Renewables Courses and System Design Training

November 17, 2021




renewable energy

What is renewable energy and why are training and courses important?

Renewable energy in short, are forms of energy that can be replenished and never run out over time.

There are a number of ways these forms of energy are harvested throughout the world.  These can be solar energy, wind energy, hydro energy, tidal energy, geothermal energy and biomass. 

There are a few ways to generate renewable energy worldwide.  Within the heating industry we typically only use heat pumps, solar energy and biomass to produce the energy for our homes and buildings.

With CO2 emissions being a major contributor to global warming, governments are now setting targets to become carbon neutral by utilising carbon neutral systems to reduce global warming and make the world a cleaner and healthier place for future generations. 

This means cutting out the use of fossil fuels for energy generation and utilising renewable energy sources wherever we can.

The only problem?  We don't have enough trained renewables engineers or the necessary training and up to date courses to hit any of the necessary targets.

What are heat pumps?

There are three main types of heat pumps commonly used.  They are air source heat pumps, water source and geothermal or ground source.

This technology has been around for many years in warmer countries, but recent advances now make these units a suitable means of generating space heating in colder regions.

Air to water heat pumps or ASHP extract latent heat from the air and use this to transfer energy to a heating system.

Water source heat pumps take energy from a lake or pond and work in much the same way as an air to air unit will transfer energy to a home or building’s system.

Geothermal heat pumps or GSHP harness the energy stored below the earth’s surface to transfer energy from the ground and into a building.

Solar energy renawable

What is solar energy?

Sunlight is a freely available energy resource that can generate vast amounts of energy. 

There are two types of solar energy.  Solar thermal and Photovoltaic. 

Solar thermal harnesses the sun’s light to transfer heat to stored water, which in turn can be used to heat a hot water cylinder, preheat water for a combi boiler or store in a buffer or thermal store to supply heating circuits.

Photovoltaic systems don’t heat water. Instead, they generate electricity, which can be used within the home or building and even put back into the national grid.

Although these sound like ideal means of generating energy, it’s not without their limits.  Depending on the time of day or night, the current season and the location, you will see varying levels of energy generated. 

That being said, if designed and installed correctly, solar is a great way to supply power and can see vast improvements in energy bills.

biomass

What is biomass?

Biomass is another form of renewable energy.  It’s processed by burning wood, plants and other organic material.

Although this energy source produces carbon dioxide as a by-product when burned, it is considerably less than fossil fuels.

Biomass can be burned or refined into renewable liquids or gaseous fuels through different processes.

Now we have an idea of what renewable energy is and the various types.

heating engineer training importance

So why is renewable energy and system design training important?

The installation of these various systems requires the installer to have the correct qualifications and a good understanding of system design and function.

In the UK, ideally, he or she will hold current water regulations certificates as well as a G3 qualification.  G3 is the qualification to install and work on any unvented hot water system, like a mains pressure hot water cylinder.

For a base level, that's all the installer really needs for these technologies from a legal standpoint, except for perhaps Biomass which mandates the H005 HETAS qualification.

If the installer wants to gain access to government grants they will need to gain MCS approval.  For this (or even to gain a bit more knowledge on the individual technologies available) it's a good idea to undertake more specific courses for a given renewable type.  These are usually issued by BPEC, i.e. a BPEC course in heat pumps, or solar thermal.

They usually take three to four days and demonstrate to the assessors their ability to understand, design and properly execute a system install that complies with current regulations and work effectively.  

However, these courses generally focus on the specific technology and not its integration into the system, which is the most important part and has an untold impact on renewable performance.

Another qualification to look out for is MCS certification. MCS is an industry-led quality assurance scheme, which demonstrates the reliability and quality of approved products and installation companies undertaking this work.  

If a company holds this certification, it demonstrates to the customers they either install or manufacture products to the industry level of quality.

competence of heating engineers

Will I be competent/confident to simply go out and start installing these products once I've done the courses?

The simple answer to that is no. These courses are known in our industry as “pay to pass” or “attendance courses".

Attendance courses simply mean that you get a certificate of attendance at the end of your time.  You are not tested or examined to see if you retained any information.  

Pay to pass may have an exam or test, but are essentially courses that have a 100% pass rate, regardless of the level of experience or understanding those attending actually have.

This, as you can imagine, is not good for the industry or safety as you tend to have a lot of installers out there, who despite having the credentials, don’t actually know what they’re doing when they arrive on site. 

This, all too often, leads to poor installations that lead to all manner of problems and inefficiencies right from the word go. 

The end-user can be misled into thinking their new heat pump, which could have cost thousands, was not a good choice when really it boils down to installers not having the necessary experience and understanding of what modern-day systems require. 

They can give a good base level of understanding for an entry-level installer who is beginning to work within a company though, so skills and knowledge can be built up on site.

peer-to-peer heating engineer training

If courses aren't great are there better ways of learning?

Yes!  Especially with the ever-changing landscape that is renewables, peer-to-peer learning is absolutely unbeatable.

As we've learned from Nathan Van Gambling of BetaTeach, peer-to-peer learning is simply talking to peers, conversing about jobs and learning from each other's experience.

Active peer-to-peer learning means you'll hear different perspectives.  This helps round your opinions and will keep you updated as new approaches become available.  

This is highly important in this time of ever-changing tech.  It's also easier to do than ever,  join a group on Facebook, follow gurus on Twitter, engage.

The simple act of engaging and even asking basic questions makes you part of the 'hive mindset'. You'll be learning even when you don't realise.

We are human, we are meant to converse with others, share ideas and engage, not watch PowerPoint presentations!

Heatgeek training

So what courses should an installer be undertaking?

Courses that don’t guarantee a pass and engender peer-to-peer learning are ones to consider. Though these are in short supply if you can find any at all.

Most important of all, if you want to move into renewable heating, is to undertake system design training.  This is training on how to integrate any technology into the system be it domestic or commercial and how we can hydraulically design a system to maximise the yield from any renewable source.

It's both the most important part and also the missing piece of the jigsaw in most installers' arsenal.  If you have this skill you set yourself streets ahead of the typical competition in the UK.  This is something we are looking to address at Heat Geek.

Heating Mastery is a great example of all this.  A two-part course both focusing on system design and integration.  Neither parts are ‘pay to pass’ or ‘attendance courses’.

You will be issued full support through the entire course as it actively promotes peer-to-peer engagement.  The questions in the modules are specifically difficult to test if you have a full understanding of the subject matter before moving on.  

If you don't fully understand, have a chat with people until you do!  Don't give up though, if you want to get on the Certified Heat Geek map.

Part 1 is 'The Awakening'.  This teaches installers and engineers the basics of system design and installation.  Part 2 is ‘Mastery’.

By this point, anyone going through the exams will have drilled in everything learnt from the previous course and applied that with further knowledge learnt during Mastery training to become a master of system design and function, at the same time preparing engineers for the future. 

Anyone who successfully negotiates the two courses will have demonstrated an understanding that a lot of companies out there are yet to possess.

What does the Awakening include?

Module 1 - Watt is energy.

The first module starts out with the core basics.  It introduces the relationship between power and energy.  This is important to understand as it’s used every day within the industry.

Module 2 - Heat loss calculations.

After completing the first module, the student can start applying this knowledge to accurately complete the maths to calculate the heat loss of a building.

There will be a series of questions where one is given the necessary information to do this maths and arrive at the correct answer for your heat loss, which in turn allows us to size our heat source.

There is software out there that can do this for us, but the aim of Heat geek is to have people working this out themselves so they can picture exactly what is going on inside, rather than relying on someone else or a computer to do it for us.

Module 3 - Mass flow rate.

This module describes the all-important Mass flow rate.  It is another process used daily on the job.  Understanding how to apply it will help the student find answers on the job.

Module 4 - Velocity and pipe sizing.

Once heat loss and relevant flow rates are known, this module will demonstrate how to accurately size the pipework for our system.  This will future proof any heat pump installations moving forward.

Module 5 - Pressure loss.

After sizing our boiler and our pipework, this part of the course teaches the student how to work out pressure loss within the system and how to size an appropriate circulating pump.  

It also teaches people how to read a pump chart and how to select a suitable setting, while using minimal energy consumption.

Module 6 - Emitter sizing.

This module goes into detail on correctly sizing the emitters based on system design and how different emitter arrangements can have an effect on system function. Several questions within this module will have the student thinking about things that a lot of installers probably never have.

Module 7 - Controlling the heat source.

The final module in the Awakening goes into great detail about how we should be controlling our heat source. It pays particular attention to advanced weather compensation. 

By the end of this module, the student will have a good understanding of the various types of control strategies and how to select appropriate curves for weather compensation.

After completing The Awakening, the individual will have gained enough knowledge to competently design a system and be ready to move on to the Mastery.

What does the Mastery include?

The Mastery course takes everything learned previously and steps it up a gear. There are six modules to this course.

Module 1 - Emitter mastery.

This module explains the importance of selecting the right size emitters to keep the heat source running cooler for longer and thereby maximising efficiency.

Module 2 - Controls mastery

The previous module taught the basics of controlling the heat source.  This takes it further by explaining the various ways to use advanced controls to further refine the performance of our systems.

Module 3 - Hydraulic separation.

Module 3 goes into detail about what hydraulic separation is, the various means of separation and when and when not to use it.

Module 4 - Buffers.

This module explains what a buffer is and when they are used in systems.

Module 5 - Buffer mastery.

Continuing from buffers here the individual is taught about the different buffer arrangements and when and when not to use each type.

Module 6 - Hot water mastery

The last module goes into great detail about how hot water generation efficiency is important. 

The student will be guided through the importance of sizing a heat exchanger for hot water cylinders and the various ways cylinders can be plumbed in to maximise efficiency.

This is the whole aim of the Heat Geek courses.  Maximising efficiency and bringing our carbon dioxide emissions down as low as possible on systems designed and installed to an excellent standard.

Enjoyed this article? Want to know more about system design and how to become a top heating engineer? 

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November 17, 2021
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