The Room by Room Heating Revolution

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The Room by Room Heating Revolution

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?

Convection vs Radiant Floor Heating

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.

High Thermal Mass vs Low Thermal Mass

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

Zone Heating Is Not Good Enough

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.

Typical Undertile On Demand Installation

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:

Electric Responsive Floor heating vs Hydronic Floor Heating

 

The performance advantages of the modern responsive electric floor heater can be seen in this 24 hour chart:

On Demand Responsive vs Slab Storage Heating

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

Warfarin, poor circulation, cold feet

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As a non-medical person it was an eye-opener to me that a RugBuddy heated floor mat should be a godsend for people who are on Warfarin.

And I’m guessing this goes for people with poor circulation who often say their feet are cold.

I only found this out when Carol, from Nottinghamshire, kindly wrote in. This is what she said:

HI WILLIAM

THE RUGBUDDY ARRIVED TODAY – MANY THANKS.  MY HUSBAND BARRIE TAKES WARFARIN AND EVEN IN SUMMER HIS FEET ARE FROZEN.

IT’S 7.45 PM =- HE’S WATCHING TV WITH A SMILE ON HIS FACE AND TOASTY FEET.

MANY, MANY THANKS FOR A GREAT PRODUCT.

REGARDS   CAROL

This RugBuddy Under Rug Heater is the perfect cure for cold feet if you take WarfarinI’d love to hear back from anyone who could add to this.

Whether on Warfarin, or with cold feet due to poor circulation, what’s your favourite foot warmer remedy?

You can read Carol’s testimonial, and many others, by going to RugBuddy Reviews.

The science of ‘feeling cold’ and steps to avoid feeling cold

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It’s not much fun feeling cold. Cranking up the heating isn’t an option for many and, in fact, it may even make the situation worse.

So what is the smart thing to do to avoid ‘feeling cold’?

In this post I aim to shed some light on the physiology of ‘feeling cold’ and link that understanding to common heating problems and misconceptions. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how easy it to sort out your space so you feel comfortably warm.

Feeling Cold? What’s Going On?

When we say we ‘feel cold’ we are experiencing an uncomfortably high rate of heat loss from our body. This is a fundamental point. Controlling the rate of heat loss is key to getting warm again.

Through our metabolism we generate heat internally. This is natural.

It follows that we need to loose heat in a controlled way to avoid over-heating. Our bodies are very adept at making the necessary adjustments – for example blood vessels dilating, and sweating – so we don’t over-heat.

Conversely, in a cold environment the body can compensate to some degree to avoid excessive heat loss. But there comes a point when you start to ‘feel cold’.

Family on the sofa feeling coldThis is miserable experience if it goes on for any length of time. But the way we heat our homes can make it very difficult to get warm again.

Amazingly the number one culprit is traditional central heating with wall mounted radiators.

Most of us have this type of central heating and it represented a massive step forward as a ‘mod con’ (or modern convenience) when it became popular in the ‘fifties and ‘sixties. But it’s not without its problems as we’ll see.

The biggest problem is that a wall mounted radiator is really a large convector heater with about 70% of the heat transfer to the room being convection. By this I mean air in contact with the radiator is heated through conduction and then goes off on a journey around the room (convection) so we are surrounded by the warm air.

We all know hot air rises, and we may also remember from physics lessons that warm air can carry more moisture than cool air. So as this heated air rises to the ceiling it picks up moisture from every surface it passes over.

This includes our skin and has a drying effect.

When it reaches the ceiling it gets pushed across to the far wall by the freshly heated air rising up behind it.
As it cools it starts to sink back to the floor, and, as it does, it gives up the moisture it picked up earlier.

If the outside walls and windows are cold, this is often seen as condensation. Condensation problems can lead to mould growth which is very hard to get rid of and can cause respiratory problems.

So we can see that convection heating is undesirable as it dries the skin and can lead to condensation (and mould) problems.

But what might not be immediately apparent is that this convection process is actually contributing to us feeling cold. The relatively cool air at floor level, as the convection current circulates, leaves ankles and feet feeling cold in relation to the face and hands.

This cold feeling is made worse because the rate of heat loss is speeded up by air movement. This is the same as the wind chill the weather man talks about and, remember, we want to control the rate of heat loss to avoid feeling cold.

Relying on convection for your heating means relying on air movement. Add that to the fact we prefer warm feet and a cool head and we can start to see how convection gives us the opposite of what we want to feel comfortable and is a bad way to heat your home.

We can’t just ditch the central heating but the simple act of turning down the thermostat has a miraculous effect. It minimises convection currents thus reducing cold draughts on feet and ankles, limits the drying effect on the skin, and gives us cooler air to breath.

But as the air temperature will be cooler we will likely want to introduce a secondary source of heating.

The Best Heater to Avoid Feeling Cold

We obviously don’t want a conventional portable heater such as an oil filled radiator or fan heater. Conventional portable heaters like these all rely on convection and air movement. They also tend to be noisy, unreliable, expensive to run, and clutter up the room!

The answer is a radiant heater. But I don’t mean a single ‘point source’ heater that needs to be positioned carefully so that is neither too close nor too far away.

What I mean is a radiant ‘area heater’. A radiant ‘area heater’ gently acts over a wide area giving a comfortable space for us to spend our time in.

Area heating works by warming a surface to become a ‘radiator’ in the true sense of the word. This ‘surface radiator’ will warm our clothes and other cooler surfaces in the area without warming the air. (In time the air temperature will rise but only because the air has been in contact with these warmer surfaces.)

The surface radiator will also reduce the rate of heat loss from our skin. Tests have shown that using the floor as a surface radiator at a temperature of around 27degC is most comfortable leaving us feeling neither too hot nor too cold. This, of course, is the principle of underfloor heating.

A breakthrough in design means there is now a plug-in heater – a portable electric heater – that slips under a rug and so is completely out of sight. It’s a heated floor mat that can be placed on any floor surface – carpet, laminate, wood, or tiles.

It warms the rug so the rug becomes a radiant surface turning it into an ‘area heater’. The whole area of the rug is gently warming everything on and around it.

The warmth is at floor level, just where you need it to be an effective foot warmer, leaving the air undisturbed. So no draughts, no condensation problems.

This under-rug area heater is called RugBuddy and is available exclusively from BeWarmer Limited.

RugBuddy customers report being able to turn down their central heating by up to 3degC saving them £225 per year according to the Energy Saving Trust. A RugBuddy uses much less electricity than other portable heaters and only costs a few pence per hour to run.

You can read more about RugBuddy as an area heater here.

Thinking of fitting a caravan floor heater or motorhome floor heater?

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Sometimes a full caravan floor heater or motorhome floor heater installation can seem a bit daunting.  In any case, wouldn’t it be nice to make the investment only once and be able to take the heater with you when you next change ‘vans?

For this to be possible you need a portable electric heater and one that doesn’t take up valuable space.  Thankfully there is a portable caravan floor heater (or motorhome floor heater) that fits the bill and it’s ideal as a secondary source of heating in your main living area.

Caravan Interior With MatsThe RugBuddy under-rug heater is a plug-in heated floor mat, so there is no costly, irreversible installation to worry about.  The original floor finish stays intact and you simply put down an antislip underlay*, lay the RugBuddy on top, cover it with your rug or mat, plug it in, and start enjoying that ‘underfloor heating feeling’!

*Of the 2 types of underlay available on this site, the Super All Surface Fleece underlay is the lightest at 260 grams per square metre.

While not specifically designed for use outside the home, the RugBuddy works exceptionally well as a foot warmer in any environment where you’ve got a mains hook-up.  Rated at 120 Watts per square metre, the RugBuddy is as powerful as domestic underfloor heating but, uniquely, is also safe to put on any floor surface.

RugBuddy caravan floor heaterThere are some basic rules to apply.

The first is to lay the RugBuddy on an insulating underlay so all that lovely warmth doesn’t disappear through the floor. Most manufacturers wouldn’t recommend putting a heat source on the floor so the underlay isolates the heater from the floor.

Secondly, you mustn’t ‘smother it’ when switched on.  By this I mean placing a mattress or bean bag on it when it’s working.  The unit is self regulating, so the risk of overheating has been designed out, but commonsense should be applied!

RugBuddies are available in caravan friendly sizes of

  • 0.5 x 1.0m (1’8” x 3’3”) 60 Watts
  • 0.5 x 1.5m (1’8” x 4’11”) 90 Watts
  • 0.5 x 2.0m (1’8” x 6’7”)  120 Watts
  • 1.0 x 1.5m (3’3” x 4’11”)  180 Watts

and only weigh between 1 and 2 kgs.

Click for more information on the RugBuddy under-rug heater. Click again to read RugBuddy reviews.

Click to read the Caravan Talk caravan floor heater discussion. (Picture above courtesy DeltaTIOwner)

You can see that upgrading to a caravan floor heater or motorhome floor heater is simple and doesn’t need to involve costly, irreversible, installation.

In-flooring and On-flooring Heating

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A big trend for us at the moment in the heating business is giving people the underfloor heating they want without having to dig up the floors!

In-flooring and on-flooring heating

New in-flooring and on-flooring heating heating makes this possible.

For example, if you’re laying a new laminate floor, you can place  in-flooring laminate heating on top of the laminate underlay and then lay the laminate boards on top of that.

For stone and tiles, you embed the in-flooring tile heating in the tile cement as you lay the tiles.

So no more digging up floors and laying expensive screed which mucks up floor levels and also reduces the performance of the heating.

‘On-flooring’ heating is even easier. Whichever floor finish you have – carpet, laminate/wood, tiles/stone – you just put down an anti-slip rug underlay, place the on-flooring heater (a type of heated floor mat)on top, and cover with a rug.

This turns the rug into an ‘area heater’. Ideal in front of the sofa as a foot warmer, as an under desk heater, a conservatory heater, or under the kitchen table. In fact, anywhere where you spend your time and need a bit of extra warmth.

Some people call it ‘an electric blanket for the floor’ but it’s a lot more sophisticated and robust than that.  Please look around this website for more about in-flooring and on-flooring heating.

Why Central Heating Radiators Are Bad For You

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Many of us have central heating and rely on radiators in each room to keep us warm.  Despite the name, radiators are really giant convectors and this post reveals why central heating radiators are bad for you.

Convection and Allergies

When air is heated it becomes less dense and rises: natural convection occurs.

But convection (air movement) circulates dust and (carpet) mites. This is seen on walls as dirty smudges above radiators.

Cleaning the wall is easy but this low quality air will also be in your wind pipes and lungs.

Dust mite is known to cause breathing allergies such as Asthma and other lung problems, sneezing fits, and more.

While dust mite allergy sufferers may go to some lengths (e.g. laminate flooring and ceramic tiles) to avoid obvious dust traps, unless internal air circulation is avoided the benefits will be limited.

Convection, Moisture, and Allergies (again)

Warm convection currents can carry more moisture than cold air and absorb moisture readily.  The convection currents dry everything they flow past, including plants, skin and lips.

Dry skin causes itching and is susceptible to infection. Chapped lips present an “open door” to oral disease such as oral herpes, cold sores or fever blisters.

It stands to reason that cold and dry outside air and wind also cause this condition.

But why create a drying effect at home and in offices where you spend most of your time?

Conventional central heating radiators (despite their name) are culprits because heat dispersion is 90% convection.

A recent survey revealed that (air temperature) thermostats on central heating systems are now set on average 4degC higher than in the 1970’s.  That means in many of today’s homes, equipped with radiators, convection currents are stronger than ever. The rise in allergies and dry skin conditions such as eczema may be related.

To counter the drying effect of warm air, people sometimes use humidifiers or simply hang a water reservoir on the radiator.

This has the effect of uncontrolled humidifying of the warmer air. Then:
•    The air cools off as it rises to the ceiling and travels to the far wall from where it falls back to the ground.
•    Cooling air means the air starts to give up the moisture it’s been carrying. The air cools more on colder surfaces causing condensation to form creating the conditions for a worse problem.
•    Condensation is mostly seen on windows, outside walls, and ‘bridge’ points in corners and at low levels where the floor meets the walls.
•    Condensation causes rot and promotes mould growth. Painting over such areas makes it invisible but the mould does not go away. Moisture is in the wall and mould grows, seen or unseen.

Mould spores cause allergy to some people. The symptoms are irregular and appear as always sickly, headache, not well, etc.

Now We Know That Central Heating Radiators Are Bad, What Do We Do?

Convection vs Radiant Floor HeatingThis site is all about radiant floor heating.  Radiant heating is not affected by air humidity, and does not change it either.

Radiant heating does not heat the air directly but the air will warm from contact with the surfaces warmed by radiant heating. Surfaces absorb the heat and will re-radiate if the surroundings are cooler.

If you're stuck with (convector) radiators turn them down, or turn them off, and get yourself some radiant floor heating.

If you are planning a new floor finish you can go for in-floor laminate heating ,or, if it is the smooth ceramic look you are after then install in-floor tile heating).

Otherwise, the one solution that everyone can go for - without any of the upheaval associated with a full installation - is an on-floor portable electric heater called RugBuddy.

RugBuddy is a type of heated floor mat that you cover with a rug. It can be used as a foot warmer in front of the sofa, or your favourite chair, as a conservatory heater, an under desk heater, and anywhere in the house that needs a bit of extra warmth.

Proper radiant heating design avoids the reasons why central heating radiators are bad for you.

Radiant heating doesn’t create air movement, nor does it directly affect air temperature or humidity. So it cannot cause condensation or mould, nor will it spread dust and mites.

Low energy radiant heaters do not cause any negative health effects or user risks.

Electric Blanket for the Floor

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When describing RugBuddy I find people ‘get it’ when I say it’s like an electric blanket for the floor.

It’s an electric element encased in a sandwich of composite materials – silver foil on the underside to reflect heat up, and a woven plastic material on top. This makes it far more robust than in an electric blanket and makes it totally suitable for a long life on the floor. It’s a heated floor mat that you cover with a rug.

In fact, it’s so robust there’s absolutely no problem placing furniture on top or even office chairs in wheels.  You wouldn’t try that with an electric blanket!

The other big difference is the operating temperature.

The RugBuddy has an operating temperature of 27degC which has been proven by many tests to be generally ideal for radiant floor heating.  The electric blanket operates at around 37degC but of course is doing a different job and there are different expectations of what you might be wearing (or not)!

Just to be sure that RugBuddy has got this right please take a look at the RugBuddy Reviews.

Electric blanket for the floor

Apologies if a bit of jargon has crept into the site.  For example I might call the RugBuddy an ‘on-floor area heater’ or just a plain ‘under-rug heater’.  But it’s fine if you prefer ‘electric blanket for the floor’!

Heating for your Villa or Holiday Home

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If you’re wondering how to introduce some heating for your villa or holiday home the RugBuddy may be the perfect solution.  Many villas abroad and holiday homes only have basic heating, or possibly no heating at all. The evenings can get chillyand you may even want to extend the season you use your home without the expense of installing a full central heating system.

Heating for your villa or holiday homeAs a portable form of secondary heating RugBuddy is an ideal heater for villas and holiday homes.  It’s noticeable that in recent months I’ve shipped RugBuddies to France, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Turkey.

RugBuddies are not sold directly in these countries but I’m happy to quote for Parcelforce Global Priority shipping.  Of course, what many are doing is taking delivery at their UK address and then taking RugBuddy with them on their next visit.  This is not such as chore as it may sound as the typical RugBuddy only weighs around 3 kg and comes neatly packed in its box.

So, if you need a bit of area heating for your villa or holiday home in France, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Turkey then the RugBuddy under rug heater is ideal.  Give me a call on the number at the top of the page and I’ll sort out a quote if you want the RugBuddy heater shipped to your villa or holiday home.

If you want to use your conservatory more but can’t heat it properly – here’s hope!

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Building a conservatory has long been a popular way to add an extra room.  Most love the natural light and feeling of airiness you get in even the smallest conservatory.  With no need for planning permission (usually), and a quick build time, costs are minimised making it more attractive still.

But the UK love affair with conservatories literally ‘cools’ when the weather takes a turn for the worse or the balmy summer day turns into a chilly evening.  The simple fact is that most conservatories have poor insulation properties.  Even with the best materials, the way conservatories are built mean that heat has many routes to escape.

So do we just accept we can’t use the conservatory all year round?  Not if we take advantage of what’s on offer at BeWarmer Ltd.

It’s no surprise that the smartest conservatories always have underfloor heating – there’s a good reason for this.  Having a heat source in the floor gives you warmth where you need it and because the floor radiates heat upwards your body absorbs this and you can be comfortably warm even if the air is cool.  Because retrofitting underfloor heating is not an option in most conservatories we have developed RugBuddy – a heater mat that sits on the floor which you then cover with a rug.

The heater conforms to all safety requirements for domestic appliances, is fitted with a standard 3 pin plug, and gives you that underfloor heating feeling without having to dig up the floor.

A common mistake is to extend the house central heating and have a radiator in the conservatory.  Radiators swirl warm air up to the roof and you’re left with cold feet and draughts at ankle level.  This turns out to be very wasteful of the energy used and it’s hard to get truly comfortable.  Also, as you might want to heat the conservatory when the house heating isn’t on, e.g. on a cool summer’s evening, it’s easy to see that a conventional radiator isn’t the best option.

In contrast the radiant heat you get from a RugBuddy under rug heater is more effective.  You can extend the season you use the conservatory and enjoy sitting long into the evening when in the past you would have retreated into the main part of the house.

On-demand heating offers greater efficiency to cut energy bills

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With energy costs going up in double digits year-on-year, help could be at hand in the form of on-demand heating which has the potential to save UK households hundreds of pounds on their heating bills each year.

While central heating may have suited the nuclear family of the 60’s and 70’s where the system would be off during the day while you were at work and the children at school, in today’s more flexible working and living arrangements, central heating can lead to inefficiencies and waste.

Our lifestyles have changed considerably since the introduction of central heating. More and more people today work from home, often from a single room, yet many heat the whole house to keep warm during the day. While older children, who tend to spend evenings in their bedrooms doing homework, or watching TV, want their bedroom to be as warm as the rest of the house. As a result of these changes the need for on-demand heating is growing.

We have an on-floor on demand under rug heater called RugBuddy to complement their in-floor DIY installations. The RugBuddy under rug heater is a solution for those that don’t have zoned in-floor or underfloor heating. It is the only one of its type available in the UK and has the potential to reduce peoples’ heating bills.

RugBuddy is a good example of on-demand heating. It provides a secondary source in the areas you need warmth and comfort most – in front of the sofa, under the home office desk, beside the bed, in the conservatory, under the kitchen table and so on – and it means you can usually turn the central heating down by up to 3 degrees and still feel comfortable. Each degree you turn the central heating down by saves at least £65 per year according to the Energy Saving Trust. This offers the potential for savings of around £200 per year .

According to energy regulator Ofgem many households face four-figure energy bills. On-demand heating can offer a solution as these households look for ways to reduce the cost.