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Fending off the Weather Beast

With the big freeze now a distant memory, school managers will be thinking about scheduling in heating system upgrades over the summer holidays. Following numerous stories of older systems breaking done when the ‘Beast from the East’ wreaked havoc recently, schools need to ensure they’re always prepared for the extremities of UK weather

One of the few upsides of the Beast from the East was that in many parts of the country, schools were closed, giving pupils and teachers alike a day to play in the snow.  However, for heating engineers and school managers there was no such respite as many spent the time rushing around trying to fix the heating failures.  With schools under more pressure than ever to stay open during spells of bad weather, a modern highly efficient heating system should be a must have.  So, what does this look like?

First and foremost, schools will be looking for a heating system which will be cost effective to run not only saving them money on their monthly bills, but also fulfilling their obligations to minimise carbon emissions.

Choosing the most energy efficient product is straightforward these days as commercial boilers and water heaters were under the Energy Labelling Directive (ELD). As part of the directive space heaters and combi space heaters over 70 kW need to have an energy level with a rating ranging from A to G. When used alongside energy efficiency data, these labels can help installers choose between products which are the same energy rating

For primary schools where hot water will be for hand washing and catering only,  a light commercial boiler such as Potterton Commercial’s Sirius Two WH 50kW, and a separate hot water cylinder or direct gas-fired water heater should be adequate to meet the needs of the building users. In a secondary school or college where hot water demand may also include showers for changing areas, a larger output Sirius boiler may be required in addition to a cylinder or water heater.

For schools with a large demand for heat it will be worth considering installing more than one boiler so they can run in sequence.  By setting up a Cascade system the boilers will share the load when they all operational and should one unit need to be taken off-line for repair and maintenance remaining units can take the load so there’s no break in heat delivery

Of course any heating system must be sized correctly according to the predicted demand of the building to ensure efficiency operation.  It has long been recognised that there’s been a tendency to oversize boilers which often comes about due to natural desire to err on the side of caution to avoid complaints from users about underperforming systems. Thankfully the flexible and modular nature of cascade systems help negate this issue.



When replacing an old boiler, it should never be assumed that like for like replacement in terms of boiler capacity offers the best solution. Boilers have often been specified without considering the buildings heat gains from people, lighting and equipment. Even if such heat games were taken into account when original system was sized changes in use, occupancy and amount and type of heat emitting equipment may have occurred over time. Therefore, it is important to side a replacement installation based on the current building requirements rather than rely on the side of the boiler originally specified

Regular maintenance is key and this should involve analysing the flue gas to determine the right mixture of gas and air, performing a deep clean the heat exchanger and testing a water sample to determine pH levels, cleanliness and retain the presence of contaminants and limescale in the system. Testing and treatment of the system water is important as part of the annual service to help maintain boiler efficiency and extend the life of the system

Potterton Commercials Sirius wall hung boilers were recently installed a new school in Plymouth specialising in sport, leisure & tourism and hospitality and event management for Years 10 and 12. The contractor specified two 90 kW boilers is for Plymouth Studio School and these were fitted in parallel to take 66% of the heat load each.

With high demand for hot water the school’s requirement is served by a separate high efficiency storage water heater. The separation of the heat and hot water plants in this instance helps to save fuel as during the warmer months when space heating is not required, the Sirius boilers can be taken off line for servicing or turned off completely

While the big freeze may have been hugely disruptive to contractors and school managers hopefully it has raised importance of having a reliable efficient heating system that can stand the test. By combining high efficiency with regular servicing schools can rest assured they’ll be in the best position to offend of any future where the beasts