Local authority building & maintenance, December 2007
Preparation is key
Since 2005, changes to Part L1 of the Building Regulations have been central to pushing through the development and take-up of condensing technology in the UK. However, with new legislation on the horizon, like the Energy-using Products (EuP) Directive, Martyn Bridges, director of marketing and technical support for Worcester, Bosch Group takes a look at what’s next in the drive toward greater efficiency within the heating industry.
“The issue of climate change and what can be done to combat it has been hugely instrumental in changing the face of the heating industry over the past 10 years. Even before the Government first outlined its aim to reduce the UK’s carbon emissions by 20% by the year 2010, manufacturers like Worcester were already focusing on future requirements for more energy efficient boilers capable of beating the performance of standard efficiency appliances and reducing the output of C02 from Britain’s housing stock.
“With the industry already taking positive steps to perfect condensing technology as the millennium dawned, the next stage was to kick-start a changeover from standard efficiency boilers to condensing models in the UK. The only question was how to do it?
“Rather than leave the responsibility of specifying these appliances to individual manufacturers, installers and specifiers alone to decide, the answer came fairly swiftly in the Government’s decision to introduce new legislation designed to make condensing boilers compulsory for all new and replacement installations, with very few exceptions. This crucial decision meant that, almost overnight, the industry was faced with a target to work towards — that of April 2005 for the changeover to gas condensing boilers and April 2007 for the oil-fired boiler market.
“By setting the later date of April 2007 for the changeover to oil-fired condensing boilers, the Government essentially gave manufacturers two extra years to perfect the technology needed to meet the new requirements. Had this time not been allowed for developmental work behind the scenes, the legislation may not have been a success in the long-term. However, with products available well ahead of industry requirements, the changeover went relatively smoothly. In both instances, the result of planning and preparation meant that just two years on from introducing the regulations for gas-fired boilers, sales of condensing models now account for over 95% of all appliances installed each year, with sales of oil-fired condensing boilers expected to follow suit.
“In the case of condensing boilers, legislation proved just what was needed to ensure the installation of high efficiency SEDBUK ‘A’ rated appliances in local authority housing stock and UK homes. However, whilst the Building Regulations have had the desired impact on boiler specification to a certain point, the challenge now facing the Government and heating industry is how best to keep this positive momentum going. Let’s not forget that there are an estimated 5 million inefficient old boilers already out there in need of replacement.
“Post Building Regulations, there have already been a number of new targets and initiatives introduced to support the Government’s aim to reduce CO2 emissions. Earlier this year, Ruth Kelly MP announced plans for all homes to be zero carbon by 2016 and specifiers working for local authorities will be well aware of the Eco Homes Design Guide, which works on a credit system awarding points for each environmentally friendly product installed in new housing stock. As well as recommending certain standards for local authorities and the construction industry to work to when building new homes or dwellings, the design guide focuses not only on CO2 emissions from boilers but on other aspects of performance too, including NOx emissions.
“Whilst NOx emissions have no real bearing upon a boilers CO2 output, they are nevertheless considered harmful to the environment and within the Gas Appliance Directive there are 5 performance related categories in which boilers can be placed depending upon the level of emissions they produce. Category 1 is reserved for appliances with high NOx emissions below 260mg per kWh and category 5 is reserved for boilers with lower levels of below 70mg per kWh and below.
“Generally speaking, most SEDBUK ‘B’ rated condensing boilers on the market are actually converted D rated boilers, which have a secondary heat exchanger or recuperator installed in the flue ways. Whilst some B rated boilers claim low NOx emissions, it is unusual for a B rated boiler to deliver class 5 burner performance. Attaining a class 5 listing is usually only available from pre-mix burners, such as the kind featured in Worcester’s Greenstar CDi boilers, which already have NOx emissions below 40mg per kWh. For this reason, it is always best to specify an ‘A’ rated boiler for maximum efficiency.
“With carbon being the currency of the day, perfecting ‘A’ rated condensing boilers is something that manufacturers, not least Worcester, have concentrated on over the past 10 years. However, with the focus firmly on reducing C02 gases, NOx emissions were recognised but overlooked to a certain extent. When the Eco Homes Guide was introduced, practically overnight, manufacturers had little prior warning about what was expected of their products beyond SEDBUK ‘A’ and ‘B’ rated status. Unsurprisingly, many manufacturers quickly found their appliances failing to achieve the desired class 5 status for burner performance.
“As we head into 2008, the next challenge for the heating industry looks set to be the content of new European legislation — the Eco Design of Energy-using Products (EuP) Directive. Again, this Directive, which was established by the European Commission, is set to create a framework under which further legislation will be developed to improve the efficiency and environmental impact of energy using products.
“As well as seeking further reductions in CO2 emissions, there are plans within the Directive to further reduce acceptable levels of NOx emissions from the 70mg per kWh set out in the Eco Homes Design Guide (for class 5 performance) to around 35mg per kW hour for gas appliances and around 20mg per kWh for oil-fired boilers. With the technology available today, these targets are unrealistic at the moment but with enough notice manufacturers can certainly develop the new technology capable of achieving the levels required.
“At Worcester, we are wholly supportive of any measures that aim to safeguard the environment but we are also realistic. For any new legislation to truly succeed, we believe the industry needs time to prepare.
“If we learnt anything from the successful transition to condensing boilers under the Building Regulations, it was that preparation and planning are the keys to making legislation work. Therefore, giving manufacturers as much advance notice as possible to develop and test new technology has to be the only way to go to make the difference between legislation on paper and legislation in practice.”
Date published: 8th November, 2007Subscribe to this feed Return to News