Radical approach

30 Mar, 15

Charlotte Blackburn visited Infrarad in Leighton Buzzard, which makes infra-red heating for the house and bathroom

Unlike traditional heating manufacturers Infra Rad, offers heaters, which instead of conventional convection heat, uses infra-red technology. The products use directional rays, like the Sun, to heat people and objects in the room, rather than heating the air, which then rises to the ceiling.

Infra-red heating is said to benefit users as it needs only half the energy compared to traditional heating methods. Peter Ferguson, MD of Infra Rad explains: “On our website we have the golden rule which is a standard calculation for heating. For a standard room you take the height, width and length and times it by 50W per cubic metre. But infra-red is half the wattage and half the price.” Alongside energy savings, infra-red heating is said to benefit those with allergies and breathing problems, as it does not circulate dust particles around the room.

The market for infra-red heating in the UK is, at the moment quite small says Infra Rad MD Peter Ferguson: “One of the problems is that nobody explains it properly. The truth of the matter is this is an energy saving product, it’s economical to run, it’s inexpensive to buy and it’s easy to install. But we need to get that message out there.” Peter Ferguson adds: “Some people thought it was quite eccentric, but once you talk to them about the 50% energy saving and how inexpensive it is to buy compared to other brands, all of a sudden people start to get interested.”

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Retail commitment

The company was founded in 2013 and already boasts over 300 accounts across the UK with plumbing and heating merchant, bathroom retailers, electrical wholesalers and kitchen studios. The benefit for bathrooms is clear as Peter Ferguson explains: “You’re not going to be wasting your central heating in the summer when you want warm towels, because only the towel rails can be switched on.” Ferguson says that 90% of customers are independents heating companies, with bathroom showrooms, and 10% are solely bathroom retailers.

Ferguson adds that it is important to the company not to sell to online retailers as it is important to protect the supply chain process: “Our products aren’t available online, not directly. There are merchants and retailers who will have an online presence and if it’s done properly by a retailer that’s fine. But if you’ve got me sitting here with the theory of supply chain and respect through there, why would I want to sell it to somebody online? It just undermines the process.”

Designer popularity

The company’s bestseller is the Designer warmer, a glass panel, available in white and black with or without towel rails. Ferguson believes that is because not only are products stylish, but they also had a good heat output of 700W, at a good price point. He compares to others on the market: “Bisque, Zehnder radiators, they’re beautiful, but they can be expensive. I’ve had really expensive radiators that only gave out 400W of heat.” And Ferguson adds that the products are easy to install: “All the literature says to use a competent person, who is suitably qualified, someone who is a member of the Institute of Heating and Plumbing etc. A competent heating guy can install these because he knows what the heating market is.”

The company will also be expanding the range to include mirrors and granite heaters, which will be at home in the hallway or kitchen respectively. For the rest of the house, panels for fireplaces will be available and the company can also screen print bespoke warmers. These, Ferguson hopes, will help the company to expand. He also adds that joining the NMBS (National Merchant Buying Society) is helpful for the company: “Joining NMBS is a big thing. It is about getting the product on display in as many outlets as we possibly can. But if we had one in [a particular location] I wouldn’t be in any real rush to bring any others in. If they invest in displays, then we will support them.”

Public embrace

Ferguson believes that these measures will allow infra-red technology to become a more recognised method of heating the home and bathroom. He says: “The big challenge is getting Mr and Mrs Public, not just to look at the towel warmer as a pretty bathroom item, but to look at it as a serious option for a full house central heating system.” He adds: “Every bathroom enquiry is potentially a heating enquiry.”

And Ferguson believes that, should the public embrace the method: “There is no reason why we can’t look at a business which in two to three years’ time is turning over £10-15million. We’ve got a lot of work to do, we’ve got a lot of brand awareness and product awareness to get across, but there’s no reason why it won’t grow at an acceptable rate.” He adds: “It’s never easy bringing a new brand to the market, it’s enjoyable though.”

This article appeared in full in the February 2015 issue of Kitchens & Bathrooms News