Pipe boxing – Going undercover

// refurb and maintenance

By Martin Taylor, Managing Director – Encasement Ltd

With the constant pressure on public sector budgets, Encasement’s Managing Director, Martin Taylor, believes local authorities and housing associations could save tens of thousands of pounds by adopting more cost effective methods of concealing heating system and boiler pipework.

As energy efficient heating system upgrade programmes in social housing is important to reduce emissions and energy consumption, there is also a need to ensure that the updated system is not only safe, but also looks good.

However, just by deciding on which method to use when boxing in heating system and boiler pipework, LAs and HAs can save thousands of pounds on their annual repair, maintenance and improvement budget.

Removing cost and saving budget
By saving time or removing cost from key stages in the pipe casing process, then this will have a positive effect on reducing the overall budget required to achieve the end result.

Essentially, savings can be made in each of the following four sections:

• Manufacture – How is the boxing made?
• Materials – What materials are used in their manufacture?
• Methods – How is the boxing installed and secured?
• Maintenance – How easily can the boxing be removed & replaced?

Clearly, in each of the above processes, if costs can be removed or if time can be saved, then they will have a positive effect on reducing the overall budget required to achieve the end result. To get a better understanding of each element, let’s explore them in a little more detail.

When boxing in the pipework, valves and filters below the boiler, for example, the traditional and still widely used approach is for the boxing to be fabricated on site using wood or MDF with nails, screws and adhesives followed by couple of coats of paint.

Inevitably, this is a time intensive and costly process, particularly as escalating material prices and labour rates are constantly increasing the manufacturing cost for every piece of boxing. Also, there are issues with inconsistent fabrication quality and paint finish, which can easily detract from an otherwise professional heating system installation.

The Encasement solution is much simpler, quicker and cost effective. Manufactured from pre-formed plywood to exact boiler dimensions and pre-finished with durable melamine or laminate, there’s no fabrication or painting required, which provides a consistent finish and saves even more time.

As a result, typical cost savings of around £20 can be made on every casing installed, which equates to a budget reduction of £10,000 on every 500 properties.

Often the materials used to manufacture pipe boxing and boiler casings aren’t a major consideration, yet they should be, as there is an obligation to comply with the sustainable procurement policies that most, if not all, local authorities now have in place.

Encasement has already addressed the issue and is the UK’s only manufacturer and supplier of pre-formed plywood boxing and casings that holds FSC® ‘Chain of Custody’ certification from the Forest Stewardship Council. Consequently, we use only FSC® certified timber in the manufacture of our pipe boxing and boiler casings.

So, if you’re using similar products from Pendock, you’re probably not compliant. If in doubt, check your specifications, as they’re likely to require FSC® compliance or certification.

Every order despatched is accompanied with our FSC® certification, which means that the issue of compliance and traceability is taken care of for users of our products. Also, as we supply so much FSC® boxing, we can purchase cost effectively, so there’s no price premium for using FSC® compliant products.

Typically, where site made casings are used, the heating engineer will move on to the next flat once the boiler installation is done, leaving the fabrication and fitting of site made wood or MDF pipe casings to a joiner. As two separate trades and different skills are required, this will inevitably add time and cost to the project.

By using a pre-formed boiler casing, which has already been supplied to the correct dimensions, there’s no need for fabrication and the freestanding casing just slides into place underneath the boiler, which can be done by the heating engineer at the time of the boiler installation.

Also, our use of moulded rubber edge strips on the base of the casing means that it removes the need for mastic sealant, which save even more time and money while also having an influence on the final category – ‘Maintenance’.

The ‘whole life’ cost for site made boiler casings escalates significantly, when routine maintenance visits are factored in to the equation. Usually they’re damaged or destroyed during removal, which requires their replacement or re-manufacture, as well as re-fitting, all of which adds labour and materials costs.

In contrast, pre-formed casings are self-supporting, allowing them to be easily removed and replaced in seconds, dramatically reducing the time maintenance engineers need to be on site, and the corresponding cost.

The complexities of managing routine boiler maintenance and inspection also increase when site made casings are used. In some cases a joiner is required to remove site made boxing in advance of the maintenance work being carried out by a service engineer. After the service is complete, the joiner then has to revisit the property to refit the casing or construct a new one.

Apart from the disruption for the tenant and the extended time period to complete a simple process, the cost associated with transport and labour for three site visits by skilled staff are considerable. Alongside this, the task of scheduling and co-ordinating such an operation on multiple properties is extremely complex.

Case closed!
When evaluating pre-formed boiler pipe casings against site made alternatives, the comparative fitting costs alone should ensure that the decision to use pre-formed casings is an easy one to make. Yet, when the FSC® compliance and maintenance aspects are also factored in, it becomes, to quote one of our customers, “…a no-brainer.”

Further information on Encasement’s pipe boxing and boiler casing solutions, along with the complete product range, can be obtained by visiting www.encasement.co.uk for by contacting them on 01733 266889.

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