Feature Radiators
Are electric radiators efficient?

The team here at Feature Radiators, the UK’s leading retailer of electric radiators, are frequently asked whether our electric radiators are “efficient” and, more specifically, whether our electric radiators are more “efficient” than other types of electric heating.  

When it comes to radiators, the word “efficiency” can be interpreted in many ways.  From our experience, when a customer asks “Which radiators are the most efficient?” they could mean:

1.         Which radiator gives out the most heat for its size?

2.         Which radiator is the cheapest to run?

3.         Which radiator uses the least fuel?

4.         Which radiator heats up the quickest?

5.         Which radiator is most environmentally friendly?

Electric radiators are generally regarded as being 100% efficient as almost 100% of the electricity consumed by the radiator is converted into heat and released into the room.  (This differs from piped hot water central heating systems where some of the heat can be lost through the pipes on route to the radiators and the boiler.)  Therefore it could be argued that all electric radiators are equal in efficiency as the energy put into the radiator will equal the amount of heat put out. 

So the questions above cannot be answered by looking at efficiency; instead the key to choosing the best electric radiator is to decide which would be most effective in your specific situation. 

This article aims to give clear information and facts to help you choose the electric heating product that best matches your unique lifestyle and heating needs.  This will then enable you to minimise any wasted energy, which in turn will help reduce the amount of fuel you use, therefore reducing the cost of your electricity bills and your impact on the environment.

Whichever form of electric heating you opt for, we always suggest looking at the various energy providers’ tariffs to compare pricing as the cost of electricity can vary significantly; pricing does not only vary between suppliers but also between the wide varieties of tariffs offered by each supplier. 

Below we have provided a summary of the electric heating options available on the market detailing their pros and cons to help you choose which option is the best for your home. 

Electric heaters or electric radiators generally come in two distinct styles:

·        Storage heaters; or

·        On demand heaters, namely;

1.       Radiant heating panels;

2.       Convectors; and

3.       Liquid-filled electric radiators.

Storage heaters

These make use of the cheaper electricity that is available at night on an economy tariff.  Electricity is used to heat up ceramic bricks within the heater overnight which then “store” the heat and slowly release it gradually over the course of the following day.   Storage heaters were historically seen as the only real alternative to gas central heating and are still a common sight in homes across the UK.  

Example: Using a storage heater in a room that requires 1kW of heat

·         Require a storage heater that consumes around 3.2 kiloWatts or kW per hour. 

·         Economy 7 tariff = 7 hours electricity at a cheaper rate during the night. 

·         Storage heater is set to “charge” for these 7 hours, consuming 3.2kW per hour for 7 hours.

·         Consumes a total of 22.4kW per night. 

·         Releases the 22.4kW of heat consumed over a 24 hour period = heat output of 0.933kW of heat per hour. 

This means that storage heaters are efficient, insomuch as they give out all the energy that they consume, however they do consume a lot of energy.  Interestingly, storage heaters were originally developed during the strikes of the late seventies and there is an argument that the government encouraged their use at this time as they were keen to keep the power stations running to make the country dependent on the coal industry.

Storage heaters can offer a practical solution for many homeowners; for example, as the heat is released throughout the day, storage heaters are more suitable for people who are retired or at home throughout the day.  Alternatively, if you work full time and do not require heating during the day, storage heaters may not be the best option as heat will be emitted even when you are not there, resulting in unnecessary energy wastage. 

The nature of storage heaters does make them harder to control than “on demand” heating products.  For instance, consider the following scenarios:

·         You spontaneously decide to go out for the day, but you have already paid for that day’s heating;

·         You go on holiday and turn the heating off, but there will be no “charge” in the heater when you return, meaning time sat in a cold house; and

·         You may want to turn the heating off in summer, but an unexpected cold snap might mean you need to do an urgent “boost” on the heaters during the day, which would be charged at a high peak rate. 

·         This lack of controllability makes homeowners reluctant to deviate from the pre-determined charging hours and standard usage.   

Also as storage heaters age, their internal insulation can break down; resulting in heat being expended too fast and so supplementary heating may be required for later on in the day; this supplementary heating would be charged at the peak rate per hour, rather than the economy rate.  Bear in mind that the peak rates on Economy tariffs are usually significantly higher than at any time on non-Economy tariffs and these rates apply to all appliances used during peak hours, not just radiators. 

Storage heaters are often deemed unattractive and the nature of their design makes them quite bulky protruding significantly into a room.

On demand heaters

 

The following 3 forms of electric heating consume electricity “on demand” unlike storage heaters. “On demand” heating products allow you to only turn the heater on when you need heat, and turn it off when you don’t need heat.  This makes them the better option for avoiding wasted energy as you only have the radiators on as and when needed and there is no need to second guess what the weather will be doing 24 hours in advance, which is particularly useful with the unpredictable British climate.  On demand heaters are normally used with regular, non-Economy electricity tariffs, which do not use cheaper night-time rates.

Example: Using an on-demand heater in a room that requires 1kW of heat

·         Require an on-demand heater that consumes 1 kW per hour. 

·         Standard electricity tariff = same rate at all times of the day.

·         For someone who works 9am to 5pm; On-demand heater timer is set to come on at 7am till 8am and 6pm till 11pm, so consumes 1kW per hour for 6 hours.

·         Consumes a total of 6kW per day giving a heat output of 1kW of heat per hour. 

This example shows a significant reduction in the amount of energy used by someone who works standard hours; when comparing a storage heater with an on demand heater, despite the electricity being charged at a higher rate than on the rates for the Economy 7 tariff, this could still be the most cost effective option in this type of scenario. 

On demand heating products, as detailed below, usually provide a better solution than storage heaters to the question “which radiator is most efficient?”

1.       Radiant heating panelsare either hollow, or, more commonly, are a sealed unit. An electric element is concealed within the radiator, which heats up and radiates heat out evenly from the front of the radiator.  Radiant heat is absorbed by the furniture, fabrics and carpet in a room, so the warmth is retained for longer.  This type of radiator is particularly good for people with dust allergies as their flat panel makes them easy to clean and they don’t “convect” heat or promote air circulation to heat a space; these factors help to reduce the amount of dust being circulated around a room.

2.       Convectors, or heaters that make use of convection, warm a room by following the principle that hot air rises.  Electric convectors usually consist of a hollow case; open at the top and bottom with a visible coil heating element. (Quite often, when these radiators are switched on and you look inside them, you can see the heating element glowing red inside the radiator.) Convection heating works by creating a cycle of air circulation; cool air comes from underneath the radiator, it is drawn up from the bottom of the radiator and then warms up and rises or “convects” as it passes the heating element, emitting warm air from the top of the radiator. This warm air rises to the ceiling, cools and falls back to the floor then repeats the process. 

Electric fan heaters also work on the same principle; the only key difference being that the fan forces air across the electric element speeding up the movement of warm air.  This means that fan heaters will blast warm air into a room very quickly, but as soon as they are turned off, the room will cool almost immediately.    

Radiators that work on convection can sometimes be the cause of black marks seen on walls above radiators; these are caused by the residue of dust being drawn up into the radiator and burnt onto the open element. 

3.       Liquid-filled electric radiatorsoperate in similar way to radiant panel type heaters; they are sealed units with an internal heating element that releases this heat via the outer case, however the elements are submerged in a liquid such as oil, water with corrosion inhibitor or heat transfer agent/gel rather than being dry.  Depending on the design of the radiator, the heat generated can be entirely radiant or a combination of radiant and convected heat.   

Historically, oil was used to fill electric radiators.  However water is now increasingly common as this offers a cleaner option; for instance, The National Trust uses water-filled electric radiators as they do not want to risk using oil which could cause damage to a historical property or its contents.

So in summary, a radiator is just a vessel designed to release energy in the form of heat and the amount of heat that a radiator releases will depend on the amount of energy put into it; this is particularly true of electric radiators, where they will perform at approximately 100% efficiency.  

·         Storage heaters use a large amount of cheap electricity, but lack controllability resulting in energy wastage.  “On demand” heaters use less electricity and offer greater flexibility, but this electricity is not available on an Economy tariff. 

·         Convected heat immediately warms the air in a room, but the heat dissipates almost immediately as the heat source is turned off.  Radiated heat takes longer to warm a room as it heats objects not just the air, but this means that the room stays warm for much longer. 

In practice, there are many aspects that will determine the best radiator(s) for your project including your lifestyle e.g. working hours, size restrictions, interior décor, budget and availability; your choice will be governed by which factors take priority.  The research proves that when it comes to heating, there is no magic “one-size fits all” solution.

For more advice on choosing the most effective electric heating product, speak to an electric radiator specialist such as Feature Radiators.  Contact their expert team directly on 01274 567789, meet them at their large West Yorkshire showroom, where they have over 160 radiators on display or visit their website http://www.featureradiators.co.uk.

Heating a garden building, outdoor office, summerhouse or posh shed

 

The garden building business is blooming booming! 

 

Thanks to technological advances aiding mobile communications and the ever-increasing costs of commuting, many of us are opting to work from home.  A self-contained office in the garden provides the perfect environment to do just that. 

 

The downturn in the economy has also played its part in the garden building boom.  Financial uncertainty has resulted in a reluctance to move house, with homeowners choosing to stay put and improve and/or extend properties.  In some cases this has led to the introduction of a garden building, whether used as a garden room, summerhouse or kids’ den.

 

To get the maximum use from a garden building, heating (along with light and power) is a must.   If the building isn’t warm and cosy, then it won’t be used, particularly in the colder winter months.  This article looks at factors to consider when it comes to heating your garden building.

 

Insulation is key

 

Is there adequate insulation?  Some, but not all purpose-built garden rooms, are adequately insulated.  If you have converted a shed or outbuilding, or opted for a lower cost garden building, then you will probably need to add insulation.  Without this, the cost of heating could be prohibitively expensive. 

 

Add Heating

 

In order for any garden building to be comfortable and useable (for more than just storage), all year round, it will need to be heated.   

 

So what factors should you consider when choosing heating for a garden building?

 

  • Heat output – when choosing any form of heating it is critical that the option you select has the capacity to adequately heat the space.  If in doubt, oversize the heater, as you can always turn it down. 
  • Thermostatic control – choosing a heating option with a thermostat will ensure that your garden building is heated optimally at a constant and comfortable temperature. Thermostatic controls provide efficient and cost-effective use of power; for instance, they can turn off a heater when the room has reached its optimum temperature; perfect on a sunny day for taking advantage of any “free heat” from the sun.  By maintaining the temperature above a certain minimum level, you protect the contents of the building, including computers and soft furnishings, from cold or damp related damage. 
  • Timer – by opting for a product with a timer, you can ensure that the heating is on when it needs to be.  A timer allows you to set the heating to come on just before you start your day, ensuring a toasty office in time for when you arrive. 
  • Space – by their very nature, many outbuildings are small in size.  Therefore space is often a critical factor in choosing your heating option.  These days, radiators are available in unusually narrow or low sizes, so there is likely to be something to accommodate even the most awkward of wall spaces.  There are also floor-standing heaters, which are portable and take up no wall space. 
  • Budget – it may seem obvious, but costs vary immensely on heating options for garden buildings.  For instance, the price of an electric heater can range from £20 for a basic fan heater to £2000 for the ultimate designer model.  Take account of installation costs as well, for example if you opt for electric underfloor heating, bear in mind that installation costs may be considerable, especially if the floor needs to be taken up to allow the electric foil mat to be fitted underneath.   
  • Aesthetics – Whether your new space is for living or working, as well as being a comfortable and functional environment, you may also want to add style with an attractive looking heater; the many designs now available mean you can choose minimalism to aid focus, bright colours for inspiration or soft curves to give a relaxed feel.

 

So what are the different heating options available for garden buildings?

 

ELECTRIC RADIATORS

 

Water and oil filled electric radiators

 

The water inside a water-filled electric radiator is heated by an electric element and is used as a heat reservoir.  Oil-filled electric radiators are heated electrically; the oil is not burnt but again is used as a heat reservoir.  Both types of electric radiators work on the same principle and have similar running costs.       

 

Pros

  • Wall mounted and floor standing models available;
  • Many floor mounted versions can be plugged into a socket, so there are no installation costs and the radiators are often portable;
  • Wide range of contemporary and traditional styles available.  From minimalist sleek designs like the Electric Royce (which is made of lightweight aluminium), to classic column style cast iron radiators like the Electric Etonian;
  • Many are available with timers and thermostats; and
  • Some styles heat up quickly (particularly those made of lightweight aluminium); others cool down slowly (such as those made of cast iron).

 

Cons

  • The wall-mounted versions don’t sit as close to the wall as some of the electric radiant panel radiators currently on the market.  

 

Electric radiant panel radiators

 

Electric panel radiators radiate heat (rather than convecting it) and don’t contain any liquid.  These radiators have become extremely popular in recent times, due to their efficient, environmental and practical qualities.  One of the best electric panel radiators around is the iRad from Feature Radiators, which is beautifully designed, slim, flat and sits close to the wall.

 

Pros

  • Lightweight;
  • Sits close to the wall;
  • Many sizes, finishes and colours available;
  • Heats up quickly;
  • Radiates warmth without “blowing”;
  • Warms both objects and the surrounding air;
  • Available with thermostats and timers; and
  • Precise, focused, highly efficient heating.

 

Cons

  • Almost always wall-mounted, so there will need to be at least some wall space available.  

 

 

Wood burners

 

A wood-burning stove burns wood fuel and wood-derived biomass fuel whilst creating heat.

 

Pros

  • Lovely cosy feel with attractive real fire flame;

·         Carbon neutral, if fuel comes from sustainable sources;

·         Warms both objects and the surrounding air; and

·         Relatively low running costs.

 

Cons

  • Lack of controllability, which can lead to high temperatures;
  • Sourcing and moving around fuel can be difficult and messy;
  • Demands time and effort on a daily basis to keep it running;
  • Ash created needs to be cleaned up;
  • Requires reasonable amount of space, taking up both wall and floor space; and
  • Significant installation costs.

 

 

Fan heaters

 

A fan heater works by passing air over a heating element, this heats up the air, which then leaves the heater, warming up the surrounding room.

 

Pros

·         Warms both objects and the surrounding air;

·         Relatively small so doesn’t take up much floor space; and

  • No installation costs.

 

Cons

  • As soon as its switched off, the room will cool down quickly;
  • Fan creates noise;
  • Often unattractive;
  • Uses a lot of energy resulting in high running costs; and
  • Heat is blown out rather than convected or radiated, which can create a stuffy and snoozy environment.

 

 

Infrared heating panels

 

Infrared heating panels are a relatively new idea in the UK but have been widely available in Europe for more than ten years. Infrared heaters heat through the use of infrared waves.

 

Pros

  • Focused heating, infrared waves only heat what they hit;
  • Provide heat rapidly;
  • Reasonably efficient to run;
  • Can be fitted onto the ceiling to keep them out of the way; and
  • Thermostats and timers available.

 

Cons

  • Only heat the objects that the infrared waves hit.  If you sit facing an infrared heater, then the back of your body and head and any part below the heater will remain cold.
  • The surrounding air is not heated at all.

·         Potential fire hazard – As heating is focused and direct, there may be a risk of fire if the heater is placed too close to an object.  For example, if an infrared heater fell onto a wood floor. 

 

Electric underfloor heating

 

Electric underfloor heating consists of a foil heat mat containing heating wires, which warm the floor surface which in turn heats the air above it.  The foil mat must be laid under the laminate or wooden flooring intended for the garden building.

 

Pros

  • No wall space required;
  • Nice feeling under foot;
  • When working to an optimum, whole room is evenly heated with an ambient background temperature;
  • Many are available with thermostats and timers; and
  • Relatively low running costs.

 

Cons

  • May not have sufficient capacity to provide adequate heat for building – depending on level of insulation, ceiling height, and amount of glass;
  • Relatively high installation costs;
  • Insulated floor required;
  • Must be installed under the floor, so may not be a desirable option where the flooring is already down;
  • Slow to respond, can take up to 3 hours to get up to temperature, so forward planning needed and can take a long time to cool down;
  • Limits choice of floor-coverings; and
  • If it fails, the cost and inconvenience of repair will be significant, as flooring may need to be removed or replaced.

 

Portable gas heaters

 

Historically, a popular option for heating rooms or outbuildings particularly where there was no power source.  Power is provided to these heaters via gas bottles that sit at the bottom of the heater.   

 

Pros

  • High heat output;
  • Self contained heaters, requiring no external power source;
  • No installation charges; and
  • Portable.

 

Cons

  • Safety - you must not place items on top or directly in front of gas heaters.  This may be a challenge if you are working in a small space;
  • Unpleasant gas odour;
  • Adequate ventilation is vital to prevent a build up of dangerous fumes;
  • Risk of carbon monoxide leak; and
  • Large bulky items taking up valuable space, both when in use and in storage.

 

Conclusion

 

Whatever type of garden room heating you choose, you must ensure that it has the capacity to heat the relevant space.  It is important to maximize the power used to efficiently provide heat whilst minimizing energy wastage through the use of good insulation, timers and thermostats. 

 

Bear in mind that these days having a comfortable warm outbuilding doesn’t mean you need to compromise on style with ugly, bulky and/or ineffective heating options.  There is now a wide range of stylish, safe yet efficient electric heating solutions available.

 

For more information on finding the most suitable heating product for your garden building, speak to a heating expert such as Feature Radiators.  Visit their showroom where they have over 160 radiators on display and expert advice on hand, call their expert team directly on 01274 567789 or browse their electric radiator range at: http://www.featureradiators.co.uk/Electric.htm

How warm is your home?

Feature Radiators considers an article written by the BBC that asks the question; should we be turning the thermostats down on our central heating? 

 

“Spring is in the air in the UK, but it will be weeks - if not months - before the nation’s radiators switch off.  The average indoor temperatures of British houses are creeping up now central heating is the norm, and double glazing and insulation are added to older, draughtier homes.” (Lane, 2011)

 

The article makes it clear that consumer demand for heating has changed. 

“Forty years ago, few houses had central heating, and chilly hallways and spare rooms dragged the average temperature down. Radiators now warm rooms that previous generations wouldn’t have heated - corridors, bedrooms, and bathrooms.” (Lane, 2011)

But it appears that lowering room temperatures, or even turning radiators off, isn’t enough to adequately reduce our energy use. 

“Dropping it [average indoor temperature] to 16C - the lowest setting in this virtual world - only shaves 7% off carbon emissions. Even if we all get in the habit of wearing woollies inside, this will still feel chillier than usual to most people.” (Lane, 2011)

So what else can we do to reduce our energy consumption, whilst maintaining our home comforts?

“David MacKay, the DECC’s chief scientific adviser, practises what he preaches in his once draughty semi-detached 1940s house. As well as adding double glazing and insulation, he has turned the heating right down.  He hopes that insulating more homes, smarter thermostats and “the promotion of sweater-wearing by sexy personalities” will encourage more people to follow suit.” (Lane, 2011)

The article makes it clear that energy efficiency gained through increasingly effective technology is key, alongside a good dose of common sense. 

“So will smart thermostats and radiator valves help, allowing homeowners to target heat where it’s needed at different times in the day?  Experts say technology can do only half the job. A smart thermostat is only as smart as the person operating it.” (Lane, 2011)

So get smart.  Investment in double-glazing, improved insulation and thermostatic controls will mean an initial financial outlay, but these options can dramatically reduce your carbon emissions as well as your heating bills. 

For more information on efficiently heating your home or ways of minimising your energy usage, contact Feature Radiators on 01274 567789, visit them at their West Yorkshire showroom or http://www.featureradiators.co.uk

Lane, M. (2011). How warm is your home? [Online].  3 March 2011. Available from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-12606943.  [Accessed: 21 March 2011]