Heating controls at the heart of new regulations

Heating controls at the heart of new regulations

Effective use of domestic heating controls is headlining new Government standards to minimise energy consumption, maintain a comfortable temperature and avoid overheating. Gareth Ash, Marketing Manager at Danfoss considers key proposals in the Boiler Plus policy, currently scheduled to come into force in April 2018.

Improving efficiency
Since changes to the building regulations in 2005 mandated the use of condensing boilers in the UK residential market, both Government and industry have been searching for ways to further improve energy efficiency in this sector. In December 2016 the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) launched its Heat in Buildings consultation document, also known as Boiler Plus. One of the prime objectives is to drive up heating system performance and so bring down heating bills, through better use of heating controls.
Greater control
Setting new performance standards for boiler replacement back in 2005 was very successful in boosting sales of high efficiency condensing boilers, thereby helping to reduce household heating costs and cut carbon emissions. Today, 99% of all new boilers sold are condensing models and, according to the Heating and Hotwater Industry Council, there are around 10 million installed in UK homes. More than a decade on, the Government’s new policy document reflects the need to promote the use of modern heating products and standards and their advanced technical capabilities. Major manufacturers of heating products, as well as trade associations, heating engineers and installers, have all taken part in the Heat in Buildings consultation and assessment. Needless to say, as a leading manufacturer of heating controls, Danfoss has played a proactive role in this important process. So what are the key proposals?
Boiler efficiency
Firstly, the policy is suggesting an increase in boiler efficiency levels. The minimum required efficiency of a gas boiler will be raised from SEDBUK ‘A’ rated (88%) to ErP ‘A’ Rated (92%), while boilers which run on oil will need to be at least 89% efficient. Secondly, it will seek to ensure the installation of products, such as time and temperature controls, as a minimum standard. At Danfoss, we see this as a landmark initiative for the industry as it gives official recognition to the energy saving benefits of modern heating controls. Installed and used correctly, these devices are proven to improve a system’s efficiency, enabling householders to lower energy consumption, and costs, without compromising comfort.
Additional energy savings
Currently, the requirement for heating controls in the Domestic Services Compliance Guide (the document that supports Part L of Building Regulations) is rather vague, so greater clarity is very welcome. Under the new proposals, all gas and oil boilers will need to be installed with time and temperature controls in place. This will either be in the form of a time clock / programmer and room thermostat, or a programmable room thermostat. There will also be a requirement for an additional energy saving measure to be incorporated within the system. At this stage, the options include a flue gas heat recovery unit (FGHRU), smart controls (which must have some level of automation and optimisation), weather compensating controls, and load compensating controls.
Smart controls
The consultation included the use of smart controls, which offer the convenience and energy saving potential of automation and optimisation functions. Smart thermostats, like the Danfoss TPOne Wi-Fi, for example, let consumers control their heating remotely via a smartphone or similar device. According to industry research there has been a growing market for such controls over the last few years, with almost 400,000 new customers in 2016. The consultation recognised that smart thermostats can be more expensive than basic load compensators or weather compensators but states that they are likely to pay for themselves through reduced heating bills faster than any other technology in the new standards.
Load compensation
Load compensation control for room thermostats is included in the new standards, it enables a heating system to perform more efficiently and, therefore, economically. It does this by calculating how long the heating needs to stay ‘on’ to achieve optimum comfort and boiler efficiency. Proven in ‘real world’ tests conducted by Danfoss and other leading control manufacturers, load compensation control can result in a potential 10% reduction in energy consumption by the heating system compared with a slower reacting mechanical thermostat. Indeed, Danfoss sees this as such a major benefit to efficiency that all our room thermostats, even basic models, now offer load compensation control.

Deferred ambitions
Whilst Boiler Plus acknowledges that TRVs can have a significant impact on heating efficiency, it proposes not to mandate installation (except when installing a new heating system or radiator) because it is believed that they are already widely deployed. Industry figures put UK sales of TRVs at nearly 6 million a year, and growing,. Danfoss agree with the Government’s call for concerted efforts to improve consumer awareness of how to get the best from their TRVs. Although the new standards, as they stand, do not mandate TRVs in connection with a system upgrade, in view of the evidence we would always encourage installers to recommend their use to customers to achieve optimum heating control and efficiency.

Welcome step
With a number of so-called flagship energy schemes either cut or axed in recent times, from solar feed-in tariffs to the green deal, it is good to see that the UK Government remains committed to improving energy efficiency in the residential heating sector. Despite a few omissions, Boiler Plus must still be seen as a welcome step towards keeping UK homes comfortably, and affordably, warm. When they come into force, these new measures will put modern heating controls at the heart of heating system efficiency, helping to transform the way people use energy in their homes.
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