A mission to commission

21st September 2021

Ensuring that heating appliances do what they say on the tin in terms of efficiencies, lifetime performance and projected savings will avoid unnecessary energy waste in the UK’s commercial buildings, says Neville Small, Key Accounts Director at Baxi Heating. A renewed focus on thorough commissioning is key to achieving this goal


The efficiency of heating and hot water services in commercial buildings is under greater scrutiny as UK businesses and organisations strive to reduce energy consumption and associated emissions.


Yet a heating system will only perform as intended if correctly installed and maintained – regardless of the efficiency credentials of its components. How, then, can we help building operators and owners avoid any potential energy performance gap related to heating? One of the most effective ways is by promoting and ensuring comprehensive commissioning.


Optimising whole life efficiency and safety


In every commercial heating installation, the commissioning process is vital to optimise immediate and lifetime performance, efficiency and energy savings. It is particularly important when installing high output equipment such as large commercial boilers and water heaters or more complex multivalent and hybrid systems involving low carbon technologies.


Crucially, commissioning, which takes place prior to handover, is also a legal requirement to comply with Building Regulations and, in the case of boilers, Gas Safe guidelines [1].

So let’s recap on who can carry out commissioning and what it involves. Certified professionals – either the manufacturer’s specialist commissioning engineers or a qualified contractor – will carry out a series of installation, safety, operation, performance and failure checks.


This thorough procedure will verify that the equipment is installed according to manufacturer instructions and that it produces the specified output, efficiency, and emissions levels. It will also ensure that the system will respond in a safe and controlled manner during failures or shutdowns.


Comprehensive commissioning


Given the clearly critical nature of the process, why the call for a renewed focus on commissioning?

One of the reasons is that commissioning can be rushed if the project, for any number of reasons, has fallen slightly behind schedule.


The downside of this is that building operators and facilities management providers can miss important opportunities to be involved in the efficient running of the equipment throughout its life – whether it’s noting the initial settings that the manufacturer specifies or picking up tips on future maintenance.


It’s worth promoting to customers too that manufacturer-led commissioning can unlock extended warranties on their products for added assurance and peace of mind of continued high efficiencies in the years ahead.


Smoothing the process


However, once the equipment is installed, it’s natural to want to get it up and running as soon as possible. So how can contractors and manufacturers ensure that the process is carried out promptly with minimum disruption and expense for their customers?


The first step is to complete a series of pre-commissioning checks to make sure that it is safe and appropriate for the manufacturer or qualified contractor to carry out the commissioning.


In the case of boilers, for example, the checklist will verify that a Gas Safe registered engineer has carried out and completed the installation. It will also check whether there are any restrictions or health and safety inductions associated with attending site, and that there is sufficient fuel supply and system load for the boilers to run during commissioning.


Most manufacturers will supply a pre-commissioning checklist on request or via their website, which needs to be completed in advance. Of course, issues can occur during the project that might make it difficult to name a precise date for commissioning. But having the paperwork in order – providing the order or purchase order number and serial number, confirming that the manufacturer’s engineers can attend site, and giving an approximate date – will make planning more straightforward.


Finally, a risk assessment will be carried out by the certified commissioning engineer. Ensuring in advance that the plant room is well lit, clear of both additional people and clutter, and with the equipment easily accessible, will again help the commissioning process to run safely and smoothly.


Doing what it says on the tin


Commissioning is an essential, legally required process for the ongoing high performance and safety credentials of a heating system. And today it’s more pertinent than ever, as we engineer to drive down energy demand in all UK buildings while ensuring the safety and comfort of occupants.


Manufacturer-led commissioning provides building owners and operators with the certainty that the commercial boiler is set up according to manufacturer recommendations from Day One. Good manufacturers will also offer free product training courses with best practice advice on commissioning – as well as installation, maintenance and servicing – for those contractors carrying out the commissioning procedure.

Reducing energy demand and emissions from heating by avoiding unnecessary waste wherever possible, should be our united goal. That’s why we, as responsible heating manufacturers, are on a mission to commission.


This feature first appeared in HVP Magazine.