Electrical and heating plants within all types of buildings need to be regularly maintained or they risk becoming inefficient. With the prices of gas and electricity continuing to soar, what proactive measure can be taken to ensure valuable plant is operating efficiently?

We’re in a cost-of-living crisis. This unprecedented time is affecting every corner of society, having impacts on all kinds of businesses and industries including construction and engineering. Very specifically, from a building operation point of view, rising energy bills have the potential to affect numerous areas, including the systems and products within buildings that are integral to their performance.
One such example is plant. Given the current cost of living crisis, there is a great need to ensure that plant runs without any issues, so that any unforeseen or unwanted costs can be controlled and mitigated. Not only must these additional costs be prevented, but plant must be able to perform so not to place the health, wellbeing and comfort of building occupants in jeopardy.

Boiler maintenance

If a boiler is not monitored regularly over time for efficiency, when deposits build up inside the appliance it may go unnoticed. The link between the amount of gas that the appliance is burning, and the monthly cost of that gas, can easily be missed especially if costs are increasing incrementally at the same time.
As Steve Warne, National Sales Manager at Ideal Heat Solutions explains: “Inefficient boilers can cost a lot more than the cost of a new boiler in the long term if it is badly maintained. When considering our current socioeconomic context, it’s essential to ensure plant is properly maintained – as the famous saying goes, ‘Prevention is better than cure!’”

“I always recommend monitoring as a first cause of action,” highlights Steve. “People should have heat meters on their appliances to monitor the efficiency of their plant. They should also have a planned maintenance schedule and a planned replacement schedule in place. There should also be a plan just in case plant fails completely; it should identify where temporary plant can be safely sited. This will reduce the time it takes to put in temporary measures and avoid delays getting sites up and running again.”

Good design is key

Plant rooms don’t generate any value, so architects are often encouraged to design plant rooms to be as small as possible. On sites where there has been a great deal of redevelopment, plant rooms can often be hard to gain access to. Plant rooms can often be built in inaccessible places including roofs which means contractors sometimes have to use a crane to access a plant room and remove an old boiler. If a building has had a retrofit, it can mean the plant room is extremely tight. This could mean it is necessary to take a plant room offline to replace a boiler. To break down a boiler and rebuild it in a plant room is a hugely expensive operation and many manufacturers will not even allow this. There is often not enough allowance made to get equipment out whilst leaving everything else in situ.

As a result, plant replacement becomes extremely difficult from an operational perspective. This means that sites are often forced to limp along with appliances leaking water and fumes because it is known that replacement is going to be complicated and potentially time consuming.

“By taking plant offline and using temporary solutions people can save time and money in the long run. On a large site where there may be underground pipework which can be difficult to get to, we are able to breakdown the loads to take the site on and offline, helping to maintain the system and avoid having to turn off large parts of the network. This allows people to keep their buildings running, which for some sectors like healthcare could be critical,” concludes Steve.

With the cost of gas and electricity continuing to soar, it is important now more than ever to ensure that plant is running safely and effectively, so that buildings perform as intended for the benefit of occupants. With a planned maintenance schedule in place, risk and extra cost can be kept at bay.

As featured in Heating and Plumbing Monthly, please view the digital archive here: https://hpm.mydigitalpublication.co.uk/publication/?m=65567&i=765193&p=36&ver=html5