Community and district heating specialist Switch2 Energy has published a guide to designing and planning heat networks. The 'Design for the Future' guide provides advice to engineers, developers and designers on the key planning considerations to ensure smooth and efficient heat network operation for lower whole-life costs and improved resident satisfaction.
"Failure to get the operational and design plans right at the start of the heat network development process can lead to higher operating and maintenance costs, lower customer satisfaction and a lack of long term flexibility", said Ian Allan, Head of R&D for Switch2. "It's particularly important to consult with both the eventual district heating scheme operator and residential customer to incorporate their needs from the outset."
The guide covers ten factors developers should consider at the start of the planning cycle to ensure long term operational success. These include adherence to best practice guidelines and codes, particularly those from CIBSE and the Heat Trust; implementing site-specific technical and financial feasibility studies; and the design of effective metering and billing strategies to ensure affordability for residents and cashflow assurance for scheme operators.
Key challenges are addressed in the guide, such as emissions reduction; striking the balance between material quality and cost/efficiency; how to design in system flexibility to enable future expansion; and how to minimise standing charges and introduce fairer tariffs.
"Heat networks are complex infrastructure projects with a long lifespan, so it's critical to take a long-term, customer-focused view in the early design and planning stages", said Allan. "By thinking holistically, rather than focussing purely on technical aspects, developers can create successful schemes that can deliver lower carbon, lower cost heat to our towns and cities."