Germany’s largest boiler company sets sights on UK

Published:  15 June, 2006

The Buderus range of commercial boilers extends up to over 19 MW — represented here by the shell boiler on the right.

The largest boiler manufacturer in Germany is embarking on a new push into the UK market for commercial boilers.

Anyone who had taken a snapshot of the UK boiler market just a couple of years ago, gone away, and then looked at the market again would be amazed at the rapid change.

Richard Evans, sales director in the UK for German boiler manufacturer Buderus, explains that the UK market for condensing boilers in 2004 was about £200 million. That figure more than doubled in 2005 to approaching £500 million.

Other key European markets for condensing technology such as Germany and The Netherlands were static — at £280 million and £210 million, respectively.

Emerging market

The UK market for condensing boilers is an emerging one. In countries such as Germany and The Netherlands, the market is mature, so that most sales are replacements. In the UK, sales of condensing boilers are for new projects and to replace existing non-condensing boilers.

The effect on the commercial-boiler market has been dramatic. Richard Evans tells us that depending how you define it, the UK commercial market is 23 000 to 28 000 boilers a year. One widely accepted definition is boilers of 40 kW and above. He says, ‘Such has been the take-up of condensing boilers in the last couple of years that more than 50% of the market is already condensing.’

That is the background against which Buderus is making a major push into the UK commercial-boiler market. The company is the largest boiler manufacturer in Germany, by far, with an annual turnover of £1730 million being well over 50% more than that of the next nearest competitor.

The company’s range is similarly huge — with the largest steel boilers rated at over 19 MW. At the other end of the scale are boilers with outputs of 43 kW. All types of heat exchanger are represented. Condensing boilers, both floor-standing and wall hung, are available with stainless-steel and aluminium heat exchangers.

Key products

Richards Evans sees the key products for the UK market as wall-hung condensing boilers with outputs up to 100 kW and floor-standing condensing boilers with outputs up to 280 kW. Both types have aluminium heat exchangers and pre-mix burners that can be modulated. They can also be operated in cascade, so that several boilers can be combined to deliver higher outputs.

The quality of the products is not in doubt, having been proved in international markets over many years. Richard Evans’s priority is to establish the service proposition, training for installers, commissioning service and support for specifiers in planning and specification.

While amendments to Part L2 of the Building Regulations and the implementation of the European Energy Performance in Buildings Directive are undoubtedly fuelling the drive towards condensing boilers, Richard Evans believes confusion exists about what is really required.

In existing buildings, the requirement is for replacement plant to achieve a seasonal efficiency of 84% (gross).

While atmospheric boilers fall just short, boilers with premix burners that can modulate down to 20 to 30% of maximum output and have a higher efficiency at part load than at full load can definitely meet this requirement — so why, as Richard Evans asks, install a condensing boiler into an existing heating system that may not allow it to condense and which will certainly not enable it to attain its efficiency potential?

He tells us that a good cast-iron boiler with a modulating burner and good controls complies with the regulations.

One aspect of good control is weather compensation. With such control, the return temperature may fall so low that there is a risk of condensation in the boiler — which is an anathema to cast-iron boilers. That risk can be avoided by a bypass circuit, adding to the complexity and cost of an installation. Buderus cast-iron boilers, however, have internal circuitry to prevent low return temperatures causing condensation. Called Thermostream, the system mixes flow and return water within a concentric-pipe arrangement inside the boiler — maximising the potential for weather compensation.

Buderus also has an answer to the problem of replacing cast-iron boilers in inaccessible plant rooms with condensing technology.

Condensing boilers in the GB 312 range are sufficiently compact to pass through a standard doorway and available in six outputs from 90 to 280 kW. Two boilers can be cascaded to provide an output of up to 560 kW. They have aluminium heat exchangers, so their weight ranges from 200 to 370 kg —even less if the casing is removed. The frame is specially designed for ease of movement.

Cascade system

The benefits of boilers in a cascade system have been utilised in the refurbishment of the former Odeon Cinema in Leicester as the Athena Banqueting Centre. The existing pipework was completely sound and remarkably clean. The boilers, however, had been subject to flooding and were no longer serviceable. Re-using existing pipework, motorised valves and other fittings provided a very substantial cost saving.

To provide the most cost-effective heating for this very large space, which has an irregular usage pattern Buderus devised a cascade modular system of six gas-fired condensing boilers from its 800 range and having a total output of 360 kW. The cascade system can often be more efficient than a single boiler, which might operate in condensing mode only when demand is low.

Cascade kits have been developed by Buderus to enable a boiler package to be tailored for an installation’s space and energy requirements. The kits include support frames, pipework connections, valves and headers. They also include controllers, timers and thermostats for the automatic operation of the whole cascade modular system.

While the company’s commercial and industrial boilers have been available in the UK before, representation was limited. Buderus is increasing its presence in the UK, but with much more than just a huge product range. Service, sales and technical-advisory services have been set up, and the UK operation enjoys the full backing of the huge resources in Germany.

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