It’s all about efficiency
With electric water heating products still being penalised in Government figures, how can electrical wholesalers help specifiers and electrical installers to use these products? Here Jon Cockburn, Head of Marketing at Heatrae Sadia, provides some advice.
Electrical wholesalers are likely to sell a wide range of electric water heating products for both domestic and commercial applications, including large unvented/vented hot water storage cylinders, small unvented products, point of use water heaters, instantaneous hand wash units and electric showers.
But, as a result of the way electric water heating products are viewed within Government figures, some wholesalers might be concerned about how to best sell these products. They might also be unsure about what advice to give customers who are perhaps struggling to meet targets.
As most people working in the electrical industry will know, electric heating and hot water products are viewed as carbon intensive within SAP (Standard Assessment Procedure), because of the way electricity is currently generated in the UK.
However, these products are actually very efficient at the point of use, so once cleaner sources of electricity are in place electric heating will represent a highly efficient option, and products will be very much in demand.
Until then, electrical wholesalers can help to ensure electric heating products continue to be used. In fact, wholesalers are in a prime position to provide advice to specifiers and electrical installers, and having the right know-how can help to increase sales.
The key point is that by taking certain measures, electric water heating products can be used successfully, and targets can be met.
Making installations as efficient as possible has to be the top priority. Anyone specifying or installing equipment in new projects will be finding themselves under increasing pressure to reduce energy usage, especially because of the demands of Part L of the Building Regulations and the Code for Sustainable Homes – not to mention rising fuel costs.
So one of the most important things that an electrical wholesaler can do is to make sure they are stocking and recommending the most efficient water heating products on the market.
Manufacturers are working hard to make their products as efficient as possible. For example, you might have already seen a new generation of unvented hot water cylinders coming into the market.
At Heatrae Sadia, our new product development has been geared towards energy efficiency and sustainability for some time. We have invested £1m in the development of Megaflo eco – an innovative hot water cylinder that provides greater thermal efficiency and reduces heat loss. In fact, almost 30% less heat escapes from Megaflo eco than with the previous model.
In terms of knowing which products are the most efficient, this should become increasingly easier to do. Hot water cylinders will very soon be labelled in accordance with the European Commission’s Eco-Design of Energy Related Products Directive. Though the actual ratings and methodology haven’t yet been finalised, it’s likely that the energy efficiency ratings for water heaters will go from A to G, as with other domestic appliances like fridges and washing machines. There’s also talk of additional ratings above A, such as A+ or A1, which will cover the inclusion of low carbon technologies, with ratings A to G covering conventional systems. However, the detail of this is still to be decided.
It’s highly probable that the lower ratings of G, F, E and D will be gradually phased out in order for the UK and other EU countries to achieve even greater levels of energy efficiency. So, in the future, manufacturers will only be making and selling higher efficiency water heaters, and less efficient products will disappear.
Currently, some figures, including those for heat loss, are cited as a manufacturer’s statement. But we anticipate that the Energy Related Products labelling scheme will make comparisons clearer – so it will be easier for a wholesaler to choose the most efficient products. Things will be much more transparent, so products can be compared like-for-like.
Small scale products
Where smaller scale water heating products are concerned, for example vented point of use products, electrical wholesalers should look out for models that offer reduced heat loss and increased insulation.
When selling a large unvented cylinder or a small unvented product, you should also recommend the use of programmable controls. By ensuring water is only heated when required, programmable controls improve efficiency. TMVs (Thermostatic Mixing Valves) can also be utilised with large and small unvented systems, to ensure hot water is delivered at a pre-set, safe temperature, and have the added benefit of protecting people against scalding.
Electrical wholesalers can also help by offering advice on product sizing, as this can have a big impact on the efficiency of an installation. Over specifying (for example by using a hot water cylinder with a greater capacity than is actually required) can lead to large heat losses and wasted energy.
In addition, a discussion about sizing might actually reveal that a different product is required, leading to a more efficient installation. For example, in commercial premises, hot water needs can very often be met with small-scale, low-cost water heating solutions, such as point of use products or instantaneous hand wash units, which have the benefit of being efficient, cost effective and economical to run.
Or, in the domestic market, the outcome of a discussion might result in an electric shower being fitted to serve a new bathroom instead of a direct hot water storage cylinder. Fitting an electric shower might be a more efficient and economical solution, albeit the hot water delivery won’t be as powerful.
Some electric water heating products can also be coupled with renewable technologies, which can dramatically improve efficiency, so this is something else that’s worth learning more about. Solar thermal unvented hot water cylinders, for example, are available, and can be coupled with either solar thermal collectors or evacuated tubes.
Solar thermal technology requires some supplementary heating, especially during the winter months when solar gain will be low, and a direct fired water heating cylinder with an immersion heater can bring the hot water up to the required temperature. And, for the specifiers and installers trying to meet SAP and Code for Sustainable Homes targets, the addition of a renewable technology will help offset a direct cylinder’s carbon emissions.
Electrical wholesalers should also be aware that insulation can really help to offset carbon emissions, as can the use of green electricity, generated by renewables such as wind farms, hydro-power and photovoltaics. One of Heatrae Sadia’s house builder customers is actually using a restored water turbine and a mill stream to generate carbon neutral electricity, which is partly used to provide heating and hot water. Our Amptec electric flow boilers and Megaflo eco hot water cylinders have been installed at the development.
Our advice to you is to make sure that the electric water heating products you stock and recommend are the most energy efficient on the market – and that you are in a position to offer advice about improving efficiencies and meeting legislative targets. By taking this approach, electrical wholesalers can ensure that electric water heating products continue to be specified – helping to protect the market’s future.