In domestic heating systems and commercial pellet fuel production the Austrians play an international leadership role. Austrian pellet heating systems are exported to all countries in Europe, the USA and Japan. OkoFEN have been at the forefront of pellet boiler design and are committed to ongoing research and development resulting in superior quality machines. All wood pellet boiler systems are designed to be housed in boiler rooms. Ökofen systems are considerably smaller than many other biomass boilers, and are similar in size to the older oil boilers typically installed in sheds and outhouses. A typical pellet store can be installed in a dedicated room, a converted garage or shed, or in a purpose-built weatherproof outdoor enclosure. An Ökofen wood pellet boiler is fully automatic, is as easy to use as a gas or oil boiler and indeed has complete electronic control over the entire heating system. It will match the heating requirements by modulating (i.e. running at less than full capacity, something which wood pellet boilers do extremely efficiently unlike many wood chip or log boilers), and by cycling (i.e. running to a timetable or shutting down when there is no demand for heating). Of course, being fully automatic, the boiler re-ignites itself electronically whenever heat is required meaning that the building occupant need know nothing about the boiler and its controls. It cleans itself automatically and compresses the ash allowing the owner make infrequent visits to the garden to spread the ash. Also available is the ÖkoFEN Energy Box which is a turnkey solution with the boiler, heating controls and pellet store all housed in a self-contained unit meaning that you can now enjoy the proven benefits of the ÖkoFEN automatic wood pellet heating system without having the disruption and delay of building a dedicated boiler room and pellet store. Solar water heating and the flat panel vs. evacuated tube debate There are broadly speaking two types of solar water heating panels: flat plate collectors and evacuated tube collectors. It is often claimed that evacuated tubes are more efficient than flat plates. Whilst it may be true that some poorly designed flat plate systems are worse than evacuated tubes, with our partners we have found that a properly specified, well-built European flat plate system is typically as efficient as an evacuated tube-based design. Evacuated tube systems are also inherently more fragile than flat plate systems, being made of very thin glass – a bit like an insulated thermos flask. Unfortunately they completely rely on their evacuated nature to work: any breakage or damage will result in a loss of vacuum which will render that tube ineffective. Indeed, some installers are now returning to previous evacuated tube installations to replace them with flat plate systems. The level of research and development which goes into solar water heating technology in Austria, both at university and commercial level, is infinitely higher than in the Ireland and the UK. Through working with the manufacturers we have found that the efficiency of a solar water heating system depends less on the flat plate versus evacuated tube debate, and much more on factors such as the proper design and sizing of the system relative to the heat load and demand, the level of care and attention paid to the installation, and above all on the build quality of the product itself. The use of top quality components including special non-ferrous glass which is both highly transmissive of solar radiation and very tough, all ensure that this flat plate system is not only as efficient as an evacuated tube system, but in a real world situation is also far more dependable and longer-lived.