Heating & Thermal Efficiency Upgrade Options for Apartment

Discussion in 'Home energy' started by iamaspinner, Jul 13, 2018.

  1. iamaspinner

    iamaspinner Frequent Poster

    Posts:
    81
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2018
    Fizzy, Leo, thank you both.

    Mods, please start a new thread if you think it's best.

    I need to make a decision about this. We live in a 10 y.o. apartment (Celtic tiger). During last winter I recorded temps of 12-13 C in the bedrooms. There are convector heaters in them (plus a small storage heater in the corridor and a large one in the living room/kitchen). When the kids were staying with me I had the heaters on the timer for at least 20 min of every hour during the night! I tried the same with an oil heater but it made an awful noise every time it turned off and kept waking up the kids. Both gave off a funny smell and with the convector heaters the room was cold very quickly after turning off.

    The apartment is a top floor of about 90 sqm, 3 beds, dual aspect (E-W) sandwiched between two others plus one below. The bedrooms are only used for sleeping at the moment. Two have large windows, the main a floor-to-ceiling with a door on to a balcony. One of the small bedrooms has an air vent (whole in the wall, which I partially blocked because it felt like an arctic blizzard near it). I will be putting thick curtains on all but I don't think that will solve the issue.

    I'm considering several possibilities for the bedrooms:
    1. Lucht type heaters
    2. Small storage heaters
    3. Internal insulation

    I'm working on a list of pros and cons of each. In the meantime, I'd welcome suggestions and ideas, also a recommendation for an expert builder or engineer to come and assess the situation.

    Edit: I should have added that during the week we're never in the apartment between 8:30-18:30, sometimes even less.
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2018
  2. Leo

    Leo Moderator

    Posts:
    9,091
    iamaspinner likes this.
  3. elcato

    elcato Moderator

    Posts:
    2,807
    I have a lucht 1100 in my Living room. In the winter when I have it on it uses about 10 units a day. I have no idea whether it uses this at day rate or night rate as I just used an old meter gimmick I had from the ESB to check it's daily usage. I'd imagine that given it's slightly warmer during the day and I am in that room a few hours a day that it leans towards more night time usage. The advantages of it over storage heater are
    1) No wiring required when setting up - it just plugs in
    2) Starts up straight away so don't need to predict the cold a day in advance
    3) Can be knocked on and off as required handy enough
    However I paid about 450 for it and I'm pretty sure a storage heater is cheaper than that but as I said you may need to get wiring in.
    I had a full revamp on an apartment a few years ago and got the insulation done by a good plasterer and it definitely makes a huge difference. Problem is that it can take a while and given you are on the top floor it will add to the cost. He's moved on to another career now so can't recommend but you need to factor in moving out for the works also.
     
    iamaspinner likes this.
  4. fizzy

    fizzy Frequent Poster

    Posts:
    116
    Hi Iamaspinner,

    I posted a few stats from my first year post Lucht heaters in the old thread where this topic started at https://www.askaboutmoney.com/threads/joule-therm-heating-system.199937/page-2#post-1575050

    Your apartment is much more modern than mine, but if you are on the top floor, is it possible that a lack of roof insulation might be a factor? I know when the old roofs on our old blocks have been replaced, that this increased warmth in the top floor apartments, but with modern building regs hopefully your roof should have better insulation.

    When I first moved in, I was told by electricians that storage heaters in bedrooms were against regulations as you could be overcome from the heat from them in the night.

    I've no experience of adding insulation, but whether you do or not, the lucht heaters should be a big improvement on the panel heaters & I would not personally consider storage heaters even if they are OK regs wise.

    When my main storage heater went 18 months ago, when I priced decent storage heaters they were in the same ballpark as the lucht heaters at the time. Storage heaters only heat up from late night on & there is no way the heat from them lasts all day, so unless you get one with a convector component also (which works much worse than a panel heater in my experience) you have no heat at normal bed times.

    I don't use my lucht heaters in the same way as elcato - they are not on 24/7. Instead, I time them to be on for an hour in the morning, and then I put them on & off on demand when we are in the rooms.
    Elcato's figures sound right because Lucht claim that the heaters only use electricity for half of each hour at max even if on all the time.

    They do take longer to heat up than panel heaters, but then they keep the warmth longer too, and you have the option of leaving them on at a certain temperature and then they will switch on & off to maintain that temperature - it's just a subtle click sound on & off so would not wake you up. So if you turn them on a while before bed, the room should be plenty warm.

    The lucht heaters can only do so much if your room has a low BER. While you can set a high temperature on them, if your insulation etc is poor, it may have trouble reaching above a certain temperature. That's the case in my living room, which is very large and the lucht 1800 heater is a bit too small for the room size, so we augment with a panel heater.

    But my bedroom/office would also have been at 11/12 degrees without any heat during the cold snap, and the lucht 1200 heater in there is a huge success. It is on a lot of the day in winter but is using less elec than the old 2 Kw panel heater and the room is toasty! Being a smaller room (15x9 foot), it warms up within 30 mins in the morning even in cold winter.
     
    iamaspinner likes this.
  5. iamaspinner

    iamaspinner Frequent Poster

    Posts:
    81
    Thank you very much for your replies.

    Did you install your Lucht radiators under windows or on other walls?

    My intention is to live in this apartment for years to come, so I wouldn't mind too much paying to get the right thing done right. If it is expensive and inconvenient insulation that I need, I will look into it because I don't think radiators alone are the answer. But how to tell is another story. I would be concerned about damp and condensation issues as mentioned in this Irish Times Q&A.

    Would it be worth having an engineer/surveyor over to do a proper analysis of the situation? Any recommendations?
     
  6. Buddyboy

    Buddyboy Frequent Poster

    Posts:
    437
    Two things that came into my head

    1. Have you access to the attic (you said it was a top floor), and have you assessed the insulation levels? This is the first thing I'd do - otherwise you are bleeding a lot of heat out of the ceilings. I'd be looking at putting at least 12 inches of insulation there.
    2. The next biggest place for heatloss is the windows. Have you checked how sealed they are, and even if it is worth while replacing them. You have a door out to the balcony - I'd do some sort of smoke test to see if it is draughty.

    I think the main causes of uncontrolled heat loss, in order of amount lost are 1. Attic, 2. Draughts 3. Windows 4. Walls. So I'd be looking at internal insulation last, and address the first three. Only then would I look at heating, as if you control the heat loss, you should not need as much heat input.

    You only have to heat a space by the amount of heat lost, so assessing the heat loss is the first thing. Apologies if this has all been covered before.

    Finally, the "hole in the wall" vent. While is it necessary to ventilate the apartment, especially the bedrooms, it might be worthwhile to put in a mvhr system. This again will minimise the heatloss. This could be a full system (if you have access to the attic - but I don't know the legalities of apartment living re. the attic). Alternatively a cheaper option is to install a single heat recovery vent in the hole in the wall e.g.
    https://renergise.ie/shop/energy-saving-products/ventilation/

    Damp and condensation problems are addressed with adequate ventilation. It is a balance between adequate ventilation, which unfortunately removes heat, but this can be minimised with heat recovery. What you don't want is heat lost through poor insulation.
     
    iamaspinner likes this.
  7. elcato

    elcato Moderator

    Posts:
    2,807
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2018
    I got the legs with them so I can move it around if required. Particularly handy given I moved apartments last year.

    Edit to note: I should add that the legs simply slot into the rads so can be transported easily
     
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2018
    iamaspinner likes this.
  8. Leo

    Leo Moderator

    Posts:
    9,091
    Rads used to be placed under windows to avoid creating a circular convection current (cold air falling from window, hot air rising from rad creating a current making the room feel draftier and colder) combat the drafts and cold air seeping through. As window technology (air-tightness & insulation) has improved, this is much less of an issue.
     
    iamaspinner likes this.
  9. fizzy

    fizzy Frequent Poster

    Posts:
    116
    Both of mine are under windows, purely because that is where my old heaters were so made sense. But they can be put anywhere once you have suitable power sockets available.

    Definitely! Perhaps there might be grant options available too?
    With BER audits etc, an expert should be able to tell you where the problems are & which changes would make the most difference.

    I got new windows & doors first (expensive & some hassle - some improvement but not dramatic, even though worlds apart in spec), then partly blocked bedroom vents in winter (easy & significant improvement) and finally got lucht heaters (medium cost & easy - major improvement).

    I've finally started to appreciate my poorly insulated walls during the heatwave - always a silver lining somewhere! :)
    Some apartment blocks (usually much older ones than yours mind) take on external or cavity insulation work at a block level too, although I think it's very much the exception to the rule given funding issues etc.
     
    iamaspinner likes this.
  10. elcato

    elcato Moderator

    Posts:
    2,807
    The benifit of this is very much dependent on how many of your walls are external though. In my case I only have one (the front).
     
  11. iamaspinner

    iamaspinner Frequent Poster

    Posts:
    81
    Thanks again for your comments.

    There's no attic space. It's a flat roof and I'm directly underneath it. There might be a gap of between 1-2 meters. I don't think there's even access to it. Ceilings inside are relatively high though, so a layer of insulation there, if it's only a few inches, wouldn't be the end of the world. With time I probably wouldn't even notice.

    You may be onto something there. First of all, the apartment has its own front door onto a common area balcony outside. One of the first things I did though, was to stick extra wide foam to every single window and door. I checked by feel several times on windy days during the winter and couldn't feel anything coming through. I have put up thick curtains since, so hopefully that will help a little in that regard next winter.

    That's what I was thinking. If I'm loosing heat at an unacceptable level, I want to correct that first.

    I partially blocked the holes during the winter. It was like a polar bear den inside the rooms that have it. 2 of the rooms don't have any though. This was pointed out by the surveyor, who recommended making one in those rooms. Not sure what the OMC would say about that. Even less sure I want to have 2 more holes adding up to the problem.

    I never considered heat recovery vents. Does anyone have them and can comment on their experience?

    I think these apartments were first occupied in 2006. From what I can see I would not be entitled to a grant.

    The apartment is dual aspect (East-West) sandwiched between 2 others. The main door and small bedrooms face west. The windows in those bedrooms occupy almost the whole width of the outside walls (but not the height).
    The 2 other rooms face east. They look onto a balcony: one has a glass door and one window panel, the other glass door and 2 panels. Both take a lot more than 50% of the outside walls (width and height).

    I will try and get someone in to assess the insulation and heat loss first and see what they say.
     
  12. iamaspinner

    iamaspinner Frequent Poster

    Posts:
    81
    I've had a builder look at the apartment. It turns out there is no internal insulation behind the plasterboard, neither in the walls nor the ceiling. Based on experience he said that most of the heat is probably being lost through the external walls as opposed to the ceiling but he didn't see the BER report.

    This is from the BER report:

    Fan & Vents
    Cost: Low
    Impact: Low
    Draught Stripping
    This dwelling has 100% draught stripping.
    No specific action is advised.

    Roof (ideally U<=0.16)
    Part of the flat roof in this dwelling has a U-Value of less than 0.4 and greater
    than 0.22.
    The insulation in this roof can be improved.
    Cost: High
    Impact: Low

    Walls (ideally U<=0.27)
    Part of the wall area in this dwelling has a U-Value of less than 0.6 and greater
    than 0.27.
    The insulation in this wall can be improved.
    Cost: High
    Impact: Low

    Windows (ideally U<2.0)
    Some of the windows in this dwelling with a U-Value of less than 2.7 and greater than 2.
    The heat loss through these windows can be reduced.
    Cost: High
    Impact: Low

    Doors (ideally U<2.0)
    Part of the door area in this dwelling has a U-Value of less than 4 and greater than or equal to 2.7.
    The heat loss through this door area can be significantly reduced.
    Cost: Medium
    Impact: Low

    Efficiency of Main Heating System (Electricity)
    Cost: High
    Impact: High

    Is this enough to start listing priorities? Or do I need more info?
     
  13. Leo

    Leo Moderator

    Posts:
    9,091
    That would go against the conventional wisdom of most heat being lost through the roof, and why the SEAI recommend a minimum of 300mm insulation in attics.

    Have you spoken to the management company to determine if they will even allow this? You don't own the space behind the plasterboard, and so their permission will be required to insulate walls or above ceiling space.

    Perhaps thermal imaging might be useful to show exactly where you are losing heat?
     
    iamaspinner likes this.
  14. iamaspinner

    iamaspinner Frequent Poster

    Posts:
    81
    He said something in the lines that the flat roof already has insulation and that most likely doing internal insulation of outside walls would have a more noticeable impact.

    I was actually considering internal insulation rather than between internal wall and plasterboard if that makes any sense.

    I will look into thermal imaging. Can this be done in the summer, e.g. turning on heaters (and hoping the walls won't melt haha)??
     
  15. Leo

    Leo Moderator

    Posts:
    9,091
    Take a look at the Flir guide here, it contains a section on using thermal imaging cameras. It's best done when it's colder outside so the losses are easier to see, and also should be done early in the day before the effect of the sun heating external surfaces affects the results.
     
    iamaspinner likes this.
  16. iamaspinner

    iamaspinner Frequent Poster

    Posts:
    81
    During the search on the SEAI website for the BER "advisory" report, I noticed that on the results page (not on the report itself) the year of construction is 2005, so I may qualify for a grant after all. I have sent an email to the SEAI. From their Home Owner Application Guide:

    "1.4. Who is eligible for the programme?
    Insulation and Heat Control grants
    - available to all homeowners of dwellings built and occupied before 2006. [Homes built from 2006 onwards will have been constructed to the 2003 Building Regulations]"

    I have asked the BER assessor to give me details of his work in the apartment. It would be good to know which "Part of the wall area in this dwelling has a U-Value of less than 0.6 and greater than 0.27" so that I can do something about it. I hope he has this info and doesn't mind send it to me.

    I am looking for building plans to see if internal insulation was included, to what regulations the apartments were built and if internal insulation was required. I don't know what could be done if something was not completed according to plans and/or regulations, but again I think it would be better to know. If there was something "amiss" in this area, what else could be?!
     
  17. iamaspinner

    iamaspinner Frequent Poster

    Posts:
    81
    So the apartments were built to 1997 regulations. I believe there was a requirement for insulation to certain U-values. Can anybody confirm this please? Where in the building plans should I look for this information? I've downloaded a ton of badly scanned documents from the county council website and gone through them as best I could but haven't found anything. I find it very difficult as a lay person to find or be certain of anything in this regard.
     
  18. noproblem

    noproblem Frequent Poster

    Posts:
    1,119
    If you were friendly with a civil engineer or knew someone who was they would more than likely have that info running around in their heads. They're well used to queries from all sorts about this sort of thing and are usually very helpful.