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A change of approach

How three landlords found a new route to heating their homes
Boiler in front of red bricks

AS Plumbing Heating Renewables

Installing improved heating systems

Number of homes fitted with new systems so far: 100
Outcome: Significantly reduced energy bills

Cornwall Housing manages more than 10,000 council homes all over the county. In spring last year, AS Plumbing Heating Renewables won a tender to install heating and hot water systems in 200 of its properties that were fitted with solid fuel, oil heating or night storage systems. In some cases, these systems had been installed decades ago.

Cornwall Housing wanted a modern, energy-efficient solution that could help tenants with their energy bills. The Daikin Altherma air source heat pump soon emerged as the most appealing option.

For starters, many of the properties were not on the gas grid. Andy Stephens, director at AS Plumbing Heating Renewables, says: “When you haven’t got gas available then your choices are restricted to solid fuel, LPG [liquefied petroleum gas] or electric. Most of these choices are expensive to run.”

Full surveys

From a contractor’s perspective, Mr Stephens advises that fitting an air source heat pump is more complex than a traditional gas install. “You go out and do a full survey of the property,” he says. “From that, we work out heat loss on a room-by-room basis. That gives us the information we need to size the heat pump and all the radiators, and to get approval from the local power supplier. ”

The installation is then carried out with residents in situ. Many are keen to know more about the technology, says Mr Stephens: “Some tenants choose to go out on a daily basis; others prefer to be there to see what’s going on. They take an interest in the works.”

Then, once the work is completed, most tenants can expect significantly reduced energy bills, according to Mr Stephens. “This type of system certainly makes their life easier and far more affordable,” he says.

More than 100 homes so far have been fitted with Altherma heat pumps. All works are set to be completed by March next year.

This is just the latest project in a 10-year relationship between AS Plumbing Heating Renewables and Daikin. Mr Stephens says the two companies maintain regular contact to ensure that installations go smoothly.

“We keep right up to date with their products and they give us the support we need,” he says. “That’s why we like working with them – we know we’ve got the back-up if we need it.”

Thirteen Housing Group

A practical and sustainable solution

Number of homes fitted with new systems so far: 16
Outcome: Three times the efficiency of legacy systems

Kitchen refits in 16 properties at St Hilda’s Court in Whitby provided Thirteen Housing Group with an opportunity to replace ageing night storage heating systems at the same time. Steve Boal, compliance area manager at Thirteen, felt air source heat pumps offered the most practical and the most sustainable solution. “We could have put a high-performing night storage system in but we’ve made a commitment to try to use renewable energy where we can,” he says.

Thirteen reviewed the available options. “We invited in three different manufacturers to look at different products and did an evaluation of them to see which best fit our needs,” says Mr Boal. “From there, we picked Daikin as our preferred supplier.”

After choosing the Daikin Altherma heat pump, Thirteen turned to an innovative funding stream to help pay for the installation. The Travis Perkins HeatRHight scheme offered an upfront sum in exchange for seven years of government renewable heat incentive payments. Thirteen became the first registered housing provider in the country to take advantage of the offer and received an amount equivalent to half the air pump fit-out costs.

According to Wes McGeeney, renewables team leader at Thirteen: “That brought the costs in line with a gas central heating system.”

Greater efficiency

With costs now comparable, the Daikin system offered even clearer benefits compared to a traditional gas installation, according to Mr McGeeney. Air source heat pumps can offer more than three times the efficiency of legacy systems, he adds. Mr McGeeney had long been familiar with these claims but it wasn’t until a few years ago, once he’d seen a heat pump installed, that he was completely convinced. “I was very cynical, but it’s actually true,” he says.

The St Hilda’s Court project takes the number of heat pumps fitted in the Thirteen portfolio to around 300.

Mr McGeeney says there are already plans to install a further 500 in the next couple of years. That’s a small number in the context of the organisation’s 33,000-home portfolio. Still, he believes the number will grow exponentially over time. “This will be a technology that will overtake gas,” he says.

Homes in Sedgemoor

A greener alternative to oil

Number of homes fitted with new systems so far: More than 100
Outcome: £325,000 of grant funding

In January, Homes in Sedgemoor, an ALMO responsible for around 4,200 homes across Somerset, began working on a bid to secure grant funding for the installation of air source heat pumps in around 100 rural homes. To ensure the greatest likelihood of success, it collaborated with Daikin on the bid. Chris Willmott, property investment manager at Homes in Sedgemoor, says: “That was an excellent resource.” In March, it secured £325,000 of funding.

Homes in Sedgemoor has since worked with contractor Jones Building Group to install Daikin air source heat pumps in around 20 homes that previously relied on oil, night storage or partial solid fuel heating systems. Installations are more complex than alternative heating systems but, according to Mr Willmott, can still be carried out without significant disturbance to tenants.

“It’s a little bit more involved than a traditional installation,” he says. “There’s a little bit of disruption around the external unit – sometimes that means moving sheds or footpaths around. But overall, we’ve had some good comments.”

The award of grant funding reduced Homes in Sedgemoor’s installation costs by around a third. Air source heat pumps still represent a larger investment than some alternative options, but better meet the organisation’s objectives in relation to both energy efficiency and tackling fuel poverty.

“In our off-gas areas, the alternative is oil,” says Mr Willmott. “We’ve decided not to offer oil as a replacement because of the one-off cost to the customer of filling the tank and the implications for the environment.”

Daikin and Jones Building Group carry out pre-installation surveys to ensure properties are suitable. “We’re happy to do any consequential improvements, such as loft insulation or even new windows,” says Mr Willmott. “But if a property isn’t suitable because of its structure, we won’t do it.”

Given a straightforward choice between a night storage system and heat pumps, what’s the better option? “We just felt that, in the right properties, a whole-house central heating system fuelled by an air source heat pump is the best option,” says Mr Willmott.

Article credit: https://www.insidehousing.co.uk/sponsored/sponsored/a-change-of-approach