Cleaning up renewables

Gas boilers may have a limited horizon due to new government legislation, but water treatment will continue to be an issue installers will have to deal with, even with renewables. ADEY’s Colin Yearp advises on best practice when it comes to water treatment, to maintain the performance of renewable heating systems.

In just four years, legislation dictates that the installation of gas-fired boilers in new build properties will no longer be permitted. As part of an overall government strategy to reduce carbon emissions from fossil fuel generated heating sources, this will be a seismic moment for homeowners and installers.

Although gas-fired boilers are currently the most popular choice for boiler installations, by 2025 they will need to be replaced with alternative solutions in new build properties. This will lead to a rise in the specification of renewable heating technologies such as air or ground source heat pumps and hydrogen powered boilers to sit at the heart of the home.

While renewables offer a new and greener way to provide the sustainable heating systems required, it is also important to remember that they too can be affected by a common issue that impacts gas-fired systems – poor water quality.

Sludge or corrosion build-up resulting in poor system water quality is the single biggest cause of the 3.2 million boiler breakdowns that currently occur each year. To tackle this issue, increasing efforts by installers to test, treat, monitor, and maintain system water quality are helping to eradicate the costly and time-consuming problems poor water quality can cause.

Sludge still a problem

Such practices also need to be applied to emerging heating technologies, with the number of renewables-based installations poised to expand rapidly in the years ahead. From a financial perspective, renewable technologies commonly cost more upfront when compared to gas-fired boiler systems, so it is in a property owner’s interest to ensure that the ongoing operation of the system is fully optimised, protected, and does not break down because of preventable water quality issues.

While renewables offer a greener way to provide sustainable heating, they too can be affected by poor water quality

Installers have a pivotal role to play. It is important the trade looks to support the early adopters of renewable heating systems, helping to educate homeowners about the critical importance of effective water treatment to safeguard their investment now and, with annual water testing and servicing in place, for years to come.

There are some key elements of a renewable heating system that demonstrate the need for water treatment. For instance, the fact that heat pumps operate at lower temperatures than standard heating systems means they are more prone to algae and biological contamination.  Therefore, the use of an effective biocide treatment programme is essential.

Underfloor heating

Likewise, underfloor heating systems, which are commonly specified as part of a renewable solution, can also be a breeding ground for problems if not treated and prevented.  Air can get into the system via pipe fittings and air ingress is a leading cause of magnetite and corrosion build up that will eventually compromise the heating system’s performance.  Rubber hoses and automatic air vents can allow additional air ingress and, with it, the potential for corrosion to take hold.

The good news is that by adopting a planned and proactive water treatment programme, the possibility of poor water quality affecting renewable heating technologies will drastically lessen or be eradicated, saving homeowners the inconvenience and cost of breakdowns.

ADEY advocates a full Best Practice solution that installers can use to help protect the nation’s home heating infrastructure (see tinted box).  Based on the principles of testing, cleaning, protecting, and monitoring system health, it provides a comprehensive checklist of the essential steps installers can offer clients and help guarantee optimised renewable heating system performance for the long term.  

Adey’s Best Practice approach to renewable and underfloor heating systems:

Water quality should be regularly tested.

ADEY’s MagnaCleanse & MC5 can help here.

ADEY recommends installation of MagnaClean TwinTech or Pro2XP for renewable heating systems, adding MC1+ Protector, treating with a biocide MC10+Biocide. For ground source heat pumps, adding MCZero and MCZero+ Anti-Freeze is recommended.

Regular service of the filter, a ProCheck water test and a top-up of MC1+ Protector and MC10+ Biocide can ensure long-term protection.

Adopting a Best Practice approach to water treatment allows plumbers to deliver a best-in-class service to clients who are starting out on their renewable heating journey.

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