By Oliver Baker, CEO, Ambion Heating
While 2020 will be remembered for many reasons, one of the positives is that sustainability now seems to be high on the agenda. With the government pledging to ‘Build Back Better’, and committing to a ‘green recovery’, the challenge of how to make the UK’s existing and future building stock more sustainable is firmly centre stage.
As such, heat – and how to decarbonise it – is one of the hottest topics. Policies and incentives designed to tackle the challenge of decarbonising heat include the under-consultation Clean Heat Grant, the Heat and Buildings Strategy (due later this year), and the Future Homes Standard (due to be implemented in 2025). For architects, this means they increasingly have to specify products that both meet strong aesthetic and low-carbon standards.
In the area of heating systems, this can be challenging. There is a need for it to both fit in with the overall look and feel of a project – both in terms of new build and retrofit – while also reducing emissions. Added to that, the system needs to be as future-proof as possible to avoid costly upgrades.
Many of the low-carbon technologies championed by current government policies may tick the sustainability box, but arguably, not all meet the aesthetic and future-proof needs required by architects and specifiers. Broadening the specification scope to include newer, more innovative heating systems that can not only deliver on reducing cost and carbon, but also meet strong aesthetic standards and are long-term solutions, makes economic and environmental sense.
One such option is computer-controlled infrared heating (CCIR), which has several benefits over traditional convection heating and other low-carbon systems such as air source heat pumps.
CCIR’s processors and sensors give it the unique ability to adapt to the environment it is operating in and optimise heat settings accordingly, enabling users to benefit from super-efficient, sustainable and cost-effective heating. Compared to traditional convective systems that heat the air within a room, CCIR consumes less than half the energy needed to achieve the same levels of comfort by radiating to the floors, walls and surfaces of each room.
What makes it different is that the software within each panel constantly monitors each individual room and adapts to the energy storage characteristics within it, adjusting its routine to maintain the ambient temperature, maximising its efficiency and using fewer units of energy than a traditional heating system.
We recently conducted an independent assessment to review the performance of the CCIR technology against both traditional convection heating technologies and air source heat pumps. This revealed that the technology provides the same levels of comfort within a room, using 60% less energy than a standard electric convection system and 7% less than ASHPs. This reduced consumption rate means that carbon emissions are also more than 60% lower than traditional systems.
Many end users opt for infrared heating because the heating experience feels more natural and comfortable – once the fabric of the room is saturated with energy, it emits a comfortable, radiant heat.
Infrared can also reduce and prevent damp and improve the air quality within a building because unlike traditional central heating, it’s not reliant on circulating air, so there’s typically less circulating dust. The natural heat and improved air quality creates a much more comfortable living environment.
It can be tricky to find a heating system that both looks good while also performing to a high standard. CCIR panels are sleek and wall mounted – they are just wired into the mains rather than plumbed in – with a stylish white glass finish and stainless steel, chrome-plated frame. For commercial buildings, ceiling heating panels blend seamlessly into the wider internal building fabric.
Technology that will last
The future of heating is low carbon. And, while some heating solutions could seem to be a ‘safe bet’ right now, it is likely they will be overtaken by newer and more efficient systems in the not too distant future. Therefore, it is important to take time to understand and investigate all the alternatives to gas central heating – such as CCIR – to ensure that the benefits are not only felt in the short term but are also sustainable solutions for the longer term.