Long-term changes need to be made to the way homes are heated and powered.
We spoke with IOBACâ€™s CEO Paul Woolvine to discover how heating and flooring technologies could help.
Time is running out for the UK to meet its carbon reduction targets and the way we live has to change. A big part of that will be saying goodbye to our gas and oil boilers, which the UK is looking to phase out almost completely by 2050. Indeed, in March 2019 it was confirmed that from 2025 there will be an end to installing gas boilers in new build homes. Itâ€™s a tall order, especially when you consider that the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has vowed to try and keep energy bills as low as possible.
So, we need to make big, long term changes to the way we power and heat our homes, but with minimal up-front costs and lower ongoing energy bills. Paul Woolvine, CEO at IOBAC, discusses how innovative heating and flooring technologies could be the answer.
Heated flooring to the rescue (but not as you know it!)
Generally, underfloor heating operates at a lower temperature when compared with standard radiators; it retains heat for a good length of time after it has been switched off; and the even distribution of heat can allow a room to heat up more quickly and stay warm.
For some people, however, barriers still exist that put them off underfloor heating. Itâ€™s considered by many as an expensive luxury product with a disruptive, complex installation processes. It can also be difficult to remediate if thereâ€™s a problem. And the big one: typically, there are limited options for renewable energy inputs.
So, can we harness all of the intrinsic benefits of underfloor heating within a simpler, more cost-effective and accessible solution? The good news, according to IOBACâ€™s CEO, Paul Woolvine, is â€œyesâ€.
Paul explains: â€œIOBAC heated flooring was developed to overcome issues commonly associated with conventional electric mats and water-based underfloor heating systems. Our heated flooring solution doesnâ€™t require you to dig up your floor or cause any disruption to any existing pipework or electric system.â€
Sounds easy, right? â€œIt really is as easy as it sounds,â€ continues Paul. â€œThe process is as follows: lay conductive copper strips, apply conductive paint, apply magnetically dielectric paint, install surface tiles, connect copper strips, and away you go. Itâ€™s far easier to install and much easier to remediate or change and is a simple painted solution â€“ simply remove the floor tile and coating and repaint. And importantly, this underfloor heating solution can be powered by a highly efficient electric input from an AC or DC supply â€“ like solar panels. With this technology itâ€™s absolutely feasible to heat your home with solar power â€“ or any other electrical input for that matter. That way people donâ€™t need to be reliant on big energy companies.â€
On this solutionâ€™s sustainability credentials, Paul explained: â€œWell, firstly, this solution uses infrared heat. Research suggests that infrared heat has numerous health benefits, including increased blood circulation, an enhanced immune system, and reduction of joint pain and inflammation. Infrared heat is typically more budget friendly; designed with sustainable inputs the running costs are significantly less than conventional solutions and the temperature tends to be more consistent.â€
So, youâ€™ve heard of heated flooring, but heated walls?
Traditional radiators can range anywhere from 120mm to 480mm and typically, the thicker the better due to a lower fin density. But a thicker radiator can look bulky and unsightly, or even cause design issues. Paul explains why he believes IOBACâ€™s alternative offers the best of both worlds: â€œOur heated walling technology is a modern-day alternative to traditional radiators. Itâ€™s a micro-thin radiator, which can essentially be â€˜paintedâ€™ onto the wall using a special patent-pending Graphene-based technology. This enables more design freedom â€“ no more unattractive wall-hung radiators â€“ and can be connected via an AC or DC supply. Imagine your home without bulky radiators! This technology essentially works in the same way as our heated flooring: conductive copper strips, apply conductive resin, dielectric paint, and connect copper strips. It shares further similarities with heated flooring: itâ€™s non-disruptive, cost-effective, and enjoys all the benefits of infrared heat.
â€œOf course, some people â€“ especially those that are environmentally conscious â€“ may want to switch out their traditional radiators straight away. But we donâ€™t necessarily anticipate 20 million-plus households to rip out their existing radiators overnight. Itâ€™s why, initially, we envisage that this technology will be best suited to the new-build market. Itâ€™s also why weâ€™ve developed a smart radiator cover for retrofit applications that will be available later this year.â€
Retrofit radiators do of course currently exist, but some can be inefficient and fairly expensive. Paul explains IOBACâ€™s imminent answer: â€œRetrofitting radiators can be costly and time-consuming â€“ often you have to deconstruct the radiator. IOBACâ€™s technology enables you to effectively cover the existing radiator with a highly efficient Graphene-based heating system, which is really simple to do yourself. This is again utilising our superconductive graphene technology and, as with our heated flooring and heated wall technology, it can be designed to be more efficient than traditional solutions. This will be available to buy over the counter later this year. Watch this space!â€
Paul concludes: â€œWe think these technologies could enable the governmentâ€™s 2050 target to potentially become a reality by the mid-2020s. But, crucially, it needs to be straightforward for people to switch to more sustainable solutions and energy sources. As The Guardian says, most people, unfortunately, are unaware of the alternatives. More needs to be done about that and alternatives need to become more accessible.â€
Whatâ€™s for certain is that the built environment will have to adapt as it moves further away from a reliance on fossil fuels. More and more individuals, organisations, and now the government, are beginning to seriously consider the alternatives.
Indeed, this yearâ€™s Futurebuild was themed around â€œTime for Actionâ€, focused specifically on sustainability and the need for a healthy future for us all. The challenge is clear, but what will the built environmentâ€™s solution be? Technologies like IOBAC may well be an integral part of it â€“ especially given the need to do it as quickly and cost-efficiently as possible.