Commissioning is essential to ensure that heating systems operate at their full potential to maximise performance and minimise fuel costs — says Pete Mills of Buderus, Bosch Group, who argues that trying to avoid the cost of commissioning is a false economy.
There has been a great deal of discussion both within the heating industry and across the national media on the impact of rising fuel costs on businesses and homeowners alike. Whilst rising fuel prices may have raised the profile of the issues surrounding the need for efficient heating technologies, efficient heating should always be considered a priority for businesses keen to minimise costs and carbon emissions. Commissioning a system following its installation is an essential part of ensuring the needs of the end user are met with the entire system operating at its peak performance.
For commercial buildings, each heating system should be designed to account for the characteristics, infrastructure and features of the property and its demand schedule. Whilst taking these needs into account from the outset will always give the best chance of a well-specified system, only a thorough commissioning process will ensure that the system operates to its potential.
Choosing the right boilers, particularly working with renewables such as solar collectors, is an ideal starting point. For example, from a technical perspective, cast-iron boilers have a low hydraulic resistance so they can be incorporated into an existing heating system with minimal changes to the infrastructure. This is, of course, a worthwhile consideration as it has the potential to minimise the cost incurred by possible adjustments to the fabric of the buildings. The commissioning process then follows on the basis that the boiler, whether condensing or cast iron, has been installed with the compatibility and overall efficiency being maximised.
An aspect of commissioning, servicing and maintenance that can be easily overlooked is accessibility to components. There are a number of boilers available which have easy access points for the interior components; an example is the Buderus GB402, which can be opened from either the side or front of the unit, making commissioning and general maintenance straightforward regardless of the boiler’s position within the building. Whilst the technicalities of the commissioning process will always remain a primary consideration, logistical considerations such as the siting of boiler and controls should be taken into account to avoid future difficulties.
Controls are another key component with regards to the complete heating system, and, in general, it has been found that a well-matched controls system can improve efficiency by up to 10%. The ultimate aim of the commissioning engineer is to ensure that the controls are working in tandem with the boilers and/or any associated renewable technologies, which will ultimately have a favourable impact on the system’s overall efficiency.
|Commissioning should be considered essential rather than optional.|
A commercially sized heating system is likely to be one of the most expensive investments made by the stakeholders, and the commissioning process is there to ensure that payback on this investment is achieved as quickly as possible. The sophistication of the latest generation of boilers is such that if they are not fully commissioned, it is expected they will fail to perform to the highest levels. Surprisingly, we hear some stories of facilities managers who neglect the commissioning process in a bid to reduce expenditure; however, the consequential failure to maximise efficiencies at an early stage often results in inflated running costs.
A thorough commissioning process will focus not only on the boiler or primary heating appliance, but will also cover all aspects of the complete system — from electrical elements such as pumps to sophisticated control systems, which are essentially in place to manage outputs and periods of operation. Where larger installations are concerned, minor adjustments can make significant reductions in running costs, particularly over the course of a year.
It goes without saying that the commissioning process requires an extensive level of technical expertise and an understanding of an end user’s annual requirements. That said, given fluctuating fuel costs and occasional changes to requirements, it is likely that the end user will struggle to make a well-informed assessment of their heating system’s performance. Taking advantage of a manufacturer’s technical expertise and experience when it comes to commissioning and post-installation support will provide peace of mind and reassurances that the system is capable of meeting its heating requirements without inflating fuel consumption. By establishing the ongoing heating demands of the building with the investor from the outset, a manufacturer can not only specify the most suitable appliance and controls system, but also implement features such as zoning, operating times, weather compensation and heat-curve adjustments to implement a sophisticated operation.
Ultimately, the observation that no two commercial-heating installations are the same should be a strong enough message to emphasise the importance of commissioning. As a key component of the installation routine in its own right, commissioning is undoubtedly worth carrying out properly to ensure the best possible return on investment.
Pete Mills is commercial technical operations manager at Buderus, Bosch Group. The company offers a commercial ACS training course which outlines the full commissioning process.