In the June 2016 issue of PSB Magazine, Richard Beaman, commercial director for Valor and Robinson Willey, considers the benefits of focal point fires for social housing and weighs up the benefits of gas and electric models…
For many of the four million properties in England owned by local authorities or PRPs, fires remain a staple source of heating – and it’s no surprise to see why.
Boasting an ever increasing product range and new technologies available for modern and traditional homes, today’s fires are stylish, efficient, safe and offer a host of flexible installation opportunities. More importantly, they deliver effective, cost-efficient single-room heating for families and individual tenants alike, including elderly and vulnerable residents.
However, with so much choice, where does a provider even begin when specifying a fire in tens, hundreds or even thousands of properties?
The most important thing is not to limit your choice to any single fuel type. Gas and electric fires each have a number of benefits and can meet the demands of different properties, different tenants and different individual circumstances, which is why many providers will choose a combination of both fuel types to meet specific requirements across their portfolio.
Work closely with your manufacturer of choice to understand the merits – and the limitations – of each fuel type. All of this, of course, relies on the experience, expertise and knowledge of a manufacturer that can offer both gas and electric fires.
Gone are the gas-guzzling decorative fires from the 1980s, replaced with a new generation of gas fires that are capable of delivering heat efficiencies of up to 89% and heat outputs of 4.8kW – without sacrificing realism and authenticity.
Unbeatable when it comes to aesthetics, they offer consistent warmth and comfort. It is clear from our own customer feedback that the integrity of the flame effect will always be in demand – after all, it is this that sets gas fires apart from their electric counterparts.
Gas fires are available in inset, outset, balanced flue, radiant and stove models, depending on the style of the property, design preference, safety requirements and availability of a chimney/flue. They are clean and convenient, with fully controllable heat which can be turned on or off in an instant.
Safety is a big consideration of course, so look for leading manufacturers that can demonstrate the highest standards of testing and safety accreditations.
With fuel poverty continuing to bite, one of the biggest benefits of gas is in running costs. Natural gas is still the lowest cost fuel supplied for the same kW usage and is kinder to the environment with life-cycle CO2 emissions nearly half that of mains electricity. It means gas fires, especially those with heat exchangers which provide even more heat, are a good choice.
One of the biggest advances in gas fires in recent years is the continued development of balanced flue models which include some of the most energy efficient models on the market. These fires simply require an outside wall for installation, which means housing providers can install a gas fire into virtually any home with a gas point, even if they do not have a chimney.
Electric fires tend to be available as inset or stove models, or as a complete suite incorporating an inset fire within a surround. The heat is provided via a fan heater between 1 and 2kW, which means instant and reliable heat on demand, often with remote control and a choice of heat settings on the latest products.
All electric fires are 100% efficient at point of use, which means all of the energy used is converted into heat and, with no efficiency advantages available, the biggest difference between products from different brands will often come down to the visual effect of the flame. Low-cost models inevitably come with an uninspiring flame-effect and it is important to look for unique flame technology when choosing a manufacturer.
Electric fires offer a big advantage over any other fuel type because the flame-effect can usually be used independently of the heat to provide the atmosphere and ambience of a focal point fire all year round.
They are also incredibly easy to install because they simply need a plug socket, which can deliver valuable savings on installation, particularly across large property portfolios or in homes that have an obsolete back boiler system.
As with any appliance, safety is paramount and there are a range of models designed specifically to meet the demands of the social housing sector, with features such as thermostats, one-piece moulded fuel beds, kettle plugs and dedicated safety cut-out functions.
Leading manufacturers have also taken steps to ensure that electric fires and suites are easy to use and nowhere is this more important than in the social housing sector, with easy-to-use controls that are suitable for elderly residents or those with mobility problems.
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