Toby-Howard Willis, Technical Sales Manager at JG Speedfit, takes a look at how the right manifold positioning can ensure the peak performance of a UFH system.
Property developers are being faced with the challenge of doing more with comparatively less space, which presents numerous problems for plumbers and installers.
Not only are plumbers being faced with tighter spaces through which to thread flexible plastic piping, but a decline in storage space is also having implications on Underfloor Heating (UFH) installation, which relies on centrally-located storage spaces to house manifolds.
These are critical components in UFH systems and failure to position them correctly can result in additional costs for materials during the installation phase of a job.
Why are manifolds important?
The function of a manifold is straightforward; water is pumped through the manifold before being distributed around the circuit via a number of different valves, performing a similar function to a human heart.
As hot water is taken from the boiler, it is then broken down into individually controllable rooms or zones. This level of control ensures that heating is only activated when and where it is required, eliminating unnecessary energy consumption and cost.
To achieve this, each zone must have an individual supply coming from the manifold and the flow of water is then regulated via an actuator. Thermostats are also added to each room to control the actuators.
Why is manifold positioning important?
The positioning of manifolds is crucial to ensure peak performance of UFH systems. A manifold that is located at one extremity of a house requires significant force to distribute water to the side that is furthest away.
Traditionally, the circuit lengths of pipe to each zone reach a maximum length of 100m per circuit, which would allow for a certain distance to get to and from that room. Furthermore, a poorly located manifold would increase the distance to and from a room, in turn reducing the amount of floor area that could be covered by the limited quantity of pipe.
From a materials perspective, when the distance from the pipe to the manifold exceeds a certain difference, another manifold, pump pack, and wiring centre may be needed to provide the required level of force, resulting in a greater outlay on materials.
How does storage space facilitate improved manifold positioning?
The design of UK homes has evolved over time and one of the main developments has been around storage space. Older houses tend to have more storage space, such as airing cupboards and areas underneath the stairs.
As open plan designs have become more and more popular in modern homes, this has limited the amount of storage space on offer.
Sometimes the manifold is stored in a kitchen cupboard or an additional cupboard has to be added for effective installation. Where this is not an option, a manifold will have to be stored in an alternative, less central location, which can undermine system performance.
Given that heating accounts for 70 per cent of the energy consumption of a typical modern property, architects should be mindful of the role of storage space in unlocking the full benefit of UFH.
For optimal performance, installers should remember that manifolds must be housed centrally and be accessible later to allow for periodic maintenance, as well as to take advantage of significant cost and energy savings over time.
It also means that installers needn’t keep incurring additional cost on extra materials that weren’t forecast in the original project brief.
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