The energy for life…
Energy is essential to our daily lives. It heats our homes, fuels our transport and supplies our electricity. At the moment, most
of the energy we use comes from fossil fuels such as oil, gas, coal and peat. Unfortunately there is a limited supply of fossil
fuels in the world and we are using them up at a very fast rate. The other downside to fossil fuels is that burning them for
energy also produces CO2, a greenhouse gas, which causes climate change. That’s where sustainable energy comes in.
So what is sustainable energy?
Sustainable energy refers to a way we can use and generate energy that is more efficient and less harmful to the
environment. Another way of explaining sustainable energy is that it will allow us to meet our present energy needs
without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. We can do this by being more efficient
in how we use energy in our daily lives and also by increasing the amount of energy that comes from renewable sources
such as the wind, the sun, rivers and oceans.
What are the benefits of sustainable energy?
The good news is that being sustainable in how you use energy has immediate benefits:
It will save you money on your electricity and heating bills
Your home will be more comfortable and convenient
And you will also be making a vital contribution to reducing climate change
Believe it or not, the small actions you take to be more energy efficient in your home can have a very significant impact
on improving the environment. The collective efforts of individuals can often be the most powerful of all.
Who is Sustainable Energy Ireland?
Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI) was set up by the government in 2002 as Ireland’s national energy agency with a mission
to promote and assist the development of sustainable energy. SEI’s activities can be divided into two main areas:
Energy Use - Energy is vital to how we live our daily lives but most of us don’t use energy as efficiently as we could.
By assisting those who use energy (mainly industry, businesses and householders), to be more energy efficient, SEI
can help to reduce the amount of energy we use overall.
Renewable Energy - Energy that is generated from renewable sources such as wind and solar power is clean and
doesn’t produce harmful greenhouse gases. By promoting the development and wider use of renewable energy in
Ireland SEI can help to further benefit the environment, in particular reducing the threat of climate change.
SEI is also involved in other activities such as stimulating research and development, advising on energy policy and
producing energy statistics.
Sustainable Energy Ireland is funded by the National Development Plan 2000-2006 with programmes part financed by
the European Union.
Did you know…
• Energy use is responsible for two-thirds of Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions.
• Irish homes use around a quarter of all energy used in the country– that’s even
more than industry.
• The average home consumes almost 40% more electricity than it did in 1990.
• Renewable energy currently accounts for just 2% of Ireland’s energy supply.
Heat Generation Systems
Heat Distribution Systems
Heat Emitters
Heating Controls
Heating System Efficiency
A major capital and on-going expense in your household
budget is the provision of energy for heating your house
and providing hot water for showers, baths, washing etc.
The householder is faced with a bewildering choice of
heating systems and this booklet will assist in
examining options.
But before you consider a heating system you should first take
a look at your house.
Is it poorly insulated?
House should be insulated to the current Building Regulation
Standards insulated or better.*
There are two broad categories of heating systems available:
Is it draughty?
Heating systems that generate heat in central unit in your
house (i.e. boiler) and distribute the heat using water (i.e.
pipes to radiators) or air (i.e. ducting to grilles).
Windows and doors should be draught-proofed to allow
the minimum ventilation rates to ensure good air quality
and avoid condensation. However, be careful not to overseal
the house as this can be unhealthy and unsafe. For new
buildings, part F of the Building Regulations outlines exact
ventilation requirements.
Heating systems that generate heat in each room
separately by means of a solid fuel, gas, oil or electricity.
For advice on insulation and draught-proofing see
SEI’s A Detailed Guide to Insulating Your Home.
Fuel types
Solid fuel
Some fuels, i.e. solid fuel, oil,
LPG, etc will require you to
provide space to store the fuel.
This may be bulky or unsightly
or may have safety or
insurance implications.
In general the more convenient the form of heating and the
more refined the fuel the higher will be the cost to the
householder. The delivered cost of fuels alters from time to
time due to a variety of factors. The annual running costs of a
heating system depend largely on the cost of the useful
energy of a fuel taking account of the efficiency of the heat
generator employed. See SEI’s Fuel Cost Comparison Sheets
for a comparison of current energy costs and typical appliance
Gas oil
Natural gas
Environmental issues
All fossil fuels when burnt
will cause emissions to the
atmosphere. All these fuels
will emit CO2, the main
greenhouse gas which is
contributing to global
warming. In addition to
carbon dioxide and water
vapour, some fuels will also emit smoke particles, sulphur
dioxide and oxides of nitrogen to the air which will reduce our
air quality.
Check with local fuel
suppliers for convenience
of supplying a particular
Considerations for the householder
Wood fuel from managed forests
Sustainable fuels
Solar energy
Wind energy
Day rate electricity
Off-peak supply
SO 2
CO 2
The most effective ways we can protect our environment are by
insulating our homes sufficiently and by operating our heating
systems efficiently. This way we will reduce the amount of fuel
we use and hence our impact on the environment.
The required output of a heat generator to heat a home
is determined by calculating the heat lost from the home
for winter conditions and matching the heat output of
the generator to this loss. The heat demand of the home
will include three components:
Heat lost by conduction from inside to outside through
the roof, windows, walls and floor
Heat required to warm the cold air which will infiltrate
through windows, doors and other openings in the house
Heat required to provide an adequate supply of hot water
for baths, showers, etc.
The total amount of heat for these three components will
represent the required kilowatt output of the heat generator
to be installed. An addition of approximately 25% is often
added to the calculated heat losses when choosing a heat
generator. This allows for faster heat-up of the house
particularly if the house has been unheated for a long period.
The types of central heat generators available are illustrated
below. Heat generators that produce heat separately in each
room are shown in the Heat Emitters section of this booklet.
Conventional boiler
Gas, oil or solid fuelled boilers, located inside or outside the
house, will heat water which is distributed by pump or gravity
circulation to heat emitters in each room.Maximum efficiency of
approximately 84% will be achieved with new boilers when the
burner air/fuel ratio are set properly and the heat transfer
surfaces inside the boiler are clean. Boilers located outside the
house and distribution pipes from them to the house should be
well insulated and waterproofed to minimise wasteful heat loss.
The heat losses from a boiler located inside a house actually
contribute to the heating of the house.
Condensing boiler
This type of boiler, burning
gas or oil, condenses the flue
gases and increases the
efficiency of combustion to
approximately 92% or
higher. These boilers are
more costly to buy than
conventional boilers but the
price difference will be
recovered over 10–15 years
due to reduced annual
running costs. These boilers,
which operate at maximum efficiency when running at lower
temperatures are ideal for under floor heating systems. For
radiator systems operated at lower temperatures the radiators
may need to be oversized to provide the required heat output.A
condensing boiler will emit a plume of water vapour to the
atmosphere during operation, this is normal and harmless.
Cooker and boiler
Using solid fuel, oil or gas this type of appliance, located in the
kitchen, will supply hot water for heating and also provide
cooking ovens and hot plates. They are suitable for large
kitchens with a frequent cooking requirement. When using
solid fuel, the chimney should be cleaned twice annually and
the appliance itself should be cleaned as often as twice
weekly, particularly if bituminous coal is used.
Back boiler
A typical open fire has a poor efficiency, perhaps as low as
15–20%. The installation of a high output back boiler will
provide domestic hot water and space heating while
increasing the efficiency to approximately 40–50%. Open fires,
whether solid fuel or gas fired, cause an increased ventilation
rate in rooms. Air for combustion must be provided. If the
location of the air
supply can be
located close to
the fire, (i.e. from a
floor void), then
draughts will be
fuel back boilers
must be cleaned
much as twice
Safety Watchpoint
It is important to note that the design of solid fuel systems
must incorporate a 25 mm independent gravity circulation
circuit to dissipate heat from the boiler or fire. This is
particularly important if a pump is used to aid the circulation
of heating water in the main heating circuit. In the event of an
electricity failure the pump will not function and the gravity
circuit will be the only means of dispersing heat from the
boiler. If the water boils, a dangerous situation could arise.
Even when the domestic hot water storage cylinder is heated
by another fuel, an electric immersion heater is usually
installed in the storage cylinder.The electric immersion can be
used in the summer months when the central heating is not
If the electricity supply to the immersion heater is controlled
by a separate time switch then it may be possible to avail of a
cheaper night rate tariff.
Local storage systems
A local hot water storage heater must have an adequate
capacity to meet the anticipated demand for domestic hot
water for the appliances supplied by the system. The heater
must have sufficient rating to return the water stored to the
correct temperature in a reasonable amount of time.
Gas fired and electrical local hot water storage heaters of the
following types are available.
Larger storage type
For baths and multioutlet applications a
range of gas fired or
electric wall or floor
mounted domestic
water storage heaters
are available. With
certain types of
storage heaters, cold
water supply must be from the mains;with others it may be from
the attic cold water cistern.
Hot water supply system
Over-sink type
Immersion heater
Electric heating elements are
installed in the hot water
storage cylinder. The typical hot
water storage cylinder has two
elements. A low rated element
located towards the top supplies
small quantities of hot water for
sinks or showers. An element of
higher rating, located lower
down in the cylinder, heats
sufficient water for larger
demands such as baths.
Gas fired or electric hot water
storage heaters of this type
are available for single outlet
sinks or basins. Oversink hot
water heaters are suitable
where the demand is less than
10 litres at any one time.
Undersink type
Electric under-sink hot water
storage heaters are available
for single outlet applications.
Local instantaneous systems
concrete floors can absorb and store energy during the day
and release it gradually during the evening.
The necessity to store hot water to meet the household’s
demand may be avoided by installing water heaters that heat
the water as it is required. This type of domestic hot water
heater has no facility for storing hot water and is designed to
match the required demand of the points of use. It operates
with a low flow rate of water and is therefore most suited to be
used in conjunction with low demand appliances such as
showers or spray taps.
Gas fired instantaneous
water heater
A suitable natural or liquid
petroleum gas supply and
a minimum water supply
pressure of 1 bar or 10 metre
head is required to operate
this type of water heater.
Electric instantaneous
water heater
An electricity supply of 30 amps and a
minimum water supply pressure of 1 bar
is required to operate this type of water
Whatever heating system is installed in the home, it should
have a suitable response time and good controls to maximise
the usefulness of solar gains. Overhanging eves, blinds, natural
ventilation, thermal mass and other means can provide
overheating protection in south facing rooms in summer
In general, it is not wise to increase south-facing glazed areas
too dramatically. Otherwise additional measures will be
required to avoid overheating in summer and excessive heat
loss at night and on overcast days in winter.
Active solar heating
Renewable Heating Sources
Active systems have collectors and heat on south-facing roofs
and heat is distributed using air or water.
The rapid depletion of non-renewable energy sources along
with the necessity to reduce our emissions of greenhouse
gases when we burn fossil fuels has encouraged us to seek
sustainable energy sources.
Practical renewable energy sources available to us for home
heating are solar and geo-thermal energy.
Solar energy
In temperate climates, such as that of Ireland, solar energy can
contribute to the heating requirements of a house. Heat may
be gained in a passive or active way. Recent technology
developments mean that solar heating can be exploited to
provide a considerable proportion of a home’s heating and
hot water demand.
Passive solar heating
If the house is exposed to low-altitude winter sun, glazing
should be concentrated on the south façade. Window area on
the north façade should be minimised to limit heat loss.
Thermal mass within south-facing rooms, e.g. masonry walls or
A cost analysis of solar heating systems must be completed to
determine the possible payback period before embarking on
an installation. The complexity of controls required to
integrate the solar heating with other forms of heating
employed should be carefully considered.The installation of a
solar heating system is best contemplated when building a
new house. The retrofitting of an installation to an existing
house is more difficult and expensive.
Geo-thermal energy
Geo-thermal ground water energy
If sufficient ground water is available close to a house it may
be used as a heat source. Open or closed systems are used to
tap into this heat source. In open systems the ground water is
pumped up, cooled and then reinjected into the ground.
Open systems should be carefully designed to avoid problems
such as freezing, corrosion and fouling. Closed systems can be
direct expansion systems, with the working fluid evaporating
in underground heat exchanger pipes, or water/antifreeze
loop systems. This system is particularly appropriate when
using under floor heating coils in a house. Geo–thermal
heating systems have a higher installation cost than the
conventional fossil fuel using heating systems.
Heat pumps
Heat pumps offer a most energy-efficient way of providing
heating. Even at temperatures, which we consider to be cold,
air, ground and water contain useful heat that’s continuously
replenished by the sun. By applying a little more energy a heat
pump can raise the temperature of this heat energy to the
level needed.
The great majority of heat pumps work on the principle of the
vapour compression cycle. The main components in such a
heat pump system are the compressor, the expansion valve
and two heat exchangers referred to as evaporator and
condenser. The components are connected to form a closed
circuit. A volatile liquid, known as refrigerant, circulates
through the four components. In the evaporator the
temperature of the liquid refrigerant is kept lower than the
temperature of the heat source, causing heat to flow from the
heat source to refrigerant, and refrigerant evaporates. Vapour
from the evaporator is compressed to a higher pressure and
temperature.The hot vapour then enters the condenser, where
it condenses and gives off useful heat. Finally, the highpressure refrigerant is expanded to the evaporator pressure
and temperature in the expansion valve. The refrigerant is
returned to its original state and once again enters the
evaporator. The compressor is driven by an electric motor.
Geo-thermal ground energy
If the ground around your house is suitable and has sufficient
area then a heat pump system may be considered.This system
is also very appropriate when using under floor heating coils
in a house. Heat is extracted from pipes laid horizontally or
vertically in the soil and both direct expansion and
water/antifreeze systems can be used.The thermal capacity of
the soil varies with the moisture content and the climatic
Expansion Valve
Air to air
Ambient air is free and is a common source of energy for
commercial heat pumps when summer cooling is also
required. The economics of applying air-to-air heat pumps to
home heating should be examined carefully to evaluate all
considerations such as the energy required to defrost
evaporators during low ambient air temperature periods.
The most common means of heat distribution are water
or air.
Hot water from a boiler is pumped around a circuit of copper,
steel or plastic pipes. Pumps to circulate the water around the
house are sized on the basis of the resistance of the circuit
components (i.e. pipes, valves, and radiators) and on the
amount of water to be circulated at the desired flow velocity.
A heating engineer calculates the sizes of the pipes that bring
the water to the heat emitters and return it to the boiler. The
larger the heat output required from the heat emitters in the
house the larger the pipe sizes required to supply those
The water circuit may be open or closed to the atmosphere.
Warm air generators
supply heating via
ducting installed in
floor or ceiling voids.
Warm air systems will
have a faster response
time than a water
suitable for thermally
lightweight buildings
and buildings which have a particularly intermittent
occupancy. A thermally lightweight building is one in which
the walls floors and ceilings of the rooms are constructed of
plasterboard or timber (i.e. there are no concrete or brick
surfaces which would otherwise store heat).
Open systems
Open systems use a small
feed and expansion tank
located in the attic to fill the
system and to accommodate
the expansion of water
during the heating process.
A vent pipe from the heat
generator provides a safety
outlet in the event of water
Warm air systems
Warm air systems may be designed to accommodate solar
heat gains and heat recovery arrangements in the general
layout of ducting from the heat generator to the rooms. This
typically takes the form of a ventilation system incorporating
an air-to-air heat exchanger located in the attic where
temperatures are 2ºC to 3ºC higher than outside
Closed systems
Systems which are closed to the atmosphere can operate at
slightly higher temperatures than open systems. They use a
small expansion vessel near the boiler and a valved filling
systeminstead of an open feed and expansion tank. An extra
safety valve must be installed close to the boiler in addition to
the normal boiler controls to substitute for the open vent pipe
of the open system.
Modern houses are more tightly sealed than older ones and
ducting systems can incorporate the provision of controlled
ventilation rates to all parts of the house. Houses heated by
warm air systems will normally be pressurised relative to
outside, hence our ingress for fresh air must be provided by
mechanical means.
Air ducting, will occupy more space than pipes in a house and
is not as easily concealed.
Heat emitters may be divided between those supplied with
heat from a central heat generator and those which generate
their heat in the room.
The most common heat emitters using hot water from a boiler
are radiators and underfloor coils.
The next section looks at the pros and cons of each form of
heat emission
Underfloor heating
Underfloor heating – pros
Absence of emitters (radiators) allows freedom for
decoration and improves room appearance
Lower temperature, radiant heat provides a stable
comfortable environment.
Potentially more efficient if properly installed and
controlled due to lower temperature of circulating water
Suitable for providing a background level of heating
Additional heat emitters, such as radiators, may be added
to ensure comfort in living spaces
Ideal for use with heat pumps or condensing boilers
(because lower temperature water circulation is required)
More uniform heat distribution throughout the room
Intelligent/self-learning controls can improve the
response times
Radiator – pros
The response time (speed of heating up) is suitable for
Irish temperate climate.
Radiators can be situated to heat cold surfaces, i.e. near
single glazed windows or on poorly insulated walls,
thereby reducing down-draughts
Flexibility – radiators can be relocated or replaced and
additional radiators can be added to the system
Convenient individual room temperature control is
Lower installation costs
Simpler retro-fit in older homes
Underfloor Heating – cons
High cost of installation (20–25% more expensive)
Slow response time is less suited to the Irish temperate
Radiators – cons
Subject to possible leaks and requires some maintenance
Larger radiators are required to operate effectively with a
condensing boiler
Controls and design must be of high standard to ensure
satisfactory operation
Radiators can be ugly and unsightly and will accumulate
dirt and dust
Limited flexibility – considerable building work is required
to change the system
Furniture in room may limit heat emitter surfaces available
Radiators create uneven heating particularly in larger
rooms with high ceilings
Low temperature surface of floor may be inadequate to
satisfactorily heat poorly insulated spaces
Furnishing difficulties resulting from location of radiators
Generally only appropriate for new homes/new buildings
Heat emitters which generate their own heat locally are:
Open fires
Gas or oil fired room heaters
Electric heaters – radiant, blow heaters, convectors, oil
filled radiators and storage heaters
Open fires
Traditional open fires,
whether solid fuel or gas
decorative fuel effect,
remain a visually attractive
form of heating for Irish
homes. They are, however,
an extremely inefficient
form of heating (typically
15% to 20% efficiency) and
will also induce a high
ventilation rate which can be wasteful of energy.
Householders must understand the energy implications of
the open fire.
Safety Watchpoint
When using non-smokeless fuels, the chimney must be
cleaned at least annually, to reduce the risk of chimney fires.
Portable gas or oil fired room heaters
These appliances, which operate at 100% efficiency, burn
liquid petroleum gas (LPG) or kerosene. They have a high
efficiency but the products of combustion (mainly CO2 and
water vapour) will be emitted to the room. Adequate
ventilation must be provided to ensure comfort and safety
and may give rise to local condensation.
Safety Watchpoint
For safety reasons, gas or oil fired room heaters must be kept
clean and in good operating condition and should not be
used if the burner is in any way defective; never use a gas
heater if the ceramic radiants are cracked or loose.
Gas heaters
Radiant and convector gas fires are about 65% efficient, so
they are ideal for use on cool spring and summer evenings
when the daytime temperatures are too high to justify turning
on the main central heating system. Usually they make no
pretence to imitate the appearance of an open fire, and they
use the existing chimney to take away the gases formed by
combustion. Some are designed to be fitted in front of special
back-boilers, central heating boilers which sit in place of the
old solid fuel grate.
Convector heaters have similar efficiencies, and use a short
connector pipe, or balanced flue, through an outside wall to
take away the flue gases and to bring in the necessary
combustion air.
Electric heaters
A variety of electric
appliances using full
price electricity are
available. Radiant fires
provide direct heating
to occupants and oil
filled radiators, blow
heaters and convectors
supply quick response
heat to rooms. It is
recommended that proper time and temperature controls be
installed with this type of heating to ensure economical
operation.These operate at 100% efficiency.
Off-peak electricity at a considerably cheaper rate is available
to storage heaters and electric floor warming coils.The design
of the heating installation and the level of control employed
must ensure the matching of the heat output of the appliance
with the heat demands of the room.
Providing space heating and domestic hot water for a
household represents a sizeable expense each year.
There are a number of factors that will have a major effect on
the size of the annual heating energy bill. Among the most
important are the:
insulation of the roof, walls, floors and windows of the
design and installation of a space heating and a hot water
system to match the specific requirements of the house
matching the output of the space heating and hot water
systems to the demands of the household at all times
Following the construction of the house and the installation
of the heating systems the householder will have the
opportunity to manage the output of these heating systems
each year. This section of the guide will illustrate the various
forms of control that can be used on typical space heating and
domestic hot water systems to ensure a balance between the
requirements of the household and the output of the systems
installed in the house.
It is necessary to emphasise the importance of controlling the
outputs from all heat producing appliances so that they
equate with the needs of the occupants. Heat energy must be
used in the correct quantities and at the times required.
Generating too little heat energy results in lack of comfort
while employing too much energy will cause waste and fuel
bills that are too high.
Control of the heat generator
For the efficient and safe operation of a fuel burning heat
generator, the following points should be considered:
Boiler/burner on-off
Ideally the space
heating and domestic
hot water supply
circuits should be
separate. A time clock
or programmer will
allow the householder
ensure that the boiler
will operate to provide
heat only when required. The separate timer control of space
heating and hot water supply will guarantee that domestic
hot water can be provided in the summer period when
heating is not required.
Air-fuel mixture
If too much air is used
by the burner then an
unnecessary amount
of heat will be lost up
the flue. Too much air
can also lead to
Too Much Air
unstable combustion
and ignition problems.
Conversely if too little
air is employed then there will be incomplete combustion and
unburned fuel will be lost up the flue, causing air pollution,
and rapid fouling of the boiler, hence lowering efficiency.
This section will cover the following topics:
Control of the heat generator
Control of the heat distribution system
Control of the space heating emission system
Control of the domestic hot water supply system
The optimum ratio of
air to fuel is achieved by
correctly adjusting the
mixing arrangements
of the burner. The
adjustment of the
Too Little Air
burner air/fuel ratio is
not automatic and
must be performed
during the regular servicing of the boiler and burner by a
qualified heating engineer, following an analysis of the
products of combustion.
Temperature of
flow water
Control of the heat
distribution system
Each boiler is fitted with a
control thermostat to regulate
the flow water temperature.
The householder should set
this thermostat so that the
temperature of the water
flowing from the boiler is within
the correct range of 70–80ºC.
In a typical heating system using water as the heating
medium, the normal method of controlling the distribution of
heat energy to the heat emitters is by means of a pump. In
order to optimise the energy efficiency of the heating system
it should be fitted with both time and temperature control so
that the pump is activated and heat distributed when and
where it is required.
Maximum temperature of water
Time clock/programmer control
For safety reasons it is important that the water temperature
in the boiler should not rise to a level approaching 100ºC, the
boiling point of water. To ensure that this does not occur the
boiler will be fitted with a high limit thermostat which is
factory set 5–7ºC above the control thermostat setting. It is
not adjustable by the householder, who must manually re-set
it in the event it is tripped. The cause of repeated activation of
a high limit thermostat should be investigated by a heating
The operation of the
heating system must match
the occupancy pattern of
the household. A suitable
time clock/programmer will
provide electric power to
the boiler and pump when
there is a requirement for
heating. The householder may wish to turn off the heating
system during the night when people are sleeping or during
the day if the house is unoccupied, which can easily be
achieved with suitable settings on the programmer. Time
clock control is also important for occasional electric heating,
i.e. fan heaters, convectors and oil filled radiators to avoid
wasteful use of energy.
Safety protection device
In the unlikely event of both the control thermostat and the
high limit thermostat malfunctioning at the same time, the
boiler water temperature could rise dangerously to boiling
point, resulting in steam formation and consequently a
pressure build-up, above the normal working parameters. The
boiler should be fitted with a safety valve which will relieve
any such build-up of pressure. To cater for the unlikely
operation, the valve outlet should be piped to a location
where the discharge of boiling water and steam will not be
Protection against frost
If a house is left unoccupied during extremely cold weather
then there is a possibility of water pipes freezing if the house
remains unheated. A frost protection thermostat will
automatically put the heating system into operation in the
event of the outside temperature approaching 0ºC, supplying
sufficient background heating to avoid burst pipes. While this
type of thermostat is not common in domestic heating
systems, it should be considered for a new installation or
when modifying an existing system.
Pump on-off control
Heating water from the boiler will be distributed through
pipes to the heat emitters around the house by means of a
pump. The normal method of switching on the pump is by
means of a room thermostat. The thermostat should be
located in a position in the house which will be representative
of the comfort conditions in the house. The hall or the living
room are the typical locations employed by householders.The
householder should set the lowest possible temperature that
will provide comfortable conditions in the house, typically
18–20ºC. Turning down the room thermostat by 1ºC can
reduce the fuel bill by 10%. For warm air systems a room
thermostat should be used to switch on and off the heat
generator in response to room conditions. When the heat
generator is off, the fan circulating the air would continue to
operate in order to utilise the residual heat from the heat
generator and may revert to half speed when the heat
generator cools.
Zone control
It is normally advisable to divide the heating system into
separate zones. This will allow independent operation of the
heating system in different parts of the house. Typical circuits
would be the ground floor, the first floor and the domestic hot
water storage cylinder. Autonomous operation of the zones will
be achieved if individual motorised valves or pumps are fitted to
each zone.Timer and thermostatic control will permit individual
and economic functioning of the heating system in each part of
the house. Each zone will be switched on only at the times
required by the household and when there is a demand for heat
indicated by the thermostat located in that area.
Individually controlled
zone valves
To Heating
From Heating
Optimiser control
A second type of control system, again for larger installations,
is an optimiser control, which measures the outside and inside
temperatures and switches on the boiler and pump in
anticipation of the heat demands of the building. This form of
control prevents the heating system operating unnecessarily
when the outside temperature is relatively high and the
building is already warm.
Control of the space heating
For all heating systems it is recommended that there be a
separate hot water circuit to allow for the heating of hot water
without needlessly heating the home. This is a requirement of
all new buildings in accordance with the Building Regulations
published in 1997. Additionally, these regulations suggest
that for homes over 100 sq. m the heating system should be
split into at least two zones in accordance with typical heat
demand differences – namely the bedrooms and living areas,
the former of which typically requires lower temperatures.
Weather compensator
For larger installations consideration may be given to the
provision of weather compensator control to help reduce fuel
bills. This type of control system uses a thermostat located
outside the house and a 3-port mixing valve positioned close to
the boiler. The temperature of the flow water to the space
heating circuits is adjusted according to the outside air
temperature. A low outside air temperature will direct the
control system to supply the highest possible flow water
temperature to the heat emitters. When the outside
temperature rises, the demand for space heating in the house
will be reduced.The control system will cause the 3-port mixing
valve to supply a lower temperature water to the space heating
circuits and save on heating costs.
Water is the most
common distribution
medium in a heating
system and heat is
generally emitted to the
rooms in the house via
radiators or convectors
(fan assisted radiators).
There will be occasions
when heating is not required in particular parts of the
building. The householder may isolate the heat emitters in
these areas either manually or automatically.
Manual control
Radiators and convectors will most often be fitted with a
hand wheel valve. This valve allows the heat emitter to be
isolated from the heating circuit from which it derives its
supply. It has a very limited capacity to regulate the water
flow, so it is used fundamentally as an on-off control.
A lock shield valve will also be installed on each emitter. This
valve is used by the installer to balance the flow of water to
each heat emitter. The valve must be operated using a
screwdriver or special tool and is therefore not intended to be
adjusted by the householder.
Automatic control
A thermostatic radiator
valve (TRV) may be
installed instead of the
hand wheel valve. The TRV
contains a bellows which
will close the valve on a rise
in air temperature in the
room, stopping the flow of
heating water to the heat
emitter. The TRV has a
number of settings, which
the householder may use to set the desired air temperature for
each room. In locations where a high level of heating is
required,the TRV will be set at the top setting.Conversely,if only
background heating is desired then the valve will be fixed at its
lowest setting.
A motorised valve can also be placed in series with the hand
wheel valve. The motorised valve will be activated by a room
thermostat located in a suitable position in the room. The
room thermostat will be set by the householder to maintain a
specific level of heating in the room. Where it is anticipated
that a room may be unoccupied for a period then the room
thermostat may be set to ensure only minimum background
Control of the domestic
hot water supply system
Domestic hot water supply may be provided from a central
storage cylinder, from local storage or from an instantaneous
source. There is scope for energy saving in the way hot water
is produced and used.
Control of central storage cylinder
The hot water cylinder should be supplied with heating water
from the boiler via a separate circuit from the space heating
circuits. Two aspects of a hot water cylinder that should be
controlled are the times that heating water is circulated from
the boiler to the coil heat exchanger and the temperature at
which the hot water in the cylinder is stored.
Motorised valve/separate pump
The most common
To Hot Water
method of ensuring
Cylinder Circuit
that the hot water
cylinder can be heated
at times when space
heating is not required
To Heating
is to install a motorised
valve on the space
heating circuit so that
it can be isolated from the cylinder heating circuit.
The air temperature will be measured by the room thermostat
at a suitable location in the room rather than at a low level
close to the heat emitter, as is the situation with the TRV.
This ensures improved response to changes in room
temperature. This type of automatic control for a heat emitter
is more effective than conventional TRVs, but more expensive
t121.663 mm
Motorised Valve
To Heating
An alternative could
be to provide individual pumps for
the hot water cylinder
and heating circuits.
To Hot Water
Cylinder Circuit
A time clock/programmer will provide electric power to the
motorised valve or the hot water heating pump at the times
the household requires the hot water cylinder to be heated. A
cylinder thermostat located on the domestic hot water
cylinder will control the supply of heating water to the coil
heat exchanger in the cylinder. Its operation will maintain the
domestic hot water at the temperature selected by the
householder. If the water is stored at too high a temperature
then energy will be wasted. However, if water stored in the
cylinder is kept at too low a temperature, then there is a danger
that harmful bacteria may flourish. The cylinder thermostat
should be set to ensure that
the domestic hot water is
stored at a temperature of
60ºC. Note too, that, where an
electric immersion heater is
fitted on a cylinder, that this
should not be on while the
heating system is on, as this is
wasteful of energy.
Control of local systems
In large houses where points of use are far apart, heat energy
and water are wasted during distribution from a central
storage cylinder. The installation of a local hot water system
eliminates this wastage.
Point of use control
Domestic hot water should be stored at 60ºC. However, water
at this temperature is too hot for showers. Manual mixing
valves are used to mix water from the storage cylinder with
cold water from the cold water cistern to provide water at the
correct temperature.
The mixing process can be automated by installing a
Thermostatic Mixing Valve. This valve may be adjusted by the
householder to provide water at the desired temperature.
Once the setting is maintained the shower water temperature
will always be the same provided the water in the storage
cylinder is at or above the desired temperature. This will
minimise energy and water wastage.
Local systems may be of the storage or instantaneous type
and natural gas, liquid petroleum gas or electricity are the
fuels used.The manufacturers of storage or instantaneous hot
water heaters provide a control thermostat on the appliance
with which the householder may set the temperature at
which the water is stored or produced. Manufacturers will also
fit a high limit thermostat to prevent the water boiling in the
event of the control thermostat malfunctioning. The high
limit thermostat is not adjustable by the householder and
must be reset manually if it has been activated. Repeated
activation of the high limit thermostat must be investigated
by a heating engineer.
Timers may be used to automatically switch on and off the
water heaters at the times required by the household.
Effective control of the space heating and domestic hot water
supply systems in a house will ensure that comfort conditions
are achieved at the minimum cost. Heat energy should be
used only when and where it is required. Additional
automatic control measures that would improve the energy
efficiency in the house may be identified and installed where
appropriate. Where a new installation is proposed, as many as
possible of the applicable energy saving control measures
shown in this guide should be included.
In this section on energy conservation, we are going to
examine typical domestic heating systems to illustrate
where energy may be wasted. This will assist
householders with existing heating systems to identify
problem areas where heat may be lost, and it will also
help householders planning to install a new system to
select devices that offer maximum efficiency. This
section is comprehensive and therefore sometimes
covers areas which should only be addressed by a
qualified heating engineer.
Heat generator
The most common types of heat generator are boilers using
solid, liquid or gas fuel.
Burner not operating properly
The function of the burner is to ignite the correct mixture of
air and fuel to achieve the most efficient combustion possible.
Boiler surfaces
not clean
The heat from the burner flame
must transfer across the boiler
surfaces to the water.
Problem – Ash and soot scale on boiler surfaces.
If deposits of ash and soot scale form on the boiler heat
transfer surfaces, then a barrier to the flow of heat between
the flame and the water will be created. This will lead to a
reduction in the amount of heat being transferred to the
water and an increase in the loss of heat to the outside via the
Solution – The ash and soot deposits on the fire side of the boiler
transfer surfaces should be removed with a wire brush when the
boiler is being serviced.
Flue in poor condition
Problem – Air/fuel mixture not correct.
If too much air is used
by the burner then an
unnecessary amount
of heat will be lost up
the flue.
The products of the combustion
process must be removed safely
and efficiently from the boiler.
Too Much Air
If too little air is used by
the burner, then there
will be incomplete
combustion and unburned fuel will be lost
up the flue, causing air
pollution. The boiler
will become dirty and
inefficient very quickly.
Problem – Excessive noise and fumes from boiler flue.
Obstructed or leaking flues will cause poor combustion in the
boiler and will result in noise and fume problems and possible
danger to occupants of the building.
Solution – Ensure that all flue joints are sealed, the flue is clean
and the flue gases can exit safely and efficiently to the outside.
Too Little Air
Solution – An analysis of the flue gases should be performed
when the boiler is being serviced by a qualified technician at least
once a year. The analysis will assist in ensuring that the correct
mixture of air and fuel is being burnt.
Householders intending to purchase a new boiler should
consider choosing a condensing boiler. This type of system
can operate with an efficiency of 92% compared with a typical
efficiency of approximately 84% for a conventional boiler.
Boiler insulation
in poor condition
The function of the insulation
around the boiler is to minimise
the ‘heat radiation loss’ from
Problem – Poor insulation around boiler jacket.
If the boiler is in a location not requiring heat, i.e. an outside
boiler-house, then heat lost from the boiler jacket through its
insulation will contribute to a reduction in the efficiency of the
boiler in transferring heat from the fuel to the water.
Solution – Ensure that the insulation and metal cladding of the
boiler are in a sound condition.
Heat distribution system
Unnecessary pipe runs
Heat Loss
The most common type of heat
distribution system is hot water
circulated by a pump through
either copper or steel pipes.
Heat Loss
Uninsulated pipes
The function of the pipes is to convey the hot water from the
boiler to the heat emitters.
Problem – Uninsulated pipes in unheated locations.
The water in heating pipes
will be typically 65ºC higher
in temperature than the
surrounding air when they
pass through unheated areas
of the house, i.e. underfloor.
Heat will be lost from
uninsulated pipes.
Less Heat Loss
Less Heat Loss
Pump located in wrong position
If the pump in an open
system (i.e. with a feed and
expansion tank in the attic) is
located between the feed
and expansion connections,
then ‘pitching’ may occur.
‘Pitching’ is the pumping of
hot water into the feed
and expansion tank. This
phenomenon results in the
loss of heat from the system
and increases corrosion of
steel pipes and radiators.
Pipes that do not take the
most direct practical route
from boiler to heat emitter
will lose heat unnecessarily.
Further energy will also be
wasted in pumping through
the excess pipe lengths.
Solution – Pipes should take the shortest practical route from
boiler to heat emitter.
Pump running unnecessarily
Solution – Insulate all exposed pipes in unheated locations with
a minimum thickness of 15 mm of suitable insulation.
Problem - Hot water being
pumped into feed and
expansion tank.
Problem - Heat being lost from
unnecessary pipe runs.
Problem – Pump running
when heat is not required.
A typical arrangement would
be that a room thermostat
would control the operation
of the pump. The overall
control of the boiler and the
pump would be by means of
a time-switch.
Cold Tank
Solution – Ensure that the Room Thermostat controlling the
operation of the pump is mounted in a suitable location and set
at an appropriate temperature for that location.
Incorrect Pump Position
Correct Pump Position
Solution - The pump should be located outside the feed and
expansion connections in the return or the flow pipes.
The room thermostat should be set at the lowest practical
temperature that will ensure acceptable comfort conditions in
the house.
Pump speed incorrectly set
Solution – Allow a gap of 150 mm from the floor to the bottom of
the heat emitter and approximately 50 mm between the wall
and heat emitter. Any shelf above the heat emitter should be
located at least 150 mm above the top surface. Avoid placing full
length curtains in front of heat emitter.
Problem – The pump has been
installed in the correct location, but
the speed setting is wrong.
Heat emitter incorrectly sized
Typical pumps installed in domestic
installations will have a number of
speed settings available. The pump
should be set to run at the optimum
speed by the installing heating
engineer to ensure that the output
of energy matches the pressure
requirements of the home heating
Problem – Heat emitter not matching the requirements of the
If a heat emitter is too small for
a room, comfort may be
sacrificed during cold periods.
Solution – Ensure that the output of the pump installed matches
the pressure and flow rate requirements of the heating system.
Heat emitters
The function of the heat emitters is to transfer heat from the
circulated hot water to the heated space.
Restricted air flow around the heat emitter
Problem – Air unable to
circulate freely over the
heat emitter.
Radiators and convectors (fan assisted
radiators) require an
unrestricted air flow over
the front and rear panels.
Any obstruction to the
upward flow of air will
result in a reduction in
the heat output from the
If a heat emitter is too large
either fit a TRV to reduce the
flow and prevent overheating
and waste of energy or reduce
the flow via the lock shield
Solution – The correct ‘heat loss’ should be calculated for each
room by a heating engineer and the matching heat emitter size
Heat emitters operating unnecessarily
Problem - Heat emitter providing heat in excess of immediate
There will be occasions when heating is not required in
particular parts of the house. Heat emitters may be isolated
manually by turning the handwheel valve.
Automatic control of radiators may be achieved by installing
thermostatic radiator valves.These will ensure convenient and
effective reduction of heat emission in locations where a
reduced heat input is required.
Solution – Install thermostatic radiator valves on all heat
Heat emitter location
Problem – An incorrectly located heat emitter may result in
poorer system performance.
Windows and outside walls will be the coldest surfaces in the
house. Cold windows cause downdraughts and
uncomfortable conditions for the occupants. Higher air
temperatures must be maintained to achieve comfort
Solution – Locate heat emitters under windows to raise the glass
temperature and to eliminate cold downdraughts.
Heat control
Achieving control of the heating system is the most important
aspect of energy conservation in a house.
See pages 14–18 of this guide for details of the types of
controls, their applications and proper operations.
The information contained in this section will allow
householders to examine their heating system, identify
possible sources of energy wastage and initiate remedial
action to conserve heat and reduce fuel bills.
Useful contacts for further information
SEI, Glasnevin, Dublin 9.
Energy Hotline: 1850 376666
Irish Agrément Board, Glasnevin, Dublin 9.
Telephone: (01) 8073800
National Standards Authority of Ireland, Glasnevin, Dublin 9.
Telephone: (01) 8073800
Construction Industry Federation, Federation House, Canal Road, Dublin 6.
Telephone: (01) 4977487
Relevant Standards
Irish Standards
IS 240:1994, Efficiency Requirements for Hot Water Boilers
IS 298:1987, Thermal Insulation of Pipes, Ducts and Storage Vessels
Irish Building Regulations 2002
Technical Guidance Document
Technical Guidance Document
Technical Guidance Document
Technical Guidance Document
Part J, Heat Producing Appliances
Part L, Conservation of Fuel and Energy
Part F, Ventilation
Part B, Fire
Irish Agrément Board Certified Products
The Irish Agrément Board assesses, tests and certifies insulation products for compliance with the requirements
of the Building Regulations. An index of certified products is available from the Irish Agrément Board.
Source Text
Don Byrne
This leaflet is printed on paper produced from 50% recycled
and de-inked fibres and 50% chlorine free bleached pulp (TCF).
Read our other publications:
A Detailed Guide to Insulating Your Home
Your Guide to Renovating an Older Home
Your Guide to Building an Energy Efficient Home
Your Guide to Renewable Energy
A Consumer Guide to Sustainable Energy
How to make your Home more Energy Efficient
Sustainable Energy Ireland is funded by the
Irish government under the National
Development Plan 2000-2006 with programmes
part financed by the European Union.
SEI, Glasnevin, Dublin 9
tel: +353 1 836 9080
fax: +330 1 837 2848
[email protected]
SEI InfoLine
8 to 8, Mon to Fri, 1850-376 666
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