Infrared Heating – the Experience of 20 UK Households
Research by Dr Alison Kidd
In the first in-depth independent study of its type ever carried out, Experimental Psychologist and experienced researcher Dr Alison Kidd has carried out detailed interviews with 20 households heated by Herschel Infrared to find out what motivated them to choose infrared and what they think about their heating system.
The results are extremely encouraging and we will be using the report to try to inform UK government policy.
Our customers always tell us how much they love their Herschel Infrared heaters and are frustrated that it is largely overlooked by the government. We hope to challenge their thinking.
Summary of Findings (all details onwards are extracts from the report)
- The choice of a new heating system was triggered either by moving to a new home or renovating an existing one. 12 households considered a heat pump but rejected it either because of: installation cost, not wanting either a centralised or wet system with pipes or because their property was perceived as a poor match for this form of heating;
- The households were delighted with and enthusiastic about their IR heating;
- The households saw the main advantages of IR heating as quick, flexible control of their thermal comfort, if and when they needed it;
- They loved the sensation of sun-like heat directly on their bodies as well as the enveloping warmth;
- Running costs didn’t emerge as a major concern for these households relative to the value of quick, highly controllable warmth and their ability to reduce energy use (and cost) when and where it wasn’t needed.
The householders relished the fact that the flexibly controlled IR panels could heat them quickly and directly without being tied to the air temperature in the room. And, if they left the panels on for longer periods, it created an enveloping warmth based on the radiation from all the thermal mass surrounding them. People also preferred the sunlike sensation to the sensation of warm, convected air.
Because of the reduced reliance on air temperature for thermal comfort, people in older and poorly insulated properties found that IR worked well in keeping them warm despite residual draughts.
Main Advantages of IR heating
Most comments referred to their ability to achieve thermal comfort quickly and flexibly whenever they needed it together with the distinctive thermal sensation IR delivers
Flexible, ad hoc control
“I’ve yet to see something which is more controllable from the point of view of switching on and off”
“It’s flexible, it’s effective, it’s configurable, it’s controllable and it’s a much better option than any kind of convection heating”
“Last year when I was working from home, I could actually just heat the room I was in rather than heating the whole house which was perfect”
Heat effect is instant / heats the person directly
“The best thing I like is that instant feeling … you just feel an instant warmth”
“I love the immediacy of it. I really like that you can switch it on and off, yes that’s the immediacy of it”
“With a water fed system, you need to allow that extra time for things to get warm. So it’s instant, pretty instant so I like that”
“If I sit on this seat, I can feel the heat… it’s a nice feeling” “When your underneath it, it’s absolutely beautiful”
It feels like the sun
“It does feel like that kind of late autumn sunshine on your back when you’re out having a walk”
“I tell people that ask that it feels as if you’re on holiday and it’s hot and you’re sat outside - it’s exactly the same sense of heat versus traditional central heating which is all clammy”
“We can sit here, turn it up a little bit and get this beautiful heat. It’s like, my goodness, we’re on the beach in the sun”
Other advantages refer to when the panels were on for longer periods giving time for the thermal mass in the room to be radiating heat.
Left on for longer it’s an ‘enveloping’ cosy warmth
That warmth just envelops you”
"I mean it’s like all encompassing"
“You don’t have to go and hug the heat source because it’s all around you”
Contrasting sensation from convected air
“It’s not overbearing. I don’t get that blocked nose. I don’t get the stuffiness from central heating”
“My son has asthma and he doesn’t get that kind of tight, chesty, dusty feeling that he gets with normal heating”
Draughts or open doors not a problem
“We don’t worry about stuff like draughts which is also really good”
“That you don’t have to worry about air escaping if you open a door or a window … whereas normally if you opened a door, you lost heat from the room”
Aside from the control and feel of the thermal comfort, people enjoyed the warm surfaces, flexible configuration and the option of ceiling panels freeing up space.
People like the fact that surfaces are warm
“We’ve got tiles on the floor downstairs and these things will actually take the chill off the tiles .. we can walk around in bare feet fairly comfortably”
“I would say it’s quite comforting from the point of view if you put your hand on a surface you expect to be cold and it’s not. It warms the surface … you don’t even notice it’s working” “The bathroom was great … it heats the tiles beautifully on the floor so you always get a cosy little bathroom”
Option of ceiling panels freeing up space
“Suddenly you are free from putting radiators on walls - it’s lovely to have the freedom of furniture being able to go wherever you wanted”
“The aesthetics.. It looks modern and clean …rather than putting nasty old pipes and heaters everywhere”
“One of the benefits of being able to put panels on the ceiling, you can get more central to your room and nearer to where we sit to eat”
Modifiable easy/flexible installation
“It’s not hard to install. Just put a surface conduit on and plug it in and you’re up and running. It’s brilliant”
“That was something I liked. If we’ve got a cold area, we can add an extra one because we’ve got lots of sockets. Somebody could just add it into any room they wanted”
The findings from these 20 IR households challenge our thinking on centralised controlled heating, thermal comfort standards and energy wastage. If we decouple heating people from heating air and offer people flexible ‘in the moment control’ over their own warmth, the game changes. It may also be more resilient to the vagaries of home insulation levels, individual physiology and user behaviour.
To download a copy of the full report click here.
About the Research
Herschel invited customers who had heated their property with Herschel Infrared for at least 12 months to participate. Of the applications, 20 were chosen to cover a range of property types and sizes. Interviews were conducted by Alison Kidd via Zoom and lasted 30-40 minutes. The recorded interviews were transcribed, entered into a spreadsheet and the resulting 10,500 comments categorised by topic. This enabled detailed analysis of the language people used to describe their experience and the frequency and pattern of responses on each topic.