Getting in control

Implementing a well thought out control strategy is essential to achieve and maintain optimal heating performance. Maximising the capability of onboard and cost-effective optional boiler controls to reduce a building’s energy usage and emissions is a good starting point, says Paul Arnold, Remeha’s Product Manager

As legislation surrounding building energy performance increases, heating is under the spotlight for improvement. While new and existing non-domestic buildings will require very different heating solutions, in both it’s clearly essential to ensure that the system operates both effectively and efficiently. This will not only improve a building’s energy performance, reducing associated costs and emissions, but bring potential wellbeing benefits to its occupants that could ultimately lead to greater business productivity. And inevitably, achieving high-performance operation comes down to how well the system is controlled.

Best practice is to consider system integration and building control from the initial design stages. However, energy and facilities managers should also look to maximise the potential offered by onboard and cost-effective optional boilers controls to reduce energy waste and raise building comfort levels.

Practical step to improved efficiency

Heating systems are becoming increasingly complex to meet tighter environmental targets. So why the focus on boilers? Commercial condensing boilers continue to be an important part of commercial heating solutions. A cost-effective tool to significant energy and carbon savings when replacing old or inefficient plant, they are also a key component of hybrid systems, typically working alongside renewable technology to ensure reliable heat provision.

The latest generation of advanced condensing boilers are already engineered to achieve near maximum efficiencies and meet ultra-low NOx emission criteria. However, effective control is critical if end-users are to continue benefiting from low operating costs and minimise building emissions throughout the boiler’s lifecycle. So now forward-thinking manufacturers have turned their attention to optimising long-term operational performance by providing superior control capability as standard.

On-board controls

Let’s consider the average non-domestic building. Heat requirements will typically vary across the week, with some having no need for heat at the weekend. The ability to set time controls enables operating hours to be matched more accurately and avoid unnecessary waste.

Then there’s the connection between temperature and employee wellbeing. A report by the World Building Council concluded that staff productivity can dip by 6% on average in a room that is too cold, and by 4% if the temperature is too cold. So good temperature control can impact negatively on employee wellbeing and, ultimately, on the profitability of the organisation.

Where boilers are supplied with onboard time and temperature controls at no extra cost, making full use of these controls will ensure that the environment is consistently comfortable when in use. At the same time, it will avoid a costly, unsustainable scenario caused either by heating an empty building. And as the controls can be directly connected to the building energy management system (BEMS), the superior boiler control contributes to improved overall system control.

Full controls strategy

To maximise boiler efficiency, we would advise including low-cost optional accessories such as weather compensation and optimisation controls. Adding multiple zone control is also recommended to help use energy more effectively and efficiently, as different areas of a building will have different heat requirements. When installing multiple boilers in cascade arrangement, adding a sequential controller will rotate the lead boiler, lengthening the lifecycle of the boilers.

Good manufacturers will supply cost-effective boiler controls encompassing all these requirements. The heating controls must all be fully integrated into the BEMS and settings should be checked regularly to maintain high system performance.

Easy to use

Of course, for controls to be used to their full capability, full engagement is necessary. And that means getting rid of the complex codes and symbols and providing more intuitive, user-friendly controllers that can be used easily by all.

On the latest boiler models, for example, a full-text, full-colour interface will provide straightforward access to an extended range of parameters using a rotary selection dial and smartphone-like buttons. So on boilers like these, controls are easier to install, programme, commission – and re-commission when required.

From a whole-life perspective, ongoing maintenance and services are also more straightforward, reducing operational costs while ensuring long-term optimum heating performance.

Small step, big result

As we move down the path to full decarbonisation of heat, a continued focus on energy efficiency is essential to drive reduced energy usage and help the nation meet its environmental targets. Ensuring that full use is made of boiler controls might seem a small step. But by optimising heating efficiency, it could lead to big changes in a building’s overall energy performance.

Improved control will reduce energy demand for lower operating costs, emissions and lifecycle costs. And with better heating control comes a more comfortable building environment that contributes to improved occupant well-being and productivity.

It’s a simple but effective solution towards reduced energy demand, but one that can deliver welcome benefits.