How do we keep our Landmarks warm?

Gavin Robinson on the work that goes into heating Landmarks

Most Landmarks were designed with two main objectives:  to keep the occupants dry and to protect them from the weather.  We sometimes forget that it was only in the 1960s, with the widespread introduction of central heating, that most people considered heating more than one room in their house at a time.

In the past, heating worked largely on a similar principle to that adopted in many pub gardens today.  Open fires and stoves are good sources of the radiant heat that patio heaters give out.  Draught proofing buildings was not desirable, as a good supply of air was needed to feed an open fire that was often kept alight throughout the winter months. 

The inside air temperature did not need to be very high, since the human body is very responsive to radiant heat.  In fact the structures of many historic buildings can be damaged if they are over-heated. As for insulation, in the past this was applied direct to the body in the form of vests and thick woollen garments - but nobody would have considered trying to insulate a whole building.

So the problem for Landmark has always been how to take traditional buildings, typically centuries old and often of uncertain construction, and make them comfortable even in the severest of weathers.  Until recently, this has meant installing night storage heaters.  These can be installed with virtually no damage to the building and can be used anywhere providing there is an adequate electricity supply.

However, over the years, people have started to question the efficiency of a heater that is at its warmest in the middle of the night, given that new microprocessor controlled heaters have recently become available.  These new heaters will maintain a steady background heat and also raise the temperature in the mornings and evenings when people most feel the cold.  Landmark are trialling these in several buildings as replacements for the existing storage heaters.

We are also experimenting with sheep’s wool and wood fibre draught-proofing of wall structures to reduce the leakiness of some buildings.  We must take care not to overdo this work, which could result in both condensation and inefficient fires and stoves, but with older 'leakier' structures this is unlikely to be an issue.  If we can reduce air movement in rooms, then our visitors are much less likely to feel cold.

Our buildings are all unique. Landmark has been working to find ways to improve the comfort in each one for many years now. The benefits of those efforts are starting to become more noticeable.  While we will never be able to turn Landmarks into super insulated, sealed accommodation, we are finding ways to make these historic structures a little more cosy.