of spaces.
3. Concentrate on efficiency
Owners of commercial properties always have their bottom line in mind, so fitting an efficient boiler that will provide swift return on investment (ROI) is a key priority.
While a high ErP rating is important, one factor that often gets overlooked when selecting any boiler is its modulation ratio. Put simply, this is the difference between the maximum and minimum output of a boiler expressed as a ratio e.g. 4:1.
Modulation ratio is important, as once a room has reached the desired temperature and TRVs are closed, the power demands on the boiler will be considerably lower. If a boiler has a narrow modulation ratio, this means that the minimum output of the boiler will be higher than it needs to be, causing the boiler will constantly switch on and off. This wastes fuel and causes additional wear and tear on components. A wide boiler modulation ratio reduces constant on/off cycling, therefore improving efficiency and extending the life of a boiler.
For example, the Paramount four 50kW model has an ErP rating of A and a modulation ratio of 6:1, meaning its minimum output is approximately 8.3kW.
To further improve the efficiency of a light commercial boiler, it’s also worth looking at controls. If areas within a building do not need to be heated in the same way, zone controls may be a good solution. These controls can also be used to reduce heat delivery to areas which are affected by solar gains to maintain comfort levels.
Some newer commercial boilers come fitted with weather compensation controls as standard, which allow the boiler to regulate its output in line with the temperature outside. These are particularly effective when unseasonal conditions occur, and deliver better fuel efficiency as the boiler is fully condensing for longer.
4. Warranty and maintenance
Nothing shows the confidence a manufacturer has in its products more than an extended warranty. Warranties offer both installers and end-users added peace of mind against the expense of unexpected repairs. Remember to read the small print on warranties, particularly relating to commissioning, the use of non-genuine parts and servicing requirements, to ensure the terms and conditions aren’t unwittingly broken.
Maintenance work also opens up another revenue stream for light commercial installers. Once an installation has been commissioned, engineers should talk to the customer about establishing a maintenance schedule – including servicing and water treatment – ensuring the optimum performance for the life of the boiler and protecting the validity of any warranty offered.
In many light commercial applications, boiler downtime costs more than just the call out charge, parts and repairs; it costs the business money in lost revenue, so keeping on top of boiler maintenance can pay dividends for both the engineer and customer.
5. Get the best deal
While product selection should always be based on the quality of the model and suitability for the intended purpose, business customers in particular are also interested in getting value for money. And with a number of light commercial output boilers entering the market, manufacturers often run special promotions to encourage engineers to try their new product. For example, installers can currently get a free horizontal or vertical flue with every Paramount four 50kW purchase, saving up to £170.
Entering a new market sector can be daunting, however, choosing the right product makes all the difference. Having knowledge of the latest models ensures engineers are giving end-users a product they are happy with in the long term and, in turn, allows them to build up a loyal customer base.
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