As demand grows for products that are environmentally-friendly, Richard Harvey, Category Director for Heating and Plumbing at Wolseley, offers insights into what’s hot and what’s not in the world of heating.

As the temperature drops and energy bills rise, customers are more keen than ever to find a solution that meets environmental concerns as well as budgetary constraints. 

Radiator technology has improved significantly in recent years. However, while customers looking to make efficiency improvements will consider replacing boilers, windows, or floor coverings as a matter of course, radiators are often only replaced if something fails or a major system upgrade is planned. 

It is worth letting your customers know about the range of options out there and the potential for newer models to improve efficiency and reduce costs. Modern radiators are more efficient than their predecessors and smaller radiators can deliver the same outputs. 

They are also more efficiently designed, with better internal water channelling to use less water, while thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) and smart TRVs can further improve efficiency, with lower settings reducing the flow of water and using less energy. 

If you are working on a boiler replacement, its potential impact on heating bills will not be realised if your customer still has old, dirty, and inefficient radiators. Arm them with the information they need to understand that it is often worth the extra short-term investment to ensure maximum long-term impact. 

Efficiency isn’t the only reason to replace radiators with other heating systems. For some, it will be a matter of form over function – with so many alternatives to traditional compact radiators, customers may be looking for something that better complements their design scheme. 

However, radiators have come a fair distance, and even a standard, white, compact radiator is far better designed than its predecessors. For those looking to maximise space, many manufacturers offer vertical radiators, while those renovating a period property can now choose period-style column radiators that will complement their decor. 

Radiator designers have taken the idea of the radiator as a focal point to the next level, with anything from mirror to stone finishes and a range of options in between. Explore the options, and be ready to advise customers on how radiators could improve their energy efficiency. 

Of course, the radiator takes a different form in the bathroom, with chrome heated towel rails a firm favourite. However, even when it comes to towel rails the choices are endless, with fashionable colours and unusual shapes now gaining popularity. Consider an upgrade to a dual-fuel towel rail, which connects to the central heating system, but can also be powered by electricity to provide warm towels during the summer months.

Under the floors and in the walls

The underfloor heating (UFH) market is one of the fastest-growing trends in the heating industry. People may still see this as a more specialist heating choice, but environmental and cost concerns make this a good option for your customers.

UFH has come on leaps and bounds, with both water-based and electric systems now available in low profile. This allows the systems to fit over existing flooring, reducing the need to pull up previously laid floors.

A lot like UFH, in-wall heating operates at a lower temperature than radiators, saving energy and reducing fuel costs. In-wall heating could also help prevent mould in rooms which are susceptible to damp, and circulates less dust than a convection radiator – making it a great option for people with respiratory issues such as asthma. 

Both of these options offer several benefits, such as an even spread of heat, better use of energy and, with no radiators taking up wall space, greater interior design flexibility. 

Renewable and sustainable 

One of the main incentives for replacing heating systems is energy efficiency, so you could also direct any customers who are driven by environmental concerns to the government’s Renewable Heat Incentive scheme, which offers financial assistance to those investing in technologies such as solar, heat pumps, and biomass.

Replacement or repair?

Realistically, many customers simply won’t want to replace their radiators. Even so, there is still an opportunity to share your expertise and improve the efficiency of their system. You could offer to treat problematic radiators with a system clean to remove sludge and acidic residues from the system. 

Follow this with the fitting of a magnetic system filter and an annual top-up of a chemical inhibitor to significantly enhance the whole system performance. This is also a great reason to keep in touch with the customer on a regular basis.