Radiators are badly named. In practice they are convection heaters and they cause draughts.
Take a look at the back of one of your radiators. Most likely, you will see a row of vanes. We all know warm air rises. These vanes are there to guide the air as it’s drawn up by the warmth of the radiator.
This means you get the warmest, stuffiest, air at ceiling level. As that warm air spreads across the ceiling, it cools and starts to sink towards the floor on the far side of the room. Natural circulation means this cooler air will start to move back across the floor to be sucked up by the vanes once more.
It’s that cool air moving at floor level that leaves your feet and ankles feeling cold. And this is why you probably have draughts in your room, even when you’ve got the doors and windows tightly shut.
2. Radiators dictate room layout
Fixed to the wall, radiators stop you placing furniture against the wall. Often, radiators are fixed under the window to lessen the impact on room layout.
But from an efficiency point of view, under the window is probably the worst place to put a radiator. It leads to long pipe runs to and from the boiler, and it means your primary heat source (the radiator) is bang next to your primary sources of heat loss – windows and external walls.
Hanging any type of curtain worsens the problem. The warm air from the back of the radiator will go up behind the curtains and get trapped against the window.
3. Radiators are ugly
Why is it they are always painted in ‘stand-out’ white with no hope of blending into your décor?
Surely it should be possible to have much more discreet heating that is felt but not seen?
4. Radiators are dangerous
Radiators introduce a dangerous object to the room.
Made of metal, the hard corners and edges are a particular hazard should you trip or fall against them.
5. Radiators are messy
Have you ever experienced a leak from your radiators? With radiators you are not only running the risk of a soaking but the water is filthy and will end up damaging your floor covering.
6. Radiators are inefficient
It takes a lot of energy to heat water. The time to heat up the water, and cool down when you no longer need the heating, make radiators less efficient compared with surface heating.
7. Radiators need maintenance
Because you are relying on metal radiators that can corrode and leak (not to mention the complications of boilers, valves, and pumps), your heating system will need regular supervision and maintenance.
This comes at a significant price over the years.
All in all, it is easy to see that central heating radiators are not clever.
There are better systems, particularly electric floor heating systems, that will become more common as renewable energy takes over from fossil fuels and gas boilers are relegated to the scrap heap.
For now, we rely on portable electric heaters when we don’t want to use the central heating, or when the central heating isn’t keeping us warm enough.
The trouble is, most portable heaters have problems. They can be noisy, they always clutter up the room, they often cause draughts, and many are expensive to run.
Freelancers are a hugely important section of the economy. Recent figures from IPSE (the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed) suggest that 2 million are freelancers and they generate £119Bn of sales. This article sets out how freelancers can cut costs working from home.
If you’re one of them, and you largely work from home, here are some tips to make sure you keep your costs to a minimum.
Energy costs for freelancers working from home
How you heat the room where you work can make the biggest difference to your bills. If there’s no one else in the house you don’t need the central heating on do finding a solution to this is a great example of how Freelancers can cut costs.
Much better to create ‘zoned’ (or room-by-room) heating so you only heat the parts you use.
Room-by-room heating can be built into new houses and gives the ultimate in flexibility, efficiency, and comfort.
Just imagine: bathroom warm from 06.00 – 7.30, kitchen from 06.45 – 8.00, office/ study from 07.45 – 18.00 etc. Rooms not in use don’t need to be heated.
But room-by-room heating for the whole house is hard to retrofit and most of us resort to portable heaters when the central heating is off. These all tend to be electric and the type of heater you choose is crucial to your comfort as well as your bills.
The worst heaters are the most common, e.g:
Convector radiators create convection currents resulting in cold draughts at feet and ankle level. This is very uncomfortable after you’ve been sitting a while.
Fan heaters are expensive to run. They’re also noisy, stir up the air, and cause stuffiness.
Both these types of heater clutter up your room and generally get in the way!
The best heater has none of these drawbacks, thankfully.
For a few years now, we’ve been selling a heater that mimics underfloor heating. Yet it is still a portable electric heater that can be plugged in anywhere indoors. Perfect for freelancers who sit at a desk or table all day.
It’s called RugBuddy and is available in a range of sizes. It’s a type of heated floor mat you place the RugBuddy on the floor, cover it with a rug, or mat, and plug it in.
Very soon the heater will turn the surface of the rug into a source of radiant warmth and it is so effective it will be all you need to stay warm as you work.
Comfort is paramount but you’ll also be impressed at the low running costs: 4p per hour for a medium-sized 250 Watt RugBuddy, versus 45p per hour for a 3 kiloWatt fan heater or convector radiator!
While you’re looking at energy costs, have you switched yet to LED bulbs? Energy Saving Trust reckons it costs about £100 to fit LED bulbs throughout a house, but you will save £35 per year. And the bulbs last for years. Here’s the full list of quick wins from Energy Saving Trust.
Freelancer travel tips
If you have client visits to make, how efficiently do you plan your travel?
Season tickets are costly if your usage falls below a certain number of days. There comes a point where ‘pay as you go’ becomes the more sensible option.
And if each trip can achieve more than just the single appointment, then you’re really getting value from your ticket. Even if you incorporate some shopping, running errands, or catching up with old friends, you’ll feel as though you’ve gained a small victory!
Depending on where you live, traveling by car is usually the most flexible way to go.
Compared with going by train you loose the chance to work during the journey but door-to-door convenience counts for a lot. If you have multiple calls to make, being efficient about planning your route is a whole science in itself. ‘The Travelling Salesman Problem’ is ‘a thing’ – I know because I studied it at school! See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Travelling_salesman_problem
To be honest, Google maps and a good SatNav are probably your biggest friends to avoid wasting time on the roads.
… And here’s a footnote on tax efficiency for freelancers
Tax is a huge issue for Freelancers. HMRC want to know precisely what you earn, where it’s coming from, and which expenses are permissible.
This need not be complicated or expensive. The more you can do yourself by keeping good records, and always knowing where you stand regarding tax liabilities, the less stressful will be your dealings with HMRC.
Keeping track can be hard for all but the ultra-organised. But help is at hand in the form of dedicated mobile apps.
I’ve just been introduced to one called SimpleTax. SimpleTax calculates your tax bill as you go through the year.
Updated in real time, you’ll get a swift, accurate view of your income, expenditure and tax liabilities. This makes saving for, and submitting, your Self Assessment, easy as pie.
But it also usefully suggests how freelancers can cut costs, and the expenses you may be missing. This gives you a great boost of confidence that you are managing your business efficiently.
We love conservatories. The way natural light floods in and how they link the house with the garden beyond, often makes them our favourite place to relax. But only if they have efficient conservatory heating.
Without exception, they are hard to heat. This blog looks at the different ways you can add conservatory heating and use your conservatory more this year – starting now!
Building Regulations now demand that conservatory heating should be independent of the house’s central heating.
So, what are the options for an independent system?
Electric floor heating – in-floor, or on-floor
It’s probably no surprise that I’m a fan of electric floor heating. Here are the reasons why:
You get warmth where you need it – from under your feet
The heaters are hidden, freeing up wall space and avoiding clutter in the room
Modern electric floor heating is quick to heat up – and cool down when the sun comes out!
It is silent in operation and doesn’t stir up air currents and draughts
The question is, do you go for an ‘in-floor’ or an ‘on-floor’ conservatory heating solution?
‘In-floor’ heating is a DIY option if you are planning a new floor finish – tiles, laminate or wood are all ideal – but this is an unrealistic prospect in time for Easter!
To have a heating solution up-and-running ‘out of the box’, by far the best option is ‘on-floor’ heating. This is also known as ‘under-rug heating’ and is type of heated floor mat.
You lay the under-rug heater out on an underlay and cover with a rug. Simply plug in (it comes fitted with the standard 3-pin plug) and start enjoying floor heating.
Modern electric radiators can be quite stylish and are worth considering if you have the wall space. They heat the air through convection just as central heating radiators in the house do.
Of course, there are pitfalls with wall mounted radiators:
Warm air rises so you can be sure that the warmest air is up by the roof! Worse, the resulting convection currents soon make their presence felt with a cold draught at floor level
It takes time for the warm air to warm the surfaces in the conservatory, so, if you have a particularly cold floor it will likely remain cold unless you run the radiator continuously
Wall mounted radiant panels for your conservatory
Radiant warmth is what you experience from a good floor heating system, so we know this can be a comfortable way to provide heating.
If you’ve got the wall space, wall mounted radiant panels are well worth investigating but they won’t warm a cold floor, and most of us feel the cold through our feet first….
Also, with a fixed radiant panel, you might find it difficult to find the ‘sweet spot’ distance from the panel where you are most comfortable. And, if you are in the ‘sweet spot’, what about everyone else in the conservatory? At least with floor heating everyone gets the same benefit.
Freestanding electric conservatory heaters – fan heaters, oil filled radiators
Plugging in a fan heater is the traditional quick fix.
They can be powerful (but expensive to run) and can quickly warm the air in the conservatory. This is fine so long as you don’t mind the noise, air movement, and the risk of tripping over the darn thing!
Because of heat loss you will probably need to keep the fan heater running while you are sitting in the conservatory. As with an electric radiator, it takes a fan heater a long time to take the chill off a cold floor.
Oil filled radiators are a better option if you need something running continuously in the background.
They are cheaper to run than fan heaters and are silent in operation. They just don’t have much oomph, but I know many people quite like them.
So there you have it – time to put some heating in the conservatory and get more use out of it this year.
I hope these tips go some way to helping you make a choice of the best portable electric heater so you benefit from a nice and cosy space whatever the weather and time of year.
I live in an area where most people have easy access to mains gas. So I was surprised to find out that well over 2 Million households in the UK cannot connect to the gas grid (source: Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy). To keep costs down, these households need efficient electric heating.
Relying on electricity for primary heating has a major impact on their bills. Energy Saving Trust points out that electricity cost per unit is up to three times as expensive as gas – ouch!
But new efficient electric heating technology helps bridge this running cost gap by delivering heating comfort with lower power consumption than traditional systems.
Yesterday I was delighted to get an email from one of my customers that demonstrates this perfectly. This is what Jill wrote:
“I only have electricity and radiator heating is quite expensive to run. I like the idea of underfloor heating, particularly since I sit on the floor quite a lot but its not an expense I’m prepared to go to for a house I’ll only be in for a year or two. When I came across the RugBuddy I was interested but somewhat wary because I’d never heard of anything quite like it. After a lot of internal debate I decided to try it. It arrived very quickly, rapidly followed by the underlay. Impressive since it was the week before Christmas! After a few days I was even more impressed. I was sitting knitting with warm feet or lounging on the floor watching TV with the radiators virtually turned off and I’m toasty warm, there is ice and snow outside! The short version is that I was dubious because it’s a new thing but I’m wildly impressed and would recommend it to anyone.”
The importance of efficient electric heating should not be overlooked:
Renewable energy from solar, wind, nuclear, is only going to be delivered to your home in the form of electricity
The Paris Climate Agreement is destined to severely limit the use of natural gas as a domestic fuel
I find it remarkable, and very short sighted, that current building regulations don’t insist on electric heating for new builds. One day, perhaps.
Having friends and family over for Christmas is a great tradition. What could be more heartwarming than a house full of your nearest and dearest enjoying festive cheer?
But when there’s not enough room for everyone to relax and enjoy themselves, the perfect get-together can quickly unravel because of crowded house stress.
Show you are the perfect host by giving your guests this Christmas the space they need.
These 5 space creating tips make it easy for everyone to get along!
Make an unheated extension room, or conservatory, warm and welcoming with a RugBuddy under rug heater. If you’re lucky enough to have this extra space – use it! Switch on the RugBuddy (it’s a bit like a heated floor mat) and people will think you’ve got under floor heating. It only costs a few pence per hour to run – a fraction of other portable heaters.
Make sure you have enough chairs. It’s tiresome to stand for too long, or only be offered the choice of a sofa arm or the floor, to sit on. If your guests are driving to you, ask if they have folding chairs they could bring. It’s the season of goodwill so beg, or borrow – just don’t steal!
Give your guests places to put their things where they can be confident they’ll find them later. This means taking a few minutes to clear surfaces and to free up some hanging space; by the front door for coats, and in a wardrobe for glam Christmas outfits.
When guests are staying over they will undoubtedly bring with them a bag or small suitcase. To avoid floor clutter why not invest in a folding suitcase rack for that authentic guesthouse experience?
Decide who gets the put-me-up or sofabed. Assuming this is in communal space, you need to think who is most likely to go to bed last or get up earliest. It’s probably not Granny – but it may be you.
There’s no time like the present to make sure you’ve thought all this through. Why not start by taking a look at how a RugBuddy under rug heater can transform a cold room into a place where guests this Christmas will want to linger.
While reading the main RugBuddy page on this website, you may have been wondering why a rug underlay is necessary.
There are a number of different reasons and they vary according to the circumstances. Some are common sense but other reasons are of a technical nature according to the floor surface and the fact that you are putting a heated floor mat on top..
4 Reasons why underlay is essential
1. On concrete, stone or tiled floor direct, you use an anti-slip underlay for your safety and/or a thicker underlay to improve RugBuddy performance.
2. On laminate and solid woods you use a good underlay of an anti-slip nature for your safety and to help limit temperatures ( 27ºC max) on the flooring surface. This is to protect laminate and wood texture/treatments/finishes.
3. On carpeted flooring you use at least an anti-creep underlay to avoid the RugBuddy (and covering rug) “walking” on the fixed carpet pile.
4. On vinyl (PVC) you use a good underlay of an anti-slip nature for your safety and to help limit the vinyl temperature to remain within manufacturer specifications (27ºC).
Selling heaters – even one as innovative as RugBuddy under-rug heater – is always going to be seasonal. Having just enjoyed(?) the warmest June day for some time, I don’t expect to be selling many this month.
But I do have another product that dovetails neatly with my BeWarmer business. RugBuddies sell well in Autumn and Winter, while this other product peaks in Spring and Summer giving me a balanced spread of activity through the year.
In its own way, this other product is every bit as innovative and unique as RugBuddy. It is well designed, solves a problem, requires no costly installation, and has environmental credentials.
The differences are that it lives outside in the garden, is definitely NOT compatible with electricity, and is not hidden from view (unless you want it to be).
It’s called Lifepond. It’s a freestanding small wildlife pond that sits on the ground – a patio or deck are ideal – and is designed to provide a viable habitat for a range of garden wildlife.
Add water, some aquatic soil and marsh plants, and you’ll be amazed at the little creatures that will soon be calling it home! If you’re lucky the Lifepond wildlife pond may attract a frog or two, and the water can be a welcome feature for visiting birds.
Wildlife in towns and cities needs a bit of help. The Lifepond wildlife pond can really make a difference. Why not take a look?
Efficient on-demand heating and the switch from gas to electricity
(Extracts from my talk at The National Self Build and Renovation Centre 9th October 2016)
[quote] [/quote] Electrical heaters are broadly 100% efficient whereas gas boilers are less so, but inefficiencies of central generating plant and transmission losses mean that gas has reigned supreme for many years. I want to show you why electric Room by Room Heating makes so much sense.
Producing your own electricity is now easy with PV and great progress is being made with cost effective battery storage. Other methods of producing sustainable, low CO2, energy (nuclear, hydro, wind) will likely be delivered to your house in the form of electricity.
Modern electric in-floor heating has efficiencies that an embedded wet floor heating system in a slab will never have.
So isn’t it time that sentiment starts to shift away from gas for space heating, to electricity?
And we ditch the radiator?
This graphic shows how wall mounted radiators are really convectors and how this can lead to problems with comfort. The warmed air rises to the ceiling and travels to the far wall. As it cools it will fall to the floor and a convection current will start to build. This can lead to stuffy head/ cold feet syndrome.
If your feet and ankles are cold, you feel cold. What do you do if you’re feeling cold? Turn up the thermostat! What will more energy from the radiator do? Speed up the convection current. Not a very elegant situation I’m sure you agree.
Floor heating places warmth where you need it, under your feet. As the warmed floor becomes a radiant body it warms other surfaces in the room and the air in contact with, and gently passing over, these surfaces becomes warm. As the warmed floor becomes a radiant body it also limits heat loss from you, with the result you don’t ‘feel cold’. The physiology of feeling cold is all about rate of heat loss.
OK – so floor heating can be a good idea from the point of view of comfort – but does it always work well?
In designing a floor heating system one of the goals is responsiveness. You need to avoid the storage heater effect.
You want the system to bring the floor up to temperature quickly. You want the floor surface isolated form the sub floor through insulation and the heater placed on top of the insulation. Otherwise if there’s a considerable lag due to thermal mass, time and energy are wasted.
Similarly, if, for example, the sun comes out subjecting the space to solar gain when the floor is already at the correct temperature, thermal mass means the room will become overheated even if the heating is turned off. In practice you end up opening doors and windows and wasting the (expensive) heat.
You also want individual room control
By individual room control I mean you want to be able to control the heating on a room by room basis according to usage patterns.
In my house the bathroom is on at 6.15a.m., off by 7. Kitchen on at 6.30 off by 8.00, Home office on at 7.30 off by 6 pm, and so on.
Of course, if you get the ‘Responsive’ aspect of the installation right, and your day changes so you want to use a room ‘out of hours’, it’s easy to click the heat on in that room.
Zonable is not good enough as it means some rooms are heated when not needed as you can see in the slide.
There are other considerations of course.
Scalable – how will your chosen system cope when you decide you need another extension?
Simplicity, reliability – moving parts, pumps, water, valves, servicing costs, ease of installation, expected life
Choice of fuel – cost and future-proof
Build height – especially renovations
Let’s look at the type of modern electric floor heater that moves us on a giant step, compared with the orthodox gas central heating, zoned radiator of slab floor heating system.
You can see that it’s a world away from early experiments with electric floor heating with a heavy cable embedded in concrete – high thermal mass.
Here the element is just below the floor surface and is on top of insulation. Very low thermal mass – just the tiles and tile cement really.
Now compare what I’ve just shown with a typical hydronic system:
The performance advantages of the modern responsive electric floor heater can be seen in this 24 hour chart:
These images illustrate storage and on-demand heating patterns more clearly. We are comparing on-demand responsive floor heating to in slab floor heating (storage heater).
Included in the graphs are: Outside temperature, Room temperature, Floor temp and setpoint (desired temperature).
Let’s look at the set point, the yellow line. Room temperature, which is the brown line follows the yellow line closer than the in slab heating graph. On – demand heating follows the set point line fairly closely as it has much quicker response time, thus increasing comfort levels (you’re warm when you need warmth, and cool when you need to be cool) and reducing energy wastage.
In terms of energy usage – well, that depends on energy lost. The difference between the room temperature and the outside temperature defines the thermal gradient. On these charts it’s represented by the area between the blue line (outside temp) and the brown line. It’s easy to see that the gap is wider for longer on the slab heating example than for the responsive on-demand installation. This illustrates how energy usage is always more with slab heating. Thermal mass for heating is not a good idea for most domestic situations.
My lightbulb moments…
Floor heating, not radiators
Room by room control, not zone heating
Responsive on demand heating, not slab heating
Maintenance free heating, not boilers, valves, service contracts, water etc.
Clean, renewable, possibly free, energy, not tied to fossil fuel
On-demand, responsive, electric floor heating and modern insulation make all this possible