While at present the renewables market isn't huge, it is anticipated that it will steadily grow. Martyn Bridges, director of marketing and technical support at Worcester, Bosch Group, explains why merchants should support alternative solutions and help provide a stepping stone to a green future.

Since the government introduced its challenging UK 2020 emissions targets, there have been a number of initiatives launched to incentivise greater uptake of efficient domestic heating technologies. From the Feed-in Tariff to the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), the government has tried to stimulate demand for renewable technologies.

Despite the initial hype, the nature of the UK’s gas infrastructure means the use of a high-efficiency boiler for the provision of heating and hot water remains one of the most reliable and effective ways to heat UK homes. This means we, as an industry, have been challenged to create solutions which offer a ‘best of both’ arrangement –something merchants will no doubt play an important role in supplying.

The benefits of taking a hybrid approach to heating and hot water have been known for some time, yet now, with the advent of government-funded schemes, UK homeowners have stronger incentives encouraging them to choose renewables rather than just merely ‘doing their bit’ for the environment.

With modern gas-fired boilers all achieving SEDBUK ratings of 90% efficiency or higher, in order to enhance performance further, manufacturers have to look at other features that can make a significant contribution towards efficiency credentials.

For example, Worcester has designed its latest Greenstar CDi Compact boiler to be able to accept pre-heated water from a secondary source. This appliance has an optional cold water inlet sensor connected to the cold water inlet pipe. This means that the boiler management system can control the appliance output dependant on the cold water inlet temperature in conjunction with a hot water outlet temperature of up to a maximum of 60°c. By allowing pre-heated mains from a secondary water source (such as a solar thermal installation) to be fed directly into the boiler, this arrangement has the potential to monitor the incoming mains water temperature in order to modulate the boiler output accordingly to ensure the stability of temperature, while also optimising use of the ‘free’ energy provided by a solar source.

The fact there is now a next generation of boilers available that accept pre-heated supply of water is hopefully a significant prompt for homeowners to think more widely about the option available to them – most specifically how a boiler and solar thermal panels could work in partnership. In turn, this is likely to increase demand for merchants.

Where renewable technologies themselves are concerned, we are seeing a number of new products on the market which are particularly suitable for installation with a boiler. Technologies such as split system heat pumps and hybrid modules that automatically maintain the best possible efficiency levels, are fairly typical of this new wave of renewable heating technologies.

Part L of the Building Regulations has already pointed the way towards growth in the renewables sector with the introduction of a requirement for a 6% carbon improvement on the 2010 regulations. The UK is therefore one step closer to achieving zero carbon homes in the near future. This requirement, which came into force in April, will complement initiatives such as the Green Deal and the RHI to drive momentum in the uptake of greener solutions.

Naturally, like the renewables market, the demand for hybrid installations is yet to reach its full potential, but the industry can work together to accelerate its process. With manufacturers developing bespoke technologies that work in a hybrid arrangement, it is important that merchants help promote the benefits of such a system and encourage installers to regard it as a viable option. This will help to ensure that installers can profit from the new business opportunities and will push the UK towards lower energy costs and enhanced environmental credentials.

This article first appeared in the November/December 2014 issue of Builders' Merchants News.