From both environmental and economic perspectives, it is widely agreed that the way we heat our buildings must change. To meet this challenge, new heating solutions offering sustainable alternatives are being introduced to the market.
Here, Paul Woolvine, CEO of IOBAC UK Ltd, explores the role that far infrared underfloor heating can play in making buildings more energy and cost efficient, and how its ease of installation is beneficial to flooring contractors and building owners alike.
The need for alternative heating solutions
Much has been reported recently on rising energy costs, with price cap increases meaning that millions of households will be facing an increase in their gas and electricity bills of around 54% from 1st April. And with war in Ukraine increasing the concerns around the stability of global energy supply, there is a real possibility that prices may raise still further again later in the year.
Couple this with the fact that heating properties using fossil fuels is a major contributor to carbon emissions, with nearly one quarter of the UK’s total emissions coming from domestic heating, and the argument for alternative heating solutions becomes very strong.
The UK Government’s commitment to “net zero” by 2050 includes its Future Homes Standard which states that all new homes will need to be “zero carbon ready” from 2025. It will be illegal to install gas boilers in new build homes, with gas and oil boilers phased out almost completely by 2050.
The Future Home Standard sees heat pumps as becoming “the primary heating technology for new homes” targeting an increase in installations from 30,000 per year currently to 600,000 per year by 2028.
Underfloor heating 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. Underfloor heating typically uses either water pipes or electric mats as the key heating element, with many products well established on the market today.
“We spoke to both homeowners and installers to understand some of the barriers associated with traditional underfloor heating systems.
The homeowners who had underfloor heating installed already told us that there was a lot of disruption in retrofitting a solution to their homes and that they worried the system would be difficult to repair if anything went wrong.
And flooring contractors said that the installation process was often fragmented, with installation of the underfloor heating component and the top surface flooring happening independently of one another, causing compatibility problems and needless rework.
So, we used our flooring knowledge in collaboration with heating specialists NexGen Heating to develop a highly efficient system that was as simple to install and maintain as possible and which uses far infrared as the heat source.”
But what is Far Infrared Underfloor Heating?
One of the main benefits of far infrared heating is its efficiency.
Traditional convection heating works by warming the air in a room. However, this can be a very inefficient method as the warm air rises to the ceiling, and it is only when it loses energy and falls back into the main part of the room that humans feel the warmth. Much of the energy is wasted.
In contrast, far infrared underfloor heating 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.
Infrared energy waves are safely absorbed by our skin, where they are transformed into a safe, gentle warmth, which research suggests has many health benefits. And there is not the dust and allergen build-up, or mould or mildew problems that can be experienced with conventional heating systems.
The IOBAC and NexGen Heating solution incorporates graphene technology, which is the lightest, most conductive man-made material on earth. Hailed as a wonder material due to its many amazing properties and potential applications, graphene is even better at conducting electricity than even copper, and conducts heat better than almost any other material.
This efficiency enables energy costs to be significantly reduced,
with independent testing demonstrating 15% less running costs versus mains gas powered boilers (based on 2019 pricing) and 64% less carbon emissions.
Building owners can even go off-grid and power the system via renewable energy sources such as solar panels, making it free to run with minimal ongoing maintenance.
Easy to Install and Maintain
Ezy-Warm Underfloor Heating from IOBAC and NexGen Heating comprises 3 simple roll-down and ultra-thin layers:
- an Ezy-Warm Heated Mat, which provides the infrared heating via connection to a power supply
- an approved low tog underlay for use with the Ezy-Warm Mat and the chosen floor covering
- a wide choice of floor coverings, including carpet, Luxury Vinyl Tile, laminate or wood.
In contrast to other systems, all three components can be fitted by the flooring contractor. The Ezy-Warm Heated Mat is powered by a less than 24v supply (AC or DC) so does not require a specialist electrical contractor to install.
The simple roll down and connect installation process is much quicker versus traditional water pipe and electric mat systems, and as the heated mat is quickly and easily accessible, repairs do not require floors to be dug up to locate pipes. Individual floor tiles can quickly be switched out if damaged, and even complete design changes to repurpose rooms are straightforward.
Paul explains: “We wanted to take the headache out of underfloor heating for flooring contractors.
This new integrated approach to underfloor heating gives fitters the confidence to manage the whole end-to-end process themselves. They can add underfloor heating installation to their services to profitably grow their business in an increasingly in-demand area.
Contractors can simply install floor coverings on top of the heating system using either adhesive, floating floor, or magnetic systems. No more rework or rectification is needed.
And with minimum disruption, the client gets a stunning designer floor with highly efficient, adaptable heating built in.”
“Upgrading the performance of the UK’s building stock is a mammoth task with a lot of commercial and logistical barriers to overcome.
Far infrared heating is an exciting technology which can be quickly adopted due to its simplicity.
Where previously the worlds of underfloor heating and flooring installation did not meet, Ezy-Warm’s ease of installation means that now flooring contractors can access a simple solution and play a crucial part in heating our buildings more efficiently and sustainably.”
See Save on Energy’s article for more household energy-saving tips.