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Working in the Jaga technical department, I am often asked “can radiators that have been designed to be used with heat pumps, also work efficiently with conventional heating systems like boilers?”

The short answer is yes - but as with most short answers, that’s not quite the full story.

It may be promising to hear, as this showcases the significant uptake in the use of greener technologies but, for your average homeowner however, completely upgrading a heating system – including the heat generation and the choice of heat emitters – to a cleaner, greener, cheaper to run system, can be expensive.

My advice? Phase the refurbishment, with the first logical step being replacing the conventional radiators, with units sized to work efficiently with heat pumps. However this logic all depends on which radiators are chosen.

Let’s break it down. In its most basic form, a radiator takes heat from the water supplied to it – so the hotter the water, the higher the radiator’s heat output. For gas or oil boilers, the water is considerably hotter than that of a heat pump. So conventional radiators would be smaller in size and still give high heat output. But, this means that the radiator is too small to provide efficient space heating when paired with a low-temperature system like a heat pump.

On the other hand, traditional radiators big enough to work effectively with heat pumps are usually oversized to suit the system’s low-flow temperatures. But if you were to fit such an oversized radiator with a boiler heated system running at higher flow temperatures, the potential heat output would be considerably higher, and the radiator unnecessarily large, which can cause overheating of the space – not to mention the fact that they don’t look good!

But don’t worry! Advances in technology mean radiators can be much smaller in size, yet work even more efficiently with low-flow temperature systems. This is when the choice of radiator is important. While it may not instinctively be the first decision in the phased refurbishment process you were intending to make, you must think long term – past the heat pump installation and to the on-going running of the whole, completed system.

To ensure costs savings indefinitely – which is usually why people upgrade to heat pumps – I advise you opt for more responsive, and therefore more efficient, low mass, low water content (Low-H₂O) heat emitters. These have less than 5% of the thermal mass, operate with 90% less water running through them, and are much smaller, than a conventional radiator.

Also, by installing Low-H2O radiators, you have the option to fit Jaga’s Dynamic Boost Effect (DBE) system. Fan-assisted DBE significantly improves air flow and boosts heat output levels, so adding the technology at this stage in the installation – even if you don’t turn the DBE on initially – future-proofs the installation to ensure it is ready for use with the intended heat pump system. 

As the industry now offers smaller, more compact units with the technology to ensure their compatibility and efficiency with heat pumps, a phased refurbishment starting with the upgrading of radiators to suitable units, is the logical and most cost-effective way forward.

 

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