Questions raised over heat network design practices

  • Heat network designs frequently oversized
  • Consultants and contractors advised to pay closer attention to the sizing of the main heating source and pipework to boost efficiency
  • Many designs said to be “falling short of industry expectations”
  • Building developers urged to deliver fairly-priced heat that starts with a well-designed heat network.
  • Association for Decentralised Energy (ADE) reports of more than 17,000 heat networks in the UK
  • Consultants and contractors responsible for the design of heat networks are being encouraged to adopt design best practice and avoid unnecessary oversizing by an industry spokesperson.

Pete Mills, our Commercial Technical Operations Manager is calling for those responsible for the design of heat networks to pay close attention to the sizing of the main heating source and pipework in order to maximise efficiency gains.

Pete comments: “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.

Why is oversizing a problem?

“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. This is before we consider the reputational damage that incorrect design is having on heat networks’ credentials as efficient and cost-effective heating and hot water solutions for multi-residential and commercial buildings.”

How important are heat networks?

According to the Association for Decentralised Energy (ADE), there are currently more than 17,000 heat networks in the UK, of which around 91% are located in England and 6% in Scotland. With the Government’s £320 million Heat Networks Investment Project (HNIP) set to provide financial support to up to 200 district heating projects by 2021 and lever in up to £2bn of wider investment2, uptake of this heating approach is showing no signs of slowing.

Pete continues, “Many heat network designs we are seeing are not incorporating any renewable energy, waste heat, or low carbon technologies, which should be the foundation of a good scheme that is to provide heat and carbon savings for tenants. We are still lacking a wide base of design experience in the UK and this is something we must start to improve upon. Building developers too, have a role to play in ensuring their developments will deliver good value for their tenants with fair priced heat that starts with a well-designed heat network.

How can heat losses be avoided?

“The UK, particularly its local authorities and housing associations, has the potential to benefit greatly from district heating schemes. It’s therefore paramount that plants and pipework are correctly sized according to heat demand. Smaller pipes, shorter pipework runs and good insulation practices will keep heat losses in a network to a minimum, while benefitting the end-user from the word go.

“Those in doubt should remember that no two heat networks will ever be the same, and that manufacturers will often prove to be an invaluable source of help during the design process.”