© Illustration: Gernot Walter

The heating Dutchman

When Ton van Maaren started working at Remeha 33 years ago, condensing boilers were still in their infancy. Now they’ll soon be able to call a service tech­ni­cian them­selves via Internet when they need help. The new Quinta ACE condensing boiler is prepared to do that.

Apel­doorn, Holland, in the not-too-distant future: A heating tech­ni­cian sets out for an apart­ment building in the city center, where he is to service the water heater. But his assign­ment isn’t from the building’s owner. It’s from the heater in the cellar, which reported the problem by itself via Internet. The tech­ni­cian was already able to make a diag­nosis on the computer and bring along the required replace­ment part.

If it were up to Ton van Maaren, this would soon be an everyday scenario. “We’ve estab­lished the tech­nical foun­da­tion and the first projects are already in progress,” says van Maaren, senior product manager at Remeha, a heating company from Apel­doorn, Holland. Anyone listening to him can quickly tell that he knows exactly how the boiler market works. After all, he has been with Remeha for 33 years. When he started there, the company was still small. Since then, Remeha has become part of the BDR Thermea Group, which has oper­a­tions world­wide.

Satu­rated markets

Remeha: From mid-sized company to global player

When the busi­nessman Gerard van Reekum founded “van Reekum’s Metaal Handel” in Apel­doorn, Holland, in 1935, most house­holds still heated with coal-burning stoves. At that time, the young company supplied steel pipes and fixtures to the heating industry. When central heating became popular, Remeha devel­oped its first water heaters in the 1940s. In the following decades, the company continued to develop its exper­tise in this field. Since 2009, together with brands such as De Diet­rich, Baxi and Brötje, Remeha has belonged to the BDR Thermea Group B.v., which is head­quar­tered in Apel­doorn and has a total of 6,400 employees.



At the begin­ning of van Maaren’s career in 1983, condensing boilers were still rela­tively new. “Nowa­days 99.9 percent of the boilers sold in Holland are equipped with condensing tech­nology. The trend is similar in other Euro­pean coun­tries. So the market is nearly satu­rated and is barely growing anymore,” says van Maaren. If Remeha wants to gain market share, it has to offer more than just effi­cient and clean combus­tion. “A lot of the devel­op­ment work is no longer related to combus­tion tech­nology, it’s about aspects like easy instal­la­tion and main­te­nance, user-friend­li­ness and, most impor­tantly, digi­tal­iza­tion. Smart devices that can commu­ni­cate are becoming more and more impor­tant.”

Devices that decide on their own whether they need servicing and for which remote diag­nosis with a computer is possible could soon be part of the stan­dard reper­toire for boilers. But as van Maaren empha­sizes, that’s up to the manu­fac­turers. “When it comes to inno­va­tion, the boiler market is actu­ally pretty slug­gish. We manu­fac­turers have to show the market what’s tech­ni­cally possible and worth­while. We can’t allow ourselves to wait until the market asks for it.” So Remeha’s new boilers are Internet-capable and ready for the digital future.

Power on the wall

In the company show­room, the product manager shows Remeha’s latest product, the Quinta ACE. The boiler, which measures only 100 x 60 x 60 centime­ters, has an output of up to 161.5 kilo­watts and hangs on the wall to save space. The unit has been on the Dutch market since the begin­ning of 2016. It supplies heat for apart­ment build­ings, schools, hospi­tals or offices and indus­trial build­ings. “Previ­ously there were only floor-mounted units in this output class since they were too big and heavy to mount on walls. They need a lot more space and also take much more effort to install,” says van Maaren.

“We supply complete modular systems. The installer only has to hang up the boilers and screw the prefab­ri­cated parts together.”

Ton van Maaren, Senior-Produk­t­man­ager Remeha

Since the boilers hang at chest level, installers no longer need to crawl on the floor during instal­la­tion and main­te­nance. And fewer inter­faces means there is little effort required for installation.If higher output is needed, up to eight boilers can be cascaded to reach a total output of 1,292 kilo­watts. “We supply complete modular systems for that. The installer only has to hang up the boilers and screw the prefab­ri­cated parts together.” What sounds so simple had a very busy back­ground story. More than four years of devel­op­ment work went into the high-powered boiler. “The chal­lenge was to fit all of the compo­nents into a limited space,” says van Maaren, adding “For that we needed depend­able devel­op­ment part­ners.”

Compact all-in-one solu­tion

The gas-air unit from ebm-papst

The right gas-air ratio is crucial to optimum energy yield, so the blower, venturi, valve and combus­tion controller have to be perfectly matched. The venturi provides the correct gas-air ratio. The blower draws in this mixture for combus­tion in the burner. The valve regu­lates the gas quan­tity depending on the vacuum produced by the blower in the venturi. And the combus­tion controller is respon­sible for control­ling the system as a whole. It sits directly on the blower, so it gets cooled and needs no elab­o­rate wiring, saving space and instal­la­tion time.


The boiler’s modular construc­tion enables its compact design. “As in the auto­mo­tive industry, for some time now we’ve been taking the approach of installing system solu­tions. That improves the quality,” says van Maaren. As proof he points to a condensing boiler in the show­room, the Tzerra, designed for use in private house­holds. “In this unit, for the first time we used a preassem­bled gas-air module with a combus­tion controller from ebm-papst that was specif­i­cally devel­oped for it.

Perfect inter­play among these compo­nents is crucial for optimum combus­tion.” While the Tzerra had an output of 28-40 kilo­watts, the Quinta ACE with its 161.5 kilo­watts was a step into a new dimen­sion. ebm-papst devel­oped a new all-in-one solu­tion; in addi­tion to the venturi, valve, blower and combus­tion controller, even the burner is inte­grated. Such a complex system from a single source is unique on the market so far,” empha­sizes van Maaren as he heads for the manu­fac­turing facility.

Quick instal­la­tion

There another advan­tage of the modular construc­tion becomes apparent quickly. All the workers there have to do is place the gas-air unit in the boiler, tighten a few screws and connect the cables. After that only a few more steps need to be performed before ship­ment. Since its launch at the begin­ning of 2016, hundreds of Quinta ACEs have been installed in Holland. “For a new boiler in this output class, that are very impres­sive volumes.

Soon they’ll also be on the market in other Euro­pean coun­tries,” says van Maaren on the way back to his office. There he attends to the next project. “We’re in the process of adapting the gas-air unit for higher output classes. They’re still too heavy for the wall. But who knows what the future will bring.”

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