02 Sep 2015

Take your heating into the trenches

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Trench heating is fast becoming a popular and practical choice for heating modern homes because it is easy, energy efficient and perfect for combatting heat loss from glass facades. Here Justin Vicarage, Technical Estimator at Jaga Heating Products UK, discusses the benefits of trench heating.

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The successful marriage of design and functionality is the age-old quandary for the self-builder, but an aesthetic vision need not be compromised in order to attain a genuinely comfortable living environment.

For the ambitious self-builder set on turning architectural aspirations into reality, deciding on how to heat a new property can sometimes be overlooked – not only in terms of how radiators can be incorporated within an interior decor, but also how efficiently they perform over the lifecycle of the house.

Trench heating is becoming an increasingly popular choice because it ticks all the boxes in terms of satisfying end users’ heating, comfort and efficiency requirements, and because it can save floor space and be stylishly incorporated into any given room. The process of building the trenches and installing the heaters might seem a little daunting, but it is not as difficult as you might think. In fact, compared to some of the alternatives, it is blissfully manageable and brings its own unique benefits.

Combatting heat loss efficiently

Standard wall-mounted radiators can obviously perform a job, but aren’t necessarily in keeping with a minimalistic approach. Trench heating is discreet and complementary to a design that favours maximum space. Walls are left free, allowing you to position furniture exactly where you want it, and the irritation of having to work around radiators when redecorating will be removed. With the addition of stylish designer grilles available in a wide range of materials – from chic aluminium to elegant oak – the trenches can even enhance the decor from along the perimeters of the rooms.

Trench heating is not just a heating system, it is a stand-alone design element with genuine practical functionality. But this technology really comes to the fore when it is positioned in front of glass facades.

Contemporary building design presents an ever-growing appreciation for natural light. This recognition has manifested itself in the form of floor-to-ceiling glass windows, which have become an architectural feature in many new self-builds. Glass has the potential to make a home feel that much more open and welcoming, whilst better connecting it with the outdoor environment. Glass facades quite often become the focal point of a building and the basis for a sleek, contemporary look both inside and out. It is no wonder that this approach to building design – which became popular in commercial buildings to create a sense of openness and transparency – has become widely used in modern domestic buildings.

With the requirement to cut down on CO2 emissions, how a building manages its energy consumption is of course an important consideration. Glass facades have practical benefits; an increase in natural daylight reduces the electrical energy required for lighting and solar thermal comfort prevents unnecessary energy waste when the sun is shining. However, glass is a poor insulator and is the most common source of unnecessary heat loss, resulting in both reduced comfort levels and unnecessary high energy bills – that is unless you choose a heating solution that directly combats this. Trench heating is ideally suited because its convection currents help to minimise heat loss and draughts by creating a barrier of heat that rises from the floor before circling back down the face of the glass facade – helping to keep heat in whilst preventing condensation.

While this will resolve the heating issues with the glass, space heating trenches should be specified to complement those positioned in front of the glass – a consideration that a competent manufacturer will be able to advise upon and accommodate accordingly. In terms of general performance for space heating, the trenches are economical and efficient to run because they produce heat from floor level that is evenly circulated throughout the room, meaning there are no cold spots or inefficient heat build ups such as near the ceiling.

Furthermore, the system can be specified with low mass, low water content heat emitters that can run at low-flow temperatures – reducing energy spend by as much as 16%. With considerable savings resulting from their performance – as well as the removed temptation to overcompensate on temperature control to combat any heat loss through the glass – your home will be optimally efficient both financially and environmentally, as well as ensuring it is an entirely comfortable temperature throughout the year.

Easy installation

For the savvy self-builder, the installation process is relatively simple because a trench heating system remains true to the original concept of a conventional radiator.

With the exception of constructing floor voids to house the trench heaters, installing the units themselves and connecting them to a hot water supply and control system is essentially the same as any other radiator.

Many people might point to underfloor heating as a potential alternative, but in the context of a self-build project this can be costly, time-consuming and complicated. Then, if in the long run there is a fault with the system, access is difficult and repair costs can escalate. By comparison, trench heaters are cheaper and easier to install, particularly when you are seeking to minimise the manpower on-site.

The grilles, whilst looking fairly complicated to install, are usually supplied as single roll-up parts. This makes laying them down a swift procedure and ensures they can be easily removed to perform general maintenance and cleaning of the trench and element when required.

The manufacturer you choose can help to soothe any potential headaches. If there are unique space requirements such as a curved bay window, the manufacturer will purpose-build the trench heater to fit. There is also a misconception that by installing the radiators yourself, you would have to build and test it too. However, the trench heating systems are usually pre-assembled and pressure tested at the point of manufacture for maximum end user convenience.

When paired with a considered heating system for when its solar thermal power is ineffective – and thus counter-productive to energy efficiency – glass is a superior design choice, both in its aesthetic contribution to a building and in enhancing its efficiency.

Many heating options may jump out, however, trench heating blends aesthetically pleasing design, functionality and painless installation. By seeking out an expert trench heating manufacturer, all your heating and design requirements will be considered and the products will be tailored for you and delivered to your door, ready for installation.

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