Speaker: Muiris Flynn, technical director, Glen Dimplex Heating Research into the development of new electric storage-heating technologies has been dormant for over two decades but, due to shifting industry and consumer demands, this is set to change. Speaking to an audience at Engineers Ireland HQ in Dublin (organised by the organisation's Energy-Environment Division), Muiris Flynn, technical director with Glen Dimplex Heating, explained why this shift has occurred and what types of products his company are developing in this area.

“Night-storage heating as a product hasn’t really been developed in 20 years. We’ve continued to service the replacement and refurbishment market,” said Flynn.“Yet within that context, we could see where night-storage heating was originally developed by the electricity industry to solve particular problems that existed at the time. “We started to engage with the electricity industry after a number of years and realised perhaps there was an opportunity to develop a new technology and even redevelop the old technology to meet today’s challenges – in particular, those which arrive with the increasing renewable-energy penetration targets.” As Flynn outlined in the presentation, currently 50% of the UK’s energy is used in domestic and service buildings. Of this, some 71% is used to heat water and space in these buildings, meaning that 36% of the UK’s primary energy is used in this manner.

Since 1996, the market in the UK for storage heaters has halved, with under 8% of homes now using such products. The figure for Ireland is between 5-6%. Dimplex products account for approximately 95% of the market. Not viewed by many consumers as their first choice in heating products (often due to previous poor experience) and with building regulations pushing new builds away from electrical heating towards lower-carbon options, the challenges were clear when it came to the development of new technology. 

“We saw that if we were going to do anything, it would need to tick all those boxes in terms of being an attractive option for the consumers, yet could solve some problems for the electricity industry and potentially attract some funding from that direction as well,” said Flynn. The products recently brought to market by Dimplex aim to address many of the issues that turned consumers and industry away from such products, with the aim being to design the perfect thermal-energy storage system. “From the consumers’ point of view, it would need to deliver heat when heat is required and only when it is required – the ideal being the time and temperature profiling and control that’s available from a direct panel heater. That really is the ideal from a consumer’s point of view. They can just programme what they want, when they want it,” said Flynn. As he explained, the company’s new Quantum system is different from previous thermal storage systems for space and water heating in that it controls its heat omissions to the way in which a modern family lives their lives, thus improving energy efficiency greatly. The company is currently engaged with multiple utilities worldwide in projects aimed at demonstrating this potential. This presentation will outline the background and the development of the Quantum technology.  It will also report on a number of demonstration projects in Ireland, UK, Germany and Canada.

Founded in 1973, Glen Dimplex is the largest electrical heating company in the world, with over 10,000 employees worldwide and annual turnover in excess of $2 billion.