The average bill has increased by more than £300 in the last three years, and it’s in winter that we burn the most energy. So I was excited to read about a simple product that claimed it could save me more than £100 a year – the Radfan.
“Radfan is proven to reduce heating bills by 5%, which could mean a massive saving of around £106 per year for the average household,” enthused the nice PR lady. With a potential saving that large, I was keen to trial the product myself. So did it work?
How much does it cost?
The RadFan (seriously, that name sounds like a sort of 1960s superhero) does plug in, so I was sceptical about whether it might cost more to run than it can save.
However, it actually costs just a pittance thanks to its 3W use of power. The manufacturers estimate it has a running cost of around £2 a year. Even if you only use it during the coldest three months, that’s just 2p a day.
But the actual gadget itself retails for £49.99, which is a fairly hefty price tag for a family struggling to budget for heating bills. So does it work?
Did it work for me?
I enjoyed using the RadFan – it was simple to fit, ran very quietly and directed warm air straight towards me so I felt the benefit of the radiator immediately. It also fit neatly into my sitting room and just looked like part of my radiator rather than some unwieldy gadget.
But I didn’t change my heating habits as a result of it – the heating stayed on - so I was puzzled as to whether I was making the promised savings. Does the RadFan actually save money?
So does the RadFan work?
Without a doubt, the RadFan helps direct heat towards the centre of the room, which makes things feel much cosier much more quickly. By carefully positioning myself in the path of the fan, I was able to warm up fast (although my husband on the other side of the room accused me of ‘hogging the air currents). Even with me in the way, the room seemed to warm through faster than normal.
However, that’s a very difficult thing to test in the home, so I was pleased to see that the RadFan had been “independently verified”. The Salford Energy House – an end terrace home rebuilt in a university laboratory in order to test energy-saving technology and claims.
But when I looked more closely at the product’s website, I realised that Salford Uni had only claimed the fan could save an average of £31 a year, by getting a room up to temperature and reducing lost heat through the windows. That meant that the house didn’t have to work so hard to keep the room at the set temperature.
So where does the £106 figure come from?
The university testing revealed how much the fan saves without any behaviour change from the residents. However, the designers then gave 99 housing association residents a fan to trial, to see if it changed their heating behaviour.
In fact, 45% of the respondents reduced their heating use as they used the fan, and 86% said they felt an “increase in thermal comfort”. By turning off their heating sooner as a result of the gadget directing the warmth, these homes saved an average of £75 a year.
The RadFan company added those figures together to get an average saving of £106. But I wasn’t entirely confident about that number, as I didn’t reduce the amount of time my heating was on for – I just enjoyed the directed warmth.
I asked designer and tester Simon Barker about the numbers. He said: “So, if someone installs a RadFan then the minimum they can expect to save is around £31 (so an 18 month payback, roughly) while also benefiting from the increased thermal comfort - this saving requires no behaviour modification.
“If they now feel too warm (as 45% of the housing association participants did) then they can reduce their thermostat by a degree or so and save the next £75, while remaining at pre-Radfan thermal comfort. This is why the two figures are added together.”
So to save the full £106 you need to actively change your behaviour; the true range of potential savings is between £31 and £106 a year.
Is the RadFan worth it?
The RadFan retails at £49.99, so it’s not a cheap gadget. However, if you were able to use it to reduce the amount of time you heated the house, I think it’s quite believable that you could save the £100-odd suggested.
This could quickly pay dividends if you’re careful with your heating – which makes sense, as 43% of the housing association testers said they couldn’t afford their energy bill and a similar number reduced their heating as a result of the gadget.
If, like me, you rarely turn the heating off once it’s on then the savings will take a bit longer to clock up. As usual, pro-active people will save pounds.