The house pictured, located in Croydon, Surrey UK, was being extended into the loft space. The loft tanks for the hot water system and radiator header tanks had to be removed to make way for the new accommodation.
Our challenge was to provide a new heating and high pressure cold & hot water system in an 1900mm high cellar, which could replicate the shower performance of the existing powerful pumped tank fed system in the loft. Furthermore, it should support the use of extra bathrooms in the loft area.
This project raised a number of challenging problems. We could have fitted an unvented hot water cylinder in the basement but there were height constraints limiting the capacity, and no drainage.
Unvented cylinders require an emergency discharge which must run downhill. In the event of an over-pressure or over-temperature situation developing, a valve lifts discharging very hot water at mains pressure. Clearly this was impossible in a cellar.
The unvented regulations hint that in extreme circumstances, a metal catchment tank could be fitted in a cellar, together with a suitably rated submersible pump. Problem is, the water could be discharged at 85C and there aren’t suitable submersible pumpsets available rated to keep working at this high temperature. Furthermore, after many years of potential inactivity the pump could fail to operate at the critical day and then the cellar would flood. So this was not a practical option.
Instead, we looked at a heatstore solution. This is a large vat of water contained in a shell, which in our case is indirectly heated by the boiler. The water in the heatstore never changes, it is used purely as an energy storage media. When hot water is required, a 100Kw rated plate heat exchanger is used via a simple pump to transfer heat into the cold main, instantaneously.
We specified a heatstore from Dedicated Pressure Systems, the recognised experts in this field, and based nearby to Hot Water & Central Heating in Epsom, Surrey. The DPS Pandora was specified in a custom built configuration to just fit below the ceiling in the cellar and pass down the stairway. DPS’s Pandora is unique becasue it does not require an overflow connection – which makes it ideal for our location.
To ensure the DPS Pandora could achieve the design hot water flowrate, we used a TCWS Mainsboost GC450 accumulator to boost the water supply within the property to a flow rate far superior to that provided by Thames Water.
The nett result is a fantastic shower performance which is somewhat akin to a pressure washer. Indeed, our technical team inadvertently dropped the mobile shower head and got soaked trying to chase it around the bath. It then slipped out of our hand and we got a second soaking; a few choice words were exchanged.
We also had to remove an old balanced flue Potterton boiler from the utility room and fit a new high efficiency Vaillant ecoTEC 637 condensing boiler in the cellar.
As most boiler installers will tell you, fitting a boiler in a cellar leads to flue problems. If we had fitted a flue to outside from within the cellar height, it would have appeared in the alley outside just 50mm from the ground level. This is not permitted because the air inlet could be blocked by leaves in the autumn or snow in the winter (although we still see some fitted in this way) leading to a potentially dangerous situation. We have seen dropped wells dug into the outside garden but these too do not meet regulations unless they are very large indeed.
We overcame this problem by extending the flue upwards into the kitchen, by adapting the rear of an existing kitchen unit. We removed the unit carefully from under the marble worktop and cut a suitable aperture in the rear, and then reassembled the unit around the flue. This now discharged outside horizontally at an acceptable height of around 450mm from ground level.
Due to the proximity of the adjacent property, we fitted a neat Vaillant plume management kit (PMK) in black, which took the steam to a height of around 6 metres.
Finally, there was the problem of converting the existing central heating system over to a sealed type using expansion vessels instead of the old loft feed and expansion tank.
On the face of it, this is easy, but once again, the emergency pressure relief pipework is not allowed to pass through a vertical element (in case it gets blocked/ freezes). And due to the absence of drainage in the cellar, dumping the expansion relief on the floor does not meet good practice or building regulations.
We approached this problem with two solutions. Firstly, we fitted a galvanised 180 litre catch tank on the basement floor, so that if the 3 bar expansion relief valve did open inside the boiler, all the potential water in the heating system could be safely contained.
But this would be inconvenient to the homeowner if the tank filled, so we fitted an additional expansion relief valve downrated to 2.5 bar just above ground level to discharge conveniently outside. In this way, the outside valve should lift before the boiler valve in a fault situation, preventing the catchment tank from ever being used.
A spare plumbed zone valve bay was left in the cellar for a potential future conservatory extension with underfloor heating, and the existing heating system was divided into two zones with individual Honeywell CM927 radio linked programmable room thermostats.
So all in all, quite an involved job, but completed as per our detailed quotation, and delivered on time. As usual, our Vaillant boiler installation is backed by a 5 yr parts and labour warranty.