How to ensure heat networks run effectively for end users

Pete Mills, Commercial Technical Operations Manager at Bosch Commercial & Industrial, discusses how to ensure heat networks run effectively for end users.

Heat networks, otherwise known as district heating, are becoming an ever-greater part of the projects our industry is involved with. Their ability to help the decarbonisation of heat, both now and in the future, has made them a “go to” option in the new build sector, as well as those undergoing deep renovation works.

There is no doubt that their unique ability to use waste heat will become more important, as we endeavour to tackle one of the most challenging sectors, so far identified as a priority to meet our carbon commitments. It’s important then, that we continue to remember how many more people will rely on these complex systems to provide their heating and hot water needs. Heat networks, unlike any other sector in the heating industry are a natural monopoly, meaning consumer protection is paramount.

The most important element to ensure end user comfort will be the commissioning. Greater attention at the commissioning stage can avoid costly remedial works for the contractor and disruption for the end user. Of course this means more time needs to be allocated for this stage, but in the long run the savings are clear.

Minimum technical standards will create a new base level of expectation of the key stages of design, installation and commissioning, which can be applied across the industry. There may need to be some consideration how they would be applied to smaller heat networks, to ensure they do not become burdensome, but the key principles are likely to be adhered to.

Recording of key actions such as verifying flow rates, flushing and venting, balancing and ensuring the all-important return temperatures are being achieved, should help to identify issues. The whole industry would benefit from a more unified approach to commissioning heat networks that draws upon the experience that is starting to building up for UK specific heat networks. The improving use of monitoring data to help verify how heat networks are performing, can assist this process. Heat networks take time, both to build out and to bed in and programmes must take this into consideration.

At a recent discussion on skills in the heat network industry, it was clear that those involved in installing and commissioning would benefit from recognised levels of training. Both to raise aspirations and recognition of the importance of quality work, but also improve the uniformity of the outcomes. I believe this is a challenge that our industry should do its best to rise to. We have seen the benefits it has provided in the gas boiler industry over the years and how it has helped many to grow better businesses. Our challenge now is to replicate this for the heat network industry.

Better quality heat networks are the foundation of providing good consumer outcomes. It is vital that heat networks continue to offer affordable and dependable heating and hot water to those who are connected to them, if they are to realise the carbon saving potential the UK is looking for.

For more info: bosch-thermotechnology.com/gb/en/commercial-industrial/home/

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