The central heating system within your home is one of its greatest assets (or liabilities). It can provide you with cost-efficient, trouble-free warmth when and where you need it and add value to your property when you look to sell it. Alternatively, it may be an outdated, under-loved, ticking time-bomb that guzzles fuel and adds cost to the eyes of any prospective buyer. For most of us it is somewhere in between and we have options in terms of what we do with it to improve performance and/or lower cost.
Heating services provided by The Plum Job include:
- Oil boiler and system installation/adaptation
- Boiler servicing
- Unvented Hot Water cylinder installation
- Upgrade of system controls (incl. internet enabled ‘Smart’ controls such as Nest and Honeywell Evohome)
- Radiator replacement / moving / thermostatic valve fitting (TRVs)
- System cleaning and protection (incl. fitting of magnetic filters)
A much quoted heating statistic is taken from Honeywell whose research found that an average of 82% of energy consumed in a household is used for space or water heating. Whatever the accuracy of their research we can be sure that it is the #1 cost driver and a cause of much worry for the 2.4 million people deemed to be living in fuel poverty in the UK.
Thoughts to ponder when considering an investment in your home heating systems:
- There’s more to improving your heating system than just changing the boiler. Whilst a modern boiler is designed to ‘run slow’ as demand drops, it can only do so when the instruction is made. Work carried out by the Energy Saving Trust found that about 8 million homes with a boiler don’t have a room thermostat, let alone the minimum controls required by Part L of the Building Regulations. More on this topic later.
- A heating system may contain the right parts but not be managed in a cost-effective way. Yes, thermostatic valves are able to reduce the demand for heat when not required but they will not shut the boiler down if all rooms are sufficiently warm. If you are turning heat on and off without utilising the programmer and room stat you are leaving the boiler to cycle and wasting money (which is effectively illegal in Yorkshire!).
- A ‘wet-heating’ system is under constant attack from corrosion as water, air and different metals combine with heat. Whilst hard-water areas are considerably worse hit due to limescale, all systems will gradually become less efficient in how they transfer and retain heat. Again, more on this below.
- Nothing lasts forever and we must consider the overall condition of pipework and radiators that may have gone into a property over fifty years ago. The layout under the floorboards will likely have evolved over time and can end up with circuitous routes prone to trapping harmful debris and obstructive air. Furthermore, modern multi-panelled radiators with efficient fin-shaped surfaces bear no comparison to the traditional single panel radiators of the past and can further add to efficiency gains.
Chris Harvey at Stelrad explains:
“Radiators manufactured prior to 2000 can be up to 50% less efficient than modern radiators, due to the increased surface area of newer radiators and the improved convection fins. Only 20% of the the heat generated by a standard radiator is actually radiant heat – 80% is caused by convection – cool air being ‘dragged up’ behind and through the radiator in convection currents, warming the air as it flows”
Consider the following in sequence:
- Do I know how to control my existing system?
- If not, you may be able to save 10-20% on heating bills without changing any part of your system
- Do I have the following in place:
- A controllable programmer for heating and hot water (one
that sees each controlled independently of the other)
- A room thermostat (typically found in the hallway)
- Thermostatic radiator valves in most rooms?
If not, they can be easily added to the majority of heating systems and pay for themselves in good time.
- A controllable programmer for heating and hot water (one
- Is my system well maintained? The following are highly recommended:
- Annual boiler service (absolutely a MUST if you are in warranty. And close to a MUST when you are not)
- System water treatment. A two minute test can analyse the water in your heating system and give an indication of its health. Chemical cleaners can be added to breakdown magnetite and sludge before flushing away and replacing with clean water. A chemical protector is then added to minimise on-going ‘attack’ and realise efficiency savings of up to 6% (when used in conjunction with a magnetic filter).
- Install a magnetic filter. Literally millions of these have been fitted to UK systems to draw out metallic debris (of greatest importance in open systems which are open to the air in the loft cistern). Regular washing and refitting will ensure that debris is removed before it builds in radiators and pipe fittings (typically 2-3 kilos in the first twelve months of operation).
- Are my radiators fit for purpose? Aside from the aesthetic benefits, a new radiator can greatly improve the heat transfer and free up much needed space (double or triple panels are standard offerings and affordable options). For larger budgets, bold design statements are easily incorporated.
- Finally, is a new boiler required? If you are blighted by repeated failure and high repair/cover costs then the choice is often simple. However, there is also a case based on improved efficiency:
- A traditional boiler typically converts c.70-75% of its heat input into heat output. Therefore, a 36kW boiler would burn 48kW of fuel energy whether heating one radiator or eight.
- A modern condensing operates at c.92-93% efficiency which requires just 39kW of input for the same output
- These are simplified and rounded numbers but the point is easily made. Subject to the use of complementary controls, the modern boiler would be more efficient, more eco friendly and provide peace of mind through the dark days of winter