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Far infrared underfloor heating: an answer to the heating energy crisis?

Far infrared underfloor heating: an answer to the heating energy crisis?

WITH global prices for fossil fuels, particularly gas, increasing at a phenomenal rate, energy bills are set to rise for millions of UK homeowners this winter. As a higher energy cap comes into force, it’s predicted about 15m or roughly half of UK households will be hit with a 12% rise in their energy costs.1 And that cap is likely to be increased again in April 2022.

Several energy suppliers have collapsed recently under the financial pressure, with industry experts forecasting there may only be 10 remaining by the end of the year1, as compared to 70 suppliers in January 2021.

Add that to the backdrop of the industry moving away from fossil fuel powered heating for environmental reasons, and the picture for UK homeowners becomes even more unsettled.
However, the good news is there are new, alternative solutions for sustainable, efficient heating coming to the market. Specifically, we explore here the role that underfloor heating (UFH) can play in helping our homes to be more cost and energy efficient.

Why does the way we heat our homes have to change?
The UK is one of Europe’s biggest users of natural gas – 85% of homes use gas central heating, and it also generates a third of the country’s electricity.

But heating residential properties in this way is a major contributor to carbon emissions, with nearly one quarter of the UK’s total emissions coming from the way in which we run our homes.

So, for the sake of our planet, how we heat our homes must significantly change. Government has committed to ‘net zero’ greenhouse gases by 2050, which means we’ll need to reduce the carbon emissions from heating our homes by 95% over the next 30 years.

In March 2019, it was confirmed that as part of the Future Homes Standard all new homes will need to be ‘zero carbon ready’ from 2025. It’ll be illegal to install gas boilers in newbuild homes, with gas and oil boilers phased out almost completely by 2050.

In its mission to deliver zero carbon homes, government has also instigated sweeping changes to Part L of the Building Regulations coming into effect from June 2022.

The changes cover the conservation of fuel and power in newbuild homes and stipulate that an average newbuild will need to produce 31% less CO2 emissions versus current requirements. This is an interim step – from 2025 it needs to be 75% less.

A key driver in achieving these ambitious targets is the move to alternative heating systems, namely very high efficiency electrical heating and heat pumps which the Future Homes Standard states will ‘become the primary heating technology for new homes’. It aims for the number of heat pump installations to soar from 30,000 per year currently to 600,000 per year by 2028.

UFH is the ideal partner to heat pumps, as it can operate at lower temperatures than boilers and radiators, yet still provide comfortable heat for homeowners. UFH typically uses water pipes or electric mats as the key heating element, with many products available on the market today.

However, homeowners still tend to view UFH as a luxury addition to their home, and there can be some disruption involved in retrofitting it to existing homes, or when repairs and redesigns are required.

Ezy-Warm UFH
To overcome these cost, environmental and, practical concerns, flooring and heating expert IOBAC UK in conjunction with NexGen Heating have developed Ezy-Warm Underfloor Heating. This ultra-thin, super simple system can be powered by renewable energy sources, using far infrared radiant heating for maximum heat and cost efficiency.

The system comprises three simple layers: an Ezy-Warm Heated Mat, an approved underlay, and the homeowner’s choice of floorcovering including carpet, luxury vinyl tile (LVT), laminate, and wood.

Co-founder and director Ian Spreadborough explains: ‘We wanted to take the headache out of UFH. Our simple solution means now homeowners can easily install a stunning designer floor with heating added in. It’s very easy to install, maintain, and change, with no specialist trades needed and minimum disruption to the home. Competent DIYers and tradespeople can now fit an underfloor heating system themselves.

Its heat efficiency means homeowners can sleep easy knowing they are saving energy costs as well as the planet with our radiant heat technology. They can go off-grid and power the system via renewable energy sources, making it free to run with minimal ongoing maintenance.’

This innovative new technology has recently been recognised as a Gold Award winner in the National Flooring Innovation Awards in the Environmental category. These awards are independently judged and recognise ‘genuinely new and exceptional’ products.

Octopus Energy’s Future Technologies Evangelist, Phil Steele, has described the technology as ‘a truly game changing piece of tech’ and ‘a ground-breaking new way to heat a building without burning gas’.

1,000+ solutions to change the world
The technology used to develop Ezy-Warm UFH has been awarded a Solar Impulse Label, recognising its capability to protect the environment in a financially profitable way.

Founder of the Solar Impulse Foundation, Bertrand Piccard completed the first ever solar-powered flight around the world in July 2016 and is passionate about promoting solutions to support political and business decisionmakers in reaching their environmental targets.
Heating what matters most!

One of the main benefits of far infrared heating is its efficiency. Traditional convection heating works by warming the air in a room. Humans feel the warmth via contact with that warm air. However, this can be a very inefficient method of heating as the warm air rises to the ceiling, and it’s only when it loses energy and falls back into the main part of the room that the homeowner feels it. Much of the energy is wasted.

In contrast, far infrared UFH directly heats humans and objects in the room, rather than the entire space. The infrared energy is absorbed, turning the objects into sources of warmth. In turn, they gradually emit the energy, gently and evenly warming the room, with no heat loss.

Like the sun on your face on a cold winter’s day, the infrared energy waves are safely absorbed by our skin, where they’re transformed into a pleasant, comfortable feeling of warmth. Humans naturally emit far infrared radiation at 10-20 microns and Ezy-Warm UFH emits rays between 8-15 microns. By keeping these values close, we ensure a safe, gentle warmth.

Research suggests Far Infrared radiation has many health benefits. It’s even used to warm premature babies. Plus, with Ezy-Warm UFH, there’s not the dust and allergen build-up, or mould or mildew problems that can be experienced with conventional heating systems.

Reduced installation, running and maintenance costs
Ezy-Warm Heated Mats incorporate graphene technology, which is the lightest, most conductive man-made material on earth. Hailed as a wonder material, graphene is incredibly lightweight and flexible and can conduct heat better than almost any other material. IOBAC and NexGen have harnessed this clever science within the Ezy-Warm Heated Mats, giving them super-efficient heat conducting properties while keeping them very thin.

These properties mean ongoing energy costs are significantly reduced. Indeed, independent testing using Dynamic Building Simulation has demonstrated 15% less running costs versus mains gas powered boilers (based on 2019 pricing) and 64% less carbon emissions.

In conventional systems, the heat source is buried under extra layers of adhesive and material, which the heat energy must pass through and heat before it reaches the top flooring surface. This uses excess heat energy and cost.

Installation and maintenance costs are also saved since the Ezy-Warm installation process is much quicker and simpler compared to traditional water pipe and electric mat systems.

Powered by a less than 24v supply (AC or DC), installation can be done by a tradesperson or competent DIYer, rather than having to wait and pay for a professional plumber or electrician. Fewer materials are required, and the ultra-thin profile (0.6mm) means there’s no need to rectify doors owing to raised floor height.

The system is maintenance-free, so no annual servicing costs are needed. And as the heated mat is quickly and easily accessible, repairs are easy with no need to dig up the floor to locate pipes. Individual floor tiles can quickly be switched out if damaged, and even complete design changes to repurpose rooms are straightforward.

Heating futureproofed
Upgrading the performance of the UK’s existing and new housing stock is going to be a mammoth task with a lot of commercial and logistical barriers to overcome. We believe innovative new products such as Ezy-Warm have a crucial part to play in helping the industry and homeowners heat buildings more efficiently and sustainably.

Far infrared heating is an exciting technology which can be quickly adopted owing to its efficiency and simplicity in installing into newbuild and existing homes. Ezy-Warm is a game-changer in that it’s the only UFH that can be installed by a tradesperson or competent DIYer. Plus homeowners tell us that they love the choice of floorcoverings that the system is compatible with.
Ian Spreadborough is co-founder and director of IOBAC UK
1 BBC News: Gas prices: Why are they so high and what is the energy price cap?
2 BBC News: Where does the UK get its gas and is it facing a shortage this winter?
3 Data from Energy Saving Trust
4 Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy: The Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution
5 Octopus Energy: Could NexGen’s electric wallpaper be the future of heating?

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