I always remember our first Gas Central Heating System, which was fitted during my later childhood, some thirty years ago. I also remember my Parents topping up the heat in the living room on cold winter days by using a Gas Fire, and even now whenever I see my Mother she still reminds me that the Gas Central Heating was only fitted for background heat, and that it wasn’t supposed to heat the living and kitchen area all by itself, despite each room using large full length double radiators.
The house in question was built in 1939, and although it has been fully modernised with double glazing, loft insulation (to a level that you can disappear in) and fitted with a modern energy saving gas boiler, the living room thermostat still struggles to get over 19c even after several hours of use, and in trying to, the boiler keeps guzzling all of that Gas, resulting in quite high gas bills.
Whilst modern house building standards have improved over the last 25 years, and certainly the levels of insulation in new builds has become something of a religion, this probably makes this less of an issue in modern buildings, however there are still plenty of houses which were built before the new standards were introduced during the 1990’s and so this will apply to anybody searching for information how to make their heating systems more efficient, reduce the cost of the gas / oil / lpg which their heating system is using, or simply have the problem which I had – where the room simply isn’t heated to a comfortable temperature using the heating system alone.
I toyed with the idea of fitting extra radiators to the larger rooms, however after a visit from a plumber I was told that the current boiler couldn’t handle the extra demand of three new radiators, meaning that I would need to replace the boiler with a larger version. Since the current boiler was still new enough to be under warranty, I couldn’t face paying another four figures to replace it, in order to produce more heat for the extra radiators. Fortunately I still had the two paraffin inverter heaters which i’d used to heat my first (cold) flat for more than five years, this served a useful and economical stop gap, and actually reduced my gas bill as I found that I needed to use the heating less, but I felt that it wasn’t solving the problem.
Then I noticed at work, how a simple fan circulated the heat from out of one of our heavy machines, in fact it seemed so effective at circulating the heat from inside the machine, that standing next to the machine felt much warmer than the rest of the room!. I wondered if using a simple fan could perhaps circulate the heat from the central heating radiators into the room faster, and solve my cold room problem. I mentioned the idea to a work colleague, who pointed out that a lot of Countries fit ceiling fans and that they are reversible, with a dual purpose in order to allow cooling air circulation in the Summer months, but also help retain the heat in the room in the Winter by reducing the ‘heat rising’ effect where it is eventually lost through the ceiling, and instead keeps the heat within the room longer. I decided that it wouldn’t cost anything to try and that I had nothing to lose.
The idea was as basic and simple as it gets, simply get a standard desk fan (in my case a 12″ Deskfan) and simply position it on the floor, as close to the radiator as I could get, with the fan pointing at the radiator surface, I waited until the radiator was hot to the touch and then turned on the fan to its medium speed. The effect was quite surprising, within 30 minutes I had a normally chilly room that felt comfortably warm, and the wall thermostat was showing 2c higher than it normally would be at this stage, without the use of a fan, in fact within 90 minutes of switching on the Fan the room was at a very comfortable 21c and the Thermostat switched off the boiler.
Normally this room would never get above 19c even if the heating was run all day, and this previously meant setting the room thermostat at 19c, otherwise the heating would run continuously, as the room would never actually get to the temperature selected on the room thermostat. Now, I had a room that not only got to a comfortable temperature to sit for long periods, but it did this without using any second form of heating.
Even if your room does eventually get to the desired room temperature from your Central Heating Radiators alone, you can still benefit from this idea, as the fan does circulate the warm air around the room far faster and more effectively than natural convection, meaning that the room feels warm much sooner, and this means that the boiler also switches off earlier than it normally would, saving gas which in turn will lower your bills.
Generally an Electric Fan will draw no more than 30 to 50 watts of power, so it can be run quite cheaply for long periods, and the Gas that it saves will also more than offset the cost of running two or three fans in key rooms.
I have done some experimentation, and the lowest speed setting on the Desk Fan seems to produce the best results, although I would advise you to try both the low and middle speed settings to see which works out the best.
This may not suit everybody, as having desk fans on the floor next to radiators may not be practical. In normal use the sound of the fan doesn’t seem to be an issue, and in my set up I can still hear the TV without any distraction from the fan noise (The low speed setting helps in this respect).
All I can suggest is to give it a try and see the results for yourself!. The outlay is minimal (at least in relation to the cost of a new boiler and additional radiators) not to mention the potential saving on your heating bill. This idea will work for any ‘wet’ heating system, where hot water is circulated through a wall mounted radiator, so it is suitable for Gas, LPG, Heating Oil and even Electric Wet Boiler installations.
If you don’t already have a Desk Fan for the summer months, to use in this application, then they can be bought quite cheaply online from here.
Incidentally there are a large array of radiator fans coming onto the market, which are commercially available with prices ranging from £24 to over £100 per fan unit, and of which are designed sit on top of a radiator, with an aim to helping the warm air circulation. After buying and testing one, it appeared to be no more than a few computer sized fans inside the box, and although it did what it was advertised to do, I found the amount of air it circulated was a lot less than the desk fan produced and the desk fan worked much better in my own opinion. Another problem I found was that the product I bought didn’t fit onto the radiator too well, and would be more suited to a square type design.
Of course, at money saving level, the fact remains that in some cases you can probably equip most of the main radiators in your home with a desk fan, for the cost of one of these commercially made units!.
If you do try this idea, please remember to leave your feedback in the comment section below.