Cutting-edge heaters bring warm glow to National Trust for Scotland

VISITING Scotland’s historic homes may soon do more than expand your knowledge of the nation’s heritage – it could also improve your health.

The National Trust for Scotland has installed cutting-edge infrared heaters in one of its Victorian properties and says it is considering putting them into more of its buildings.

The £5,000 heating system, which is concealed behind mirrors to stop it spoiling the looks of historic buildings, is part of a joint energy efficiency project being undertaken with Historic Scotland. The system has been installed initially at Scotstarvit Cottage, an NTS property in Fife.

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Instead of heating the air, infrared systems heat solid objects such as walls, furniture and human beings. Supporters claim the system is more efficient and less costly and also has additional benefits. Far Infrared technology has been used as “heat therapy” for athletes as pre-workout warm-ups to warm up muscles and increase flexibility, and has also been used to soothe sore muscles and joints after a workout. Research suggests it can also help to reduce allergies and asthma.

Bryan Dickson, head of buildings at the National Trust for Scotland, said: “Scotstarvit Cottage had recently been vacated, after providing a home to a long-term tenant, and provided the National Trust for Scotland, with support from Historic Scotland, the opportunity to complete an extensive fabric upgrade to improve the energy efficiency of the property and bring it up to 21st-century standards. The cottage is providing us with a test bed to explore a number of new 
innovations which will hopefully help lay the way for future upgrades across our buildings.”

Scotstarvit Cottage sits next to the Category A listed Scotstarvit Tower, a six-storey ancient monument between the communities of Cupar and Ceres. It was originally constructed in the 14th century and is renowned as the home of Sir John Scot, author of a satirical work called Scot of Scotstarvit’s Staggering State Of The Scots Statesmen

The adjacent Victorian-era cottage is to be let to a long-term tenant once renovation work is completed and is thought to have once served as a kitchen for the tower.

Far Infrared is acknowledged as a natural and harmless form of heating that is actually beneficial to the human body – the body is designed to absorb infrared energy. The systems have proved particularly popular in Germany and Japan.

The technology works by using infrared rays to flood an entire room with warmth, which is then absorbed into all the materials within the room, including the walls, ceiling and floor.

To avoid criticism that the heaters detract from the authentic look of an old building, they can be designed to look like mirrors or take the shape of a favourite picture or image.

Jessica Snow, senior technical officer at Historic Scotland, said: “This is a very exciting project for Historic Scotland to be part of, especially with this being the first system of its kind to be installed in an historic property.

“We’re carrying out a range of ongoing upgrade trials to traditional properties of all types in Scotland to develop simple and cost-effective solutions that are suitable for older buildings, including historic properties.

“Scotstarvit Cottage has been comprehensively upgraded, including wall, roof and floor insulation, and secondary glazing. To complete the refurbishment, we were keen to see the existing oil-fired boiler and heating system replaced with a more energy and cost effective alternative.”

The NTS, she added, had been looking for ways to keep residents and visitors warm without relying on heating that circulated hot air. “We are hopeful that the radiant heating will reduce the energy bills without wasting energy by heating the air space.”

Ged Smith, managing director at Direct Savings based in Livingston, which installed the heaters and has sole UK distribution rights for the Infra­nomic Far Infrared system, said: “As a nation we’re hooked on traditional gas, oil and electric heating systems, which are a legacy from last century’s efforts to heat poorly insulated homes and buildings.

“Now that we are able to properly insulate most homes, these convection heating systems are shown up as costly and inefficient. Infranomic heaters are the next generation, offering a far more 
efficient and controllable ­heating. I believe these heaters can make a difference in both modern and historical properties.

“We’re installing nine heaters at Scotstarvit Cottage and I’m looking forward to seeing how they will benefit the cottage in terms of reducing costs, creating a healthier environment and improving the comfort for new tenants in the property.”

The charitable National Trust for Scotland owns some of the most famous historic buildings in Scotland, including Culzean Castle in Ayrshire, Mar Lodge in Grampian and Bute House, the First Minister’s residence in Charlotte Square in Edinburgh. Historic Scotland is the government’s guardian of a range of castles and ancient monuments.