Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, one of which was Not upheld and one was resolved informally.
A website, www.electrorad.co.uk, seen on 18 July 2017, featured a blog with the headline “Aeroflow comparison with Fischer Future Heat” and below that was the text “Many potential customers ask how our Aeroflow range compares with radiators from Fischer Future Heat. Firstly lets [sic] answer the biggest question: Is there any difference in energy use or running costs? NO! - Due to the laws of physics relating to thermodynamics and specifically electrical resistance heating, we can categorically state and guarantee that our Aeroflow radiators will use exactly the same energy and cost exactly the same to run as Fischer Future Heat radiators [sic] The government has a standard relating to energy efficiency called ‘SAP’. If we use SAP to calculate running costs and energy use the result is the same for both products. The governments [sic] calculations and documentation shows that the running cost and energy use of Aeroflow radiators is the same as the running cost and energy use of Fischer Future Heat radiators …”.
Fischer Future Heat challenged whether the comparative claims regarding the Aeroflow radiator’s energy consumption and operating costs were misleading and could be substantiated.
Electrorad Ltd stated that all electric heaters produced the same amount of heat for the same amount of electricity used and consequently, there was no difference in their operating costs. Electrorad believed that this was already supported by established science and a government paper, “The Government’s Standard Assessment Procedure for Energy Rating of Dwellings” (SAP 2012), which was published on behalf of the Department of Energy & Climate Change by Building Research Establishment (BRE).
Electrorad stated that the government document SAP 2012 was designed to evaluate the energy performance of dwellings and included energy performance information about every aspect of the dwelling. It was used in the production of official Energy performance Certificates (EPCs) for properties. One of those aspects was heating and covered electric heaters. They stated that SAP 2012 recognised that all direct acting electric heaters were 100% efficient and therefore, the running cost and energy use of all direct acting electric heaters would be the same. Because of that, SAP 2012 did not identify any specific electric heater. Electrorad therefore believed that SAP 2012 demonstrated that the Aeroflow and Fischer Future electric heaters produced the same amount of heat by consuming equal amounts of energy without any price variations.
Electrorad stated that the Aeroflow and Fischer Future electric heaters produced heat in the same way, by passing electricity through a resistance element. They stated that Joule’s law and the law of conservation of energy in physics had determined that such a method of producing heat, known as “Joule heating”, produced heat with 100% efficiency. To support that, Electrorad referred to a report which documented the preparatory study for local room heating products on behalf of the European Commission and highlighted the statement, “Efficiency of electric heaters is determined by the Joule effect where all electricity is converted into heat. In practical terms, the product efficiency in electric heaters is nearly 100%”.
Electrorad instructed an accredited domestic energy assessor to evaluate the energy efficiency of a property that was heated via electricity by following the SAP 2012 standard. The assessor used the Aeroflow and Fischer Future heat thermostat electric heating systems. The EPCs showed that the estimated yearly energy consumption and running costs for both heating systems were the same. Furthermore, the overall energy efficiency rating of the property remained the same with both heating systems. Along with the EPCs, Electrorad provided a letter from the assessor who explained that all electric heaters had the same efficiency.
Electrorad provided a statement from BRE, which they stated was responsible for writing energy efficiency standards for the government, including SAP 2012. BRE stated that the energy consumption for the Aeroflow heating system would be no higher than that for the Fischer Future heating system, primarily because all electric heating was 100% efficient. BRE stated that all electric heaters (except heat pumps) had an output of 1 kWh of heat when provided with 1 kWh of electricity. They explained that this was long-established basic physics and was the reason why SAP 2012 did not require the input of test data on the efficiency of electric heating systems (except heat pumps). BRE further stated that there were differences in the controllability of different electric heating products, which could affect energy use. Because of that, SAP 2012 differentiated between those electric heaters which had thermostatic control and those which did not. However, BRE stated that in practice all new electric heaters had such a mechanism and therefore the energy consumption for the Aeroflow heater would not be higher than the Fischer Future heater. Furthermore, BRE stated that the Fisher Future heater did not have any features that would require it to be treated differently in SAP 2012 compared to other electric panel heaters, and therefore would get the same predicted energy consumption and running costs, and hence the same EPC rating.
Electrorad stated that both the Aeroflow and Fischer Future heater used the same thermostat and programmer from the same manufacturer. They said that the accuracy of a thermostat served to produce better comfort by maintaining a more accurate room temperature, but did not however, change the efficiency of the electrical heating appliance, which was the position taken in SAP 2012.
Electrorad referred to published literature to assist consumers in making informed decisions regarding the running costs of various conventional electric heating systems installed in the UK. They quoted the statement, “In the study three types of 100% efficient electric heating systems have been modelled using SAP2012 … In SAP modelling all these heaters have the same responsiveness and controllability and there is NO variation in running cost predictions in SAP2012 between these systems …”, which they believed further supported the comparative claims.
Electrorad referred to literature published by a UK organisation, which promoted energy efficiency and quoted the following text, “… conversion efficiency of delivered to useful energy is very high for electric heating, and can normally be taken as 100 per cent irrespective of the type or make of appliance used”.
Electrorad referred to a BRE test report that Fischer Future Heat provided to support their complaint. Electrorad noted that the test did not compare the Fischer Future heating system with the Aerflow electric heater, but nevertheless showed that all the electric heating systems involved in the test had the same energy use and efficiency.
Electrorad referred to a second test report Fischer Future Heat provided and stated that it did not compare the Fischer Future heating system with the Aerflow electric heater, but with old storage heaters.
Electrorad referred to a third test report Fischer Future Heat provided and stated that the test did not compare the Fischer Future heating system against any other electric heater.
Electrorad referred to non-UK government websites, which stated that electric heating was 100% efficient. Furthermore, they referred to various other websites which also stated that electric heating was 100% efficient. That included a company that manufactured energy efficient electric heating appliances, a support resource for UK building energy performance assessments and an online video created by an individual with a mechanical engineering and physics background explaining the concept of Joule`s Law.
The ASA noted that the ad made several comparative claims regarding the Aeroflow electric radiator’s energy consumption and operating costs with the Fischer Future heater, which included “Is there any difference in energy use or running costs? NO! … we can categorically state and guarantee that our Aeroflow radiators will use exactly the same energy and cost exactly the same to run as Fischer Future Heat radiators” and “If we use SAP to calculate running costs and energy use the result is the same for both products. The governments [sic] calculations and documentation shows that the running cost and energy use of Aeroflow radiators is the same as the running cost and energy use of Fischer Future Heat radiators …”. We considered consumers would interpret the claims to mean that, all other factors being equal, the two heaters would use identical amounts of energy to heat a given room to the same temperature over a set time without any difference in their operating costs.
Electrorad referred to SAP 2012, which we noted was also mentioned in the ad. We understood that SAP 2012 was a government document (published by BRE) regarding the UK standard methodology for evaluating the energy performance of dwellings, and that such information would ultimately be presented in a document known as an “Energy Performance Certificate” (EPC). The evaluation took into account a range of factors that contributed to energy efficiency, and included the cost of a property’s heating system. We noted that SAP 2012 stated that all electric room heaters including electric panel and convector heaters had 100% efficiency, which we understood from BRE’s statement was because they converted all the electricity they used into heat (1 kWh of electricity produced 1 kWh of heat), and consequently would have the same operating costs.
We understood from the statements BRE and the accredited domestic energy assessor provided to Electrorad, that the Aeroflow and Fischer Future heaters were electric panel heaters, which SAP 2012 classed as “Electric (direct acting) room heaters” that were 100% energy efficient. Therefore, the Aeroflow and Fischer Future heaters would use identical amounts of energy to heat a given room to the same temperature over a set time without any difference in their operating costs, which was supported by the statements provided by BRE and the accredited domestic energy assessor. Furthermore, we noted that the EPCs produced by the assessor following their evaluation of a property’s energy efficiency, estimated the same energy costs for both heaters heating the same property over a period of three years. The EPCs also showed that when the estimated heating costs for both heaters were added to the same projected costs on energy used for lighting and hot water, the overall energy efficiency rating for the property was identical.
We noted that Fischer Future Heat disagreed that their electric heating system and the Aeroflow electric heater had the same energy efficiency and provided three test reports to support that.
The first test report concluded that the Fischer Future electric heating system consumed less energy in comparison to the previous electric heating systems that were previously used at seven households. However, the test did not compare the Fischer Future electric heating system with the Aeroflow heater, but with “old traditional” electric heating systems which unlike the Fischer Future and Aeroflow heaters, we understood were unlikely to have a thermostatic control, that could improve energy usage by controlling the target room temperature and the amount of time the heater would generate heat. Furthermore, the statement by BRE stated how SAP 2012 differentiated between electric heaters that had thermostatic control and those which did not, because such a mechanism could affect energy usage. We understood that this consequently meant that under SAP 2012, a non-thermostatic control electric heater would not get the same predicted energy consumption, running costs and overall energy efficiency rating as a thermostatic control electric heater.
The second test report conducted by BRE was carried out in a laboratory environment. We considered that a laboratory environment could not provide an accurate representation of the heater’s performance in an actual household setting. We noted that BRE had also made that clear in the report itself. Furthermore, the test did not compare the Fischer Future heating system with the Aeroflow electric heater. The third report was not a comparative study of the Fischer Future electric heating system and therefore did not relate to the comparative claims made in the ad. We therefore considered that Fischer Future Heat’s evidence did not disprove that the Aeroflow electric heater had the same energy efficiency as Fischer Future’s electric heating system.
We concluded that Electrorad had provided adequate evidence to substantiate the comparative claims that the Aeroflow electric heater and Fischer Future electric radiators had the same energy consumption and operating costs, and the claims were therefore not misleading.
We investigated the claims under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising), 3.7 3.7 Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation. (Substantiation), 3.11 3.11 Marketing communications must not mislead consumers by exaggerating the capability or performance of a product. (Exaggeration) and 3.33 3.33 Marketing communications that include a comparison with an identifiable competitor must not mislead, or be likely to mislead, the consumer about either the advertised product or the competing product. (Comparisons with Identifiable Competitors), but did not find it in breach.
No further action required.