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. So, what does that mean for the industry, and more importantly, for the consumer?
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 electric 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).
This directive was created so that all energy-using products would have a framework of basic requirements to make them as efficient and environmentally friendly as possible. When you consider the amount of energy we use on a daily basis, it’s easy to see why this legislation is so important. Think of all the products which require power in the average household – lights, computers, washing machines, vacuum cleaners, televisions, and an endless number of chargeable consumer electronics – then think of how many homes there are in the UK alone. Even if the efficiency of just one of these products is improved, the cumulative effect across the whole of the EU will be enormously beneficial and means we’re all using our resources more effectively.
As you can imagine, 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 ‘lots’, so that more specific rules can be implemented for each product type. Lot 20 relates to local space heaters and includes storage heaters, electric radiators, radiant heaters and underfloor heating to name but a few – so you can see why it sparked our interest!
With Brexit still lingering 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. A quote from a House of Lords publication neatly summarises why Ecodesign is so important for us, 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.”
To comply with the new Lot 20 regulations, all local space heaters will have to meet a minimum efficiency rating expressed as a percentage. This differs 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.
Electric radiators, infrared heaters and panel heaters are all classed as ‘fixed electric local space heaters’, and they must have at least a 38% efficiency rating if they have a nominal heat output above 250W. Other electric heating solutions such as portable electric space heaters, storage heaters and heaters below 250W, have separate efficiency targets.
Efficiency is determined by how many energy saving features are incorporated into the product; so, simply put, if a product doesn’t have any of these functions, it won’t be compliant with the new regulations and will be prohibited for sale within the EU come next year. 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. The loss of these particularly wasteful and inefficient heaters will help to push the envelope of innovation, encouraging manufacturers to develop new ways of improving product efficiency and control.
Now you know a little more about Lot 20, the next thing you may be wondering is how it will impact the end user. 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 that “ecodesign requirements should not affect the functionality or affordability of local space heaters from the end-user's 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. So, if you find you're in the market for a new electric radiator in 2018, a Lot 20 compliant product will represent the very best the market has to offer.
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 non-compliant products, which may see a high volume of cut price heaters becoming 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 capitalise 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.
It would take forever and a day to calculate precise energy efficiency information for every single space heater on the market, so this EU legislation instead makes use of a simplified formula which assigns percentage bonuses or penalties depending on what energy-saving features the product may have.
For the purposes of this calculation, we will be using the 38% efficiency requirement for a fixed electric space heater. All electric space heaters start with a base efficiency of 30%, so let’s take a look at what types of functions a product will need to have to meet the minimum requirements.
A fixed electric local space heater will gain a 7% bonus to its rating if it comes equipped with electronic room temperature controls and a weekly programmer. The majority of good quality electric heaters, such as our outstanding range of electric radiators and infrared heaters and infrared floors, will already have this function. So, with this feature alone, many electric heaters will already be within striking distance of hitting their efficiency target.
Simpler control systems do not fare so well. Cheaper heaters that rely on having ‘manual stages’, e.g. rocker switches that boost the heater’s output by a fixed amount, will receive no positive correction factor at all, so these basic forms of control will likely be phased out entirely.
Further positive correction factors are applied if the heater includes the following features:
Heaters that include an open window detection feature; distance control option, such as Wi-Fi compatibility; or an adaptive start system, will then be brought over the 38% efficiency line. If they feature two or more of these features, they’ll be offering above and beyond the requirements set out by the new legislation.
You don’t need to know all of the minutiae surrounding the Ecodesign directive for Lot 20 but it might help to keep the upcoming change in mind when planning any changes to your heating system. We’ve mainly focused on fixed electric space heaters for this article but the legislation also encompasses some gaseous and liquid fuel based heaters, as well as storage heaters, electric underfloor heating and radiant heaters. If you’re looking to overhaul your system and want it to be as efficient as possible, be sure to look out for products that are already Lot 20 compliant.
Please get in touch with our sales team on 44 (0) 1202 975 384 for more information on our Lot 20 compliant products.