Mark Crocker created renewable heating with Infrared when he combined Herschel panels in his home with solar on his roof, when he renovated his beautiful family home in 2017. He was so impressed by the results that he invited us back to help spread the word to others. His aim was to create a low carbon home with low running costs for years to come. The renovation combined solar PV with high levels of insulation throughout, an MHRV system, passive solar gain and Herschel infrared heating.
The heating was installed early 2017, the renovation completed in April 2018. Previously the house had the usual problems typical of an older property, feeling cold with various damp issues which didn’t help his children’s asthma.
The house no longer has any damp and Mark is certain that his children’s asthma problems have significantly reduced since the renovation. The result is a very comfortable and sustainable eco country house which is cost neutral to run and a healthy environment for the family to live in. Whilst on a much larger scale to the average home the same principles can be applied to any house.
When Mark purchased the farm in November 2016 the main house was poorly insulated and very draughty with an old-fired boiler and convection radiators. There were also four small cottages using old night storage heaters. It had an existing 50kW PV Solar Array on a barn that was not connected to the house.
As a priority Mark “wanted electric heating to make use of the extensive on-site renewables, our focus on creating a very well insulated air tight home. To make an air tight home comfortable a mechanical ventilation system throughout is essential; this reduces the need for a large and expensive heating system. Being able to control each room individually is key to being comfortable and reducing the energy required”.
Mark was also keen for the aesthetics to blend with the interior design and the family wanted a solution that avoided the discomfort of cold floors in stone and tiled areas.
Heating options considered
- night storage was ruled out; “I didn’t like night storage heating for the obvious reasons they’re not that controllable and they’re very ugly”
- ground-source heating, with solar displacing pump running costs, was considered as the site has ample land, however capital costs of £100,000 were prohibitive
- a priority for Mark and his family was to not have cold floors so under-floor heating initially appealed. This was ruled out as Mark “was installing a very expensive new floor that I’m hoping is going to last longer than the life of the underfloor system. Also, its very slow to react to temperature changes and with this property having so much solar gain, this would have been an issue”.
Mark says, “The more I found out about infrared heating the more attractive it was. Almost too good to be true and I wasn’t sure whether it really did what it says. Once I got the reassurance from Herschel we went for it”.
An Aga and wood-burning stove provide radiant heat in the open plan kitchen, dining, living room and Herschel heating is used in all other rooms/areas including the ground floor hall, office, sitting room and utility room. Herschel Inspire white and mirror heating panels were zoned with the Lightwave thermostatic control.
Ceilings were colour matched to heater panel, a very discreet ceiling mounted solution that is easy to live with and the Herschel mirror heaters provide a dual function, the natural choice for heating bathrooms which need both a heat source and mirror.
Mark outlines “What I like about Herschel’s infrared heating panels”
- There is no wasted energy
- as soon as you turn them on they start heating the room and as soon as the desired temperature is reached they switch off
- there is no boiler/pumps running all the time, losing heat in pipes with slow reaction times
- each room is always at the desired temperature at the right time
- the greenest kilowatt is one that is not used
- Comfort and improved air quality
- we have not felt cold all winter even when temperatures dropped below -5˚C
- without convection heating constantly circulating hot and cold air there is noticeably less dust
- there has been no condensation or any damp feeling throughout the house, including the basement
- silent, the system makes no noise
The ground floor is maintained at 21 ˚C at all times providing comfort in the area where most time is spent. The bedrooms and bathrooms are warmed in the evening and for morning and a 1 hour timed boost provides on-demand heat at other times, as required. “We like our bedrooms relatively cold overnight but warm in the evenings and mornings”.
Although difficult to qualify Mark believes his son’s improved asthma condition to be a result of the improved air quality from infrared heating combined with the MVHR system in the family home.
“My children suffered from mild asthma and would have very bad coughs every winter. Now this winter they have had coughs but nothing like before. There is definitely less dust in the house. Its noticeable and it feels more comfortable. We’ve had zero condensation in the basement which was damp and cold before we did the renovation”.
- Cost effective and very easy to install
- the complete system, with 18 zones, was 8 times less to purchase and install than a new ground source, underfloor heating system
- there are no ongoing maintenance or service charges
Mark installed a further 8 panels, in 1 day, to the let cottages to replace the old 3.4kW night storage heaters. Mark has already noticed a 30% reduction in energy used in the cottages despite March being one of the coldest on record.
- The advantage of having them ceiling-mounted
- radiators are often blocked; wasting energy… heating curtains or furniture or heat going straight out of a window above a radiator.
- not having radiators provides more space in a room and enabling more layout options
- panels can easily be located exactly where the heat is required.
Mark points out one consideration, for anyone looking at infrared, albeit his project is significantly larger than the average home. “Being so controllable, takes some effort to set up correctly and then tweak to each rooms’ requirements during the seasonal changes. For me, I have found that it’s not just turning it on and forgetting about it. For example, I have spare bedrooms set back to 15˚C (so they never go on) but need to remember to update the system online when guests arrive (takes about 1 minute). There is so much information available with reports and charts about each zone it can get a little addictive seeing how rarely the panels are actually on over a 24 hour period while maintaining a constant 21 ˚C”.
“Electricity is currently 3 times the price of oil and gas but I have found that throughout this past winter we have been more than 3 times efficient while being warmer and more comfortable than even my wife expected.
The electricity generated over the course of last year was enough to offset his entire electric running costs for the entire site plus make a small return from the let cottages of +£400*.
Herschel heating has provided Mark and his family with renewable heating with infrared: a low capital, simple to install solution, using readily available tradesmen, that complements the high standard of décor throughout his property, both stylishly and discreetly, as desired. See our video here.
Able to control each room to the desired temperatures from a low energy solution, Mark runs a CO2 neutral heating system alongside his solar PV supply. Mark was “amazed at how cheap it was compared to all the other systems” given the features and benefits profile of Herschel heating “and how easy it was to install. The Herschel solution ticked all the boxes and was competitive against alternative heating options, significantly so in many cases”.
- Solid stone, two-storey home with adjacent rental cottages, stables and equestrian centre
- Key priority to insulate and ventilate building
- Ground floor – New 150mm insulation, 60mm concrete screed, and 20mm limestone floor tiles
- Walls – 150mm of internal insulation added to the existing 100mm
- Roof – 50mm of closed cell spray foam insulation to the underside of the roof added to the existing 100mm fibreglass
- New double glazed windows and doors throughout (U-value 1.1 W/m²K)
- Passive solar gain maximised on southern elevation
- MVHR System – Renovent Excellent 450 high efficiency heat recovery unit, up to 450 cu.m/hr, (11 Inlets, 9 Extracts)
- Aga and wood-burning stove in open plan kitchen/dining/living room
- Herschel Inspire premium heating panels – whole house design
- Zoned with Lightwave thermostatic controls
* Net Benefit
The whole site in numbers April 2017 to April 2018 (100% electric)
|Total Electricity Used||70,000kW (includes heating plus other electrical items**)|
|Imported From the grid||50,000kW||(-£6,000)|
|PV Solar Generated FIT||45,000kW||(+£5,400)|
|Self Use PV Solar||20,000kW||(£0)|
|Exported PV Solar||25,000kW||(+£1,000)|
**Electricity costs also include:
- Main House – large electric Aga, 300l hot water tank, MVHR system and other usual appliances
- 4 Cottages – 8 x 3.4kW night storage heaters (replaced with infrared panels March 2018*) 4 x electric oven, 4 x 90l hot water tank and other usual appliances
- Farm – Water bore pump, horse walker and grooms studio