For the majority of UK homeowners, the panel radiator is the norm when it comes to heating their homes. Other heating solutions, such as fan convectors, are often overlooked, regardless of whether they are actually the optimum heating solution for that particular location and scenario.
A hydronic fan convector distributes heat evenly throughout a room using forced convection. It contains a fan and a heat exchanger (aluminium fins with copper pipes) connected to a standard two-pipe central heating system. Hot water, heated by the boiler, is passed through the heat exchanger and the heat from the hot water is transferred to the aluminium fins. Cooler air is drawn in by the fan and heated as it passes over the heat exchanger before being expelled gently back into the room.
Holding just 5% of the water content found in an equivalent panel radiator, considerably less energy is required to heat them. Not only do consumers have to wait for radiators to heat up and cool down, they are difficult to control beyond their thermostatic radiator valve (TRV) settings and at least 10% of radiator heat is lost in the wall behind it. Fan convectors can be switched on and off to provide an almost instantaneous heating source, especially valuable in rooms that are used intermittently. Because fan convectors use forced convection, the direction of heat is controlled and equally distributed to ensure that no heat is lost.
Compared to radiators that are very hot to touch, all fan convectors are, by design, low surface temperature appliances, eliminating risks of injury in places where hot surfaces might be a safety concern.
The technology in a heat pump is marketed on its capacity to transfer the “free” energy from the air or ground into usable energy for the home, often in the form of hot water for the central heating system. This process requires an input of “paid-for” energy, which means the higher the water temperature you require, the more energy you are going to need.
Fan convectors operate effectively at system water temperatures as low as 35°C. A standard domestic radiator is essentially designed to operate at much higher temperatures, around 70°C, and while it is theoretically possible to run them at lower temperatures, their performance and heat output is dramatically reduced and their physical size is substantially increased. To operate close to their optimum efficiency, heat pumps should be paired with modern fan convectors to minimise on running costs and carbon emissions.
Fan convectors are versatile, quiet to run and easy to install. They also offer many advantages over panel radiators and should be regarded as a very worthy competitor by the heating industry.
Jim Bennett is sales and marketing director at Smith’s