Infrared light is the reason why we feel warm when the sun is shining in the middle of a wintery day. Conventional wisdom would suggest that if the air temperature were freezing, then you too would feel cold. However the infrared waves emitted by the sun travel unimpeded through space, and warm any object they hit, including your body.
Infrared is a form of electromagnetic radiation that sits just beyond the red end of the visible light range of the electromagnetic spectrum. We often hear the word radiation and automatically associate it with being harmful, but in fact, radiation is just a process of energy emission. Just like visible light radiation, infrared radiation is 100% safe and even our own bodies emit infrared radiation (which is what allows search and rescue helicopters to find lost travellers at night for example).
Conventional space heating in homes
Conventional heating in the home works by warming up the air around you; for instance a radiator does most of its heating through convection currents (it also gives off small amounts of infrared radiation).
When the radiator warms up, it heats the air directly around it, which then expands and rises. As the hot air rises, it creates a vacuum behind it, which pulls colder air into contact with the radiator, causing it to heat up. As the hot air begins to cool down it drops down back to floor level. This cold air gets heated again and this process keeps repeating itself – this is known as convection heating.
Most conventional heating systems do emit some infrared waves. For example, if you have ever sat near an open fire, you will have felt the heat on your face. Then when you put your hand in front of your face, this stops the infrared hitting your face directly; instead you will feel your hands get warm. This is infrared.
Infrared heaters in the home
Infrared heating is a fairly recent addition to the domestic and commercial heating scene. It is emitted from the heater, which then travels unimpeded through the air until it hits an object. The object absorbs the radiation, causing molecules within it to vibrate, producing heat.
If the waves come into contact with humans, they will travel about an inch into the body providing a feeling of deep heat, but even if you are not directly in the way of the waves, any solid body will vibrate when the waves hit them, causing them to radiate heat back towards you.
Despite being able to purchase gas, oil and solid fuel infrared heaters, we suggest using electric infrared panels in the home, since you do not need to integrate any pipework or fuel storage facilities when you install the panels. There are also no direct emissions associated with using the electrical panels (and if you use them in conjunction with solar panels you get 100% emission-free heating). According to a study made by Jigsaw infrared when adding solar panels to their infrared heating, you could save up to 50% on your energy bills. They also can be placed high up on the walls or the ceiling, so they will be easy to keep away from pets and children (they get about as warm as a standard radiator).
The electric panels come in numerous sizes and certain models can double up as mirrors. Since they have no moving parts, they operate in complete silence, which makes them ideal for any property.
Infrared heating works by heating the surface area of a room, rather than the volume (as is the case the traditional convection heaters), which means they are heating considerably less to provide the same amount of heat.
The following worked example compares a 800 Watt infrared heat panel and a standard 2000 Watt convection heater (like for like providing the same comfort of heat), providing heat up to 4 months of winter (November through to Feb 119 days) for 8 hours a day at a cost of £0.30 per kWh of electricity (As of May 2022 estimated 10 minutes per hour of use for IR panel. 10 minutes per hour for convection heater).
Electricity units per hour
Total electrical units used
In addition, you are heating solid walls or objects with infrared radiation and these have a thermal mass, which means they retain heat and help keep the home cosy. Conversely, air has no thermal mass, so in the case of traditional convection-warmed rooms, when a door is opened, the hot air will quickly escape; requiring you to reheat the room to feel warm again. One brilliant factor in favour of these panels is the ability to provide the home with a fully-zoned property. Unlike central heating systems, the panels can be switched on in individual rooms using the thermostats. This means that heating is only fully used when required. If you think how much energy is wasted in rooms that do not need to be heated, such as guest bedrooms, this is a real benefit.
A study was placed by Aston University and Jigsaw Infrared which found that Jigsaw’s infrared panels can increase the room temperature to 18 C in 10 mins which is less than a 2000 W storage and convection heater take 15 and 17 min respectively. Moreover, the IR heating system has an efficiency 2 times higher than a 2000 W and storage and convection heating system. Therefore, the IR panel used half the energy (50% less) of the storage heater and reached room temp in almost half the time. Therefore, Infrared heating is much more efficient at heating a space than conventional space heaters. The heat is also contained in the thermal mass of the room surfaces, as opposed to the heat. This means that it stays warmer for longer and draughts do not play as large a part when compared with convection heaters.
Infrared vs. other heating systems
Gas central heating with zone controls
Jigsaw infrared with zone controls
Reversible air con with zone controls
Air-water heat pump with zone controls
Electric convector heating with zone controls
Electric underfloor heating with zone controls
New electric night storage with automatic controls
Based on a 2-bed property and May 2022 energy prices. Heating only.
Other advantages of infrared heating
Another major advantage of infrared heating is that unlike conventional heaters that just heat the air, infrared heaters heat the walls, which will mean they stay completely dry. It then builds up the thermal mass within the walls and the floors, which maintains the warmth and keeps it dry by reducing condensation. Therefore infrared heating helps prevent the spread of mould in the property.
In addition, conventional heaters warm the room by convection currents that circulate dust particles continuously around the home, however these convection currents do not occur with infrared heating, so for people who suffer from asthma, infrared panels can be the ideal solution.
The units are compact and can be designed to provide other functions such as a mirror in the bathroom, which helps save room.
Since infrared heaters heat solid objects in the home like walls, they prevent any moisture build-up on these surfaces and so inhibit the spread of mould.
Fit and forget technology, very little maintenance required
These heaters are emission-free (i.e., no fuel is burnt in their operation) and if they are used in conjunction with renewable energy sources like solar PV, you are producing 100% clean heat.
The way these heaters heat a room is more efficient than conventional convection heaters, so they are more cost-effective to run.
Infrared heaters warm solid objects with a thermal capacity, therefore if a room is draughty or a door is opened, the solid objects retain the heat keeping the room warm.
low weight, small size, and no need for thermal bricks.
They cost about twice as much as traditional convection space heaters. However the saving difference made should mean that they pay back in a little over a year, and then you will experience savings on your energy bills.
To feel the true benefits of the heating panel, there needs to be no obstacles between you and the heating unit, which is not always easy to achieve.
Based on a newly built two-bedroom house, hall, and a bathroom at 18℃ with Jigsaw infrared aluminium infrared panels. IR panels are required for 5 x 400W at £395 each and 4 x 800W at £595 each. Including one room thermostat for each room at £89 each and one control Hub per property at £129. Total units and parts costing £5,285.
Installing infrared heating
Are you thinking about installing infrared heating in your home? We have scoured the country for the best tradespeople, so that we can make sure we only recommend those we really trust.
If you would like us to find you a local installer to help install infrared heating in your home, just fill in the form below and we will be in touch shortly!
Meeting your heating requirements with infrared panels
Meeting your heating requirements with infrared heating panels
On the whole, an infrared heating panel will heat one square metre of space for every 50 Watts of power supplied to the unit. Take an 800-Watt panel for example this will heat an area of approximately 12m2 in an average property.
Having said that, other variables also have a part to play in the heating ability of infrared heating panels. These include the quality of existing insulation, the temperature of the outside environment and the temperature the household tends to set its thermostat.
The Thermal envelope of the property and infrared heating panels
The level of insulation, the quality of glazing and the airtightness of a building are key factors in determining how much heat is retained. Each building fabric will offer a different thermal insulating performance, and this must be taken into consideration when you are sizing panels.
If you have good quality insulation, for example, then the heating panels will be at their most effective – warming the room quickly, then modulating on and off to top up the heat as required. The better insulated the walls and the roof space, the more heat will be retained and the less the panels will need to work.
If, on the other hand, you live in a period property and you have solid walls; or if you live in house with unfilled cavities, then installing insulation prior to putting up the heating panels may be a sensible idea. Loft insulation, for example, is cheap and easy to install. Ideally this should be be done prior to installing the panels, since once in place, the insulation would help limit the heat loss from the home when the panels were switched on.
How infrared heaters work
Infrared heating panels work by emitting infrared radiation; this is then absorbed by an object, which in turn will then warm up. The residents should be able to feel a comfortable level of warmth, even though the air temperature may be lower than you would normally experience with a traditional radiator heating system (which relies on convection heating).
If the heating panel is positioned on the wall, a certain amount of infrared radiation will be aimed at the ceiling and will get absorbed. As a result, this energy will not be felt directly by any people in the room. Therefore, positioning heating panels on the walls may limit the heating area by as much as 20%.
In an ideal world, the panels would be positioned on the ceiling; however, this is slightly dependent on whether the plasterboard is able to support that weight from the panels. If in doubt, seek advice from a construction expert or an electrician before installation.
It is important to touch on shading when talking about infrared heating; if the radiation is absorbed by something before it reaches the intended target, then the target won’t get warm. This is very similar to the effect of moving from direct sunlight into the shade – you will suddenly feel colder. This is because the sun does the bulk of its heating via infrared radiation (this is 100% safe and different from UV rays). The same thing happens in the home; if a table absorbs the infrared, the floor underneath it will not warm up.
To achieve a more all-around warm feeling, similar to what you would experience with a traditional central heating system, the heating panel needs time to warm the walls and furniture. These then give off warmth and effectively act as secondary heaters. Solid stone or brick walls take time to heat up, but then give off warmth nicely.
According to a study made by Wolverhampton University using Jigsaw infrared heating panels Gas central heating can often take around 30 minutes before occupants can start to feel the warmth as it heats the air within the space. Infrared heating heats objects, not the air, meaning that the warmth can be felt much quicker, normally less than 10 minutes. The Infrared system is so quick at heating that they can be controlled by motion sensors. The panels only come on when there is a person in the room.
Infrared heaters reduce condensation
Cold walls tend to cool the warm air created by conventional central heating and can cause condensation, whereas infrared heating is designed to heat the walls and the contents of the room. The fact the walls are heated means they will stay dry, reducing condensation and helping prevent the build-up of mould. Installing infrared heating means the objects are heated in addition to the air around them. Because of this, the panels can be directed towards damp walls to dry the wet areas and reduce the formation of mould.
How much heating output does my home require?
The sizing information we give is based upon a fairly well-constructed and relatively well-insulated home. As a result, we assume your home requires 50 watts per m2; however, this can be more like 100 or even 150 watts per m2 for an uninsulated house or commercial premises. The customer should always do some background research and assess how well insulated and thermally efficient their property is.
The other element to factor in is the temperature the homeowner would like to heat their property to. A recommended ambient temperature is normally between 18 and 22 degrees C; however, if you like to heat your home at 30 degrees then you will require more watts per m2 – and this will obviously cost you more to do.
A room thermostat and programmer may also help you take control of the heating. By fitting a room programmer, you can judge the warm-up period and cool-down time needed, and also set a lower daytime temperature just to prevent the room from becoming too cold. A thermostat will help prevent electricity from being wasted, by turning the heater on and off to maintain a set temperature. This is especially useful in spring and autumn when the weather is changeable and also in winter to keep a general warmth to the room rather than letting it get very cold and then having to use lots of power to boost the warmth up.
When installing Jigsaw control systems for the infrared heating panels you will need one Hub at £129 and a room thermostat for each room at £89 and any added extras to make the most of your efficiency. This can be set at several different times and temperatures throughout the day while only directing the heaters to heat a room in use via an app.
If you do decide to hang the infrared panels on the wall, you also need to consider where on the wall you are going to hang them. Infrared rays travel about 3 metres out of the panel, so a central position on the longest wall is preferable. Positioning at one end of the room and leaving areas unreachable will, unfortunately, produce cold spots, so you may wish to consider two panels if this is the case.
For the best results contact your supplier for a quote on where the most efficient place is to install your infrared heating system. Click here to get direct access to book a free quote from Jigsaw infrared.
Questions to ask yourself before installing an infrared heating panel
Q: What is the area/room size you are trying to heat?
A: The bigger the room, the more heating output you will require to get it up to comfortable temperature.
Q: What is the construction of the room/house – is it an old stone building, a modern building? Assess the level of existing insulation.
A: Older, solid wall properties will be less insulated, which means the rays are absorbed more by the fabric of the building; which in turn means less useful heat will radiate back into the room. So you may require more watts per m2.
Q: How many walls are external?
A: The more external walls that the heated area is exposed to, the more likely that heat will escape and radiate outside the building. Again this is where insulation is important, so determining how well the walls are insulated will have an impact on the heating requirement per m2. The better the insulation (filled cavity or solid wall insulation), the more likely the heat will remain in the room/s and keep that useful warmth, so the panels need to work less hard.
Q: What type of glazing do you have? Is it single or double and what is the size that occupies the walls?
A: If the answer is single glazing and the amount of area is large, then you will require higher output wattage than the 50 watts per m2 that we recommend.
Q: What height is the ceiling?
A: Domestic panels work optimally up to 3m in room height. If you have higher ceilings you can contact us and we will give you further guidance.
Q: Where do you think you will be placing the panels – ceiling or walls?
A: If you place the panels on the walls, ensure they are at least 1 metre from the ground. Some of the bigger panels will require a bigger gap of at least 2metres. On the other hand, if the panels are installed on the ceiling, make sure the plasterboard can support the weight.
Q: Will you be installing infrared heaters with thermostat and/or programmer?
A: When you have control over the temperature and running times of your panels you can ensure that energy coming in is optimised to the energy being released. The more sophisticated the setup, the more it will work around your lifestyle and operate efficiently to minimise wastage.
Infrared panels heat objects, not the air, so cold draughts have less of an impact.
Infrared panels are incredibly easy to install, requiring no pipework. They are just plug-in and go.
Shading will impact the infrared heating, if an object impedes the infrared radiation, the intended target will not get warm.
Infrared panels vary in price depending on the size of the panel, but prices start at around £150.
Installing infrared heating
Are you thinking about installing infrared heating in your home? We have scoured the country for the best tradespeople, so that we can make sure we only recommend those we really trust.
If you would like us to find you a local installer to help install infrared heating in your home, just fill in the form below and we will be in touch shortly!
Introduction to storage heaters
What are storage heaters?
Storage heaters are a form of electric convection heating. They work by heating the volume of air in a property which operates on a dual tariff electricity meter such as Economy 7 or Economy 10. It uses electricity supplied by the grid during periods of low tariff, to heat up storage elements within the heater. These storage elements, or storage bricks, then release the required amount of heat when required during times when electricity has increased to the on-peak rates. They are designed to be a cheap heating system because they use the off-peak tariff, not because they use less electricity. In reality, due to their relative inefficiency through leaking heat, they actually require more electricity than standard electric convector heaters.
What are the benefits of storage heaters?
As storage heaters run off electricity, they do not require extensive plumbing or pipework, just a simple set of wires. This means that they are fairly cheap to install and are, in most cases, maintenance-free. As they use off-peak tariffs, they have traditionally been cheaper to run than other electric convection heating methods. While old forms of storage heater may not be that efficient, new technology has made them a more tempting option. Storage heaters can also be used in conjunction with renewable systems such as solar PV and wind turbines, and be charged for free whenever a surplus amount of electricity is being generated.
What are the problems involved with storage heaters?
One of the main problems is leakage. It is impossible for a storage heater to store 100% of the heat generated. Therefore, they are required to store more heat than is actually required for the next day. This means that although electric convection heating is 100% efficient, storage heaters need to use more electricity than standard convectors. Another problem comes with time and temperature control. As the electricity is stored for the next day’s heating requirement, there is little movement if it’s exceptionally cold and not enough heat has been stored or it’s too hot and too much has been stored.
Storage heaters have varying controls depending on the style and age. These include automatic and manual input controls, power switches and thermostatic controls. New-age storage heaters even have access to weather conditions – as well as intelligent controls – and can alter the input depending on the predicted temperature within the property the next day. All storage heaters have the option of a boost setting, which just turns the storage heater into a standard electric convector on the peak tariff.
How do storage heaters compare with other heating systems?
Gas central heating – cheaper to install but more expensive to run due to the cost of electricity being higher than gas.
Heat pumps – cheaper to install but more expensive to run due to heat pumps producing around 3-4 units of heat for every unit of electricity.
Infrared heating panels – similar install costs but higher running costs.
Oil boilers – cheaper to install but more expensive to run due to the cost of electricity being higher than heating oil.
LPG boilers – cheaper to install but more expensive to run due to the cost of electricity being higher than LPG.
Benefits of storage heaters
Allows you to take advantage of the cheaper off-peak tariff electricity during the night.
Cheaper to install than complete central heating systems.
Little maintenance required.
Limitations of storage heaters
Unavoidable heating overnight may result in wasted energy.
It is difficult to deal with sudden changes of weather. Preset amounts of input don’t allow for alterations.
Some companies lock customers into their tariffs by installing non-standard meters. Switching companies for your supplier then becomes prohibitively expensive.
Tend to be bulky.
The size also dictates how much ‘charge’ the heater can take, so although you can get smaller heaters, they may not be able to provide all the heat you need.
Costs of storage heaters
Fan-assisted storage heaters cost around £500 + install.
Dimplex Quantum storage heaters cost around £700 + install.
Installing storage heaters
Need new storage heaters? We have scoured the country for the best tradespeople, so that we can make sure we only recommend those we really trust.
If you would like us to find you a local installer for storage heaters, just fill in the form below and we will be in touch shortly!
Biomass boilers are very similar to conventional gas boilers that you will be familiar with, providing you with space heating and hot water for the entire home, but instead of using gas (or oil) to produce the heat, they combust sustainably sourced wood pellets.
Using wood in place of fossil fuels helps to prevent long-term climate change, since the carbon dioxide released during the combustion was actually absorbed while the tree was growing, so they are essentially carbon neutral.
Each year, approximately 8.5 million tonnes of wood goes into landfill in the UK; this waste wood could be used in either biomass boilers (if converted into the pellets) or burned in wood burning stoves. This would not only provide heat and hot water, but in doing so, it would also ease the pressure on landfill capacity.
How does a biomass boiler work?
A biomass boiler works in a very similar way to conventional boilers, combusting fuel to produce heat that is then used to heat water. Biomass boilers are normally substantially bigger than their fossil fuel-burning brothers though, for a number of reasons. Firstly since they are burning wood pellets as opposed to gas, the boiler needs to be larger to hold the larger volume of fuel.
In addition, you may wish to install an automatic feed hopper on your biomass boiler, which will require additional room. This hopper stores a large volume of the wood pellets that are then automatically fed into the boiler as required, meaning that the boiler needs to be refuelled very infrequently.
It is also a good idea to have a store of the wood pellets at your property so you can keep producing heat if for some reason there is an issue with your fuel supplier. Ideally this should be close to where the fuel is delivered to your home, to minimise the distance you have to carry it.
Most residential biomass boilers can also run on logs as well as the wood chips, so if these are in plentiful supply or if you can source them cheaply or even for free, it will dramatically reduce the operational running cost of your biomass boiler.
Every four weeks or so, the biomass boiler will need to be emptied of the ash. This can be put straight onto a compost heap to help fertilise the soil.
Biomass boilers are designed to work all year round; however you may choose to turn them off in the summer. They can be coupled with solar heating or an electric shower, providing you with your hot water for washing only, during the warmer summer months.
How does biomass measure up against traditional fuels?
Biomass boilers measure up very favourably in terms of running costs vs. natural gas, heating oil and especially electricity. The numbers can all be seen in the table below.
Figures courtesy of Biomass Energy Centre
Price per Unit
kWh per unit
Pence per kWh
£100 / tonne
3,500kWh / tonne
2.9p / kWh
£200 / tonne
4,800kWh / tonne
4.2p / kWh
4.8p / kWh
4.8p / kWh
60p / litre
10kWh / litre
6.0p / kWh
14.5p / kWh
13.4p / kWh
A biomass boiler might simply be too big for your home, but smaller standalone wood burning stoves are also available, which are normally used to heat one room by burning logs or waste wood. These wood burning stoves can be fitted with a back boiler that uses the heat produced when the wood is combusted to heat water, that can then be used for either space heating elsewhere in the home or for hot water only.
Both standalone wood burning stoves and biomass boilers will need a vent, designed specifically for wood fuel appliances, with sufficient air movement for proper operation of the stove. Your existing chimney can be fitted with a lined flue, which is relatively inexpensive.
Can I get a free biomass boiler?
Under the Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive scheme, you will be eligible for payments towards the cost of installing the technology. These are quarterly, and over seven years, so you will still have to find the money to cover the upfront costs. How much funding you will receive depends on how energy efficient your home was before you installed your biomass boiler. You will start by having an EPC survey, and then payment rates are calculated by multiplying the ‘heat demand figure’ on your report by the current rate for biomass boilers. This means that some models will eventually be paid for fully by RHI payments, but many – especially top-end models – will not be covered completely. Find more information here.
Remember a carbon monoxide detector
It is really important when burning any type of hydrocarbon fuel (natural gas, coal, biomass) that you install a carbon monoxide detector in your home. In theory if all the fuel is 100% burned you produce heat, water and carbon dioxide, but in reality not all of the fuel burns. This means sometimes harmful gases like carbon monoxide can be emitted, which can be deadly. As long as you have a working carbon monoxide detector, you will be able to make full use of all the benefits a biomass boiler can bring.
Biomass fuels are considered a renewable fuel – the carbon dioxide they produce when they are burnt is offset by the carbon dioxide they absorb while they are growing. Savings in carbon dioxide emissions are significant – up to 9.5 tonnes per year when a wood boiler replaces a solid (coal) fired system or electric storage heating.
Fuel savings are less significant, and if you replace a gas heating system with a wood burning system you may end up paying more for your fuel. But if you replace solid fuel or electric heating with the cheapest biomass fuel you could save between £170 and £390 per year. Typically, heating and hot water costs for a year will be around £1,000 in a detached property.
If you have a ready supply of logs at home you can effectively heat your home for free.
There are increased maintenance requirements with this technology; for instance the wood pellets must be loaded on a regular basis to ensure it continues to provide energy. In addition, the ash bins need to be emptied from time to time.
You will need storage space to store the fuel at your home.
Wood costs often depend on the distance from your home to a wood supplier and whether you can buy and store wood in large quantities. If you have your own supply of wood fuel then this can significantly reduce your costs.
A standalone pellet stove may cost about £4,300 including installation; however for an automatically fed pellet boiler the cost is considerably higher at about £11,500.
A wood burner will cost anywhere between £500 and £3,000 depending on the size and style.
Installing a biomass boiler
Are you thinking about installing a biomass boiler? We have scoured the country for the best tradespeople, so that we can make sure we only recommend those we really trust.
If you would like us to find you a local installer, just fill in the form below and we will be in touch shortly!
Introduction to Solar Thermal
What is solar thermal?
Solar thermal (also known as solar heating) harnesses the energy provided by the sun to provide thermal energy to heat water. The hot water produced by the solar heating can be used to supplement your domestic hot water (although the temperature might need to be topped up by a boiler), larger stores of water (like swimming pools), underfloor heating, and for space heating/cooling.
Unlike a solar photovoltaic cell array, which is designed to produce electricity, a solar heating system is designed simply to produce heat. A well-designed solar heating system will provide approximately 55% of your annual domestic hot water requirement. However, as it is reliant on the sun, your solar heating system will produce more heat in the summer months.
Types of solar thermal system
Solar heating systems all have a few components in common: a solar collector, insulated heat transport piping and heat storage. More complex systems also have electronic controls and freeze-prevention mechanisms (when situated in colder climates). There are three main types of solar collectors:
1. Flat panel solar collectors
These are the most common type of solar heating technology and consist of a box with a piece of glass on the top and a dark absorber plate on the bottom. Sunlight passes through the glazing on the top of the box, heating up the absorber plate and converting the solar energy into thermal energy. Copper pipes are attached on the top of the absorber plates, and the liquid flowing through these pipes absorbs the heat, which is then pumped away and stored until it is needed in the house.
2. Evacuated tube solar collectors
The evacuated tube systems tend to be more efficient, especially in cold or cloudy climates; however their advanced design makes them more expensive. These solar collectors consist of rows of parallel, transparent glass tubes. Each tube contains an absorber assembly and the entire tube is evacuated of any air (so it operates within a vacuum). The sunlight enters the glass tubes and hits the absorber assembly where it is absorbed. As this is operating within a vacuum, heat does not travel back from the absorber to the glass, so these are more efficient. A fluid transfers the heat from the absorber assembly through to the storage tank, where it can be used.
The two major advantages of evacuated tube collectors are that they can produce warmer water (so you will not need to supplement the temperature with a boiler) and they can also produce more hot water than flat-panelled solar collectors.
3. Plastic collectors
These are the cheapest type of solar collector and consist of black plastic pipe treated to withstand UV degradation. Hot water is simply pumped through the black plastic pipes, where it warms up (as the plastic absorbs the suns energy). Plastic collectors are most susceptible to ambient temperatures as there is no insulation in place, so if the outside temperature is cold, very little heat will be produced.
These are an ideal solution for swimming pools though, as they amplify the effects of the weather and its seasons. For example, most swimming pools are used in the summer, so installing plastic collectors will allow you to use the pool sooner in the year, and it will keep the temperature consistently higher.
Things to consider before installing a solar thermal heating system
As with solar photovoltaic cells, solar heating technologies require sunlight, so ideally you would install the technology on a south-facing roof that receives sunlight for most of the day to maximise the benefits. Likewise, the amount of heat you can produce is directly proportional to the amount of installed surface area you have; therefore if you only have a small roof, then this technology may not be appropriate.
In addition, you will produce more hot water in the summer, as the energy from the sun is more intense at this time, therefore you may well have to supplement the temperature of the water in the winter using a boiler. To boost the system, your boiler must be compatible with your solar heating system, but currently most combi or CHP boilers are not compatible. It is therefore very important that you check with your installer before undergoing any works.
If you live in much colder climates you may need to have some sort of antifreeze within your system (when water freezes it turns to ice it expands, potentially causing cracks in the pipes).
If you live in a listed building please note the restrictions. Like with many green technologies, it is worth contacting the local planning office to get permission to place the panels, to save yourself problems further down the line.
Installing solar thermal normally requires a new hot water tank
For many of us with old heat-only boilers, we have a hot water tank hidden away in the airing cupboard. Typically these hot water tanks are heated by a boiler and were purpose-built.
Since the introduction of the RHI, there has been a huge increase in the number of people installing solar thermal in their homes.
If you decide to install solar thermal in your home you will need a hot water tank to store the hot water produced from your collector – the problem though, is that you can’t plumb one of these systems into the older hot water tanks that are historically found with boilers.
Twin coil cylinders
The reason for this is that inside the hot water tank there needs to be a separate coil for each ‘hot water source’. In this case you would need a coil for the solar thermal and one for the hot water. Normally in a residential solar store (i.e. a hot water tank with a solar coil), the solar is connected to the lower coil and the boiler (or main heating source) is connected to the top coil.
Solar coils are much larger than traditional boiler coils because they need a far bigger surface area to transfer their heat into the water compared to a boiler. The reason is that the hot water travelling through the solar thermal coil is at a much lower temperature than the water travelling through a boiler coil.
As a guide, the surface area of a solar thermal coil needs to be in excess of 1.5m2, while a boiler coil can be as little as 0.6m2 – this increased surface area maximises the opportunity for heat transfer and is a must based on the lower water temperature flowing through the coil.
If you cast your mind back to your GCSE science, you will know that heat rises and therefore within a hot water tank, the water at the top of the tank is far warmer than the bottom of the tank.
In a solar thermal store, it is important that this temperature differential is maximised and this is achieved by making the hot water tank rather large and tall. So while the top of the tank could achieve temperatures of 600C plus, the water at the bottom of the tank might be as low as 150C degrees. What this means is that even if the solar thermal is only producing water to 200C degrees, it will still contribute to the hot water demand of the property.
Storing the hot water you produce on sunny days
Since the hot water tanks used for solar thermal systems tend to be big, they tend to be able to store far more hot water than is actually required by most families that install one of them. Since solar thermal is intermittent, (i.e. it produces much more hot water when the sun is shining), this oversized heat tank allows you to store the hot water; thereby taking advantage of favourable conditions a day or two later to help minimise the need to use the boiler.
Maximising return on your investment
The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) is now up and running, which works in a similar way to the Feed-in Tariff, rewarding you for any hot water you produce from renewable sources. You can find all the information you need about the RHI on our page here.
Solar water heating will provide hot water throughout the year, although less so in winter.
Once you have installed the equipment, it provides a free source of hot water.
All solar technologies are reliant on the sun shining; hot water will not be produced at night.
The maximum water temperature that can be achieved via solar heating is significantly lower than that achieved with gas or electricity-based water heaters.
The cost of installing a solar hot water system ranges from approximately £1,500 for a DIY system, to £2,000-£5,000 for a commercially installed system. These prices however, are dependent on the size of the system. The savings resulting from the installation will be approximately £50 – £90 per year.
Installing Solar Thermal
Interested in installing a solar thermal system at home? We have scoured the country for the best tradespeople, so that we can make sure we only recommend those we really trust.
If you would like us to find you a local installer to help install a solar thermal system in your home, just fill in the form below and we will be in touch shortly!
Based on similar technology to air conditioners and freezers, heat pumps use the heat found in air, water or the ground and compress it using electricity. This compression causes the extracted warmth to heat up and then be released into the conditioned space through the use of water within a wet central heating system.
The history of the heat pump
Heat pumps have been used in a number of different areas for years. The first heat pump is said to have been built in 1856 and the first ground source heat pump in 1948. However, it is only within the last few years that popularity has soared, with heat pumps being used for heating both domestic and commercial properties.
Heat pumps provide heat energy from a variety of sources, depending on the model, to a heat sink. In order to work, they are required to shift thermal energy in the opposite direction to natural order. In other words, they take heat from a cooler environment and release it into a warmer one. Although classed as a renewable heating method, heat pumps tend to use around 1 unit of electricity for every 3-5 units of heat and so are not completely self-sufficient. Their conversion rate is, however, higher than that of radiators.
Seasonal performance factor
The seasonal performance factor of a heat pump is how much heat energy is generated using one unit of electricity over the course of a year. The higher the SPF, the more heat is generated for the same unit of electricity. Usually, air source heat pumps are around 3, water source heat pumps around 3.5 and ground source heat pumps around 4. The reason for the change is the difference in temperature witnessed in each heat source over the seasons. So the outside air temperature falls just when the air source heat pump needs to be providing the most heat, whereas the ground stays at much more of a constant temperature, meaning that the ground source heat pump doesn’t have to use as much electricity to reach the same temperature.
Important considerations for heat pumps
As heat pumps do not heat up water to the same extent as boilers within wet central heating systems, there are some important things to research before you install one. The first is radiator size. If you are replacing your wet central heating system with a heat pump, your current radiators may not be of an adequate size for the rooms. Secondly, as the heat is not of the same temperature as gas, oil and biomass boilers you would need to have a well-insulated house to ensure that the required temperature is reached. This is a recent/new build, an insulated solid wall property and cavity wall properties with cavity insulation.
Installing heat pumps
Are you thinking about getting a heat pump? We have scoured the country for the best tradespeople, so that we can make sure we only recommend those we really trust.
If you would like us to find you a local heat pump installer, just fill in the form below and we will be in touch shortly!
Gas boilers are central heating systems that act like mini fires, continuously heating water. This heated water is then pumped around the property through pipes and radiators in order to heat space, and either pumped directly to taps and showers (as with a combi boiler), or stored in a hot water tank for future water usage. The boiler uses either on-grid gas or bulk LPG stored on site. This gas is then burned in the boiler’s combustion chamber and warms the water to around 70°C through a heat exchanger.
Are gas boilers dangerous?
Importantly, when natural gas is burned without enough oxygen it burns yellow. This creates a dangerous toxic gas called carbon monoxide, which can be lethal if inhaled for long periods. You shouldn’t have any problems, provided you have a carbon monoxide detector and have your boiler serviced regularly.
Are there different types of boiler available?
There are four main types of gas boiler that are installed up and down the UK:
Combination, or combi boilers do not use a water tank to store the hot water but produce instant hot water direct from the boiler for taps and showers.
System boilers store hot water in an insulated water tank and have one cold water tank.
Regular boilers in essence work in much the same way as system boilers, but can be vented (one cold water tank) or unvented (two cold water tanks).
Combined heat and power (CHP) boilers act as micro power plants by providing your hot water like the previous three, but also generating electricity to use around the home.
We recommend replacing your boiler every 12 years or so: this is to compensate for both the loss of efficiency and the lack of available spare parts for repair. If your boiler is pre-2002 the chances are that it is a non-condensing model, which are up to 80% efficient, with new condensing models reaching into the 90s%.
Gas boilers can be programmed to come on at specific times of the day, to ensure that you never heat your home pointlessly when no one is in. Also, to avoid overheating or under-heating your property, thermostats can be installed to make sure that the required temperature is reached and maintained. For larger properties with rooms that are often uninhabited, thermostatic radiator valves may be installed on each radiator to minimise wasted heat.
Installing a new boiler
Are you thinking about getting a new boiler? We have scoured the country for the best tradespeople, so that we can make sure we only recommend those we really trust.
If you would like us to find you a local installer to install a new boiler in your home, just fill in the form below and we will be in touch shortly!
Waste Water Heat Recovery Systems
What is a WWHRS and how does it work?
Typically, a waste water heat recovery system works by extracting the heat from the water your shower or bath sends down the drain. This heat is used to warm the incoming mains water, reducing the strain on your boiler and the energy required to heat your water up to temperature. A system normally takes the form of a long vertical copper pipe, where the warm water runs alongside the colder mains water to exchange the heat.
The devices are typically around 60% efficient, so they convert 60% of the potential energy in the waste water back into heat for the incoming water. This can save you money on your bills, especially if you use a lot of hot water in your home. The payback period – as we will discuss – is another matter.
The good news is that it is a fairly simple device. It has no electrical components, no pumps or controllers, and so it requires very little maintenance. It has an expected lifespan of 20 years+. Unfortunately they are usually a little too expensive for the payback they generate in domestic dwellings, but this is beginning to change.
Is it worth retrofitting a WWHRS?
In some cases retrofitting may be possible, but the bulk and length of the recovery device means that most showers or baths wouldn’t be suitable. It is much easier to get it installed when you are fitting a new bathroom.
How much do they cost?
They typically start at around £600 + installation. So you are looking at over a £1,000 to get a unit in your home.
Are they worth it?
Until 2015, installers often used WWHRSs as a means to get a new home up to Sustainable Homes Code standards, rather than a means to save money. Now that the Sustainable Homes Code is no longer around, although you certainly will save some cash with a WWHRS, the payback period is not worthwhile for most people.
A typical saving on an average home might be £20-30 a year. So the payback time is around 40 years typically. Of course, if you use a lot of hot water, it can begin to look a bit more attractive.
Other ways to recover wasted heat
There really are better ways to cut your bills – reducing your hot water use is a great way to cut your bills. That means less time in the shower, fewer baths and using a dishwasher instead of washing up under running hot water. Doing fewer hot washes in your washing machine will also cut your energy use. This is a much better way to save £20 a year, instead of installing an expensive appliance like this.
Saves some money on your bills by extracting the heat from your waste water.
Can’t be easily retrofitted, only really viable on a new build property.
Not normally cost-effective.
Flue Gas Heat Recovery Systems
How do flue gas heat recovery systems work?
Flue Gas Heat Recovery Systems (FGHRS) take advantage of heat within waste flue gases resulting from the combustion of gas in your boiler. This recovered heat is used to preheat the cold water entering the boiler, thereby lowering the amount of energy needed to warm the water up to the required level.
Even the most efficient boilers available on the market today are only 90% efficient, as a result of heat lost in the waste flue gas, however the installation of a FGHRS on even a brand new boiler can help further drive up energy efficiency, helping you save money on your energy bills.
Flue gas heat recovery systems requires very little maintenance, with no need for mains electricity. They can they be used in combination with a number of renewable technologies and help cut water use by your boiler by up to 6%, which is helpful if you are on a water meter.
What can a flue gas heat recovery system do for my boiler?
Almost all modern boilers are ‘condensing boilers’. This means that they already have some sort of heat recovery type system built in, making them much more efficient than older boilers. Even so, a FGHRS can further increase the efficiency of these condensing boilers in most cases, delivering the same amount of heat with 7% less gas.
On older boilers the savings are much more substantial – for example, if you install a FGHRS on a G rated boiler you could see gas savings of up to 52%, whilst on older combis the savings can be up to 35%. In many cases, even though these savings are huge, it is probably a more economical decision to upgrade the boiler to a condensing model as well as installing a FGHRS.
Remember that not all boilers work with FGHRS and each system will be different, so you will need to check with the manufacturer to ensure your boiler is compatible.
A typical saving on an A band boiler would be around 5% on your gas bill, and we have done some worked examples to see what that would mean in terms of payback:
Modern A Band Boiler (5% saving)
Savings through FGHRS
10,000kWh (Small property)
20,000kWh (Medium sized property)
30,000kWh (Large Property)
80% Efficient boiler (10% saving)
Savings through FGHRS
10,000kWh (Small property)
20,000kWh (Medium sized property)
30,000kWh (Large Property)
As you can see, even without the GDHIF, it is a great addition to your boiler if you live in a large property.
Helps improve the efficiency of your heating system by recovering heat from flue gases.
Use less gas for the same temperature.
Fit and forget technology, very little maintenance required.
Payback time is not particularly cost effective, unless you use a lot of gas.
Heating controls allow you to easily regulate the temperature of your home. The controls automatically turn the heating on and off based on settings input by the user, to ensure maximum comfort. This process moves away from a fixed, traditional timer system and can therefore be used to better control the temperature within your home.
Thermostats, allowing people to control the temperature of their home, have been around for a long time. Newer heating control systems have evolved to the give residents total control of their heating, and by extension, their bills. The latest technology allows you to automatically control your heating to work around your daily schedule.
Products that make up a heating control system
There are four products that normally make up a full heating control system (based on a home with a traditional central heating system):
A room thermostat
A boiler programmer
A hot water cylinder thermostat
Thermostatic radiator valves
In our experience, many homes currently only have one or two of these.
Room thermostats take the temperature of the ambient air in the home and feed it back to the boiler to tell it to either fire up to raise the temperature of the home, or to turn off since the home is warm enough and no additional heating is required.
They require free-flowing air so that the sensor can work out the right temperature. You’ll need to ensure that the thermostats are not blocked by household objects like curtains or furniture and avoid placing them near heat-emitting objects (fireplaces, radiators, household appliances etc). It is also recommended to house these in the lounge, since this is where homeowners typically spend most of their time. Having your thermostat in the hallway by your front door, for example, will not give an accurate reflection of the temperature of your home. This is because it’s an area commonly affected by draughts, when the front door is opened and closed.
A boiler programmer is an automated way of turning the boiler on and off. People tend to like their homes to be warm when they wake up or come home from work. There seems little point in heating the home when no-one is there to get the benefit from the heat. A programmer allows you to set very specific time frames for when the heating comes on from day to day.
Let’s take the example of a family that go to school/work during the day. Typically the boiler would come on at approximately 6-7am to heat the house ready for when the family wakes up. This would then go off at about 9 when the people in the home leave for work or school. The boiler could then fire up again about 4pm in preparation for everyone coming home and go off just before everyone goes to bed.
These programmers allow you to set different heating patterns for each day, so if at the weekend more time is spent at home, you could use the programmer to reflect that.
The hot water cylinder thermostat
If you have an older boiler with a hot water tank, a hot water cylinder thermostat is a great way of ensuring the temperature of the water in the tank doesn’t get unnecessarily warm. Storing water at very high temperatures increases your bills, since you need to use more gas (or electricity if you use the immersion heater) to heat it. In addition, unless you’re a fan of a scalding hot shower or bath, you tend to add cold water to wash comfortably, which means you don’t need your water to be boiling in the first place.
The hot water cylinder thermostat is strapped to the hot water tank and has a dial on the front where you can adjust the temperature. Normally this temperature is set between 60 and 650c, which is hot enough to kill any bacteria but not so hot as to scold you when it comes out of the tap. It is a important to check the temperature of the thermostat on your hot water cylinder, since if it is set any higher than 650c, the chances are that you can turn it down and still get nice warm water, but save a bit on your gas bill at the same time.
If you don’t have a thermostat on your hot water cylinder it is certainly worth getting one fitted, since they cost less than £20 and can really help you to use less gas, but we do recommend getting a trained plumber to fit the thermostat.
Thermostatic radiator valves
Using programmers and thermostats you can, in theory, dictate when you want the heating to come on and the temperature that you want it to be. Thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) allow you additional control to further fine-tune your heating system.
Much like the main thermostat, these TRVs track the temperature of the room in which the radiator is situated and will turn the radiator down (or off altogether) once it reaches the temperature chosen by you. TRVs allow the temperature of each room to be controlled individually from one another.
TRVs therefore really allow you to fine tune your heating system. For example, a room may have a lot of glazing and get warmer than the rest of your home when the sun is out. In this case, the thermostatic valve can shut off just that radiator, ensuring the occupant maximum comfort.
The future: intelligent heating systems
Heating optimisation works through an intelligent system that can help to save consumers additional money on their energy bills. Most people set their heating to come on at least an hour before they need it (in the mornings and evenings), but an intelligent heating system can sense the time it will take to heat the household to the required temperature, and turn heaters on automatically.
For example, a household might get up at 7am and want their home to be warm for this time. The traditional timer turns the heating on at 6am and works for an hour before everyone gets up. However on warmer days, the warmup time may be shorter than on cold days. An intelligent heating system will take this into consideration and set your boiler to fire up later, meaning less fuel will be used, resulting in savings in energy bills.
You might have a standard programmer that at most allows you to turn your heating on or off two or three times per day. An intelligent heating system can set multiple points where you set the time and temperature requirements for that day. The idea being that one may have different heating requirements for each day of the week.
Certain products on the market can have over 20 built-in plans, with further programmes available for customisation to an individual’s personal needs. For example, if you are a flexible worker, you can set customised patterns to suit your needs on different days. When you go on holiday, you can programme your heating not to come for the time you’re away.
In addition, these intelligent heating systems can be linked wirelessly to your phone or computer, so you can set the heating to come on as you are beginning your commute home. If you go away in cold weather, you can bring the heating on in your home even if you are not there to help prevent freezing.
Many of the intelligent heating features discussed above are now built into new heating control products available on the market today, and over the next few years they will become far more commonplace. All of the features work to more effectively regulate the temperature of your home, helping to minimise the amount of gas and electricity required to heat it.
The importance of heating controls
Installing huge quantities of loft or wall insulation will increase the energy efficiency of your property. However to get the biggest savings on your energy bills, it is absolutely key to be able to regulate the temperature of your home. Thermostats and TRVs are a really important way to help benefit from the increased energy efficiency of the envelope (floor, walls and roof) of your home. If you don’t have them, your boiler will continue to operate as it always has, which means your home will be warmer, but you will be using the same amount of gas.
It is also worth remembering that most of the features discussed will run behind the scenes in your home, so once you have set them up, you can then forget about them.
Finally – and this is one of our favourite tips – turning your thermostat just one degree can cut your energy bills by as much as 10%!
Heating controls allow you to accurately control the temperature of your house.
They are relatively simple to set up, then they will run in the background and you can forget about them.
Install a room thermostat if you didn’t have one before: this can save you approximately £70 and 280kg of carbon dioxide a year.
You can also make savings by using your controls more effectively. Turn down your room thermostat by one degree to save around £65 and 230kg carbon dioxide a year.
Only the upfront cost of installing heating controls!
Different suppliers offer different solutions but costs can start from £150 for a simple room thermostat to £1,000 for an integrated intelligence system that will combine both the room temperature regulation and programme-setting capabilities.
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