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New research has revealed that one in three employers have invested in their work space with the aim of promoting wellbeing and enhancing employee efficiency. The most desirable companies to work for now offer a whole range of facilities, including gyms and showers, resulting in an impact on hot water provision. Dan Martindale, Sales Director at Andrews Water Heaters, discusses how contractors can help to ensure hot water systems meet an increasing range of needs.
For businesses, the health and wellbeing of employees increasingly involves much more than just offering free snacks and signing up to a healthcare plan. Research shows that wellness trends in society are being transferred into the workplace, with a quarter of employers planning an office refurbishment in the next 12 months to enhance the work environment.
Showers and washing areas topped the list of office facilities provided by employers, with 27% of workers benefitting from these. In addition, 12% of employees are offered onsite sports equipment or a gym.
However, it is important to remember that introducing facilities such as showers and extra washrooms into an existing office space can put unprecedented pressure on a building’s hot water system. Contractors can play an important role in ensuring that building managers review their current hot water requirements and look at upgrading their systems.
Here are four tips on how best to navigate this process.
1. Audit water needs
When assessing hot water requirements, it is important to undertake a complete assessment of the existing hot water system loading, and present and future needs. Establish the number of demand points, outlet temperature and required flow rates. The basin capacity, length of the peak period and number of fills during this time should also be considered.
Most commercial buildings will require hot water during business hours, however, with flexible working trends, more people are working outside the traditional nine to five. Gaining a thorough understanding of the peak periods for water consumption will provide the insight needed.
All these factors dictate the size and type of water heater best suited and some manufacturers, such as Andrews Water Heaters, offer helpful sizing calculation tools that can help.
2. Dedicated hot water supply
Commercial systems have historically employed a boiler, which generates space heating and heats a calorifier to produce hot water. Deciding to install a higher output boiler would naturally accommodate a higher demand for hot water, but with better insulation in modern buildings, and a rise in underfloor heating systems which work at lower temperatures, there is less demand for heat.
Installing a separate, dedicated water heater to cater to the hot water demand generally provides lower running costs, energy consumption and carbon emissions because the hot water energy load can be more suitably matched to the water heater output. On top of this, since water is heated from a low mains temperature (at a supply temperature of around 10 to 60 degrees Celsius), high levels of condensing can be achieved, contributing to further savings.
A consequence of more hot water usage is increased energy bills. However, designing the correct heating system for the building ensures that efficiency savings can be achieved and heating costs don’t quickly spiral out of control.
3. Check water pressure
The system must be able to handle the higher levels of water pressure it will be subjected to if it is supplying hot water to a building’s upper floors from the basement or lower floors especially if showers are involved. The water heater and its components – in particular the tank or cylinder – must be able to withstand the inlet water pressure required to deliver hot water safely to multiple storeys, especially in period buildings.
In unvented systems, there are safety measures that limit the pressure and temperature of the cylinder. The danger is that because the boiling point of water under pressure increases, if the thermostat fails to correctly control the water temperature within the water heater a rupture could result in the hot water flashing to steam.
4. Implement ongoing maintenance
It is essential to put in place procedures that protect the water heater in order to gain the maximum benefit throughout the life cycle of the product. For example, limescale deposits can build up which coat the heat exchanger and other system components, resulting in reduced operating efficiencies, blockages and potential equipment failure.
The first line of defence against limescale is to prevent its build-up in the first place, and Andrews Water Heaters recommends treating system water when its hardness reaches 150 parts per million, or 7-10 by the Clark Degrees scale. Various water treatment options are available, such as water softeners and electrolytic scale inhibitors that prevent build-up of limescale and keep the system flowing in peak condition.
As the commercial world responds to increased demand for wellness amenities, higher volumes of hot water are required. Water heating systems must be matched to the existing and future needs of the building. Installing the right solution and making sure it is maintained properly ensures that performance is guaranteed, and costs are kept down for years to come.