Emitters tend to be of two types – traditional radiators and underfloor heating. It’s a bit of a toss-up as to which is better. They have their respective advantages and drawbacks.
- a pleasanter heat because it is better distributed
- no wall space taken up by radiators
- possibly more efficient because of lower flow temperature (this works better with heat pumps and full-on solar systems but may not match with domestic hot water temperature requirements).
- usually slightly more expensive to install
- higher pumping costs
- possibly less efficient (in suspended ground floor situations)
- slow warm-up time (especially if pipes are bedded in screen)
- carpets cut down heat output
- less prone to rust as it is all plastic or non-ferrous
- difficult to install in existing floors (they need raising)
- harder to install – manifolds need carefully positioning
- damage or blockage to pipes can be very expensive to repair
- timber floors are liable to shrink (or expand!)
- much better localized control that underfloor
- more responsive
- can overheat locally and cause discomfort (probably the worst condition is close to a bed)
- take up wall space (and this can limit layout of furniture)
- easy to install
- easy to repair
- steel radiators can cause rust sludge in system if not maintained properly
- possible inefficiency on outside walls depending on insulation value (need reflective surface to be kept clean)
The sizing and positioning of radiators in a very well insulated house is not quite the same as traditional design practice would recommend. Typically radiator sizes can be reduced very considerably and it matters less where they are.
As an example a 3/4 bedroom house with 200mm of insulation all round and reasonably good air tightnessA measure of how leaky a building is to air. In other words, how draughty it might be. There are now standard fan pressure tests to check how air tight a house is and the Building Regulations have minimum standards for all new houses (L1A – Conservation of fuel and power in new dwellings (England)). A much higher degree of air tightness is covered by the Passivhaus standard (say 4 or 5 acphair changes per hour (see Air tightness)) might only need a total central heating input of 3 or 4 kWkilowatt - a measure of how fast energy is flowing. e.g. electricity might flow through an electric kettle element at the rate of 2 kW in freezing weather conditions to maintain 21ºC inside. This might equate to half a dozen very small radiators in the region of 60cm x 60cm or so.
With good insulation and high quality double or triple glazing it becomes much less important to position radiators around the edge of a room or below windows. This means that pipe runs can be reduced along with pumping costs. This has a bearing on service duct design and location.
The PassivhausSee more on the Passivhaus standard. The PassivHaus Institute has pioneered a standard for low energy buildings. It includes very low energy usage and ways of achieving this. The word is derived from the idea of buildings which are fundamentally low energy and passive solar heated rather than using extra gadgets to heat them. See Passivhaus for the UK branch of the organisation. concept takes this to its logical conclusion where no central heating system is necessary.
Walls and roofs
Walls and roofs act as emitters when heat from the sun finds its way through into the house. The amount of heat and the timing of heat arrival on the inside surface of the wall is determined by the decrement delayThis relates to the lag time that insulation itself takes to heat up or cool down. It introduces a delay into the effect of the insulation. This can help level out peaks and troughs of temperature. See the section on Decrement Delay value. By getting this right a considerable amount of energy saving can be achieved.