District Heating & Cooling Services

District Heating & Cooling Services

Our infrastructure solutions represent a highly competitive district heating and cooling network installation, without comprising on quality. Giving clients the benefit of long term reliability support by intelligent project specific design and product specification to ensure we always deliver best value.

If you want to learn about the origins of district heating and cooling, what it is and how it works, visit our What is District Heating and Cooling page. 

Otherwise, scroll down to read more about each of the district heating and cooling services we offer:

Design

With over 30 years’ experience of district energy networks; we have our own in-house design team who are responsible for developing systems that will reduce clients CO₂ emissions and energy costs. Although we are designing the district heating network, we take into consideration the energy generation and fuel source through to how the energy will be used by the end user. This ensures the pipe is accurately designed to reduce heat losses therefore reducing operational costs.

When designing a district energy network we carry out the following analysis:

  • Analyse the heat and hot water consumption of the end user
  • Apply relevant diversities of consumption
  • Rationalise the heat and hot water consumption by comparing previous similar projects using metered data to gain a more accurate estimate of consumption use.
  • The network route

This information is input into our very own bespoke district heating design system which analyses flow and return temperatures, helping to provide accurate pipe diameters and analysing heat losses of different insulation levels.

Efficiency vs. Cost Analysis - We can design a network utilising a variety of pipe, for example where appropriate, a network could include a mixture of single and twin pipe allowing for efficiencies to be made in reducing heat loss by including a more efficient twin pipe.

3D CAD drawings are provided to assist clients to visualise the pipe network and how it will sit in the trench alongside other utility services.

All of our district energy schemes are designed to European Standards including:

  • EN13941
  • EN253
  • EN448
  • EN488
  • EN489

Installation

Civil Engineering excavation forms a key part of the district heating installation process as this sets the starting point for which the remainder of the works must follow. Vital Energi Networks work very closely with supply chain partners to undertake the civil engineering for our installations. As product catalogues have increased in complexity from the pipe manufacturers so has the emphasis on getting the civils correct.

The introduction of new products such as the twin pipe system delivers a significant reduction in heat losses, therefore more and more clients are leaning towards products of this nature resulting in specialist items of civil engineering such as the GPS (Global Positioning System) technology becoming more prevalent.  Whether working on new systems or expanding existing networks, these schemes are constantly growing and with other services being renewed and replaced the emphasis for accurate civil engineering is paramount.  Vital Energi Networks ensure that all civils are done to the highest standards by working with experienced and highly-skilled setting-out engineers, project engineers and managers who have been involved in some of the largest, oldest heat networks in the country.

Other areas to consider:

  • GPRS utilised to record the location of the pipework once installed.
  • The ability to open up yet maintain a large amount of linear trench i.e. 100m in any one time as well as working on multiple excavation fronts
  • The specialised criteria that we ensure, if followed, with the requirement to install 0-3mm grain sand as a pipe surround, compacted to 100mm around all pre-insulated pipes
  • Jointing is an essential part of the installation process and needs to be installed correctly and to the highest quality as this is fundamental to ensuring the district heating network operates for its designed life span.
  • Commissioning and Flushing to BSRIA standards

All installations are installed to European Standards including:

  • HSG478 – Avoiding Danger from Underground Services
  • EN13941 – District Heating Installation of Pre-Insulated bonded pipe system for District Heating
  • EN1714 – We have Class 1 welders installing our joint systems

Delivery & Handling

Delivery and handling of pre-insulated pipes is of paramount importance to ensure the pipe is not damaged or the quality is not affected. In order to minimise this risk we undertake key quality controls.

We utilise mobile tower cranes where possible to off-load the initial delivery of pre-insulated products into a safe, secure compound area. This is done via a contract lift undertaken by a specialist subcontractor with the production of thorough risk assessments and method statements to ensure a high level of safety. Sometimes when performing these lifts and when flat back lorries arrive for deliveries we ensure that an air-bag fall arrest system is placed around any vehicles to provide additional safety to those performing the off-loads.

All handling and loading out, whether this is done direct by Vital Energi Networks operatives or by the civil engineering contractor is to be done under strict supervision. Given the nature of the outer-casing we ensure that products such as duplex webbing slings rated for the weight of the pipe are utilised to relocate materials from compound area to work face. We ensure that all operatives undertaking the relocation of these materials are highly trained for the item of plant they are operating with a preference of a telescopic forklift or rubber wheeled excavator being the preferred choice.

All Vital Energi Networks deliveries of pre-insulated products now come with timber struts to split materials so that products can be accessed and thus lifted off more effectively reducing the health & safety impact on those operatives employed to undertake these works.

Operation & Maintenance

Correct operation and maintenance is essential to ensure the district heating network can continue to deliver heat and hot water for its full lifespan. Quality control systems are vital to ensure leaks and burst do not happen and minimise disruption to end users.

The leak detection system forms the foundations of being able to both maintain and also assess the system over its lifespan. By monitoring the leak detection system, whether this be via the fault detectors / fault locators or by Vital Energi Networks specialist visiting Alarm Managers, it allows the durability of the product to continually be assessed to ensure it remains at a high quality level. The leak detection system is comprised of a tin and copper wire.  A pulse is sent down the system and returned to the main leak detection panel sending any information back in relation to potential moisture that may ingress within the pipe.  If moisture is detected, our specialist Alarm Managers can pin-point any potential areas of concern within 50mm utilising a high spec riser bond tester. The leak detection panels being installed by Vital Energi Networks are constantly being updated. We now offer the ability to install a system that not only provides the metered location of any potential issues but can also be hard wired to the energy centre BMS unit allowing for central management of the whole energy system. The system can also be remotely monitored by using online Apps.

Warranty packages – Vital Energi Networks offer warranty packages of up to 50 years

Water quality – We can offer an O&M package to monitor the water quality within the district heating pipe work. This works in conjunction with side-stream filtration systems to ensure that the quality of the water circulating around the system is constantly balanced with inhibitors / other chemical treatments to provide the greatest pipe longevity possible.

Repairs

Vital Energi Networks can respond quickly to minor or major leaks on any pre-insulated systems around the UK with specialist staff who have worked on live pipework on many previous occasions.

We offer a number of differing products to ensure that the works needed to react to any repairs, is undertaken with the minimum of time and disruption and due to our 30 years’ experience of maintaining some of the biggest heat networks in the UK we have the in-house experience to deal with all eventualities, from issues with outer casing to joints on the carrier pipe.

We have engineers’ available 24-hours to act on any situation at any given time.

Data Recording - Producing accurate and detailed as-built information for the location of any systems installed by Vital Energi Networks. As district heating is not recognised as a statutory service this element of works is critical and passing this information on to end users, clients, other contractors and local authorities carries great importance to protect the pre-insulated pipe and to avoid unnecessary repairs.

Live Connections

As networks across cities, campuses and new developments continue to expand, disruption to operational buildings and homes needs to be kept to a minimum. To achieve this, specialist techniques are used called Hot Tapping or Pipe Freezing.

Hot tapping can be carried out on live heating mains where branches two thirds of the main carrier pipe size can be installed meaning that networks that feed a considerable amount of end users are not affected when looking to extend any existing pre-insulated networks. This operation requires highly skilled operatives utilising intricate plant and materials for which Vital Energi Networks have the ability to deploy at any point and experience in procuring from historic events. Hot Tapping connections provide minimal downtime and disruption, therefore the system can be up and running not long after the connection has been made.

Pipe freezing is a process being utilised more often on live schemes when the ability to hot-tap is not possible. Again this involves the expertise of both specialist plant and people in an attempt to freeze exposed district heating pipes with an internal frozen plug. When the water in the pipe section is frozen the carrier pipe is cut between the two frozen plugs. The new connection is then made and the freezing process is removed allowing the existing system to maintain all its treated solutions and allowing any systems with a large water content to keep this within the pipe avoiding the need to drain off any substantial amounts of water allowing the system to be made live in the quickest time possible.

Highways & Planning

As more and more cities look to reduce their carbon footprint and operational costs, district heating networks feeding multiple areas are becoming larger and more advanced. This has resulted in district heating systems having to be installed in a number of differing highways. We have a wealth of experience in large road crossings which has meant working closely with Highways departments providing detailed traffic management plans to ensure minimum disruption to surrounding areas and third parties. Works in highways is a key part of most schemes given the increased amount of existing services that are now being located within most carriageways. The ability to plan accurately the route reduces the impact on the time taken to undertake works from start to finish.

We work with all stakeholders communicating the proposed plans and encouraging any concerns to be raised to ensure there is minimum disruption to all involved.

Funding & Finance

We work very closely with finance partners to provide funding for district energy networks who will analyse the investment on a case by case basis. Alternatively we have developed projects using a variety of funding streams including the Energy Company Obligation (ECO). We can work with you to find a funding or finance solution to suit your project.

Ground Penetrating Radar

Before carrying out any installation works, ground penetrating radar drawings should be undertaken to identify existing services in the ground. This is part of Vital Energi Networks design process as it reduces the programmed time spent on excavation works by avoiding clashes with existing services and obstacles ensuring no disruption is caused to other stakeholders.

Recently we have been collaborating with our partners in developing the use of ground penetrating radars in not only 2D but 3D radar. This information allows us to incorporate the existing buried services into our 3D CAD drawings providing a more accurate location of these services thus further reducing the risk of coming into contact with these services.

Heat Loss Analysis

Minimising heat losses in the district heating network is key to ensuring the long term operation of the network. The lower the heat losses the lower operational costs of the system for the ESCo (Energy Services Company). Therefore, when we design district heating networks we analyse the capital cost and the long term savings of pipe with diffusion barriers and of different levels of insulation. Clients can then make a more informed decision on the efficiency levels they want to achieve from their network with their budget.

Our pre-insulated pipe manufacturers provide heat loss calculators:

Isoplus Calculator

Logstor Calculator

Multi Utility

At Vital Energi Networks, we will not only install district energy pipework into the trenches but we can also take the headache away of having separate trenches for other energy services. We have worked with Universities and new build developments to take full responsibility for the installation of Gas, HV, LV, Water, and Communications. Employing one contract to carry out all of the buried services is more efficient and easier for the client to deal with one contractor. 

Heat Network Code of Practice

As a leading provider of district heating networks in the UK, Vital Energi sits on a steering committee that is raising and setting the standards for Heat Supply. The committee is known as the Heat Network Code of Practice for UK in association with CIBSE and the CHPA. For more information on the Heat Network Code of Practice, please click here