BEIS Boiler Plus Document – Open Response
Between 2016 and 2017 Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has conducted a survey as well as face to face interviews with heating industry professionals, manufacturers, merchants and members of the public. I and other Ecotechnicians were fortunate to be involved in several of the meetings at Whitehall and many of our members took part in the online survey.
The aim was to gain insight into the industry and in some part give guidance on forming a new strategy ahead of releasing updated standards and guidelines.
In October 2017 BEIS released the findings and the intended new legislation, it then focuses on three major energy saving aspects of domestic gas boiler controls and one additional piece of hardware.
BEIS is essentially making steps to inform the homeowner about the options and encourage installers who currently don't make the most of the available technology to do so. It will put some pressure on to any manufacturer which currently doesn't have modulating controls or weather compensation to meet these fairly basic requirements.
BEIS has named the document Boiler Plus and it is one part of the Government's goal to reduce emissions and attempt to meet the E.U targets and the Clean Growth Strategy - https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-reaffirms-commitment-to-lead-the-world-in-cost-effective-clean-growth
The whole document can be viewed here - https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/heat-in-buildings-the-future-of-heat
It has many existing aspects including the minimum requirements of a time and temperature controller, hydraulic balancing, thermostatic radiator valves and others. All standards discussed in this article are only concerning combination boilers, system and heat only boilers are still only expected to have time and temperature control.
These are the points from the document I would like to address:
-Weather Compensation (WC)
-Flue Heat Recovery systems (FHR)
The first two, weather and load compensation cover all fully "smart" controls in my opinion. Anything that doesn't fall under those two categories isn't really smart, more on that later.
WC is an excellent addition to most modern boilers (that are capable of having it) and is usually integrated into the boiler itself or as part of a controls system. Contrary to the document and the apparent opinion of BEIS it is quite capable of being installed in the vast majority of properties -
1 .1 3. "Opinion was significantly more divided on the subject of weather compensation. While many advocated in favour of the requirement, others raised concerns about compatibility with the entirety of England's housing stock."
In fact weather compensation can be tailored to most if not all properties. It is simply an outside sensor which directly increases or decreases the boiler flow temperature depending on the outside conditions. This means that although in milder temperatures the radiators could be far lower than 60c, but if the outside temperature dips the sensor will interact with the controller or boiler and raise the flow temperature to the maximum flow set in the parameters. This parameter is called the curve and as long as it is set correctly weather compensation will work in pretty much any situation.
This works in a very similar way to weather compensation, an internal sensor (usually the thermostat) communicates with the other controls or boiler and modulates the boiler output according to the discrepancy between actual temperature and target temperature.
This can be extremely cheap to install, some controllers are available for under £35 and can be installed to some boilers like the Intergas Eco RF without the need for any wiring at all.
Here I have a problem with the terminology used, they are essentially saying that any internet capable controllers are "smart" controls. Although they say that the online or "smart" controllers with load or weather compensation will be immediately compliant, they seem to have given a caveat that includes "automation" and "optimisation". These don't stipulate modulation and could therefore be simple on/off controllers with an early start or calculated on/off program. That is Time Proportional Integral (TPI) by another name, a good control option for old or non-modulating heat sources.
In another part of the document (2.26) BEIS say that TPI ontrollers no longer form part of the standards. This sends a very mixed message, I was looking forward to the online, so called "smart" controller manufacturers to be encouraged to adapt and meet the standards that many others have been for some time. Products like Hive, Heatmiser and Heat Genius have good products with a plethora of functions but at the time of writing this do not modulate the boiler.
However, products like Nest (3rd gen), Honeywell Evohome, Tado, Intergas, Atag, Vokera and Viessmann all have fully compliant controls available but will be given equal pegging with controllers that, other than being able to turn on sooner are no more intelligent that controllers that have been around for decades.
Flue heat recovery
Very simply put, a flue heat recovery system will circulate water through an exchanger that is heated by waste products, the water then is heated to the desired temperature by the boiler before going to the tap.
A FHR is a brilliant device, quite simple and easy to install. Unfortunately they are expensive and large, about the size a microwave and a few hundred quid. Also there currently aren't many of them around. The Atag Economiser has one inbuilt so reduces the requirement for space, this is one boiler that will have multiple standards achieved out of the box so an excellent option.
I thought the FHR was an odd addition, I suspect there is a manufacturer which doesn't have the capability of modulation for weather or load compensation and lobbied BEIS to have their FHR added instead.
Because of the design, savings will only be on hot water use. Heating won't be affected at all and that doesn't sit well with me. Hot water gas use is high while it is running, combination boilers burn a lot when they have to instantaneously heat the incoming cold main by 35c. But hot water use is usually far less than heating across the whole year. The house could have an electric shower for instance and the hot water is only feeding a kitchen tap. All the potential energy reduction then is pretty much lost.
Lower down in the document (3.9.) it states that "The UK boiler industry is the largest and most valuable in the world, due in part to effective competition and strong collaboration."
I worry that the reason our industry is so large and valuable is that a lot of new installations are done badly and have outdated controls. Modulating controls of one kind or another reduce fatigue and stress on a boiler, they encourage long run times and fewer starts and stops.
A modern condensing boiler will work better, cost less to run and last longer if it is allowed to condense.
I welcome the general approach of the paper but I have some concerns over the clauses and implementation. It is a great step in the right direction and will hopefully will go some way to encouraging homeowners to adopt energy saving controls.
I also hope this will pressure other installers to raise their game and start fitting Weather compensation, load compensation and embrace modulation.
For more details on optimisation, modulation and intelligent controls please go to www.ecotechnicians.co.uk