Heat Network Designs are ‘Falling Short’

Lack of design experience is putting the UK’s heat networks at risk of oversizing and inefficiency, an expert has warned.

District heating projects can save energy by linking homes, offices and other buildings to a single source, rather than individual boilers. Often referred to as ‘central heating for cities’, they are likely to play a significant role in carbon emission reduction efforts.

But Pete Mills, commercial technical operations manager at Bosch Commercial and Industrial, says many designs do not incorporate renewable energy or low-carbon technology, while opportunities to make efficiency gains are often overlooked.

“Unfortunately, it has become relatively common for heat network schemes in the UK to fall short of industry expectations through oversizing of appliances and pipework,” said Mr Mills. “Oversizing a heat network from the outset can have huge ramifications for the long-term efficiency, overall performance, and return on investment of a system.”

The 361 Degrees design team specialises in low-carbon technology and our work on district heating projects can include combined heat and power plants (CHP). These systems reduce waste by converting fuel into heat and electricity in a single process. CHP represents the majority of the 13 projects which recently received a total of £24 million in government funding.

As many as 200 heat networks could be financed over the next five years, with the government suggesting these could reduce the cost of heating by up to 30%.

Mr Mills encouraged contractors and consultants to seek help from manufacturers in adopting best practice guidelines, particularly as inadequate design could damage the reputation of heat networks as a cost-effective option.

He highlighted the need to keep heat losses to a minimum by adopting good insulation practices and implementing smaller pipes and shorter pipework runs. But he added a reminder that “no two heat networks will ever be the same”, making expert consultation vital.

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