Alex Burgess of The Radiator Company provides some advice to self-builders on achieving energy efficient heating solutions for their property, for planet and pocket
WHAT ARE THE MOST EFFICIENT RADIATORS?
With the population increasingly looking to find ways to make sustainable choices, and with energy efficiency high on the agenda, we’re finding more and more homeowners asking for advice on this topic.
There are several design features that can make a significant difference in achieving energy efficiencies, but before these are considered, the most important step is ensuring the radiator is the right ‘size’ for the space. This isn’t about dimensions however: to heat any space effectively and efficiently, the radiator must be able to match its heat output performance to the space and this is measured in BTUs (British Thermal Units).
So how much heat (BTU) do you need for your space? This can be worked out easily using online tools, such as the BTU calculator, by simply entering a few details about the room and its dimensions to provide you with the correct figure. From here, you are then able to match your heat requirements with your choice of radiator.
It should be easy to identify the BTU output for any radiator on the market as this information should be included with any description. To aid comparison between designs, all outputs should be calculated using a standard formula that produces what is called the Delta T, the norm for all radiators should be based on a Delta T of 50.
If you are installing a radiator to be used with renewable energy sources, the calculations may need to be adjusted as the heating system may produce different flow and return temperatures – meaning the output calculations would be based on a different Delta T. We suggest you call the manufacturer to ascertain the correct figure based on your system.
If you fail to calculate the BTU measurement, you are likely to find yourself with either a radiator that cannot heat the space sufficiently, or conversely, overheats the space. Both scenarios will place potentially huge, unnecessary demands on the central heating system and boiler as they try to compensate
for the gap.
WHAT’S THE MOST EFFICIENT RADIATOR MATERIAL?
Radiator designs that are manufactured with materials that offer more sustainable benefits are increasing in popularity. As a material that is fully recyclable at the end of its useful life, aluminium is an emerging material, and it’s not surprising given its beneficial heating properties. It is a superconductor, which means it can rapidly respond to thermostatic changes. Its thermal conductivity is estimated to be four to five times that of mild steel, so it can heat up quickly and also cool down with speed.
Radiators that are manufactured from aluminium require less water to function and are highly efficient at responding to user temperature preferences, therefore placing less demand on the central boiler.
CAN RADIATORS BE INSTALLED WITH RENEWABLE OR LOW TEMPERATURE HEATING SYSTEMS?
Aluminium radiators are ideal to install alongside renewable or low-temperature heating systems, such as ground source heat pumps, thanks to the material’s thermal inertia and ability to perform with lower water temperatures.
WHAT CLEARANCES DO I NEED ABOVE AND BELOW A RADIATOR FOR MAXIMUM EFFICIENCY?
We recommend that clearances of 50 mm above and 100 mm below each radiator should be left clear, so that heat from the radiator can be effectively distributed.
WHAT ELSE CAN I DO TO MAKE MY RADIATOR PERFORM MORE EFFICIENTLY?
Thermostatic Radiator Valves (TRVs) are a requirement as part of the Building Regulations for new builds and refurbishments. TRVs monitor the room temperature and automatically adjust the water flow to the radiator in order to reach and maintain the desired room level which in turn, helps to reduce unnecessary energy consumption.
Opting for dual fuel towel rail models can also help to improve energy efficiency within the home, continuing to provide warmth for the bathroom when the central heating system is turned off. Instead, the towel rail is warmed using a heating element to reach the desired temperature. This is ideal in the summer months, where users require a warm space for a morning shower, yet the dual fuel design means the entire heating system needn’t be turned on for heat supply.
We also advise that heating systems are regularly cleaned, as recommended by BS7593. This helps to ensure any debris and sludge that naturally builds up over time within the system is removed from the system. This debris can lead to noisy radiators or radiator cold spots, and even damage the boiler as it circulates through the system. Heating engineers and plumbers will be able to undertake a flushing service which will keep the system working at an optimum level.
Alex Burgess is national sales manager at The Radiator Company