This section is titled "Condensing Oil Boilers" but what exactly is a Condensing Boiler?
In practice it is a generic term for a modern heating appliance which is very efficient, the products of combustion are so cool, the water vapour "Condenses" and results in the characteristic pluming encountered from the flue terminal with these appliances.
These appliances are also generally "Room Sealed", unless they are designed to be used externally and draw the air required for combustion from outside the property, rather than using the air within the property.
The room sealed technology has two major benefits regarding efficiency, firstly the boiler is not using the air from the room which we are paying to heat and secondly, a large air vent is not generally required in an outside wall for ventilation, allowing cold air to be drawn in to the room from outside the property.
External oil boilers are particularly popular and an example of which is pictured to the left. This type of appliance benefits from gaining additional space within the property, not using internal heated air for combustion and are less audible within the property when they are being used. It is however possible that external boilers are slightly less efficient as some heat will be lost to the environment.
If your own non-condensing boiler is due for replacement, it is very likely that being replaced by a Condensing Boiler will reduce your energy consumption and with further strategies applied, additional savings can be made.
We are glad you are still reading and are interested in energy efficiency, our passion. Modern Condensing appliances are rated around 90% efficient but are potentially less efficient if not running optimally.
The efficiency can be improved by ensuring the heating water in the heat exchanger is as cool as possible and this can be acheived in a number of ways;
There are predominently two types, a Regular Boiler or a Combination Boiler. Each is available from a multitude of manufacturers, costs vary, various kw ratings are available and personal preference or previous experience often dictates buying of the appliance.
This section will explain the key differences between each type of Condensing Boiler and will also show schematics for their conventional installations.
The regular boiler is probably the simplest and most adaptable available, irrelevant of the manufacturer. Depending upon the exact model, they can be installed open vented or on a sealed (pressurised) system, on a "S", "Y" or "W" plan, with or without a Domestic Hot Water Cylinder or Thermal Store.
As can be seen by the plumbing schematic to the left, there are a greater number of external components and as such, the space required for the installation is greatly increased. The installation is much more flexible in design, with inclusion of additional boilers, wood burning stoves and solar thermal not only possible, it is recommended. Installing Combination Boilers on multi-fuelled installations, while possible, is more complicated depending upon the application.
Regular Boilers are often used with open vented type not water cylinders, the system relys on the height difference between the cold water storage tank and the hot water outlet. This type of installation is simple and effective, although pressure and/or water flow can be limited.
Also available are Unvented Cylinders or Thermal Stores, which can provide much better hot water performance if correctly installed and again, we would recommend referring to the links above for further information.
A possible scenario could be a modern 2 bedroom bungalow with a low heat loss of 7kw and the bathroom has luxury drench shower requiring 30 litres per minute. Fortunately, the Regular Boiler would be capable of heating the property and it would be capable of providing enough domestic hot water for the shower, given the correct hot water storage/boosting equipment. This type of installation is generally very successful.
Externally Combination boilers look very similar to regular boilers, they are generally slightly larger and more pipework emits from the unit itself, to the left is a typical system schematic for a combination boiler.
Internally Combination boilers feature atleast another heat exchanger, a diverter valve, a pressure relief valve and circulation pump, this adds to the purchase price of the actual boiler. As many of the components required for our heating system are internal, the complexity of the system is reduced and possibly less space is required for the installation. Generally, Combination Boilers are also installed onto sealed heating systems and require additional components to ensure the water pressure remains within safe margins.
The Cold Main water pressure also needs to be suitable for the Combination Boiler, as the water pressure forces the water through the boiler and out of the hot tap/s. If the water pressure and/or flow is below the level required, please refer to our products and solutions for Cold Water Boosting in the above links.
The selection of the heat output of the Combination Boiler is dictated by the required domestic hot water requirements and not the space heating requirements. This makes the oil boiler likely to benefit from either a Thermal Store or Buffer Tank, to reduce cycling of the appliance.
In our previous scenario of a modern 2 bedroom bungalow with a low heat loss of 7kw and a bathroom with a luxury drench shower requiring 30 litres per minute. Unfortunately, although the Combination Boiler would be capable of heating the property, it would not be capable of providing enough domestic hot water for the shower and as such, a Combination Boiler would not be installed.
Using heat for comfort is not a recent innovation, humans have been using fire for thousands of years but we now have a very thorough understanding of the science involved. The chemistry does depend upon the fuel used but all domestic or commercial boilers rely on the combustion triangle.
The Combustion Triangle comprises of the three conditions to create fire, or combustion. If you take any of the three conditions away, the chemical process can not be supported and the combustion stops.
The above chemical equation is representing a example of what is happening with combustion using heating oil, kerosene as a fuel.
Therefore the water vapour that is visible from a Condensing Gas Boiler Flue Terminal is present in all boilers, it is just at a lower temperature and critically, is below the dewpoint of the atmospheric conditions - hence it can be seen.
We must therefore be aware that although pluming at a flue terminal is an indication of low flue temperatures, which with Condensing appliances is desirable, it is still an indication that heat is being wasted. The change of state that is taking place forming condensation is using energy and this is happening outside of the boiler/flue system.
This change of state is using latent heat from our products of combustion and it is energy not being used to heat our property or domestic hot water, which is obviously not good for our boiler efficiency.
As we have discovered in the Combustion Triangle above, we require Oxygen to support Combustion and tradiationally with open flued appliances, the air within the heated room was used and an air vent in the outside wall allowed fresh (possibly cold) air to enter from outside.
This is another major advantage of "Room Sealed" appliances, they are sealed to the room and require no air vents to be added to external walls, unless the appliance manufacturer requires additional ventilation for cooling the appliance.
To the left is a picture of a Flat Roof Flue Terminal, the red arrow is showing the route of products of combustion and the blue arrows are showing the inlet for the combustion air to enter the Condensing Boiler. This type of flue is called a balanced flue.
If we are using an existing open flued appliance, we do not have this arrangement for the combustion air to enter the boiler and an additional air vent must be installed.
It is clear that a vent to the outside air of any size has a potential to cause draughts and fortunately, is mainly only required on open flued appliances.
Firstly a lack of ventilation will not allow complete combustion to occur and carbon monoxide will be formed, potentially entering the room the appliance is located. Secondly, a lack of ventilation will also deteriorate the performance of a open flued chimney system and the lack of draught will likely not clear the products of combustion (which are also likely to be very high in Carbon Monoxide).
Carbon Monoxide is formed whenever there is incomplete combustion and is present in the flue system of even the best performing boiler.
Routine maintenance is required to ensure that only minimal levels of Carbon Monoxide are formed, check all seals/gaskets in the boiler are in good condition and that the flue system is operating correctly to ensure that these products of combustion do not enter the premises.
The situation of products of combustion entering the room is known as "spilling". If encountered, an appliance should not be used, the area well ventilated and an engineer called prior to entering the property.
The commissioning of a Condensing Boiler is critical if it is to perform efficiently, effectively and most importantly, safely.
Listed below are some key factors which Heat Lab Ltd verify before the Boiler is commissioned;
It is important to select a heat output of the boiler that is suitable for the property in which it is installed, with oil boilers, this is altered by the selection of the oil nozzle and the oil pump relief pressure, which is critical as it will effect oil atomisation.
The boiler manufacturer will include various heat output options for a particular appliance and the most suitable should be selected. Grant for example, specify a 0.50/80EH noozle with an oil pressure of 7.0 bar for the Vortex Eco if an output of 15.1 kw is required.
It is important that the boiler remains firing throught the commissioning process, the boiler does not have the ability to modulate like a gas boiler and will be either firing or off, waiting for the water jacket temperature to reduce.
Once the commissioning process is complete and all factors have been passed, the installation is now ready for use.
As mentioned previously, there are various strategies available to optimise this condensing condition and primarily, they all rely on reducing the temperature of the water flowing through the plate heat exchanger.
What is important is the COMPLETE heat exchanger temperature, the heating water returning must be as cool as possible but the water flowing out of the boiler must also be as cool as possible. Further information is included in the "Oversizing Radiators" section in the technical articles above.