Combining the benefits of safety and energy efficiency

Combining energy efficiency and safety with low-surface-temperature radiators — Phil Marris.
Phil Marris explains how the latest technology for low-surface-temperature radiators delivers safety and energy-efficient performance. In an age of increasing litigation, the specification of safe heating solutions is becoming of paramount importance. With surface and pipework temperatures of up to 75°C, conventional radiators can cause serious if not fatal burns within seconds. Radiators operating at such high temperatures in public areas pose a very serious hazard risk. There is now a range of low-surface-temperature (LST) radiators on the market that not only eliminate the problem of burn-related injuries but which also have the very latest in energy-efficient technology and unlike some of the earlier versions of LST radiators, they are far less obtrusive in design. Challenge Today’s specifiers face the challenge of selecting radiators that not only comply with stipulated safety guidelines but are flexible enough to allow individual radiator temperatures to be easily adjusted. Low-surface-temperature (LST) radiators are the obvious choice to meet this demand. Recent technological developments in the heating industry mean it is now possible to have low-surface-temperature radiators that are attractive and compact, yet also perform with higher levels of energy efficiency — an important feature of modern day specification. Low-surface-temperature radiators are designed to incorporate a casing that covers all hot surfaces, preventing anyone from coming into direct contact with high temperatures and, therefore, eliminating the risk of burn injuries. The casing of a cool-touch LST covers the pipework as well as the radiator, so all hot surfaces are concealed, and the exposed surfaces remain at a safe temperature of no more than 43°C. In an increasingly litigious society, those responsible for providing heating solutions in public areas must ensure complete compliance with health-and safety legislation. In 2003, the director of a care home in Buckinghamshire was fined £17 000 when an 85-year-old resident died after sustaining serious burn injuries whilst sleeping from a radiator located next to the bed. Design is also another important safety aspect when it comes to the specification of radiators in environments occupied by vulnerable people. Conventional radiators tend to have sharp edges that can cause serious injury. For example, if an elderly person were to fall onto a radiator, the risk of sustaining a nasty injury as a result would be far greater due to the fragility of their skin,. The outer casing of an LST radiator must be designed to avoid sharp edges, using smooth, rounded corners and edges to minimise the risk of injury. Energy efficiency The 2006 Building Regulations, aimed at reducing carbon-dioxide emissions, have added another challenge. Specifiers are now faced with the need to find more environmentally friendly technologies to help meet with latest requirements on energy efficiency in buildings. In addition, both private and local-authority buildings need to take account of energy consumption, and heating and hot water account for a significant proportion of energy costs. For this reason, it is essential that the heating system is energy efficient as well as effective.

Modern technology applied to low-surface-temperature radiators delivers efficient and responsive heating to reduce energy consumption.

The output demands from a heating system fluctuate through the course of the day, starting at full output on a cold morning and gradually easing off as the ambient temperature rises. However, it is also important that the heating system reacts quickly to changes in the space temperature caused by other factors, such as variable occupancy of rooms or solar heat gains, especially in modern well insulated buildings. The high water content and high mass of conventional radiators makes them quite slow to respond in this respect. A more responsive, and therefore more efficient, solution is the use of low-mass heat emitters with low water content. Such radiators have only 10% of the mass of and contain as little as 10% of the water content of a traditional radiator — so they buffer less heat and react at least three times faster to fluctuations in temperature. As a result, they heat up immediately if the temperature falls below the set-point and stop heating as soon as the set-point is exceeded. Independent testing by the Building Research Establishment has shown that such response can reduce energy consumption by 5 to 15%, depending on outside weather conditions. Safety With hot surfaces and sharp edges, a radiator has the potential to be a dangerous object to anyone — given how easily accidents can happen. However, for the more vulnerable groups in society, such as the elderly, young children, prison inmates or those in psychiatric institutions, these risks are greatly increased. In such environments, the specification of safe, cool-to-touch heating solutions is vitally important to meet with health-and-safety guidelines. Low-surface-temperature radiators are designed to conceal hot surfaces and pipe work. Soft-profiled corners, can avoid injury caused by falling against them. Latest developments in the heating industry such as low thermal mass and water content means safe heating can now be energy efficient and attractive. Phil Marris is managing director with Jaga Heating Products.
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