I saw all sorts of cool things and met all sorts of cool people while I was meandering around the EE Live! 2014 conference and exhibition last week. (See The Best Booth at EE Live! 2014.)
One guy who really made an impression was Simon Barker, technical director at a small UK company called Radfan. Its product (a radiator fan) is one of those deceptively simple yet amazingly useful ideas that make you say, "Why didn't I think of that?"
I'll explain the Radfan concept in a moment, but first my mind is wandering back through the mists of time to when I was a young lad of, say, six years of age circa 1963. We didn't have a central heating system in those days of yore. We certainly didn't have an air-conditioning system. (It's taken the English thousands of years to learn how to heat our houses up; the thought of cooling them down simply never struck us.)
We also didn't have a garage. However, an old couple who lived around the corner did have a garage, and they let my parents park our car there. I remember coming back from a Christmas Pantomime sometime in December. We parked the car in our friends' garage and walked the rest of the way home. The wind was blowing in our faces, and it was bitterly cold. It was even colder when we entered our house.
My dad went into the kitchen to put the kettle on for a cup of tea. My mom lit the gas fire in the front (family/living) room. Then we all sat on the floor facing the fire -- still in our outdoor clothes -- and rubbing our hands to warm up. Once our fronts were warm, we took our coats off and turned around, so our backs faced the fire. As the room grudgingly allowed itself to be warmed, we gradually moved away from the fire and ended up sitting on the sofa.
We had gas fires only downstairs in the front room and in the dining room. I remember that, when I went to bed, my dad would hold the covers back, and I would jump into the freezing bed. My dad would cover me up, and I would move my arms and legs back and forth furiously trying to warm up via friction.
I'm not sure how old I was when we got a central heating system with water-filled radiators, but we all thought it was absolutely amazing. As I grew older, though, it dawned on me that a lot of the heat from our radiators was being wasted, because it was either warming our windows or our ceilings. Thus, when Simon explained the Radfan concept -- as summarized in this video -- my immediate thought was "Brilliant!"
We're talking about a low-cost, extremely quiet, and reasonably unobtrusive fan that sits on top of one's radiator and redirects the warm air into the interior of the room at "sofa height," where it will do the most good. As a result, instead of wasting as much as 80% of the central heating system's output warming parts of the room in which you have little interest, you can increase the temperature of the room by 2°C (3.6°F) without turning up your thermostat. Alternatively, you can maintain the same temperature while lowering your thermostat and reducing your fuel bills.
My dear old mom still lives in the UK, and she still has water-filled radiators. As soon as I post this blog, I'm going to send her the link and see if she would like some of these beauties for her abode.
— Max Maxfield, Editor of All Things Fun & Interesting