The 1st January 2018 heralds the largest upheaval the electric heating industry has experienced in decades, with new energy efficiency regulations coming into play that will likely change the landscape of available products and manufacturers. 

According to Lot 20 legislation, all local space heaters for sale in the EU will need to adhere to these new rules or face the chop, even if they’ve been manufactured further afield.

What is Lot 20?

Never heard of Lot 20? You’re not alone – it’s a piece of legislation that’s been flying under the radar of interest for most of the population, outside of anyone directly involved with the heating industry. To get a better understanding of what Lot 20 is, you first need to understand the main directive it comes from: the European Ecodesign Directive (2009/125/EC).

The Ecodesign Directive

This directive was created so that energy-using products would have a framework of basic requirements to make them as efficient and environmentally friendly as possible, and when you consider the amount of energy we use on a daily basis, it’s clear why this legislation is so important.

The term ‘energy-using product’ can encompass any number of appliances or utilities, large and small: from a standard gas boiler, to a solid fuel burner, all the way to an electronic phone charging dock. This is why products that fall under the scope of the Ecodesign Directive are split into several groups, or ‘so that more specific rules can be implemented for each product type. Lot 20 relates to local space heaters and includes products such as storage heaters, electric radiators, gas fireplaces and underfloor heating.

What will Lot 20 do for electric heating?

To comply with the new Lot 20 regulations, all local space heaters will have to meet a minimum efficiency rating expressed as a percentage. Base efficiency ratings differ between specific heater categories, however, most electric heaters will begin with a base rating of 30% to account for losses in Europe’s power generation infrastructure. The total efficiency rating of a product is determined by how many energy saving features are incorporated into a product; so, simply put, if a product doesn’t have any of these functions, it won’t be compliant with the new regulations. Every control feature has a set value that will positively contribute to a heater’s efficiency rating, and the more sophisticated the level of control, the larger the percentage bonus it will offer.

To illustrate how this works, here’s a practical example: an electric radiator starts with a base efficiency of 30% and includes an electronic thermostat with programmer, which provides an additional 7% bonus. This increases its total to 37%, and as most electric heaters require a rating of 38%, this control feature alone almost brings it over the line of compliance.

Basic controls do not fare so well – if we assume in the same example that it has a mechanical thermostat only and no programming function at all, the heater receives a paltry 1% bonus.

The lower value assigned to rudimentary controllers has far-reaching implications. Manufacturing companies that specifically rely on the production of cheaper, low-end heaters may disappear entirely if they fail to update their range so we could be seeing the last of budget heaters with basic dial controls and inaccurate mechanical thermostats.

How will Lot 20 affect me?

Lot 20’s inception will likely go unnoticed by most consumers, but in a way, that’s just as it should be. With manufacturers striving to hit new efficiency targets, it would be easy to assume that the price of heaters might suddenly skyrocket to compensate for expensive research and development, but this will absolutely not be the case.

Only existing technologies – such as digital programmers and open window sensors – will be used to achieve these new standards so any price increases will be fairly minor in order to cover the cost of these additional materials. The new rules explicitly state “requirements should not affect the functionality or affordability of local space heaters from the perspective and should not negatively affect health, safety or the environment.” In short, customers will only see the benefits of these new rules by being able to purchase heaters with improved efficiency and a greater range of controls.

What may be useful for consumers to know is that prior to Lot 20 coming into force, some retailers may try to clear their old stock of products, which may see a high volume of cut price heaters become available later in the year. These heaters may or may not have some of the energy-saving features of a Lot 20 compliant product, so it’s advisable to conduct a little research beforehand if you’re searching for the most efficient option. If you intend to on any last-minute stock clearance, be mindful that these heaters will likely be less efficient to run compared to any new models with all the bells and whistles.

Will Lot 20 apply once we leave the EU?

As Brexit continues to linger in the background, many have wondered whether the Ecodesign Directive will be upheld within the UK, and the good news is that it’s unlikely to be scrapped altogether. Lot 20 will come into force before we leave the EU and trade will be heavily reliant on providing products of a similar standard. The House of Lords ‘Brexit: environment and climate change’ publication neatly summarises why Ecodesign is so important, even post-Brexit: “Around half of the UK’s overall trade (import and export) is with the European Union, though this figure is higher in some sectors. For those engaged in trade, therefore, continuing co-operation on environmental standards is likely to be a key priority.”

A brighter and more efficient future

Understanding the minutiae surrounding the Lot 20 Ecodesign legislation won’t be necessary for the average consumer, but it may help to keep the upcoming change in mind for those looking to update their heating system. If you’re considering purchasing a new heater for your home and want it to be as efficient as possible, it’s certainly worth checking whether it’s already Lot 20 compliant.

This article was provided by Electric Radiators Direct.