As the summer holiday period draws to a close, there are still a huge number of schools across the UK that haven’t taken steps to assess their heating capabilities ahead of the winter. Neville Small, sales director at Potterton Commercial, explains why there is still time.
Summer is a busy time for school estate managers, who utilise the shutdown period to make building and system repairs. With pupils and teaching staff enjoying their six-week break, it’s a great time for contractors to get in and get to work.
However, as budgets tighten, often it is only essential maintenance that is carried out, with energy efficiency upgrades taking second place. Here, the performance of the school’s heating system is likely to be put to one side until colder months, or until a fault is actually found with the system.
This leaves many schools vulnerable to system failure. As we have experienced a warm summer following one of the mildest winters on record, it’s likely that the boiler plant will not have been tested to the usual degree. Therefore, it’s vital that systems are checked ahead of time before periods of peak demand.
All is not lost though; October half term is not too far away, providing those schools that had to sacrifice HVAC maintenance this summer with the ideal opportunity to prepare ahead of winter. With the requirements set by ErP making it difficult to select a like-for-like replacement for a non-condensing boiler, which many schools still run off, there are even more considerations to be made.
If a replacement is required, we would recommend a condensing boiler as the smart alternative, as they offer high performance and cost savings. This choice will require additional work on-site, such as replacement pipe work, new flues and a condense drain. This means it’s essential to assess a system sooner rather than later in case any extensive work needs to be carried out.
In addition to ensuring a constant, comfortable temperature for pupils and teachers, schools that upgrade their heating system to condensing technology will also benefit from improved energy efficiency, especially when replacing old, inefficient non-condensing boilers with efficient condensing boilers. That means reduced carbon emissions and energy bills – with the money saved being put towards other valuable resources.
And as the funding for green projects in public sector buildings widens, more schools can apply for support to make these upgrades. In fact, well-established programmes are now widening their reach. For example, Salix is now offering its loan programme to public sector organisations in Wales too. This means schools across the entire country will now be better placed to invest in energy efficiency projects to reduce operating costs.
Having worked closely with contractors and estate managers in the education sector for some time, we would always recommend that any upgrades and replacement works be carried out ahead of winter, to safeguard against any disruption which could result in school closures and higher maintenance costs in the long run.