Open any newspaper, listen to radio discussion or watch general UK news at the moment and the chances are that you’ll be reading or hearing about the benefits of Air Source Heat Pumps (ASHPs). As the current Government’s solution to global warming / decarbonisation / electrification of heating there is a huge amount of press and misinformation about ASHPs.
The current government have invested a huge amount of their credibility in the success of ASHPs and have been promoting this as a solution for almost every type of property.
ASHPs are part of the solution, but they cannot and will not be right for every type of property. Even the ASHP industry will admit that much.
ASHPs are big news. The government is supporting ASHPs with a £5000 RHI grant. The government needs to try and make ASHPs a viable prospect for consumers. However ASHPs are not right for a huge number of properties and research shows that the overall cost of ownership is a lot higher (more detail later) than infrared heating. Research also shows broadly similar running costs between infrared heating and ASHP’s.
Gas boilers are gradually being phased out, with a move towards electrification of heat. At the moment there are still a huge number of properties using gas boilers to power their heating systems. We have therefore included gas central heating systems in comparison.
Installation Cost Comparison
ASHPs are expensive, not just in capital outlay but also the installation cost, complexity and changes required to the existing heating system to make it viable. If an ASHP is to be installed correctly, the majority of domestic installations will also require new, much larger radiators (the flow temperature of water from an ASHP is much lower than from a conventional boiler). It is also likely an upgrade of pipework will also be required.
A wet, radiator system whether powered by a gas, oil or LPG gas boiler requires radiators pipework, boiler (and associated connections) and significant installation time. An expensive overall package.
Jigsaw infrared heating offers a simple, standalone solution room by room. The complexity is limited to installing the heaters from a fused spur. Heaters are generally then ceiling mounted, freeing up valuable wall space.
With a Jigsaw Infrared Heating system not only is capital outlay much reduced (even taking into account the £5k sweetener for ASHPs from the government), the installation cost and complexity is also significantly reduced.
Looking at the cost of each system over the lifespan of the building (2 bed house), ASHP will actually cost nearly £20 000 MORE than an infrared heating system:
IR = £49,925
ASHP = £65,676.40
So where do the figures for ASHPs begin to see an advantage? It must be in the running costs surely?
Running Cost Comparison
The efficiency of ASHPs is being sold hard by both the Government and the ASHP industry, but does it actually stack up? What independent information is there out there looking at the running costs of different heating systems?
A recent EnTRESS study completed by University of Wolverhampton compared Jigsaw Infrared Heaters with ASHPs and Gas central heating in respect of running costs, the table below clearly shows negligible difference between Jigsaw Infrared heaters and ASHP’s.
This research also clearly shows significantly higher running costs for Gas central heating. Oil and LPG based heating will be off the scale.
Another recent independent study also makes some interesting reading:
Commissioned by BEIS but written by Cambridge Architectural Research this study investigated cost-optimal ways to install electric heating, including infra-red heating, and energy efficiency measures across a 12 housing archetypes, representing 90% of Britain’s 28 million homes.
The study found that:
- The total lifetime costs (capital + operating) of infrared heating were found to be competitive, although not cost-optimal in some housing types.
- There were only small differences in costs over 15 years between low- or high-temperature heat pumps, air-to-air heat pumps, infrared or storage radiators.
- Assuming a longer product lifespan (e.g. >20 years) for electric storage heaters and infrared heaters made heat pumps less attractive over the total period of ownership – as heat pumps were assumed to be replaced more frequently.
What does this tell us? Clearly that ASHPs are not the solution for everything, everywhere. They are on a level playing field with other efficient heating technologies. It is really time that this was made clear to the general public.
Heat pumps need to be replaced, typically every 10 years, the £5k grant only applies to the first installation. Who foots the bill for every replacement ASHP? The houseowner.
Additionally, Aston University undertook an independent study for three different heating systems. Jigsaw Infrared was the infrared system used in testing.
The Study found that:
- The Jigsaw infrared heating system can increase the room temperature to 18 C in 10 mins which are less than the other two heating systems (2000 W and storage and convection) which take 15 and 17 min respectively.
- The IR heating system can heat the room temperature to 22-23 C compared to up to 18.5 C for the other two systems.
- The IR heating system has an efficiency 2 times higher than the 2000 W and storage and convection heating system.
Therefore, the IR panel used half the energy (50% less) of the storage heater and reached room temp in almost half the time.
Maintenance Cost Comparison
ASHPs require annual maintenance to keep them running. It is a requirement to maintain a manufacturer’s warranty to service an Air Source Heat Pump (ASHP) annually. Air filters should be checked monthly and replaced / cleaned as necessary. The outdoor unit must also be kept clear of any debris (such as leaves or snow). The sides, top and bottom must all be included in this regular maintenance.
A typical maintenance programme for an air source heat pump would look something like this:
- Clean / swap filters
- Clean coils and fans
- Ensure proper air flow is not impeded by any debris
- Clean the supply and return registers inside the property
- Power off the unit and check / clean fan blades.
- Check ducts for leakage and repair if necessary
- Inspect filters, ducts, blower and indoor coil for dirt and other obstructions
- Measure airflow is correct
- Check refrigerant levels and pressure
- Check all electrical contacts and ensure they are protected from the elements
- Check for system leaks
- Check reverse heating / cooling controls and verify they are operating as required
- Lubricate moving belts, motors and check for damage / wear and tear
- Check and test thermostat under normal operating conditions.
I think we can all agree that this is pretty involved. The typical annual maintenance contract for an ASHP will be around £250 and you will still have to do your own regular monthly maintenance.
If you don’t have an annual maintenance inspection and servicing of your ASHP it is highly likely that any warranty provided by the manufacturer will be void.
So, in comparison, what is the annual servicing requirement for Jigsaw infrared heaters?
None. Zero. Zilch.
You can wipe the dust off the heater occasionally. That’s it.
Jigsaw infrared heating is highly responsive and it heats people and objects first. This means that we do not need to heat the whole volume of air in a room before you feel the benefit.
Convection heating requires that the air is heated from the top of the space to the bottom before you really feel the benefit. This means that it is slow and expensive to warm up.
With Jigsaw infrared we combine an air temperature sensor with a movement sensor meaning that rooms are only heated when required. Our control system is programmed like any other with the times that you want your comfort temperature.
Every property has rooms with are naturally cooler or warmer than others, it makes little sense (common or financial) to control the heat to all rooms from a central thermostat. Every room in a Jigsaw infrared property has it’s own control system. This means that the variances in each room are fully taken into account.
Jigsaw infrared heated rooms are programmed with an ‘on’ temperature and an ‘off’ temperature – typically we suggest and ‘off’ temperature of 14 or 15ºC with the ‘on’ temperature being your comfort temperature.
Our control system is smart enough to recognise when you’re in the room or not. Meaning that if the heating is programmed to be on, but you are not using the room, our smart controls will switch off the heating in that room for you.
in this heating comparison, when compared to other heating systems, the capital outlay required for a Jigsaw infrared heating system is significantly lower that the capital outlay of other heating systems.
When we consider running costs we can see that the Jigsaw infrared heating system is significantly cheaper than gas, and on a level with air source heat pumps.
Our heating system heats twice as fast as other heating systems yet uses only half the power.
Maintenance issues are eliminated with Jigsaw infrared and therefore offer significant savings over the life of a heating system.
The smart controls used by Jigsaw allow for quick heating response and room by room controllability and flexibility.