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Infrared heating versus air source heat pumps

Infrared heating versus air source heat pumps

Climate Change Committee advice on Sixth Carbon Budget report sets the ultimate goal of Net Zero carbon by at least 2050. To reach this target clear changes must be introduced, starting from the government introducing new policies and laws, and finishing on individual people making environmentally friendly choices in their everyday life. “Meeting our recommended budget will require a major nationwide investment programme, led by Government, but largely funded and delivered by private companies and individuals. Low-carbon markets and supply chains must scale up so that almost all new purchases and investments are in zero-carbon solutions by 2030 or soon after”.

One of the many attempts to meet the Net Zero target and decarbonise heating is the law that will come to life in 2025 and will ban oil and gas burning boilers from being installed in newbuilt houses. It means that the electricity-based heating systems will need to replace fossil fuels powered heating solutions. This switch is clearly recognised in the current endeavours and investments in renewable ways of power generation and in developing different renewable heating solutions.

There is a great number of different electric heating systems available on the market. Air source heat pumps (ASHP) are a great example of the electric heating system that is offered as a low carbon footprint alternative to gas and oil heating systems. The popularity of air source heat pumps is growing. Our product – iHelios heating system, which uses infrared technology, makes a great alternative not only to gas and oil burning heating systems, but it is also an attractive electricity-powered option. That is why a closer look will be given here to both, air-source heat pumps and the iHelios heating system.

There are two types of air source heat pumps – air-to-air heat pumps and air-to-water heat pumps. The first type delivers the heat by using fans to distribute hot air in the area of the building, while the second heats the building by providing hot water to radiators or underfloor heating. Air-to-water heat pumps are more popular and suitable for UK homes, therefore the focus of this comparison will be given to air-to-water heat pumps and iHelios heating system.

Air source heat pump (air-to-water) uses refrigeration process to extract the heat from the air outside and delivers it to the radiators and water supply. The pump draws the outside air and passes it through the air exchanger. The heat from the air is then being absorbed by the fluid called refrigerant and causes the refrigerant to boil and transform from a liquid to a gas. The gas goes through the compressor where it is being compressed, which causes the rise of its temperature. A second heat exchanger delivers the heat from the compressed gas into the heating system – pipes, radiator, underfloor heating and water supply. Via convection, radiators transfer it finally to the air in the building. Heat pump belongs to the convection heating systems category – the heat delivered to the radiators heats up the building by warming up the air that comes into contact with their hot surface and is then circulated around.

Air source heat pumps are an efficient way of heating homes. For 1 unit of electric energy taken they may produce around 3 units of heat energy (in optimal conditions). They also release a low level of carbon into the atmosphere. The carbon footprint of heat pumps can be reduced even further if they are powered by solar panels. Heat pumps do not burn fuel and, as a result, they do not produce waste gases and there is no risk of a carbon monoxide leak. They can be used to provide both, space heating as well as hot water supply.

In order to achieve high efficiency of the heat pump and lower bills the property must be very well insulated. The system efficiency also depends on the difference between the outside air and the target indoor or water supply temperature – the bigger the difference, the lower the efficiency. In winter, when the heat pump is most needed, that difference is big. Both, domestic hot water and the water that flows inside the pipes and radiators, are heated to lower temperature by the heat pump (35-45 ºC) than the gas boiler does (55-65 ºC). As a result, heat pump systems need to be installed with oversized radiators or be paired with underfloor heating to be able to deliver the target temperature. What is more, another water heating solution needs to be installed on top of that to heat up the hot water supply to a higher temperature. Relying only on the heat pump to provide domestic hot water reduces its efficiency. Plumbing installation presence means that there is a risk of water leaks. Heat pumps, even though are installed outside of the property, they still can be noisy and should be installed far away from the main living or sleeping space as possible. For this reason, heat pups are not suitable for all building types – flats or terraces houses present a challenge for situating the heat pumps far from frequently occupied areas of the building.

High costs are involved in air source heat pumps purchase and installation. For 86 m² property the price can range between £9,000 – £16,000. Air source heat pumps require yearly inspection and maintenance, which generates additional costs on top of the installation costs. Air source heat pumps are eligible for Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme, which allows you to get money towards renewable heating costs, this scheme is still alive however, it will end soon (March 2022).

iHelios heating system does not depend on air for heat transmission. It uses electricity to generate infrared radiation that goes through the air particles and reaches the objects, fabric of the house, and living organisms directly where upon the absorption is converted into heat. The application of infrared radiation to heating technology, allows iHelios system to be super-efficient. There is no need to warm up the entire volume of air in the rooms in order to achieve the target temperature. As a result, the iHelios system heats the room much quicker than convection heating systems. Thermal comfort is reached with the iHelios system at lower temperature – on average 1-4°C lower than using a conventional electric or gas system; every 1°C saves from 8-10%. Shorter start-up time also translates into a lower power usage, lower carbon emissions and bills. Smart controls also enable instant turning off the system eliminating overheating and energy waste related to it.

What is more, the radiant heat absorbed by the structure of the building, objects and people is cumulated by them and then emitted back to the environment working as an additional heat source. Unlike convection heating systems, radiant heat is delivered to all parts of the building evenly. Without relying on air circulation as a heat delivery mechanism, there is no significant heat loss due to ventilation. It also helps to maintain an optimal level of air quality and humidity.

Convection heating systems usually create one temperature zone – the temperature of the entire house is controlled by one thermostat. iHelios creates multiple temperature zones that usually correspond with the different rooms in the building. Each separate zone is separately controlled by its own smart thermostat. This opens a wide range of possibilities of individualised control, which allows you to set the heating schedules not only with regards to when it is needed, but also – where it is needed. All thermostats (with Wi-Fi function) can be paired with the iHelios app and controlled via phone or tablet from anywhere you are.

With all that said it becomes clear that iHelios consumes much less power than convection heating systems do. iHelios system installation is simple and cost less than the heat pump installation. For the 86 m² property the costs of iHelios installation and materials would be around £4,500. With no moving parts involved, there is no need for regular inspections or maintenance, which lowers the running costs as well. In the situation of failure occurrence only the affected heating zone stops working and needs repairing, not the entire system. As an electricity-based heating system, iHelios eliminates the risk of water or carbon monoxide leaks. It is also completely silent and invisible. By using carbon film (should not be confused with infrared panels or radiators) that is concealed within ceilings or floors, iHelios gives you completely clear wall space! iHelios system does not provide hot water supplies, but with a wide range of high quality and efficient water heaters, this can be easily resolved and would cost around £1,000.

iHelios system is not only wallet-friendly, but it is environment-friendly too. It is a heating system of the future. It creates a low carbon footprint, which is being reduced gradually with our progress in switching to renewable energy generation. When powered with solar panels, the iHelios system’s carbon footprint can get down to zero! Solar panels installation for the 86 m² property would be around £6,000. This means that for the cost of good quality heat pump installation it would be possible to install iHelios heating system together with water heater and solar panels, which would eliminate carbon footprint and reduced the running cost even more.

References:
A comparison of Heat Pumps with Herschel Infrared heating (herschel-infrared.co.uk)
Heat Pump Problems – Do you Know What They Are? (eco-home-essentials.co.uk)
Air Source Heat Pumps: Explained & Reviewed | Boiler Guide
Air Source Heat Pumps: Get to Know the Basics | Homebuilding
Infrared Heating Panels: Pros, Cons & Costs | Boiler Guide
Sixth Carbon Budget – Climate Change Committee (theccc.org.uk)

Featured image by Ase