The heating and cooling of buildings and industrial applications accounts for half the EU’s energy consumption. The average household alone allocates 79 % of its total energy use to heating and hot water. Growing environmental and cost awareness has prompted the construction sector, architects and homeowners to search for more efficient heating methods. In recent years, underfloor heating has emerged as a viable solution. “If you have more surface to distribute the heating, then you can heat at lower temperatures,” explains project coordinator Fausto Bocciolone, technical director at HEATILE (website in Italian) in Italy. “And the most efficient surface for this purpose is the floor.” Heating at lower temperatures means fewer emissions and lower energy bills. From a design point of view, underfloor heating enables architects to do away with radiators, creating more space to work with.
Rethinking underfloor heating
A key drawback however is that installation and maintenance still require significant intervention. Existing flooring and heating infrastructure need to be taken out, new heating pipes installed and concrete poured. This can be costly, destructive and off-putting to potential customers. The EU-funded HEATILE project, which was coordinated by KEOKI, Switzerland, has been instrumental in bringing to market an underfloor heating system that aims to address these challenges. The prefabricated, recyclable panels are designed to be easy to install. They also avoid the need for invasive demolition works and expensive retrofitting. “To achieve this, we developed the thinnest underfloor system in the world,” adds Bocciolone. “Our panels are only 13 mm thick, while most underfloor heating panels are about 2.5 cm thick or more. What this means is that you can place our panels on existing flooring, without having to dig up the house.” The construction sector however can be resistant to change and new ideas. A key goal of the project was to help the firm convince architects and contractors about the benefits of the concept. “This is a new way of installing underfloor heating,” says Bocciolone. “Instead of bringing in plumbers, masons and plasterers to renovate a house, the hard work has already been done in the factory.” On-site, the panels simply need to be clicked into place. This means installation can be done in a matter of hours, rather than days. Making it quicker to install underfloor heating can help the sector to achieve cost efficiencies. “We are a start-up, so this project was hugely important in raising our profile and gaining the trust of construction professionals,” he notes.
New business opportunities
Marketing studies were also carried out. These helped to convince the firm that there is strong interest and enthusiasm for the HEATILE concept. The results have also opened doors to potential new business opportunities. “We are thinking of expanding our concept to bars and outdoor restaurants,” says Bocciolone. “We have run a pilot project with a bar in Milan. Other potential clients include spas and swimming pools, as well as industrial buildings that have huge spaces to heat.” The firm is also looking into developing a product that integrates a wooden finish on top. This means that once the heating panel is installed, there is no more work to do. A modular heating panel system is also being developed for walls. “The EU project helped us to investigate the potential of each of these sectors,” he adds. “There is a huge amount of work to be done in each of these areas, in terms of development and engineering. It has been really important to have this support.”
HEATILE, heating, underfloor, energy, industrial, construction, emissions, demolition