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It's Chris-maintenance time!

The freezing temperatures in January and February can put a lot of pressure on a school's heating systems

Posted by Ed Brown | December 21, 2016 | School life

Statistically the coldest months of the year, the freezing temperatures in January and February can put a lot of pressure on a school’s heating system. However, the absence of pupils over the Christmas holidays presents the perfect opportunity to undertake maintenance work so that boilers are in full working order. Steven Evans, national sales manager at Potterton Commercial, offers his advice on preparing for the big freeze.

It’s never too late for a service

The old adage ‘prevention is better than the cure’ is particularly pertinent when it comes to commercial boilers. Planned preventative maintenance such as annual servicing can avoid costly, disruptive breakdowns. We generally recommend that boilers installed in schools are serviced over the summer, but if – for whatever reason – this was not undertaken, now is the perfect time.

Ice in the pipeline

With public sector budgets being squeezed harder than ever, it can be tempting to turn off the heating completely over the holidays in a bid to save on energy bills. However, as temperatures plummet this can be counter-intuitive as it increases the chance of pipe damage. The solution is to leave the system running constantly at a low temperature – say 12oC – which uses only a small amount of energy while protecting the system. The benefit of this method over relying on the frost protection mode is that it also prevents condensation, which can damage books and paper.

New year, new system

If a boiler is nearing the end of its working life, now is the perfect opportunity to upgrade it. Switching from a non-condensing to a modern, efficient condensing boiler will significantly reduce energy bills for the coming year, and ensure the school is protected against the impending cold weather.

It needn’t require significant effort either, as many manufacturers have invested in making their boilers quick and simple to fit, and as light and as easy to manoeuvre as possible. For example, the Sirius two WH boilers from Potterton Commercial (which are ideal for primary schools) are compact in size and lightweight; the 50 and 60kW models are comparable with domestic boilers. Cascade frames and prefabricated solutions simplify the installation process further.

While a boiler manufactured from high-quality components and materials may initially cost more to purchase, it will require fewer spare parts and repairs, contributing to a shorter payback period and less disruption and downtime. Furthermore, well-established funding programmes are now widening their reach, making upgrades more accessible. For example, Salix is now offering its loan programme to public sector organisations in Wales as well as England.

Maintaining an effective heating system is key to keeping pupils and teachers warm and comfortable in the winter months and, with some foresight and careful planning, it doesn’t have to be a huge task.

Potterton Commercial, part of Baxi Heating, develops and manufactures a comprehensive range of gas and oil fired boilers for commercial applications in the UK. With a heritage that spans 150 years, Potterton Commercial continues to develop high efficiency boilers with condensing outputs from 30 to 600kW and pressure jet outputs from 105 to 4000kW. For more information, visit

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