Find a balance
With the need to balance efficiency, productivity and safety in the workplace a common challenge, Roy Marsden looks at the benefits of specifying a hot water dispenser over a standard kettle in light commercial environments such as the high-traffic workplace.
Under the Workplace (Health, Safety & Welfare) Regulations 1992, employers are legally required to provide their employees with easily accessible drinking water that is free from contamination. In reality, whilst not strictly governed by law, it is also assumed that the vast majority of workplaces will feature tea and coffee making facilities.
The most popular choice for providing hot water in the UK is a kettle, and it is not uncommon for offices and other places of work to have several of them in order to meet hot water demand. However, the technological capabilities of an on-wall boiling water unit ensure that it holds several advantages over its kettle counterpart, in terms of efficiency, productivity, and safety.
Depending on the number of employees in an office, there will often be multiple kettles boiling at any one time. This uses significantly more energy than an on-wall boiler unit, which is capable of supplying hot water to a substantial number of individuals in one go.
For instance, let’s assume that 15 people require a hot drink: a standard-sized kettle only holds enough water to fill six mugs, so two and a half kettles will be required to satisfy everyone’s needs. Compare this to an on-wall boiling unit with a capacity of five litres of instantly-available hot water, and the energy credentials of such units become quickly apparent.
The notion of 15 people all wanting a hot drink at once may seem like an unlikely scenario, though anyone who has made a drink round for an office will understand the plausibility of the situation. But even in workplaces where demand is more intermittent, an on-wall boiling unit still holds the advantage over a kettle.
This is because, unlike with a kettle, boiling units only use the necessary amount of water. Over-filling is a recurring theme in the use of kettles, as people will regularly fill them to the top, even if they are only making one drink. This means that energy is wasted in heating water that will simply be left to cool down, only to be re-heated again later on. Not only does this have a negative impact on running costs, but there is also research to suggest that twice-boiled water results in a worse cup of tea!
On-wall boiling units keep water at the desired temperature, which reduces the energy spikes associated with heating water from cold. Advanced technology, such as Intelliboil™Plus, which features in Heatrae Sadia’s Supreme range, controls the boiling cycle by responding to usage. For example, if no water is drawn off for an hour, it will reduce the maximum temperature that water is stored at from 100oC to 90oC. This kind of energy-saving technology is particularly useful overnight, or at weekends for office environments which tend to operate within standard business hours, five days a week.
Aside from the tangible savings on energy bills that an on-wall boiling unit can provide, moving away from kettles can also have a positive impact on a building’s BREEAM rating. With efficient flow rates, boiling units can improve the energy credentials of a building, an increasingly important consideration as the demand for sustainable buildings continues to rise.
The UK’s love affair with tea is well documented, and the number of hot drinks consumed daily is estimated to be around 235 million . Considering the number of hours we spend at work, this amounts to a significant amount of time spent making tea and coffee in the office, which in turn leads to a substantial loss in business income.
Having a boiling water supply that is readily available will drastically decrease the time spent waiting for a kettle to boil. This is obviously vital for busy businesses which need to minimise ‘downtime’, but it also provides employees with the peace of mind that they have access to hot drinks, without impacting their productivity.
Another factor in the productivity of a workplace is the design of the space itself. Known as biophilic design, there is a trend towards emphasising our innate connection with nature, and looking at how our surroundings can have an impact on health, wellbeing, and productivity.
When you consider that we spend 90% of our lives indoors , much of that at work, it becomes clear that the office environment must be designed with our health in mind. Over 130 million days are lost to sickness absence every year , and there is increasingly a drive towards improving office spaces to promote a more harmonious working environment.
Alongside exposure to natural light and good air quality, easy access to water is a key determinant in establishing a healthy work environment. Providing employees with a convenient, constant supply of hot water in the form on an on-wall boiling unit contributes to a happier, healthier, and ultimately more productive workforce.
Health and safety is a crucial consideration in any business, and the introduction of an on-wall boiling unit can significantly improve an office in this regard. On a very basic level, the removal of trailing leads and wires that are connected to a kettle alleviates the issues of tripping. A cluttered office kitchen can cause a headache for those charged with managing employee safety, and a boiling unit represents an ergonomic alternative.
Additionally, on-wall boiling units are designed to prevent instances of scalding. Whereas kettles are often hot to touch, which can lead to cases of burning if care is not taken, boiling units are insulated in such a way that prevents this from happening. Furthermore, with an on-wall solution, any steam generated during heat-up is condensed and retained within the unit to prevent against accidental burns or scalding. Moreover, they dispense very hot water safely, by using a push/pull lever to allow for boiling water to be delivered in a more controlled manner than that of a kettle.
In many cases, boiling units are made from materials which are easy-to-clean, and therefore built to prevent the spread of infection – such as stainless steel. This helps to improve hygiene, and ultimately reduce the prevalence of illness in an office. Integrated water conditioners can also help to decrease scaling in hard-water areas.
One of the key features of the Supreme on-wall boiling units is the inclusion of the Biomaster additive. This inbuilt silver-ion antimicrobial technology inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria, fungi, and mould. It reduces the risk of bacterial cross-contamination in high-traffic areas, which is critical in industries such as healthcare, catering and hospitality.
Finally, kettles are classed as a portable piece of electronic equipment and are therefore subject to annual PAT testing – a well-known headache for those managing office environments. On-wall boiling units, however, are permanently plumbed and electronically-powered, meaning they are not considered ‘portable’, and are subsequently not governed by this testing.
Overall, an on-wall boiling unit is a superior option to a kettle, capable of delivering a supply of boiling water to workplaces efficiently and safely. In turn, this helps to boost productivity, which leads to a happier, and ultimately more effective, workforce.
Roy Marsden is product manager at Heatrae Sadia