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Heat Network Project Considerations

A heat network supplies a number of end customers with thermal energy for producing domestic hot water and/or heating. There are many different types of heat networks, and so they have been split into two main categories: district heating and communal heating. The former refers to a central plant that supplies more than one building, while the latter refers to a central plant that supplies thermal energy to customers within one building only.

So, how does a heat network work? System water is heated in a central plant, after which above ground or underground pipework is used to distribute the water to the end-users. A heat interface unit (HIU) is then used to transfer energy to the end consumer, whether via taps, pumps, or anything else. Great Plains Industries have pumps available for this sort of project.

There is a lot to consider when it comes to the design and maintenance of a heat network. Done correctly, a heat network will utilize a significantly lower amount of energy when contrasted with individual gas-fired boilers. Combine this with the fact that renewable energy sources are used, and it’s not hard to see how carbon emissions are greatly reduced. In the country today, heat networks serve roughly two percent of commercial, public, and domestic demand. However, this is a figure that is only going to increase, as the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) has been promoting the use of district heating and communal heating networks. DECC has stated that heat networks are imperative if we are to deliver low carbon heating across the country.

As mentioned, there is a lot that needs to be considered during the planning stage of a heat network project. Attention to detail then needs to be applied throughout the entire lifecycle, i.e. from system design and product selection to network maintenance and end-user support. This is the only way to ensure the heat network remains cost-effective, efficient, and successful throughout. Generally, most district heating and communal heating projects begin with temperature selection. Careful selection of network temperatures will decrease pipework size and distribution pumping cost while increasing the efficiency of the energy center.

Next, planners will calculate the capacity (KW) carefully, as oversizing can reduce efficiency and increase costs, and they will then choose an HIU. Experts will then determine the correct size for network piping, as well as the size of the plant room that is required. The efficiency and operation of the main plant will impact the system’s running cost. Once this is complete, billing and remote maintenance and surveillance round up the project. Of course, all elements are linked to one and other. For example, temperature selection will impact billing, as well as the size of the plant room, network piping, and the HIU that is selected.

As you can see, there is a lot that needs to be considered when it comes to communal and district heating network projects. However, it’s important that every aspect is assessed with impeccable attention to detail to ensure the highest levels of efficiency and effectiveness.


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