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Effect of boiler oversizing on efficiency: a dynamic simulation study

22 May, 2020

Effect of boiler oversizing on efficiency: a dynamic simulation study

George Bennett

Cliff Elwell

Research paper   Buildings & Energy

George Bennett and Cliff Elwell

Gas boilers dominate domestic heating in the UK, and significant efficiency improvements have been associated with condensing boilers. However, the potential remains for further efficiency improvement by refining the control, system specification and installation in real dwellings. Dynamic building simulation modelling, including detailed heating system componentry, enables a deeper analysis of boiler underperformance. This paper explores the link between the space heat oversizing of boilers and on/off cycling using dynamic simulation, and their subsequent effect on boiler efficiency and internal temperatures. At plant size ratio (PSR) 8.5 daily cycles numbered over 50, similar to median levels seen in real homes. Simulations show that typical oversizing (PSR >3) significantly increases cycling behaviour and brings an efficiency penalty of 6–9%. There is a clear link between raising PSR, increased cycling and an associated decreased efficiency; however, in the UK, boilers are regularly oversized with respect to space heating, especially combination boilers to cover peak hot water demand. Current legislation and labelling (ErP and SAP) overlook PSR as a determinant of system efficiency, failing to incentivise appropriate sizing. Reducing boiler oversizing through addressing installation practices and certification has the potential to significantly improve efficiency at low cost, decreasing associated carbon emissions.

Practical application: This research provides the basis for a practical and cost effective means of assessing the potential for underperformance of boiler heating systems at the point of installation or refurbishment. By assessing the oversizing of the boiler with respect to space heating, unnecessary cycling and the associated efficiency penalty can be avoided. Plant size ratio, as an indicator of cycling potential, can be implemented in energy performance certificates (EPCs), through the standard assessment procedure (SAP), using existing data. The potential for real carbon savings in the existing boiler stock is considerable, and the findings have wider implications for next generation heating systems.

Publication details

Bennett, G and Elwell, C. 2020. Effect of boiler oversizing on efficiency: a dynamic simulation study. Building Services Engineering Research and Technology, 41(6): 709–726. doi: 10.1177/0143624420927352

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