It's time to tackle heat loss – says Rob Berridge of Heat Engineer Software

The energy-efficiency of UK homes is one of the hottest topics in the industry today. Installer spoke to Rob Berridge, one of the inventors of Heat Engineer Software, to find out how engineers can be the leaders in the fight to reduce both carbon emissions and their customers’ energy bills.
The UK is at a crossroads with its energy policy. The Government has legally binding carbon reduction targets to hit and has recognised space heating as one of the key ways to achieve this. Readers of Installer will have seen articles about hydrogen boilers, low-carbon biofuels, heat pumps, energy storage and many different technologies old and new, that could be used to make our housing stock greener.
One thing that isn’t mentioned nearly as much is heat loss, but it’s fundamentally the very first step in the calculation and specification process. That’s why Rob and the team at Heat Engineer Software want to change its perception.
“I’ve been working as a heating engineer for over 35 years doing system installation and design on domestic, commercial and everything in between,” Rob explained. “I’m currently working as a heating design consultant, helping my customers create the most efficient heating systems for their needs. I met my now business partner Rich Cartwright who had written this amazing software that was still in its early stages of full development. Together, we’ve nurtured the idea and have turned it into an essential tool for engineers.
“In my experience, around 90-95% of boilers in the UK are massively oversized. This is leading to the end user having excessively high fuel bills, but also means they’ve had to shell out for a more expensive boiler than necessary. Plus there’s the extra carbon emissions created by ‘boiler cycling’, which is also having a devastating effect on our environment and wallets.
“This has to change and that’s why we’ve spent a lot of time on the Heat Engineer Software to give installers the tools to be as accurate as possible when designing heating systems.”
The invention
Rob gave us a demo of the software and it’s very easy to use. It allows users to calculate both the thermal conductivity and subsequent U values of any property. Going through the house or project drawings room-byroom, subscribers can enter the dimensions, materials, amount of emitters, custom U-values and everything else that can give you an accurate heat loss report.
So how did he get involved with the project?
“This really is a case of built by engineers for engineers,” Rob said. “Basically, a user can create the materials for, and accurately calculate, the heat loss for a bespoke log cabin in the middle of Siberia if they choose to, or a 1,000 bedroom hotel in Beijing. There are absolutely no limits.
“There are three directors involved in this, and between us we’ve got over 75 years of experience in this field.
“We’re not taking any profit, all going back into the tool, to make it as easy-to-use and affordable as possible for the users and we have many new and exciting tools currently in development.
“There’s been a lot of coding and inputting data, but we officially launched in 2018 and we’re excited with how it’s going.
“With the customised outside mean temperature setting – you can use it anywhere in the world. Plus we have a six language selection tool coming out very soon, so we’ve got big plans for the future.
“We’re also working on some exciting partnerships in the UK. For example, once the heat loss has been calculated and submitted, an installer will be able to link up with IMI Hydronic’s ‘HyTools’ software, to easily calculate the flow rates, valves, filtration system, and pipe sizing needed to complete the job.”
Benefits for installers
Price-wise, a single one-off survey will cost a subscriber £10+VAT, but a sole trader can pay just £10-a-month for unlimited use of the software. There is also a discounted rate to this if users subscribe on an annual basis. So what are the potential benefits for installers using the software?
“This is by far the cheapest way to get unlimited access and reports that are fully guaranteed and insured,” said Rob.
“The main advantage is that you don’t get any under sizing or oversizing. This means that when quoting for a job, you can often be more affordable because you can possibly offer an 18kW boiler instead of a 30kW. Accuracy is everything here and ensures longevity in systems.
“Once you’ve done the calculations, you’ll have an accurate report that you can give to the client, so you can be confident that the system you put in is suitable and accurate for that particular property.
“The couple of hours’ work you put in to create the heat loss report could save anything up to and possibly beyond 50% on the utility bills for your customer, and who isn’t going to want that?
“Indeed, on my own house, with a system I installed around 10 years ago, I have re-calculated and balanced the system accordingly to our software. I’m almost a full year from doing this and I’m already showing savings in excess of 28%.
“I know many installation companies that have used the software and have won work because their quote is so much better. They also win contracts because the reports are so well produced and comprehensive.
“If you’re thinking about a big off-grid property project, you can save the homeowner vast sums by installing a smaller, more efficient system and boiler/heat-source. This will also save them money on their running costs so undoubtedly, they’re going to be a customer for life.
“We’re all about promoting best practice and creating the most efficient systems, it’s a fight back against the devaluation of knowledge and the ‘rule of thumb’ (guesswork) that has plagued our industry for so long.
“It’s pulling back the things we were taught at college like Henry’s Law, and giving engineers the ability, at their fingertips, to educate their customers and get what’s right for them.
“For me, this is best practice. We’re engineers because at the end of the day, we enjoy finding and implementing solutions and of course, we like to play with tools.
“This software gives us the chance to be more professional and accurate with our installations. I think that’s the biggest thing and it’s a great feeling when our clients call us to give us the news that they’ve won good quality contracts from presenting our reports.”
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