Turning around system efficiency

Francine Wickham of Fernox explores how to improve central heating system longevity and efficiency through the use of chemical cleaners, inhibitors and filter technology

The Cold Homes Crisis and the rise of fuel poverty within the UK is a widespread and ongoing issue currently estimated by National Energy Action (NEA) to affect more than four million households. Consequently impacting on the National Health Service (NHS), the effects of cold homes are approximated by Public Health England to cost £1.36 billion, not including associated social care costs.

Reducing this risk is therefore of significant importance for housing associations. However, the UK’s housing stock consists of relatively inefficient properties built across various decades to evolving planning regulations.
This is often the case with older housing association properties and therefore significant energy efficiency improvements can be both expensive and disruptive.

Consequently, one of the simplest and most cost-effective ways for social housing providers to reduce the risk of cold homes is to improve the efficiency of the installed central heating system.

When left untreated, central heating systems are susceptible to internal corrosion and the formation of sludge and scale. These contaminants can then accumulate and circulate within the system, leading to blocked radiators and pipes, causing the boiler to work harder and consume unnecessary energy to reach the desired temperature. This overworking can significantly reduce the boiler lifespan while increasing day-to-day running costs for tenants.

In addition, faulty boilers are the number one tenant complaint according to Property Let By Us, and are often the result of a dirty central heating system. It is therefore advisable to ensure the heating system and boiler are thoroughly protected; reducing visits to site due to complaints and increasing the system’s overall efficiency.

Before dosing a heating system with chemical treatments, any existing contaminants should be removed. For many properties, the best course of action would be to powerflush the system. However, the UK’s housing stock includes some of the oldest homes within the EU and the systems within these properties can suffer from poor system design and low flow rates, which can prevent a successful powerflush.

To provide a belt and braces approach in all scenarios and for properties where thorough cleaning by powerflushing may not be achievable, technological innovation has resulted in high performance system filters, capable of capturing and containing circulating debris, to improve system efficiency.

To ensure the correct course of action is taken in these scenarios, a 360 degree approach to cleaning and protecting social housing heating systems is strongly recommended.

The first step of this process is to check the quality of the system water. If the test results suggest so, then a reliable cleaner should be added to the system. Once the dosing is complete, the products should be left to circulate within the system, before the system is drained, flushed clear and refilled with clean mains water.

Industry best practice then advises that a high performing system filter is fitted. Capable of removing both magnetic and non-magnetic material, filter technology aids in the safe capture, containment and removal of any circulating debris. A rapidly evolving technology, comprehensive ranges of filters are available.

For properties in hard water areas, either an electrolytic or magnetic scale reducer should also be fitted to reduce the risk of future scale buildup.

A chemical inhibitor should then also be added to the system to work with the filter technology to protect the system against corrosion and scale formation, along with an active dispersant. Formulated to continuously detect, lift and deliver system sludge and debris to an inline filter, the active dispersant ensures ongoing delivery of debris, significantly enhancing the performance of the filter.

Furthermore, as the solution is left within the system, the chemical inhibitor aids in reducing system down time and postpones the need for the system to be drained and cleaned. For those within social housing properties, particularly the elderly, this can be vital to keep a system running during the cold winter months.

To conclude the 360 degrees process, the system water should be rechecked to assure the cleanliness of the system.

As fuel poverty and the impact of cold homes continue to increase, improving the efficiency of installed central heating systems is of paramount importance. By incorporating innovative filter technology and proven chemical water treatments, system debris can be consistently captured, contained and removed, preventing the build-up of sludge and scale, resulting in a trouble-free and effective energy efficient heating system.

Francine Wickham is the global marketing director at Fernox