Low-carbon heating systems are important in helping the UK get heating from more ‘green’ sources.
But we also need to look at the flipside: how we can use less energy in the first place. And we’re not just talking about switching off lights in empty rooms. But what we can do to make our homes warmer – so we need less heat in the first place.
For several decades there’s been a slow improvement in the efficiency of houses. More homes now have energy-saving features – like double-glazing, thick insulation and smart heating.
But tomorrow’s homes will do more with less. And one growing area of innovation is ventilation.
Future ventilation systems
There’s no getting around the importance of ventilation in our homes. And not just to avoid that musty smell which lingers when you return to a locked-up house after holiday. The air needs to be refreshed continuously to bring in oxygen and clear out humidity, waste gases and smells.
Opening the windows, however, lets out the heat. Which is where approaches like HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) come in. HVAC systems typically use ducts to circulate heated or cooled air around the home. This replaces stale air and eliminates unwanted smells – without the need to open a window.
HVAC systems have been around for a while. But new techniques are helping to make them more efficient. Mechanical heat-recovery ventilation (MHRV) systems, for example, recover the heat from stale air and use it to warm the fresh air entering the house. An MHRV fan is a little more complicated than a standard extractor fan. But it can recover 84% of the heat from stale air according to Vent Axia.
Airtight buildings with extreme insulation and this kind of heat recovery system can reduce their heating use to a minimum… Sometimes the waste heat from occupants and appliances is all that’s needed! And while it sounds futuristic, a small number of homes are already being built to this kind of standard.
Passivhaus certified homes must use less than 15kWh of energy per square meter per year. Energy Saving Trust says for the average-sized UK home, heated with electric radiators on Economy 7 electricity, this would be a total of less than 1,300kWh costing only £124 a year!
Other future heating technologies
New developments in heating technology promise other energy-saving options in the future too. For example, infrared panels can be fitted to walls or ceilings and provide invisible, near-instant heat to individual rooms.
Infrared panels are highly controllable. Since they heat in a similar way to the warm sun on a cold day; rather than relying on convection currents to carry warm air around the room. And, depending on the installation, they can use about four times less energy than a standard electric radiator.