Consumer guide to hydraulic balancing

Published:  29 May, 2018

Steve Sutton, Technical Manager at the Heating and Hotwater Industry Council (HHIC) explains the association’s new consumer guide on hydraulic balancing.

April saw Boiler Plus come into effect and, while the industry adjusts to the new standards, the HHIC is continuing its work towards cleaner and smarter home heating.

One of these focuses is on system balancing. We believe it’s time to consider the development of a plan to encourage hydraulic balancing, and include it with new boiler installations as expected installation practice. This isn’t about adding burden, but about raising standards.

Hydraulic balancing, or system balancing as I’ll call it from now on for simplicity’s sake, was actually considered in the Boiler Plus policy document. In fact, there was a whole section on system balancing.

Why? Well, the Boiler Plus consultation, which over 750 installers responded to, revealed that “some installers do not have a common understanding of system balancing”, with only 18% claiming to undertake it as a standard practice.

Although Boiler Plus did not include mandatory system balancing, the policy document did state that “it is likely that we may seek to enforce hydraulic balancing at a future date, and installers who are not currently familiar with this practice are advised to take appropriate action to address this skills gap”.

To support installers with this expected next step, the HHIC has produced a consumer guide to balancing the central heating system. We know that some installers have concerns over competing with others who may not quote according to the regulations in order to win business. It is important that the wider industry supports installers with this challenge.

Consumer guide

One way this can be done is through consumer awareness. The consumer guide we have produced can be shared with customers during the quoting process, to educate them on the reasons why system balancing is required. It also has a section for installers to advertise their details.

While the practice of bleeding radiators is relatively well known, many consumers are unaware of the merits of balancing heating systems. In fact, some consumers unintentionally unbalance their heating systems.

Born out of the mistaken belief it will give their properties more heat, households may open both radiator valves fully, the result being that the radiators nearest the boiler or pump (circulator) take the bulk of the hot water flow, leaving other radiators with little flow resulting in low room temperatures.

As manufacturers continue to pursue their goal of making heating systems more efficient, in order to achieve optimum consumer comfort, we must remember that the heating system itself has to be installed and commissioned correctly to ensure that it works as per the design specification.

Today, condensing boilers, boiler modulation, pump modulation, intelligent energy saving controls, and passive flue gas heat recovery all enable us to achieve the aforementioned goals relating to comfort and energy efficiency.

Irrespective of these technologies, correct installation, commissioning, and maintenance of the heating system itself is still a key part of the process.

System balancing is an expected practice. Consumers should expect their installer to undertake this, and installers should expect the wider industry to help consumers understand it.

You can download the consumer guide to balancing the central heating system at www.hhic.org.uk.