The Ford Fiesta. Candle in the Wind 1997. Mike Ashley’s polyester-clad youngsters flogging discount trainers. The Beatles. All of these things are allegedly the UK’s number one this, or the UK’s leading that. A Ford Fiesta is however unlikely to be the best choice for taking a three seat sofa to the tip, and a pair of Adidas trainers are hardly de rigeur for a funeral. Therein lies the problem.
We have no interest in being the UK’s Number One underfloor heating company, nor probably the second or the third. Leading brands rely upon volume in their self-congratulation. In much the same way the Savile Row tailor has no interest in selling more suits than the high street, we instead maintain a steady business with a dedicated and enthusiastic client base of architects, builders and M&E consultants alike.
Our system won’t suit every project as we are far from the cheapest, but you can rest assured that there is no better underfloor heating system than a Jupiter system, and our comprehensive design service and unparalleled knowledge will ensure that you receive the best fit for your project. Very rarely do we advertise, and yet we are always busy!
So why is it that there is no better system than a Jupiter system? It lies within the philosophy of both the product design, and of our company itself; both of which we will touch upon.
Piped, rather than electric underfloor heating systems fall under two broad categories:
- ‘Traditional’ pipe-in-screed type systems.
- Screedless, or panel-based underfloor heating systems.
Jupiter launched in Germany in 1996 and was one of the pioneers of the latter. The original floor heating panels which Jupiter Germany offered, namely the Ideal EPS and Ideal ECO ranges, have not been changed or bettered in over 20 years – testament to their excellent design. When the system was launched in the UK in 2004 the ‘dry-installed’ or screedless approach was relatively unknown. Traditional screeded systems were the norm and that was ‘the way it was always done’. The UK market was (as ever!) sceptical, and it took many years of perseverance and rigorous product testing to convince the architectural and building fraternity that these screedless underfloor heating systems were true useful alternatives to traditional pipe-in-screed systems.
The Key USPs
Remember that video of the cruise ship crashing into the dock in Venice? It is probably just about the best rendition of what momentum can do if its misguided, and thermal mass is a very similar, if less dramatic concept.
If we persevere with our screed system-cruise ship analogy, the cruise ship does best on long steady journeys, with little reason to change speed. When said ship finally pulls into Venice with some speed and its steering fails at the wrong moment, you can be absolutely certain that the Captain no longer wants all of that kinetic energy in his ship, but it has already been applied and must be expended – sorry Venetians!
One of the most common complaints with traditional pipe-in-screed underfloor heating is the time it takes for the system to both heat up and cool down. Take a look at the graph below:
Graph illustrating the faster response of a dry installed system versus a traditional pipe-in-wet-screed system.
Like getting a ship underway, it takes a lot of thermal energy to get a screed up to temperature. Allowing the same ship to come to rest when the engines are turned off is a similar situation to waiting for the heated screed to stop heating the room above. This lack of responsiveness results in energy being wasted where the heat is no longer required. The yellow infill on the above graph shows the energy that is wasted when a less responsive, pipe-in-screed system is used when contrasted with a quick to respond Jupiter system.
Our underfloor heating panels and load bearing surfaces do away with the thermal mass of the screed and this inherent lack of responsiveness. Our heating panels are manufactured with rigid aluminium heat diffusion plates incorporating pre-formed pipe channels. Aluminium, not steel is chosen as aluminium has twice the specific heat capacity of steel. Oftentimes inferior systems will use steel, or a thin aluminium foil which look very similar but which do not perform in the same way!
The aluminium plates are pre-adhered to the insulation panels in small sections which prevents them ‘creaking’ as they heat up and cool down. The channels within the aluminium are omega shaped (Ω, but upside down) which holds the pipe securely and provides more surface area in contact with the pipe to more effectively draw the heat out of it- you can’t do that with a thin foil. Having the underfloor heating pipework so close to the underside of the floor finish provides an even and fast heat distribution across the floor.
First thermal image of pipe in screed system illustrating uneven heat distribution compared to the second thermal image of a dry installed system illustrating even heat distribution.
The Important of the High Compressive Strength Insulation
The range of heating panels manufactured by Jupiter use materials with considerable compressive strength. With no screed to take imposed loads, the heating panels themselves are critical to a successful and stable floor construction. Our Ideal EPS panels are manufactured from 240 kPa polystyrene and our IDEAL ECO panels are made from 150 kPa wood fibre. Even with such high-quality insulation the heating panels can deform under heavy perimeter loads such as bookshelves or heavy foot fall through doorways. In response Jupiter introduced the perimeter support batten as part of the system in 2010 – the only supplier to do this still today.
The Importance of Load-bearing Surfaces
As panel-based systems gained traction in the UK market, most suppliers were only interested in selling panels, pipes and thermostats – a simple box shifting exercise. What was subsequently installed on top was deemed rather irrelevant; often with floor grade chipboard recommended as ‘supplied by others’. No consideration of the thermal resistance of the chipboard or the overall output of the system was given. Rather than proposing timber-based materials, Jupiter was promoting the use of gypsum and ceramic based boards that were far less thermally resistant. Historically, the higher flow temperatures required for chipboard-based systems could be achieved by simply turning up the gas boiler. Twenty years later, low temperature heating systems such as heat pumps are becoming the norm and simply ‘turning it up’ is no longer an option, especially with the rising cost of energy. Jupiter was preaching the benefits of low running temperatures in terms of running costs long before this message became a necessity.
Equally as important as thermal resistance is the mass that a load bearing surface brings to the floor construction. Our gypsum and cement based dry screed alternatives weigh in at about 23 kg / m², approximately double that of 18mm ply, and our ceramic tile system weighs in just under 40 kg / m² -approximately four times the weight of ply! This mass promotes a lovely solid feeling underfoot in spite of the fact the floor is floating and hence decoupled.
Fermacell is a lapped board system which ensures a solid and reliable floor construction suitable for most floor finishes. As it is composed of two identical layers, creating new lap joints in the boards is as easy as simply dropping a circular saw 10 mm and peeling off the top layer. This results in far less waste than other ‘screed boards’ on the market.
The Screed Replacement Tile system is unique to Jupiter and is unquestionably the best load bearing system on the market. Being ceramic it has a very low thermal resistance, almost thermally transparent in fact, and can provide outputs far greater than traditional systems – up to 150 W / m².
In addition to superior heat output, the Screed Replacement Tile system is particularly remarkable when it comes to tile and stone floor finishes. With all other load bearing surfaces and certainly with screed-based systems, tile and stone floors should be installed on decoupling membranes such as DitraMat to avoid cracking. Movement joints are also a general requirement with underfloor heating systems but these are also not required with the Screed Replacement Tile system.
Floor Leveling Solutions
All panel based systems require a flat and level substrate before they can be successfully installed. Continuing the tradition of avoiding wet trades, Jupiter provides unique dry levelling solutions which speed up the build process and are more sympathetic to older buildings.
JUPITER dry levelling slate is a natural product that is used to level floors between 10 mm and 60 mm. Unlike sand, levelling slate mechanically binds together without the need for any additive.
Jupiter has been providing stainless steel manifolds manufactured by a small factory in southern Germany without problem for 15 years. The integral blending valves are supplied by a leading Italian manufacturer and we use Wilo pumps as the secondary side heating pumps.
Unlike other manufacturers Jupiter has always employed full-time installers in-house. Rather than having a registered installer network we decided that having full control of our installation teams would ensure the highest quality of workmanship and give the client one point of contact for their system. Our teams are fully trained on our product range, are CSCS registered and first aid trained. All staff members are courteous, in uniform and arrive in our well-equipped vans.
In summary, our existing client base continually return because our products and service is unequalled, not because we are the most popular!