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Market sees energetic change

DOMESTIC HEATING AND PLUMBING

A movement away from traditionally styled radiators and the increased influence of legislative efforts to increase energy efficiency are the two key factors driving change in the heating and plumbing sector.

The introduction of Part L of the building regulations now intrudes on most house owners thinking of upgrading their heating system.

The new guidance, introduced at the beginning of April after much consultation, now means that both new installations and the refurbishment of or improvements to existing systems must be carried out in accordance to the new Part L regulations and installed by a competent person.

This means that almost two million installations will need to satisfy the requirements of Part L or face being condemned by local authority building control officers.

In essence, the new regulations require boilers to have a minimum efficiency rating of band D and above while cylinders will need improved insulation standards and speedier heating times.

'There are minimum levels of control for the time required to heat the system to the temperature needed, ' according to Mark Millett, business development manager at the Central Heating Information Council.

'There will be an increased use of indirect heating coils to reach that performance level.' One of the major points of concern over the introduction of the new legislation is the manner in which it will be controlled.

The onus is on building control to ensure all installations meet the level demanded by Part L, a burden Mr Millett claims would be too onerous.

Fortunately, the long consultation period allowed the Benchmark Initiative, a voluntary code intended to improve standards, to be drafted into the building regulations themselves.

'The Benchmark Initiative was introduced 18 months ago as a voluntary code and featured a logbook to keep a tab on industry standards. That logbook is now enshrined in part L as a control document, ' says Mr Millett.

Similarly the Institute of Plumbing (IOP) foresaw the problems facing building control officers and introduced its approved contractor person scheme.

This was given the go-ahead as a self-certification scheme by building regulations minister Alan Whitehead in April.

On the design front, the days of standard-shaped radiators seem to be coming to an end.

Designers have increased the diversity of heaters and radiators with the introduction of differing shapes and sizes of units, all without compromising the heating capacities of older units.

From tall and thin, through porcupine shaped, circular and stand-alone, most tastes can be easily catered for.

'They are available in a stunning range of shapes and sizes now, ' says Mr Millett 'I suppose designers thought they could develop the range available until we see the innovative shapes of today.' Products on show will include central heating, chimney flues and linings, domestic boilers and burners, domestic heating controls, fans, fireplaces and surrounds, gas fires, tanks, cylinders and water storage, pumps and circulators, plumbing tools and equipment, radiators, trade vehicles, racking and storage systems, underfloor heating, valves, ventilation systems, water treatment and conditioning and wood burning stoves.