Renewable technology integration

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It is widely accepted that using biomass for domestic heating substantially lessens the effect on the environment than using traditional fossil fuels.

But, why should installers consider selling-in a pellet stove or boiler and how can it be integrated into existing systems to increase efficiencies? Jed Smith, Head of Business Support Services at Specflue discusses how it can be a win-win for both installer and the customer.

“For over twenty years, Specflue has been working in the heating technology market, initially as a flue and chimney distributor, but over the last five years within the renewable sector, supplying MCZ and RED biomass stoves and boilers, as well as thermal stores and solar panels.

There is no doubt that the opportunities for installers to grow their businesses are there for the taking and success will come for those that have the ability to explain the benefits of installing renewable heat products, both as an alternative option and as a compliment to the traditional oil-fired systems.

However, to ensure that we protect the reputation of an evolving market and place safety at the heart of every installation, it is vital that operatives undergo the correct training and qualify as a registered installer. This is a mandatory pre-requisite for Specflue, as we will only supply to those that hold an approved certification.

Pleasingly though, we have seen a steady rise in the number of traditional fossil fuel heating engineers attending renewable training courses at our dedicated facility based in Suffolk, who have then gone on to work within the renewable sector very successfully.

Biomass boilers and stoves can save up to 80% on heating costs compared to traditional fuel boilers and technology has moved on with most reputable manufacturers now producing appliances that are fully programmable with thermostats and time controlled systems.

The things that need to be considered when opting for this type of system are not dissimilar to the more traditional system and include: The position of the flue pipe, the size, shape and insulation of the rooms to be heated, the heating requirements, the existing heating system and its heat output. The installer also needs to ascertain whether the stove or boiler is going to be a primary or secondary source of heating and what type of heating is preferred by the customer; air or hydro?

As a biomass installer, the flexibility to offer either a pellet boiler or pellet stove option means that you are better placed to satisfy the customer’s demands. For instance, the biomass boiler is normally installed into a garage or utility room where it is connected to a wet radiator system, akin to an oil boiler. However, if the customer wants something more visual as a focal point, then air or hydro pellet stoves can be installed in one or a number of rooms, where they can be used as individual room heaters or connected to the existing plumbing system, to heat the entire house. The benefit of all options is that they are compatible with the RHI (Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme) and MCS (Microgeneration Certification Scheme), which provides a payback for the householder.

However, what about integrating renewable heat technology into an existing heating system?

The historical dilemma has always been that the energy or heat generated could not be stored. Well, the answer may lie in installing a thermal store such as the HEATBANK® Xcel, which can combine just about every type of heat source there is available to drive central heating and hot water for domestic properties.

In its most basic form the store can act as a buffer system, used purely for central heating. Large 1½” bosses allow the largest of boilers to be comfortably connected using gravity circulation, with numerous other bosses for pumped circuits. A large 1m² coil is provided as standard for connection to any pressurised heat source. There is also the option to then add a plate heat exchanger, to generate mains pressure hot water that will supply multiple bathrooms using high pressure mains water, without the need for unvented certification or annual maintenance.

Both high temperature radiators and low temperature underfloor heating can be run simultaneously, and the store is configured in such a way that the low temperature loads can run off a low temperature heat source like a heat pump, while high temperature loads run using higher temperature heat sources like boilers.

Online is a great platform to get that extra support to help you on your way. For example, Specflue has a number of free online tools also available to lend a hand for the specification of renewable heat products. Tools, such as those on heatweb.co.uk include ‘Product Selector’ that can be used to identify the best appliances to meet heating and hot water demands and ‘Design Tool’ which enables sizing of cylinders and expansion vessels. Calculators are also available to work out heat loss and water loads and the ‘System Designer’ tool provides estimates of potential RHI payments and helps in the preparation of quotations and system designs.

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