Old Buildings Love Infrared

There was a problem in 2012 when the National Trust in Scotland wanted to refurbish and upgrade a Victorian home after the long-term tenant left. The issue was how to install an efficient heating system without detracting from the historic and aesthetic value of the property. This is a question that many old and listed buildings are having to face in the green age.

The answer for the National Trust came from infrared heating. Not only does it provide good levels of warmth for properties that suffer from draughts and poorer insulation, it also has one distinct advantage.

It can be hidden from view.

One of the benefits of installing infrared heating is that it doesn’t have to look like a standard radiator. Historic Scotland invested about £5,000 to upgrade the building, hiding nine infrared panels behind objects such as mirrors. That means the property didn’t lose any of its charm and that was a big plus for an organisation like the National Trust.

Scotstarvit Cottage is in Fife and had an old oil fired heater. The owners were looking for a more efficient and low carbon approach to heating the old building up. According to the company that installed the heaters:

“Now that we are able to properly insulate most homes, these convection heating systems are shown up as costly and inefficient. Far infrared heaters are the next generation, offering a far more 
efficient and controllable ­heating. I believe these heaters can make a difference in both modern and historical properties.”

The success of the upgrade for Scotstarvit Cottage didn’t just include installing infrared heating. The insulation had to be improved as well. There are hundreds of listed buildings all over the UK that are badly in need of the same type of upgrade to make them more habitable. Infrared heating could be top of the list for may simply because it is so flexible from an aesthetic point of view. Panels can be fitted to walls and ceilings and they can either be disguised as works of art or mirrors.

The other benefit is that infrared is also considered one of the healthier heating option. It works by heating objects directly rather than the air around it, making it suitable for old buildings where issues such as damp are perennial problems. For old buildings, there has always been an inherent problem when attempting to change to newer, greener technologies. There is, understandably, a desire to retain the look and feel of these properties and maintain the protected aspect.

Introducing infrared heating could be the solution that organisations such as the National Trust are looking for. It’s relatively cheap and easy to install and maintenance over the lifetime of a panel is minimal. Heating can also be tightly controlled and costs kept down compared to old gas and oil fired technologies that have outlived their usefulness.

The good news is that infrared heating is beginning to gain popularity in the UK, as it has already done in other parts of the world.

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