You will often hear me say ‘Fabric First’ when I discuss the design of low-energy new builds or refurbishments.
That is to say you should minimise the heat losses from construction itself before using fancy heating systems, high-tech glazings and complex control strategies.
There is a role for all these in ‘hard-to-heat’ homes but, if you have the option to avoid them by designing a building, then you should.
I had a recent example in my own home, a 1950’s brick building.
Some months ago I fitted a pair of electronically controlled TRVs. These sit one per radiator in a loft conversion which has a bedroom and bathroom. As it is unoccupied during the day I have set the two units so the loft conversion is effectively ‘zoned’ separately. Using the two electronically controlled TRVs was a simple matter of unclipping the old TRVs and clipping on the new ones, then setting the time-of-day and day-of-week temperatures I wanted up there. No watery mess involved. I like them.
The thing is, one of them started playing up. I have fiddled and tweaked it; I read and re-read the manual; I changed its batteries. Nothing!
Finally I got out the tool box and really set to – to discover that it is the radiator valve not the clever electronically controlled TRV that is at fault. It appears that it will not shut fully as if something is stuck inside the pipework. The poor motor on the electronically controlled TRVs cannot cope with that. I have re-instated the manual valve for now and hope by turning it off-and-on-again (a bit like a faulty PC) it will free up and I can refit the electronically controlled TRVs.
Of course, if I had a super-insulated house – Fabric First – this would not have happened as there would be no need for radiator or its valve.