Flexibility is fast becoming a primary focus for many of today’s commercial condensing boiler installations. Martin Fletcher of Vokèra by Riello explores how commercial boiler manufacturers are addressing this need with advanced engineering solutions that combine heating innovation with a wide choice of accessories to create one product with almost limitless configurations.
As anyone involved in the heating industry knows, commercial boilers have changed significantly over the past few decades. These changes are due, primarily, to the introduction of gas condensing technology, which offers significantly greater efficiencies compared with non-condensing products. Typically, commercial boilers were big, floor standing units with a large footprint and in many cases they were sectional products that had to be assembled on site, involving considerable time and labour.
Needless to say modern commercial boilers have come a long way since those early models. Nowadays most appliances tend to be designed with heat engines and burners combined in a single box that can be wall-mounted (or floor mounted on a frame). This takes up a fraction of the footprint of the old sectional boiler and, thanks to condensing technology and associated innovations, modern boilers are able to offer much higher outputs for their size compared with the old non-condensing units.
But what has been the main driving force behind these changes? I believe the answer to that question is two-fold: the boiler manufacturers and legislation. Alongside a commitment to continuous product improvement and efficiency by leading boiler manufacturers like Riello Group, the heating industry has been the focus of increasingly stringent regulations to reduce carbon emissions. The urgent need to address climate change has been the motivation for many of the innovative technologies aimed at making our buildings more energy efficient. Given that commercial HVAC systems account for a high proportion of a building’s energy consumption it’s not surprising that boiler technology is among these innovations.
In recent decades the advancements in boiler design, together with regulations to increase energy efficiency in both the domestic and commercial heating markets, have driven the market towards smaller, more high-powered appliances. For example, a two-boiler cascade in our new Condexa Pro range offers around 250kW in a small footprint when compared with the larger footprint of older floor-standing units with a similar output. However, that’s not to say that there isn’t still a market for high-power, floor-standing appliances for certain applications and many manufacturers, including Riello Group, continue to produce them: the key difference is that now there is a choice.
From a boiler manufacturer’s point of view it is important to be able to offer solutions that fit the myriad requirements of different commercial projects, both new build and refurbishment. At Vokèra by Riello we believe the concept of system flexibility, or what we describe as ‘one product, multiple configurations’ holds the key to meeting the diverse needs of this demanding sector. Indeed, we know from our extensive experience of working with commercial specifiers and installers that the challenges and permutations they encounter are virtually endless, from single standalone and multiple cascade configurations to all the different ventilation, zoning and control requirements.
An installation in, say, a school may call for external boilers in order to free up internal space for an extra classroom or storage facility. Also, although plant room size is not generally an issue, there are occasions where boiler dimensions are a critical factor because of restricted space or access, so the option of a smaller system that doesn’t compromise output is perfect. Different projects will also have different flue gas exhaust requirements – a factor which has been addressed in the development of our new Condexa Pro boilers. Whilst the range is configured for open-flue configurations optional ‘room-sealed’ kits are available that enable each appliance to be re-configured for room-sealed applications. A versatile flue solution, including standard, twin-pipe and concentric is one of the key aspects of system flexibility and not only expands siting possibilities but can be a huge factor when terminating flue gases safely whilst also taking in to consideration suitable ventilation.
Of course, offering this level of flexibility and such a wide range of accessories could be daunting for even the most experienced heating professional. That’s why we believe this approach must come with expert support, if required, from the manufacturer to help customers build different configurations and guide them through the choice of components to meet their particular project specification.
Modularity and control
Modularity is at the heart of the new flexible commercial boiler concept as it enables a number of output sizes to be combined to achieve the required output. Being modular also means greater ease of access to the boiler’s various component parts when it comes to servicing. With a truly modular system units can be combined in multi-cascade configurations and in linear or back-to-back cascade applications. In addition, today’s more sophisticated control technology can play a major part in monitoring and managing the operation of a cascade at optimum efficiency in relation to demand. In fact, having this high level of integrated control means that in some cases an expensive Building Management System may not even be necessary. In addition to these benefits, the latest integrated logic-control (as used in our new Condexa Pro boiler range) enables a ‘managing’ and ‘dependant’ operation, allowing for the interchangeability of modules and for individual units to be isolated for routine servicing without disrupting continuity of operation.
Looking to the future, we believe flexibility will remain an important consideration in commercial boiler specification, alongside enhanced efficiency and lower emissions in the continuing quest for cleaner, greener heating. Whilst condensing technology already offers high efficiencies and ultra-low NOx emissions, further advancements in technology will enable the next generation of boilers to become even more efficient. We have already seen tighter emissions control with the recent introduction of NOx Class 6, where Class 5 had previously been the standard. This reflects the ongoing drive to improve air quality and achieve climate change targets. As a leading manufacturer of heating solutions, we will continue to only develop and market products that comply with the latest legislation and as the regulatory goalposts move, as no doubt they will, we shall have the foresight and flexibility to change with them.