Passive House standards of design and construction are now well established in the UK. Despite the higher cost of ultra-efficient design, living in a home with potentially zero running costs is extremely attractive.
Peter Williams moved in to his bespoke Passive House in 2012. The dwelling replaced an old, stone-built house that was always expensive to heat with limited comfort. His new home was a revelation. In addition to ultra-low heat losses, the property benefits from some solar gain, and the only heat source was a biomass stove. This maintained comfort for the first six years of ownership, and total heating costs during this time were approximately £300 pa. This approach to heating wasn’t without some issues, as Peter explains:
“We moved from a house that cost £2,000 – £3,000 a year to heat with limited comfort so the decision to build to Passive House standards was well worth the extra cost and effort. The stove was our only heat source. Although the house retains heat exceptionally well, the stove had to be lit in the mornings during the heating season, and sometimes needed to be cleaned and re-set twice a day which is a hassle. We’re very close to the Co. Down coast and depending on wind strength and direction, it was sometimes near impossible to get the stove to light. It also features a fan to convect warm air in addition to radiating heat, you get used to the background noise but it’s not ideal. It was also getting harder to source spare parts – and I knew the stove would need to be replaced or upgraded at some point.
Andy designed and installed our 3kWp PV array in early 2014, which further assists with low running costs. We’d already installed the stove but were interested to learn that infrared heating could provide an efficient, affordable and zero maintenance heat source. We kept in touch and read with interest about whole-house infrared and PV installations. After a delay sourcing spare parts for the stove we decided to try Herschel Infrared. Andy met with our electrician on-site and we worked out how to retro-fit the heater panels using a dedicated electrical circuit. The total heat load for the whole system is just 3.4kW, which seemed very low but we had confidence in Andy’s experience. Installation took just one day and the T1 thermostat ensures we don’t have to light the stove, and the house is warm in the mornings when we rise.
Andy explained that, as with all heating, there is a cost to run the system but to date I haven’t noticed a significant change in our electrical consumption – this is where the solar really helps with household running costs.
We have a stock of pellets and so still use the stove on occasion, and the infrared is only on when needed thanks to the thermostat control. As we approach the heating season, I welcome the lack of hassle and maintenance. The heater panels are also ceiling-mounted so we don’t lose any wall-space, and the heat is very natural and comfortable to live with.
We weren’t aware of Herschel Infrared when we built the house, but now promote the benefits as a passive house heating system especially when partnered with solar. It’s a great fit with the high efficiency demands of Passive House design”.