How to design plumbing and heating systems for the future

Richard Bateman, Product Marketing Manager at RWC, explains how specifiers and contractors can future-proof buildings.

Across the plumbing and heating sector, sights are firmly set on the future. Overarching sustainability goals mean systems are required to work harder and smarter than ever before. At the same time, end users require systems to deliver consistently and reliably, standing up to everyday use while enhancing usability and comfort.

To achieve this, today’s plumbing and heating systems need to be built for the future, ensuring their viability and performance for years to come. This is particularly important in multi-occupancy buildings, where even the smallest inefficiencies can have an even greater collective impact.

The journey towards future-proofed systems begins at the specification stage, making it essential for professionals to understand the far-reaching requirements of even the smallest decisions at this stage. Over the long term, these solutions can consistently deliver big results – both for end users and the environment.

Here, we will take a look at some of the most effective ways specifiers can create long-lasting impact through their selection of plumbing and heating solutions.

Reducing leaks and labour costs with combination valves

Leaks are one of the most common inefficiencies seen in plumbing systems today and, as well as contributing to high volumes of wasted water, they can have a devastating and costly impact on property.

As one of the most common causes of leaks is poorly made or worn connections, a proven way to reduce the occurrence of leaks is to reduce the number of connections across a system. One way of achieving this is to specify the use of combination valves in place of a chain of individual valves.

While this approach reduces the number of valves within a system, and therefore the volume of connections, it also introduces a range of other benefits.

A combination pressure reducing and thermal balancing valve, for example, can be used in the circulatory hot water system of commercial buildings to reduce the flow rate while balancing the temperature across an entire system. In practice, this makes for greater safety at the outlet, while also maximising efficiency by maintaining more consistent temperatures throughout the building.

As a single cartridge valve, the Combination Pressure Reducing and Thermal Balancing Valve from Reliance Valves is designed to do just this. The inbuilt Thermal Balancing Valve (TBV) eliminates any hot or cold spots throughout the water supply, balancing it to a stable set temperature – typically 60-65°C. This ensures the secondary hot water network remains at a high enough temperature to limit the growth of Legionella, especially in cooler areas of an unbalanced system.

Extend the lifecycle of the system with PRV staging

Installing Pressure Reducing Valves (PRVs) to limit excess pressure and reduce flow rates is a great way to protect end users and conserve water in pumped, high-pressure cold water systems. Using a single PRV to reduce extremely high inlet pressure to considerably lower outlet pressure, however, can lead to wear over time, including the valve deteriorating and eventually failing. This is where pressure staging is an important consideration.

High water pressure is essential in large multiple-occupancy buildings to ensure water reaches the furthest parts of the system. The further the outlet is from the pump set, the lower the pressure – therefore, these pumping systems often run at higher pressures. However, the downside of this higher pressure is that areas closest to the pumps are at risk of over pressure, making the installation of PRVs essential to safely limit the pressure to safer, lower pressures. Typically, in applications exceeding 10 bar, it’s highly recommended that a second staging valve should be installed before the main PRV. When set correctly, the mains supply is slowed, rather than harshly restricted, eliminating the risk of damage and constant wear. A typical setting of a staging valve is half that of the mains pressure (for example if the mains pressure is 10 bar, then the staging valve should be set to 5 bar). Then the downstream, main PRV, can be set to the lower, safer operating pressure (typically 1-2 bar). Pressure staging improves the lifetime of PRVs, eliminates noise and offers some protection in the event one of the reducing valves fails.

The Tenant Valve Advance from Reliance Valves includes an integral pressure reducing valve which is ideal as a main apartment PRV. Combined with a lever-operated isolation valve, a water meter port, dual reading gauge, strainer and double check valve, it serves many purposes essential to mains supply control, safety and monitoring – all in one body which limits leak points. The 315i Pressure Reducing Valve is great for staging in conjunction with the Tenant Valve. Available in sizes ranging from 1/2″ up to 2″, once sized correctly, it can act as a staging valve for each floor, limiting the pressure to each Tenant Valve, and in turn, reducing the wear on its components and increasing its lifespan.

Protecting systems and reducing the need for maintenance

As well as specifying for performance, efficiency and safety, it is also important to consider functionality and maintenance to create systems that are truly future proof.

Even the most efficient and well-designed systems will be subject to sediment build-up and require ongoing maintenance. Not only can debris present a risk to end users in as it provides a vital food source for harmful bacteria, but it can also damage essential valves and fixtures over time.

To protect essential valves and fittings from rust, limescale, and other forms of debris, in-line strainers should be specified in all commercial water systems. In line strainers are used to filter sediment and particulates away from the flow of water, preventing them from getting further along the pipe system and potentially clogging or damaging other valves, or outlets. Reliance Valve’s own Protecto in-line strainer is a Y-type strainer that features hot pressed bodies and compression connections for a quick and easy installation. In addition, the strainer has a removable and replaceable filter, which means that conducting maintenance is a quick and simple task.

Where maintenance is concerned, systems should be designed to allow all valves to remain accessible. This means that if a problem should arise, or when servicing is required, the essential components of a system can be accessed quickly and easily.

Creating plumbing and heating systems that answer the needs of today while also supporting an efficient future requires the specification of expertly engineered and high-quality components.

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