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Electric heating: hits & myths

Nov 2016 Energy Efficiency, Heating | Comments Off on Electric heating: hits & myths
Electric heating: hits & myths

Around 300,000 homes in Scotland rely on electric heating. Dimplex product marketing director Chris Stammers looks at some of the common misconceptions associated with
this technology – and how modern appliances are helping to dispel the myths

Myth #1: Electric heating is outdated

If you were to go back less than a decade, it would be fair to say you would be justified in arguing that electric heating systems were outdated. However, thanks to unprecedented product innovation in the past few years by leading manufacturers, there is now a new generation of electric appliances that offers convenience, efficiency and performance like never before.

Today’s appliances are innovative and intelligent. You can visit your local merchant or distributor today and buy electric heaters that monitor and adapt to the user’s lifestyle and changing climate conditions, that can tap into renewable energy sources, or that have the potential to link wirelessly to a central hub. For example, the Dimplex Quantum off-peak heating system can do all three.

Direct-acting panel heaters have come on in leaps and bounds too. A popular choice in rooms such as bedrooms and conservatories due to their quick heat-up times, in previous years panel heaters would have had a simple on/off control, with optional timers for greater control.

Today’s market-leading models are unrecognisable. Dimplex’s Q-Rad electric radiator, for example, includes a self-learning algorithm with delayed start feature that enables the heaters to calculate the shortest run-time needed to reach the user defined target temperature, at the time specified.

With the opportunity to link into forward-thinking initiatives and technology such as smart meters and the Internet of Things, electric heating is well-placed for the future.

Myth #2: There is no demand for it

Consider the current penetration of electric housing among the UK’s housing stock. There are approximately 300,000 electrically heated homes in Scotland, 13% of all housing,1 which is the highest proportion anywhere in the UK. Dimplex estimates that up to 2 million homes across the UK have outdated electric storage heaters that are in need of replacement.

And this trend is not just restricted to legacy heating systems. Electric heating is on the rise, in part due to the influence of changing housing trends and the large numbers of flats and apartments built over the last decade.

The combination of smaller living space and low heat loss in well-insulated flats or small homes can make it hard to justify the cost of a boiler with conventional radiators.

For many of these properties, of course, electric may be the only heating choice –irrespective of cost – because there is no gas supply, usually due to the height of the building or its location.

However, the continued growth of electric heating is not just borne out of necessity. Research by Consumer Futures shows that nearly 70% of households with electric heating are completely satisfied with their system.2

Myth #3: It is disproportionately expensive for homeowners

This is another myth that can be easily disproven, thanks to some robust Government research. According to the most recent Housing Factfile from DECC, the total cost to an average household of running household appliances such as a washing machine, tumble dryer, fridge freezer, TV and lighting is up to £534 per year – or £44.50 per month.

Electric heating, meanwhile, using an Economy Seven tariff and a representative combination of Dimplex Quantum heaters and electric panel convector heaters, would cost just £455 per year for a two-bedroom flat (65m2) refurbished to typical 1990s Building Regulations standard, according to independent assessment using SAP 2012.

That works out at less than £38 per month. Many people, of course, will pay the same again each month for a monthly mobile phone bill, home entertainment package or gym membership – or even all three.

The common misconception that electric heating is too costly is not helped by poor specification, which can make heating systems unnecessarily expensive to run.

In addition, some manufacturers state that direct-acting electric heaters – commonly referred to as electric radiators, aluminium radiators or panel heaters – are the ideal replacement for storage heaters. But this is not always the case – and installers must recognise this.

While direct acting heating is undoubtedly the best option for some rooms, it is not always better than storage. Those who spend most of the day at home, for example, such as retired or unemployed homeowners, will always find it cheaper to run off-peak heaters.

Myth #4: There is a lack of control

This is another myth that belongs in the 20th century. In the 1970s and 1980s, when millions of electric storage heaters were installed in homes across the UK, it was the case that users had no control over when stored energy was released into the room as heat. We also watched films on VHS and listened to music on tape cassettes but, like the rest of the home, technology has moved on.

Despite automatic controls for electric storage heaters having been available since the mid-80s, today we would estimate that 70% of storage heaters in use remain manually controlled.

However, with the continued development of intelligent, easy-to-use controls, users have full command over all electric heating appliances to provide warmth only when it is required, all at the touch of a button.

References: 1. Ofgem, “Insights paper on households with electric and other non-gas heating”, December 2015. 2. Consumer Focus, “From Devotees to the Disengaged”, August 2012.