infrared vs electric heaters

infrared heating vs heat pump vs convetional

If you’re planning on installing a new heating system inside an existing or new build property.  You may have some questions about which heating system will offer the best value and performance.

The decarbonisation of heating is one of the major challenges facing the UK. As it aims to meet its 2050 Net Zero targets. A transition from gas based central heating to electric heating is widely believed to be one of the critical solutions. That’s why as a company, we are focusing on working closely with other businesses. To find the right solution for every household.

The Environmental Technologies & Resource Efficiency Support Service (EnTRESS), a project within the University of Wolverhampton. Have undertaken a cross-comparative analysis of Central Gas heating, Infrared Heating Panels and Air Sourced Heat Pumps (ASHP).

For a further study comparing all three heaters click here.

Introduction

The following study is based on a simulation model of a newly-built, typical social home with our heating panels. Either the aluminium or glass range was in use. Furthermore, the building performance simulation results were calculated using Design Building software tools. A widely used energy modelling tool within the built environment sector. In addition, Simulation outputs help to investigate the product performance. In comparison with the traditional heating method (gas boiler) and with the selected electric heating technology (heat pump).

Most notably, the EnTRESS report found that ASHP have a lower output than the gas boiler and IR floor heating. Meaning they cannot deliver heat as quickly as the IR heating system.

Further to this, the efficiency of gas boilers reduces with age. As does an ASHP. They must be maintained. Air temperature affects the energy coefficient of the system. The lower temperatures cause a reduction in the efficiency. However, there is no drop in efficiency from an IR heater.

The release of the Heat and Buildings Strategy outlined how the government aims for a ‘heat pump first’ approach. As part of the transition to adopt low carbon efficient heating systems. However, the EnTRESS report, building further upon existing research on the efficiency of Infrared Heating Panels, has firmly shown infrared to be a viable and, in some cases, more efficient alternative to ASHP.

The study

A two-bedroom semi-detached house was selected and used for the simulation. The building was recently built and managed by a local housing association for council tenants.

Activities taken by EnTress 2:

  • Developing the building simulation of a newly built two-bedroom house. Occupancy: 2 working adults and 1 child that means the dwelling is not occupied during 7:30 – 17:30 during weekdays.
  • HVAC: gas central heating as the base case. Solution by Jigsaw infrared heating panels for all rooms in the building to provide heating demand. Smart hot water also simulated to provide energy data for both space and water heating. For comparison between various scenarios.
  • HVAC: Modelling air to water heat pump heating system  as an alternative solution to gas central heating.
  • Comparing energy and cost efficiency amongst the three heating systems.
  • Further investigating the energy performance of the infrared heaters for integrated Solar and battery system. In the dwelling working towards decarbonisation of domestic sector.

The Heating Options

convectional heating- future homes

1. Gas Central heating

Using a modern condensing boiler (i.e. Worcester 30i model), to heat water, which is then pumped around the property through pipes and radiators to heat the space. Where it was pumped directly to taps and showers. The system is very energy efficient for its range. In addition, taking into account the total cost over a building’s lifetime. For a two bedroom house requiring a gas central heating installation, the job will take about three days (£250 per day for gas safe engineer) and will cost around £3,000. Though, the UK Government will ban gas heating in new builds from 2025.

heat pump vs infrared heating

2. Jigsaw’s infrared heating panels

When calculating infrared heating the Steady-state heating load calculation was conducted to provide the zone sensible heating. For the heating calculation, the outdoor air temperature was set at -5oC. with set air temperature for the ground floor living area at 21oC and First Floor with 2 bedrooms, hall, and bathroom at 18oC. The aluminium range for infrared heating panels’ available capacities are of 400w, 800w, 1200w. Based on heating demand per thermal zone, only one panel is required per thermal zone. For the simulation, the infrared heating panels were modelled to be at the centre of the ceiling level.

A standalone water tank connected to an electric boiler was simulated. Mixergy water tank is a stainless-steel cylinder designed to optimise energy consumption. By only heating the water when needed and enabling control over water usage using smart apps. It can be connected with a range of energy sources: Gas boiler, electric, solar PV, solar thermal, or even heat pumps. In this case it was simulated just using electric.

Furthermore, in comparison to the total cost of the building’s lifetime. The total unit and parts cost for IR heating panels is £5,285. Combined with the installation for electricians is an estimated 1 day work for the IR panels. Including materials, which would be £500 for a second fix. The first fix completed by the builder would take a couple of hours per property for the heaters. Estimated £200 total. Total installation cost including materials is £700. IR panels offer flexibility in zone heating and control. In fact, it can be more energy and cost-efficient to only heat a room in use. Rather than the whole house (like gas central heating).

3. Heat pumps

Air Source Heat Pump (ASHP) was used for the simulation as part of the comparison. There have been several studies suggesting that the seasonal energy efficiency ratio of ASHP, in moderate to cold climate is measured at the averaged 2 across the year. Which means 1kWh of electricity power can generate 2kWh of useful heat. As the heating demand of the selected building is not great. The overall system cost efficiency was only simulated by wall radiators.

Furthermore, comparing the total cost over a building’s lifetime. Would include the cost of air to water heat pump, (5kw to 17kw) ranges from £4,000 to £8,000. Installation for a small semi-detached/terrace house, ranges from £5,000 to £10,000, averaged at £7,500.

The uptake of ASHP is slow due to a lack of workforce skill (MCS accredited installers). As well as home occupants being sceptical on the noise issue. In the past, many air source heat pumps were irritatingly noisy. Though it is getting better. However, the noise can be problematic when operating at a higher temperature. (e.g. when heating the hot water cylinder), stopping and starting rather than steadily continuous running.

heat pump vs infrared heating
comparison of space heating energy

Results of the Study

Amongst the three systems in the simulation. ASHP just uses the least energy at 1800kWh per year, followed by Infrared heating at 1840kWh then the gas boiler at 3386kWh. However, due to the current fuel price market, gas is significantly cheaper than electricity. Making gas boilers the most affordable system in terms of annual running cost. The gas produced the most kgCO2 due to being a fossil fuel.

An infrared electric heating system as the alternative solution to natural gas, can be an ideal solution for heating homes. For both new build and retrofitting sectors. IR panels can operate from renewable sources (PV, PV-battery, micro wind turbine), or connect to the central grid. The UK government has confirmed plans to decarbonise the country's electricity grid by 2035 therefore electrifying heating to reduce reliance on fossil fuels is a must.

The study found:

  1. In the context of a new build home that is thermally efficient (low heating demand), an infrared heating system might be more suitable than an ASHP as it has a lower upfront cost and as well as over costing over the building’s lifetime.
  2. The infrared system also benefits the homeowner with lower running costs and no ongoing maintenance and service costs.
  3. An infrared heater is a highly energy-efficient electric heater. Using significantly lower energy compared to other conventional heating systems. Therefore a lower carbon footprint.
  4. Jigsaw’s IR control system can be more energy and cost-efficient to only heat a room in use, rather than the whole house.
  5. Occupants can often feel the heat from gas central heating after around 30 minutes before they can feel the warmth. As the air heats within the space. Objects are heated by infrared heating, not the air, meaning that the you can feel the warmth quicker. Normally less than 10 minutes. This means that the heating will be on for less time than the gas central heating and therefore use less energy.
  6. Combining Solar PV and battery with IR heating and Mixergy Hot Water Cylinder. Will significantly reduce the reliance on grid electricity and the total cost of energy. They are conducting a further study.

Jigsaw would like to thank all the staff at Wolverhampton University who conducted the testing and wrote the report.

See the attached document for the full study.

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