Craig Mitchell, social housing sales director at Sentinel, discusses why social housing providers should think smarter when it comes to their central heating systems.
As social housing providers come under more public scrutiny than ever before, they face a difficult job seeking value for money whilst proving the best possible service and living conditions for residents.
A continued lack of funding in the sector means providers must find ways to eradicate any unnecessary outgoings. One such cost comes from not looking after central heating systems correctly.
We recently conducted research which revealed there are over 3.3 million call-outs to social housing properties each year because of heating system failures. These call outs and repairs can be very costly but the majority of them can actually be easily prevented simply through improved water treatment.
Typically, a boiler should last around 15 years. In the social housing sector, however, the average lifespan of a boiler is only seven to nine years.
When you consider the importance of keeping the costs down in the sector, coupled with the expensive nature of repairing a faulty central heating system, it’s clear to see that social housing providers need to do all they can to look after boilers in their properties.
Poor water treatment is one of the most common reasons for boilers to fail prematurely. This is due to the corrosion that occurs when untreated water comes into contact with the metal inside the central heating system. Corrosion impacts the components within the boiler, increasing the likelihood of it failing or breaking down.
We conducted research with one of our social housing clients which revealed approximately 45% of boilers across its portfolio of 1,000 properties were failing prematurely as a result of poor water quality. It became clear after conversations with the social housing provider that the poor water quality and subsequence boiler failures came as a result of not using any water treatment.
This lack of water treatment directly leads to expensive call outs, repairs and replacement boilers which could have easily been avoided.
It’s not all about cost savings for social housing providers though. More importantly, incorrect water treatment also impacts the well-being of residents.
Recent research from the National Housing Federation found that 23 per cent of social housing residents are unable to keep their living room warm. This doesn’t have to be the case. Carrying out water treatment and correctly maintaining central heating systems in social housing properties increases the efficiency of boilers, helping to improve the quality of life for residents in the process.
What are the steps to good water treatment?
In order to prevent unnecessary costs and unhappy residents, social housing providers should implement these four simple steps to best practice water treatment:
The first step is to clean and flush the central heating system to prepare it for inhibitor protection. This involves removing any corrosion debris, residual flux or greases from circulating water, ensuring the system is ready to be treated.
Once the system has been properly cleaned and flushed, the next stage is to add chemical inhibitor fluid to the central heating system. The chemical inhibitor optimises water chemistry, extending the life of the system and ensuring maximum efficiency whilst minimising fuel usage. Protection with inhibitor prevents the build-up of limescale and corrosion, helping to prevent premature failure of the system.
By dosing the system with the correct levels of inhibitor, a system shouldn’t get corroded to a point beyond repair but for extra insurance, a magnetic filter can be installed. Magnetic filters are used to trap corrosion ‘sludge’ in a heating system. The sludge, which can block boiler heat exchangers, pumps and valves, is caught by the magnet within the filter. This ensures water can continue to flow through the central heating system normally.
It is important to periodically check inhibitor levels in a central heating system to ensure they are at optimal level. Maintaining the correct dosage is crucial to ensuring ongoing protection against the problems associated with poor water treatment. Inhibitor fluid provides long-lasting protection for systems but unforeseen circumstances such as a hidden leak can sometimes compromise the level of inhibitor in the system, so it’s important to check.
For social housing providers looking to provide the best possible service to residents, taking proactive steps to improve water quality in central heating systems across their property portfolio is a simple way to keep costs down. Ultimately, not only will correct water treatment limit the unnecessary costs associated with boiler repairs and replacements, it will also improve tenant satisfaction.