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National Grid gas warnings spur heating system maintenance debate

While recent adverse weather has not impacted domestic gas supplies, CIPHE warns of need for revised maintenance approach after industry “inundated” with boiler breakdowns

The National Grid has now withdrawn a ‘Gas Deficit Warning’ that it issued on Thursday (March 1) to address fears about a potential shortage of gas to meet energy demands.

The warning, which was rescinded in under 24 hours, was the first alert of its kind to have been issued by the National Grid in eight years as a result of cold weather affecting the UK this week. The deficit warning was previously known as a ‘Gas Balancing Alert’ before being renamed in 2012.

While domestic supplies of gas for heating and cooking were not believed to have been directly affected by a drop in temperatures this week, engineering bodies say the adverse weather has highlighted the importance of ensuring well-maintained boilers and plumbing to mitigate against significant cold.

The National Grid confirmed this morning on a post on social media that the market had been able to respond to a need for more gas, while adding that it had prioritised supply for use in domestic properties.

A ‘Gas Deficit Warning’, which is used to indicate a significant risk to supplies needed to meet daily energy needs, was issued by the National Grid on Thursday (March 1). The National Grid said today that it was continuing to monitor demand, but was confident homes had not been hit by negatively hit by the supply shortages of gas for theating.

The supply issues have been raised as the industry finds itself in the process of trying to help meet a government strategy to decarbonise energy supplies and improve the efficiency of heating systems over the next 30 years.

However, one construction industry body has argued that promoting consistent boiler and system maintenance should be considered a more pressing concern due to the cold weather after gas supplies proved sufficient for the heightened demand.

Chartered Institute Of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE) chief executive Kevin Wellman said he was not presently aware of cases where gas supply had diminished to such a level that it could not be provided to domestic properties as a result of the snow and adverse weather.

However, Mr Wellman hoped that the cold weather and disruption to heating systems would spur debate on addressing wider issues facing the industry, such as the importance of ongoing maintenance and servicing of systems.

CIPHE’s chief executive said that based on dialogue with installers and other members of the industry over last few days, there were reports of significant numbers of boilers failing as a result of the freezing temperatures in parts of the country.

Mr Wellman argued that addressing concerns around energy efficiency and fuel poverty, as well as providing ongoing servicing for boilders and other appliances were major problems facing the heating industry in order to ensure the country was better prepared for significant temperature drops.

He therefore called for a concerted push to build up understanding on the importance of compliance health checks for heating systems.

He added, “The main question here is were people disadvantaged because of their gas supply? Or were people disadvantaged by issues with boilers switching off as a result of issues with condensing pipes?”

Even in the case where these pipes and other important system components had been insulated, Mr Wellman said it was vital to ensure boilers and plumbing within heating systems were being properly maintained to ensure resilience against adverse temperature changes and weather.

“Our philosophy at CIPHE is that prevention is always better than a cure. If thermostatic mixing valves are not maintained for example, they will fail.”

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