The DATA Mitigating Risk

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A new unit on the market. Is it reliable?

The components and methods used in the construction are identical to its sister unit the DIGI. The only substantial difference is the use of a second plate heat exchanger on central heating rather than direct connection. Otherwise, the electronics, the core software, the sensors, both control valves, and manufacturing methods are identical.

The following explains the historical use of both systems (i.e the current controls).

  • Development started 2011
  • First field tests 2013
  • Product launch Dutch market 2014
  • Product launch UK market 2015
  • Product launch Scandinavia 2016

Sales Figures:

  • 2014 - 1380 pcs
  • 2015 - 5210 pcs
  • 2016 - 3286 pcs (First 6 months)

This totals approximately 10,000 and increasing based on market uptake as a direct result of reliable performance as advertised, and now proven in the independent SP tests.

The HIUs are showing themselves to be as reliable as their mechanical counterparts. The extra layer of information provided by connecting a PC or field computer to an HIU to analyse performance of the heat network has made the setting up of networks as a whole more reliable than previously possible, as we can now provide commissioning certification that network temperatures and pressures are on target.

The DATA has been on test with Nottingham City Council for over a year, with one installed in their HIU test facilities. It has performed perfectly and has been connected to remote monitoring to monitor network temperatures.

The very first UK installations of the DATA went into two properties in Essex . These have worked without a hitch since day one.

We provide on site backup and guarantee equipment for two years.

The mass production of the range is carried out by HSF B.V. in the Netherlands, part of the Aalberts Industries Group who also own Pegler Yorkshire, Flamco and Miebes, to mention just a few. HSF B.V. is the most advanced HIU manufacturer in the group, and holds some 80% of the Dutch market.

In summary, there are no new hardware technologies used in the DATA HIU that introduce any additional reliability risks. All equipment has been proven in volume in Europe over the past three years.

Thermal Integration and the quality of service is unknown

We often need to explain how Thermal Integration came from Dedicated Pressure Systems when Specflue (the UKs largest flue distributor) purchased the business 5 years ago, as a lot of the time customers have experience with DPS. We supplied thousands of thermal stores and plate heat exchange systems throughout the industry, to most large house builders and many local authorities.

In our history we have never left a customer with a gripe - be them a major house-builder or a one off private customer. We are a second generation manufacturer who takes a pride in both our product and how they perform in the field.

Our engineers are backed by one of the largest approved training facilities in the UK, with HIU test and training rigs at our Sudbury head-quarters.

We go above and beyond when asked, and as system designers with so many years product and site experience, we often find ourselves called on to advise regarding performance of heat networks.

The recent results from the DECC funded HIU tests have proven our HIUs to be industry leaders in efficiency - and by a huge margin. So much of an efficiency improvement on existing technology that many are still trying to come to terms with the fact that their is so much room for improvement from the current methods. These results hopefully prove that we do know what we are doing, and that 25 years at the cutting edge of development means something.

We hold substantial stock buffers at all times.

Our full catalogue details case studies on high profile contracts including district heating contracts in London.

We would refer you to references we can provide from existing customers, available on request.

The DATA WRAS approval

All components and materials in the DATA in contact with potable water are WRAS approved.

Full WRAS approval was granted in February 2017 and the approval number is 1612315.

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WRAS Approval Certificate

With hot water set-points and keep warm temperatures now within Legionella danger zones, rather than setting a constant 60C keep-warm temperature, or no keep-warm at all, (as has been the case with traditional combination-boilers, the most similar technology from WRAS perspective), WRAS have, as part of their obligation to ensure systems have no inherent risks pertaining to Legionella growth, told us they would be looking to introduce a new test sheet as part of the WRAS certification to cover this off.

The risk is therefore, if WRAS take the view that Legionella must be addressed in some fashion, when a keep-warm mode is set below 55-60C, then only HIUs which can demonstrate a Legionella protection system and / or carry an updated WRAS certificate and updated Legionella test sheet, would be signed off by water authorities. Although we are informed that it may prove satisfactory for manufacturers to state that systems must not be set within certain Legionella prone temperature ranges when used for DHW production, with factory settings accordingly.

In summary, we feel that our HIUs, having a Legionella protection cycle, as well as being possibly the first HIU to go for WRAS approval for use of a sub 55C keep-warm setting, offer less risk than any system on the market.

Tying the Client into closed billing or HIU communication systems

The billing industry is split into two camps.

The first offer closed systems aimed to tie the client in and provide a barrier to competition. This camp is driven by the commercial sector, to maximise profits from ongoing use of proprietary systems.

The second calls for open intercommunication of systems, from an HIU level through to cloud services, including billing, and telephone support. This camp is driven by customers, but also by the new generation technically adept service providers who are comfortable with open technologies as a business model and see the benefits. It is also driven by the fact that hardware required to deliver the services is now almost a commodity with the dawn of low cost embedded Linux systems perfectly suited for the tasks at hand.

We feel that HIUs, like billing, form part of a larger system. We are aiming for a market where the customer can bolt together their choice of HIU, their choice of billing provider, there choice of maintenance company, and if they feel like they want to take it in-house, they can, without having to replace the HIUs, or rewire the building. They should be able to start with a basic system, and build from there as needed, rather than be tied into a system on day one that they then have to live with for years to come regardless of service levels or prices.

The approach starts with using a Cat5 cable instead of a 2-core cable when connecting up M-Bus, taking the cable from each property to the riser (as opposed to a loop). The cost of the change is pretty insignificant, but it enables any type of infrastructure to follow, from a standard M-Bus ring to a full blow Ethernet system. With 4 twisted pairs, Cat5 (where Ethernet is not fed to flats) can drive M-Bus, RS485, pre-pay and another. It also enables systems to be used that require no access to properties for maintenance.

Short list of services available through partner services:

  • DIY billing.
  • Managed billing.
  • Full call centre support with experienced staff.
  • Remote system diagnostics and commissioning of HIUs.
  • Integration between energy supply and use - Hot water and heating functions can interact with billing systems to deploy cost saving functions.
  • Second by second monitoring and regulation of heat networks as a whole.
  • Automatic delivery of notices (system problems) to assigned targets via SMS and email.
  • Automatic network load management based on network wide hot water priority with potential to double the number of properties that can connect to a network (patent pending).
  • Secure open standard protocols.
  • Access to data through API calls, enabling third party services to be established.
  • Open system architecture that is risk free and future proofed at all levels.

We have found that the simplest approach is a basic M-Bus with data sent off-site to a cloud based system that provides billing functionality. However, the best system would have to be a ring-Ethernet based system that enables a riser based system to drive services, or to feed the Ethernet into a billing providers hardware - typically a home display.

We work closely with the following billing companies to advance technology, and enable us to link customers to whatever services they need, on any scale:

The full range of features that can be accessed through this approach, from billing to remote diagnostics of HIUs, is currently transitioning from field trials to production systems and should be online by November 2016 in the form of a riser based Ring Ethernet Switch from Coheat that also drives additional services, and operates using standard ring protocols. With this in place the client is safe in the knowledge they have a system built on standards that others can work with, and that can be replaced (if the system fails) with another make of standard equipment.

Risk of no operational movement on network temperatures

A heat network is designed to meet an estimated load, with a safety margin. It's bound to be a bit oversized, and can almost certainly be run at lower temperatures than the original design once online. There are also savings to be made by weather compensating a network, but it is only possible if HIUs can follow the heat network temperatures and the system can be adjusted following hand-over to match occupants expectations without access to properties being required.

With mechanical HIUs you setup the unit to the original peak design and then setup the network accordingly. If you later want to drop network temperatures what happens? HIUs then struggle to meet the fixed temperatures they are setup to achieve, call for more heat, open valves further and the network becomes less efficient.

The DATA HIU simply tracks available temperatures and manages itself to ensure efficient operation of the network at all times.

Therefore the DATA HIU mitigates the risk of being left with a system where there is simply no option to drop network temperatures in the future.

Risk of installers not balancing radiators properly

In the case of most HIUs, unbalanced radiators result in higher return temperatures than the district heating system is designed for. This impacts on network efficiency and capacity. The only way to mitigate the risk, given that end users can also play with the balance of their own system, is for HIUs to have built in return temperature limitation.

The DATA HIU includes accurate return temperature limitation, so the risk of unbalanced radiators affecting predicted efficiency, goes away.

In recent DECC funded trial with Network Housing Group, we were called in to analyse and update HIUs on heat networks to improve performance. The systems were monitored before and after changes. A series of improvements were proposed, and each tested. This included a study of the benefits of re-balancing central heating and having return temperature limits in place. The improvements were such a success we are publishing a case study together with the housing association to raise awareness.

The DATA Risk Assessment

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DATA HIU__The_DATA_Risk_Assessment.pdf View...
DATA HIU Generate...

The DATA, Specifications
The DATA, Independent SP Test Results