If there's an electric heater in your home, chances are it was made by the Glen Dimplex Group. Now the company has launched a new product which they say is set to revolutionise the way we heat our homes.
Let's face it, the group's market-dominating Economy 7 is not the easiest to figure out.
And while some may see electric heating as antiquated, with energy prices rising, dwindling oil stocks, and the controversy over fracking and wind turbine development, the company says that such systems still have a lot to offer to consumer.
And they say the new Quantum – the research and development of which was driven by Glen Dimplex company, Seagoe Technologies in Portadown, which is also where the product will be manufactured to be exported worldwide – is a much simpler beast.
Quantum is the largest single investment by the group in its history in one piece of technology, with £8.5m invested over two years and as well as being installed into new social housing projects, it is expected that the devices will be retro-fitted to older properties as the Economy 7 system continues to age.
The factory is set to manufacture a minimum of 10,000 units of the Quantum heating system before the end of 2013.
The group says that the development of Quantum system will help to directly support 37 new jobs and, as the market for this product develops, there is potential to generate up to 200 manufacturing jobs in the next few years.
Invest NI has offered £157,000 to support the R&D project, which includes part-funding from the European Regional Development Fund and an additional £195,000 to support capital investment and the associated creation of the new jobs.
The development of Quantum was supported by SSE, formerly Scottish and Southern Energy and parent company of Airtricity.
And tests in the field and by Strathclyde University have already shown that Quantum has the potential to deliver energy savings of 20% and a 25% reduction in heating bills for individual homeowners which, in turn, will help to alleviate fuel poverty.
Alan McDonnell, research and development manager at the company, said that much time and effort had been put in to utilising the latest technology to make the system as easy to use as possible
"The system is very easy to understand and control," he said.
"It's a big step forward in design and technology," he said.
"It is an intelligent system which learns how much heat you use and optimises it to suit the household and deliver the best savings
"The system enables the electricity industry to remotely switch on and off according to generation and network constraints and can let the utility know exactly how much energy is stored and how much further capacity is available at any point in time.
"The Quantum can also determine the future heat requirements of the property thereby giving the utility valuable insight into the energy needs over the next 24 hours – the system can learn how you use it essentially and tailor itself accordingly and compensate for over or under-use.
"On the actual control panel, the LCD display changes colour according to what is the optimum temperature for the unit and the property in terms of economic use, and will show red or blue in either direction. For blind or visually impaired users, there is a buzzer which speeds up and slows down, which will be of great benefit also to some of the many pensioners we imagine will be using the system.
"There is also a booster element which will provide direct energy in a controlled way.
"And in future, home owners will be able to generate income by storing energy for the utility companies. This technology is still developing and even if users do not want to avail of this facility immediately, we can go back and reconfigure the system if they do want to avail of it in future."
Quantum sales manager Jamie Boyd said that the system is simple to install.
"Some Economy 7 units in homes are 20 years old or more, so they will naturally have to be replaced," he said.
"The footprint and dimensions of the Quantum are essentially the same – the feet and the brackets are in the same position so there will be minimal disruption in the replacing of old units," he said.
"There is no boiler, no pipes, no more expense than installing any other system. There are also very low maintenance or running costs to add to the cost savings.
"We are already world leader in this market so we envisage a lot of retro-fitting as well as installation in new homes and this is a totally new product, there is nothing else like it."
Over at the factory at Seagoe Technologies, where the Quantum is manufactured, the production line is already busy.
On a tour of the site, it is surprising to see, instead of the mental image of giant robots, a busy production line of real people.
Business is already brisk and as the workers assemble the Quantum units, boxes of completed heaters are packaged and ready for dispatch through a loading bay.
Graham Scott, managing director at Seagoe Technologies, said that the factory staff are pleased to be part of a world-leading company.
"We produce a number of products here for different markets including commercial heating and cooling systems and products for Panasonic. The factory floor is fully flexible so we can scale back or ramp up any production line according to demand," he said.
"We manufacture units here which are distributed around the world and the pallets going to the loading bays and lorries could be going to Castlerock or Canada.
"There are different elements to each device – some of the insulating material comes from Belgium and some of the elements come from Germany, but everything gets assembled here.
"There are eight people on every production line. At the end of each production line, the completed Quantum goes through a systems test before it can be approved and packaged. Each person does around six minutes work.
"In recent years the electronic heater market has fallen away somewhat so we have seen a reduced staff level on the factory floor, but with this new investment we hope to really ramp up production which will be great for the area and the economy as a whole."
Quantum's benefit to end users
- 25% cost savings to individual homeowners and organisations such as housing associations
- 20% energy savings
- Will help to alleviate fuel poverty
- In the future, the hope is that homeowners can generate income by storing energy for the utility companies.
Quantum's benefit to the economy
- Glen Dimplex predicts that if 50% of the two million electrically heated homes in the UK converted to Quantum, the resulting job creation would be 3,000 jobs per annum for 10 years.
- Maximises the use of renewable energy, reducing imports
- Stimulates energy efficiency construction in social housing
- Addresses fuel poverty.
- Through the Northern Ireland Housing Association, 50 homes in Whitehead are about to installed with 300 units of Quantum
- Installations are under way in Ireland, the Shetland Islands, north eastern Canada, Norway, Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Belgium, Austria and Japan.
About Glen Dimplex
Founded in 1973, Glen Dimplex is a leading international group with annual revenues in excess of £2bn and more than 10,000 employees across four continents.
It is the world's largest manufacturer of electrical heating and also holds significant market positions in domestic appliances, cooling, ventilation and renewable energy solutions.
Glen Dimplex in Northern Ireland consists of:
- Glen Dimplex Northern Ireland (Portadown)
- Seagoe Technologies (Portadown)
- Glen Electric (Newry).
The Northern Ireland operations collectively employs approximately 500 people.