22 March 2021

With the Carbon Trust estimating that heating can account for more than half of a hospital’s energy bill, upgrading an older, inefficient boiler can quickly save money – and provide more reliable heating and hot water.

At Alpha Heating Innovation, we have many years’ experience in refurbishing hospital heating systems and as a result we have a good understanding of the type of challenges that contractors will face.

One of the most common issues is space in plant rooms. In hospitals, space is prioritised for patients, staff and healthcare equipment not the plant room. While this is understandable, it can lead to some awkward design and installation problems. Installers may also find themselves facing small doorways or narrow staircases.

One way to address this is with the cascade approach, which applies several smaller boilers to meet the required heat output. For example, the Alpha Heating Innovation cascade system can be floor-standing or wall-mounted. In addition the boilers can be positioned in a number of configurations: horizontally, vertically, back-to-back or in an L-shape. Installers have a range of choices to help them use the space available, and the smaller boilers are easier to manoeuvre.

Another issue, also related to the position of the boiler room, is the flue. This is a vital part of the heating system and it’s particularly important to consider if the client is switching from a non-condensing boiler to a more efficient condensing boiler, as a different type of flue is required.

Again, the cascade approach can help with this. The boilers in the cascade configuration are connected through hydraulic and gas pipework, linking each boiler and flue together. Alpha Heating Innovation has worked to make this aspect of a project as straightforward as possible – our high output ProTec range is compatible with our open or concentric push-fit flue systems. The boilers are factory-fitted with a ‘B23’ type flue configuration but can be changed to a ‘C’ type by fitting the concentric flue adaptor.

A third challenge when designing a new hospital heating system is correct sizing. Replacing the old boiler on a like-for-like size basis can be problematic. Firstly, many older systems were deliberately over-sized by as much as 30% to be sure of meeting peak demands.

What’s more, hospital heating and hot water requirements change over time, as wards change function or new facilities are added. Other aspects of building fabric may also have been upgraded which will impact on heating requirements. Sizing must be carried out with the building’s actual needs in mind.

And the boilers must be able to meet peak load requirements, while also achieving good energy efficiencies. The cascade approach can also provide an excellent solution, particularly with today’s efficient condensing boilers.

For example, the ProTec Plus 50 condensing boiler has a modulation range of 1:10. So its maximum output of 55kW can be reduced to 5.5kW when system demand is lower. For a cascade installation of five of these boilers, the modulation improved five-fold, so there is a potential modulation of 50:1.

This level of modulation means that the boilers can match the building’s heating requirements very accurately at all times. In a cascade format, each boiler is far less taxed, reducing wear and tear on the components .

While many UK hospitals are undergoing reviews and refurbishments of their building stock, it is important to be able to offer workable solutions that meet the particular challenges of these clients. Modern condensing boilers offer the ideal energy-efficient upgrade, and the cascade approach means that installation and maintenance are much easier – helping the contractor and client alike.

If you would like to find out more about cascade heating systems for the hospital environment, download our FREE guide >> Cascade boiler systems in hospitals