10 years in wall-hung boilers

space heating, boilers, Vaillant
Reflections on 10 years in the commercial-boiler market — John Bailey.

Boilers and the technology associated with them seem to change very slowly, and even quite an old boiler could, until quite recently, quite easily be replaced with like for like. One of the most significant changes has been the move towards wall-hung boilers and their use in cascade configurations, as highlighted by John Bailey, Vaillant’s sales director for commercial and renewable systems, reflecting on 10 years of Vaillant being involved with commercial systems in the UK.

So how did the industry look in 2006?

The picture painted by John Bailey is one of older boilers being inefficient floor-standing units and non-condensing. They also tended to be huge in size for their heat output compared to today’s boilers.

Controls for boilers were expensive, complex and specialist — and there was little choice from boiler manufacturers.

Only specialist engineering firms installed commercial boilers, for which the market in 2006 was 21 000 boilers a year, of which just 42% were wall hung.

What has undeniably characterised the commercial boiler market over the last 10 years has been the move towards wall-hung boilers with ever-larger outputs and cascading capabilities. John Bailey says that 76% of the number of commercial boilers sold is now wall hung and that this proportion can be expected to grow.

Another significant change has been the move away from atmospheric boilers.

Vaillant’s initial product offering included wall-hung boilers with outputs of 35, 46 and 65 kW and low-loss headers, which were little known in the industry at the time. Floor-hung boilers were also available with outputs from 80 to 280 kW and, towards the end of 2006, a floor-standing condensing atmospheric range with outputs from 65 to 165 kW and a sealed burner.

A couple of years later, 2008, saw the launch of a new range of wall-hung boilers with outputs of 46 and 65 kW, a significant upgrade of the floor-standing condensing boilers and an upgrade of the company’s range of commercial controls.

By that time, wall-hung boilers had grown in popularity and accounted for 53% of the commercial market. Vaillant’s entry to the commercial-boiler market had been very successful, with the company having secured 10% of the wall-hung market and 6% of the overall market.

Meeting the challenges laid down by regulations has impacted greatly on the strategic direction Vaillant’s commercial boiler journey has taken since 2006. Important changes a number of years ago to Building Regulations for the domestic market also influenced the commercial boiler sector, with a desire to see high energy efficiency solutions viewed as increasingly important.

Part L2 of the Building Regulations became a minimum standard in 2010 and, coupled with the influence of BREEAM technical standards, has ushered in an era where the specification and design of energy-efficient building solutions-to support a sustainable approach to energy consumption has become key.

By 2013, wall-hung boilers accounted for 68% of the commercial market, with Vaillant having an 18% share.

space heating, boilers, Vaillant
Boilers in cascade are a feature of many new and refurbished boiler rooms.

It was in the same year that Vaillant removed non-condensing boilers from the market because, in the words of John Bailey, ‘we wanted to be very green and ahead of the market’.

The shift in the nature of the market was indicated by Clarks Shoes replacing shell-and-tube boilers dating from 1966 and having an output of 1.5 MW — and still looking brand new — with floor-standing Vaillant boilers. The new boilers offered a project lifetime fuel-cost saving of £258 000 over 20 years and an annual carbon saving of over 72 t.

To put the last 10 years into some sort of perspective, John Bailey identifies six key trends that have impacted on the market.

• Regulations driving customers to be more focused on energy performance.

• Growth in refurbishment projects requiring little or no downtime.

• Technological advances in materials and controls.

• Demand for greater flexibility.

• More installers entering the light commercial market.

• Requirements to help customers reduce their operational costs.

John Bailey concludes, ‘Changing the mindset of consulting engineers has been a key factor. Wall-hung boilers and rigs have opened up the market, and we can see them getting bigger.’

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