Water heating innovation and it’s key role in Britain’s new social housing stock

Stuart Doggrell, water heating general manager at Fabdec discusses how developments in water heating, can power efficiencies and sustainability for housing associations and help them improve standards for residents

Housing associations and local authorities currently face a key challenge, maintaining a consistent delivery of homes whilst ensuring that quality across the board, in both new-build and existing stock, is unaffected. As the government prepares to announce its social housing green paper, this emphasis on quality comes into sharp focus. Former housing minister Dominic Raab stated the green paper would aim to “strengthen the role of the regulator” and “empower residents as consumers and give them the voice and ability to hold landlords to account”.

Those comments echo the sentiments contained within in the recent Building Homes, Building Trust report into social housing – which called for social landlords to improve their service standards. With political pressure increasing, largely in line with attempts to tackle Britain’s long-standing housing crisis, there exists an opportunity for housing associations to innovate and bring existing stock up to the high standards set by new-build developments. When looking to revitalise existing housing stock, or ensure quality in new-build developments, authorities should look to take advantage of the benefits provided by innovations in unvented water heating technology. Doing so can help drive energy efficiency and create more sustainable housing, with lower long-term costs, that provides tenants with a more reliable service.

Technology in this area has been through three major evolutions, beginning with tanks that require an expansion vessel, through to the introduction of floating baffles, and finally the use of the Venturi effect to create the ultimate high-performance space-saving option. There is technology which takes full advantage of the Venturi effect, which negates the need for floating baffles and expansion vessels. It does this by using the reduction in pressure that results when a fluid flows through a constricted section of pipe with no discernible restriction to the volume of water flowing through. In the process, a fluid’s velocity increases as it passes through a constriction while its static pressure decreases. Any gain in kinetic energy a fluid may accrue due to its increased velocity through a constriction is balanced by a drop-in pressure. This results in the mixing of liquid with air – or more specifically the induction of air bubbles into the water. It is this process that makes this technology (Self-Sustaining System) unique, with the system now able to maintain an internal air gap as hot water is drawn off further upstream in typical usage.

As it replenishes the internal expansion device permanently, there is no need for recharging or regular servicing. It’s this reliability and lower reliance on repair work that makes the technology ideal for housing associations and residents of their developments, whether that be through retrofitting existing stock or new-builds. The lower number of moving parts in the system means that residents and landlords need not worry about disruptive servicing and repair work, as the tank is able to deliver high performance consistently on a long-term basis. This is key from both the perspective of residents living standards, and reducing pressure on housing association and social landlord’s resources whilst streamlining their maintenance program for hot water servicing.

In addition to delivering the high-water pressure required for high rise blocks, and lower costs and down-time necessitated by repair work, this technology allows water heaters to be contained in streamlined space-saving housing. This means that in smaller developments installers can safely and reliably install units quickly, whilst allowing for greater living space for those that will eventually occupy the housing.

As we look forward, it’s clear that the spotlight will shine on housing associations upon the release of the social housing green paper, as the government looks to improve standards. As housing associations look to respond, the adoption of innovative unvented water heaters can provide the answer to both upgrading existing stock and improving the quality of future homes. Their use is an important consideration for any social landlord looking to improve sustainability and tenant service standards in the context of tight budget constraints. as part of a cost-effective strategy to embracing a sustainable future.

Stuart Doggrell, water heating general manager at Fabdec