Most economical method of electric heating

Discussion in 'Electricians' Talk' started by spiritus, Sep 14, 2022.

  1. spiritus

    spiritus New Member

    I rent a small 1 bed flat to a young lady.

    When we bought the flat I told her I would take a look at trying to change her heating system with a view to getting her heating bills down (they are pretty high). The flat currently has 3 storage heaters.

    I spent quite a bit of time researching the options and the market and with a clear conscience I could not find anything that would guarantee any significant form of saving on her heating bills unless the output of each heater was reduced. This would present another potential problem as changing the heaters to lower output ones may not be sufficient to heat the flat to her satisfaction.

    I explained all of this to her but now she's like a dog with a bone and keeps asking me to review it again.

    I did.

    Last Autumn I spent a lot of time disappearing down this rabbit hole trying to understand what options are available etc. I spoke to a few electricians to get their opinions and still came to the same opinion that upgrading to new heaters wouldn't necessarily equate to any significant savings.

    The lady is convinced that having a timer and thermostat controls on new heaters would make them much more efficient.

    My understanding remains that storage heaters remain (in theory) the most economical form of electric heating on the market provided that a) they are on an off peak tariff and b) the user operates them correctly.

    Oil filled and panel heaters do not "waste" heat when you do not need it but I believe that this form of on demand heating may still wind up more expensive as day time tariffs.

    I am not particularly fond of storage heaters myself. She says that the heat runs out by the end of the day which I think is quite common unfortunately.

    Can anyone support the theory that non-storage heaters may be more economical?

    I feel obliged to perform full due diligence for her but I am reluctant to spend £ 3k on new storage heaters if she might only save £ 300 a year on bills.
  2. rogerk101

    rogerk101 Screwfix Select

    It's far better value for money investing in the best insulation that can be installed in the flat ... especially if the heating is with storage heater.
  3. spiritus

    spiritus New Member

    I agree but I may be limited with what I can do regarding insulation as the management company probably don't allow individual flat owners to do this.
  4. The Happy Builder

    The Happy Builder Screwfix Select

    I am assuming the Energy Performance Certificate advises that you should spend £3,000 on High-Heat-Retention storage heaters and that is almost certainly the best option for the tenant.

    The landlord spends £3,000 so the tenant can save £300 each year, that’s the way the cookie crumbles.
  5. WeCanDoIt

    WeCanDoIt Member

    Looked at infa red?

    I find my Dyson fan to be good at heating. I don’t suggest you buy one as you can get them much cheaper.
  6. The Happy Builder

    The Happy Builder Screwfix Select

    Okay, let’s stop this getting silly.

    The rental property has to have a minimum Energy Performance Certificate rating by law, removing the storage heaters and replacing them with any type of electric heating other than High-Heat-Retention storage heaters such as infrared, fan or panel electric heaters may well make it illegal to rent the flat out and the tenant will be able to legally withhold rent payments.

    “Since 1 April 2020, landlords can no longer let or continue to let properties covered by the MEES Regulations if they have an EPC rating below E, unless they have a valid exemption in place.”

    So the first thing the landlord needs to do is to reference the Energy Performance Certificate which is available online to see what the existing rating is and what improvements are recommended, then to take advice on improving the EPC rating and heating system, there may be a trade off you may be able to remove the storage heaters if you increase the insulation, but without looking at the existing EPC you won’t know.

    So use the second link I have posted to find out what the existing EPC rating is and what the recommendations for improvement are.
    candoabitofmoststuff likes this.
  7. The Happy Builder

    The Happy Builder Screwfix Select

    I should add that it is proposed to make a minimum of an EPC C rating compulsory in 2025 for new tenancies and 2028 for existing tenancies.

    So any improvements you make now to heating, lighting and insulation needs to take the EPC rating up to C or you will be trying to improve the rating again in a couple of years time.
  8. Bazza-spark

    Bazza-spark Screwfix Select

  9. The Happy Builder

    The Happy Builder Screwfix Select

    To improve the EPC rating of a flat from I installed HHR storage heaters, an E7 timer for the hot water cylinder immersion heaters, a cylinder jacket and LED lighting, but that that was only enough to take the rating from G to F.

    To get to an EPC rating E I had to install electric heaters in the communal corridor outside the flat allowing the corridor can be kept at the same temperature as the flat, so there’s no heat loss from the flat into the corridor.

    The landlord is expected to pay the heating bill for the communal corridor and not to increase the rents to cover it.

    The alternative is to insulate the flat and/or replace doors and windows if that hasn’t already been done, the flat I did the work in is going to have to have that done as well in the next couple of years to get it from E to C.
  10. The Happy Builder

    The Happy Builder Screwfix Select

    The amount of knowledge and experience that general electricians are supposed to have these days is getting ridiculous, it is getting to the stage where specialising in certain types of electrical work is the preferred choice of many electricians.
  11. FlyByNight

    FlyByNight Screwfix Select

    Buy her some thermal knickers!

    Whether the heat energy is input when needed or inout at off peak times and taken when needed (storage heaters), there will be very little difference in the total energy. Maybe some directional infra-red heaters that warm teh target rather than te whole room my help keep her warm with storage for background
  12. Bazza-spark

    Bazza-spark Screwfix Select

    That is so true.

    I'm really glad that I have retired and don't have to keep up on a day to day basis. I do try and keep up for personal development though, and feel sorry for you guys in the front line. It really is getting crazy with the requirements for calculations for surge protection, lightning strikes etc, then data and video distribution and cctv.
    Bazza likes this.
  13. MGW

    MGW Screwfix Select

    I have read what has been said, clearly the more constant the temperature is, the less heat is lost, but with electric there are just three ways to heat a room.
    1) Resistive
    2) Inferred
    3) Heat pump
    It does not matter at what time of the day a resistive heater turns on, it uses the same amount of energy, the energy may be cheaper from one supplier to another, or at one time to another, but this does not alter the energy used.

    The certificate is flawed, for my flat it says:-
    Step 2: Hot water cylinder insulation
    Add additional 80 mm jacket to hot water cylinder
    Typical installation cost
    £15 - £30
    Typical yearly saving
    The flat does not have a hot water cylinder, and never has, it has no way to heat the DHW other than the electric shower, hot water is taken from the house above it. And the whole idea of a independent energy performance certificate for house and flat is just silly. They are one property.

    What ever the certificate says, Space heating 4298 kWh per year, is never going to be correct, as simply not used in the Winter. It is a garden room, used for bbq's and other entertaining.

    But for your flat the question has to be how much room is available to fit items to reduce the energy used? Using a water store can result in being able to heat the home only when required, so the tenant can set the circulating pump to start just before they arrive home, and only heat rooms as they are used, but that water store takes up space, and is heavy, so if floor can't take weight it is non starter, and if there is no where to fit it also non starter.

    The same applies to heat pumps, these upload_2022-9-15_1-2-30.png may use less power, but having one hanging out the window, may not be acceptable.

    So start point is to look at the tenants life style, if the flat is unoccupied 8:30 am to 6:00 pm then using non storage may be better, but if she wants the flat warm 24/7 then looking at a different method.

    The idea of a lower air temperature and some inferred will likely work, but much depends on heat loss, so what you are looking at is how much will she save from your expenditure.

    Looking at my energy performance certificate it says "Typical installation cost £4,000 - £6,000
    Typical yearly saving £59" and simple maths says 68 years to pay for its self.
    WeCanDoIt likes this.
  14. vrDrew63

    vrDrew63 Active Member

    What sort of building is the flat in?

    The UK has a relatively mild climate. If you could insulate the property well enough, it would probably be possible to live in it comfortably year round with very little, if any, form of heating.

    Double- or triple glazed windows. High quality doors. Well insulated ceilings, floors, and walls. Money spent providing better insulation will have a far better return on investment on anything you can do with the electric heating. Electric heating is, by definition, 100% efficient. But it's also the most costly per kw/h.

    I'll also note: Insulation has benefits beyond just lower heating bills. It also reduces external noise, and makes the property that much more pleasant to live.
    rogerk101 likes this.
  15. ElecCEng

    ElecCEng Screwfix Select

    I suspect b) is the problem here. Storage heaters are great if used in reasonably consistent external temperature. Virtually impossible to predict and storage heaters notoriously slow to react to sudden changes. Your tenant is probably racking up bills by ‘boosting’ the heating when it’s a bit chilly, or having them come on unnecessarily in warmer weather. Your first port of call could be a better control system for the heaters with external temp sensor etc.

    I’m a big fan of instant electric panel heaters; 100% efficient, easily controlled, ‘smart’, individual room control etc etc. Unfortunately the morons who support the nonsense that is EPC certificates won’t acknowledge these as a valid form of heating. On a kWh to kWh comparison, are they any worse than GCH or storage?

    A messy but legal way around this is to leave the storage heaters in place (maintaining your EPC rating), and get 3 of the smart, efficient electric panels (avoid the ceramic core, oil filled etc versions, no better than the storage heaters and treble the price). Your tenant gets her super controllable heaters and can either prove or disprove her theories on the issue. You’re probably looking at under £1500 for 3 decent panels. If they make no difference, unplug and put on eBay.

  16. spiritus

    spiritus New Member

    Thankyou and thanks to all other suggestions.

    It is a 3 floor apartment block so I cannot insulate the walls or the loft. A new door was fitted last year and double glazing seems ok.

    Gas is not allowed in the block so it appears that Night Storage Heaters are the best option. I'm not sure this would make any savings on her bills and there's no bullet-proof way of knowing as there are too many variables to take into account.

    The tenant has "kindly" shopped around for me and found a company offering heaters that purport to offer the same tech as storage heaters (I think it's some type of stone) but this would require taking her off Economy 7 and her bills could well shoot up.

    One possible avenue for me to explore are the high heat retention storage heaters but at a reduced kw output to the ones she currently has. I think she mentioned that she doesn't need all three on as it can sometimes get too warm.

    Bit of a minefield as there are not many options really available....
  17. Tony Goddard

    Tony Goddard Screwfix Select

    Problem is you have been generous to your tennant, so she is now going to keep helpfully finding costly solutions for you. I've been a landlord for 27 years since I inherited my grandmothers house at 16, I've had the same tennants for 16 years now, a lovely family. I have helped them out by not increasing the rent for over 6 years now, I have a programme for renewals and they have had a new bathroom, new kitchen and carpeting, and in all of these I have said "you choose, no budget, go quality", hence they chose an expensive kitchen and bathroom - but I fitted them with mates in the trades, so saved that way, and ultimately it adds value.

    Unfortunately, I'm not in a position to help them with the running costs, its got oil fired central heating, and thats the way it is - if the government does bring in the EPC level C requirement it won't make it as its a listed building and I know for sure we won't be able to bring the EPC value down, at which point, like many landlords, I will have to give notice and use it as a holiday let instead - which is something I would be very sad to have to do.

    On the technical front, when I fit electric heating (mainly in commercial premises), I tend to use use Rointe heaters, German built oil filled rads, sleek design, excellent control and very, very good customer service. I have also seen the stone heaters, they are not freely available, they are sold and fitted by their makers. They look very well made, and do as they claim (ie switching on and off whilst retaining heat). But their storage capacity is short (lets say 40 minutes) as opposed to a night storage heaters which store for hours.

    You correctly say any non-storage option takes her off eco 7 and that will result in her bills potentially going up quite dramatically, at which point she will suddenly forget it was her who found them on the web and blame you.

    Dimplex do some nice modern storage heaters, pop them in, in place of the existing, you've then upgraded the heating, added value to the flat (which another system might not do, might reduce it by not being proper heating).

    The only other option might be an air source heat pump and wet central heating, but personally I wouldn't go there....
    rogerk101 likes this.
  18. vrDrew63

    vrDrew63 Active Member

    When is the last time you flew on a thirty year old airliner?

    OK, I know it is technically possible. But the reality is that most commercial airliners get retired and scrapped well before they reach that age. Not just because airframes wear out. But because the engines and avionics become obsolete. They burn far more fuel, and create far more emissions and noise, than new planes. At some point it becomes much cheaper to fly a new plane than an old one. Even if that means spending £100 million on an Airbus or Boeing, and selling your old one for parts and scrap.

    Why do we treat buildings differently?

    I'm sure that the land this block of flats is sitting on has considerable economic value. It's probably close to shops, and jobs, and transport, and cultural attractions. But thanks to the cost, complexity, and overall nightmare of getting planning permissions to tear down and replace them - we tolerate the existence of residential structures that have considerably outlasted their economic and design lifespans.

    Building a new block of flats, flats designed and built for today's lifestyles (showers in the bathrooms, enough cupboard space in the bedrooms and kitchens); with a high level of insulation and thermal efficiency, off street parking and electric car charging, would save everybody a ton of money.

    The sad thing is, our present housing market is such that we make poor people live in buildings that are very expensive to heat and maintain. And somebody (be it the landlord, the tenant, or the taxpayer) ends up paying for it.
    rogerk101 likes this.
  19. FlyByNight

    FlyByNight Screwfix Select

    Probably very recently. There are commercial airliners still flying at over 40 years old and I believe on is 46. BA have quite a few over 25 years, Lufthansa's oldest is 29, Air France 28 and in teh USA Untied and Delta have many aircraft flying that are well over 30 years old. The main reason they are taken out of service is fuel efficiency - that is after moving down the chanin from top tier airlines to the real cheap local carriers in S America, Aftrica and such. Some avionics systems being install currently were first designed and installed 30 years back.
  20. Tilt

    Tilt Screwfix Select

    Probably because buildings don't fly ........... :D
    I-Man likes this.

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