May 22, 2019 Last Updated 1:19 PM, May 22, 2019

Retrofitting Renewables in Rural Areas

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South Shropshire Housing Association and Kensa Heat Pumps have completed an off-gas heating retrofit programme featuring ground source heat pumps in rural properties in Cleobury, Shropshire.


Uniquely, the rural two-site project accesses two streams of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI); St Mary’s Place features Kensa’s innovative shared ground loop system qualifying for the Non-Domestic RHI and ECO, whilst College Close features individual ground arrays per property to receive the Domestic RHI; all properties have their own Kensa Shoebox ground source heat pump providing tenants with the freedom to switch electricity suppliers. Kensa Heat Pumps’ contracting division, Kensa Contracting, was appointed as principal contractor for the £500k heating upgrade. The scheme comprises the replacement of ageing electric storage heating in 22 bungalows, one flat, a communal room with general needs and eight houses.

Bernard Quinn, Investment Manager for South Shropshire Housing Association, said: “Feedback has been very positive as there is a general dissatisfaction with electric storage and solid fuel heating systems – residents welcome the opportunity to have new controllable and affordable central heating systems in their homes.

“We were an early adopter of air and ground source heating. It’s been a key part of our affordable warmth strategy for the last eight years. So far it’s estimated that the group has saved its tenants nearly a quarter of a million pounds in their heating bills. This project contributes to a total of more than 280 renewable heating installations at 42 locations across Shropshire, where fuel poverty is always high on the agenda.”

Christina Groves, a recipient of the new Kensa ground source heat pumps, says: “The new system is fantastic, it’s easy to operate, you just set it and leave it and it provides a constant heat and hot water when you need it.”

Neighbour Derek Fletcher says: “It’s a lovely constant temperature now and the bathroom is nice and warm. The workmen were very helpful and no trouble.”

St Mary’s Place had electric storage heating and immersion hot water systems installed in 1997. These systems have an expected 20-year life and were therefore scheduled for replacement. Furthermore, households at St Mary’s Place had expressed dissatisfaction with their existing heating system on Shropshire’s Quality of Home survey. College Close had a mix of solid fuel and electric storage heating.

Bernard explained the main advantages and outcomes expected from the project:

• "Helping meet our Decent Homes objective
• "Helping meet our Affordable Warmth objectives
• "Helping meet our energy efficiency/carbon reduction objectives
• "Helping meet our customer satisfaction/quality of home objectives
• "Experience at similar projects elsewhere in the group has shown a significant improvement in letability of rural properties with renewable heating systems over traditional solid fuel back boiler heating and electric storage heating."

Bernard continues: “We know that our tenants are finding it increasingly difficult to find the money to keep their homes warm. The residents in this area of Cleobury had electric storage heaters and solid fuel back boilers; as part of our review into updating their heating and hot water we found that ground source heating was a far better alternative, and residents agreed.

“Our Asset Management Strategy includes a vision for the housing stock to be in good repair. This means planning to replace components such as central heating systems at the end of their useful life. The installation of ground source heat pump central heating will help deliver this vision. In addition, we have a target to reduce our carbon footprint and tackle fuel poverty in our off-gas properties. The proposal goes some way to help meet these ambitions.”

Shropshire Housing was impressed with Kensa’s track record of completed projects. Kensa has achieved SafeContractor accreditation which gave Shropshire Housing confidence that the project would be delivered on time and on budget.

Kensa designed the whole project and was responsible for the complete installation, commissioning and MCS accreditation. Kensa worked with Shropshire to secure the ECO funding and the RHI income and will continue to provide support as required for ongoing RHI obligations.

Shropshire had previously completed all viable fabric measures across the scheme with cavity and 300mm of loft insulation, replacement windows and doors, however, the properties still featured ageing night storage heaters which were due for replacement.

Residents were struggling with high bills and ineffective heating as, due to the age of the NSH, not enough heat was being retained, leaving many reliant on fan convector heaters to top up their heating on expensive day-rate electricity. In addition, the poor controls meant that properties were often too hot in the morning. To reduce cost, some residents chose to turn off heaters in the property and only heat a single room; this not only provides an uncomfortable cold environment and poor health and wellbeing but also leads to building fabric issues too, such as the build-up of mould and condensation.

Open vented hot water cylinders provided poor water pressure, and meant the use of electric showers was necessary for wetrooms. The buildings also featured asbestos soffits, where the pipework was designed to enter the building. The proposal for St Mary’s Place is based on individual Kensa heat pumps using a shared ground loop for every three to five properties, meaning the scheme would qualify for the ECO and Non-Domestic RHI, paid over 20 years. This is partly based on the fact it is an open-plan site, with insufficient curtilage per bungalow to facilitate individual boreholes.

College Close comprises three-bedroom, semi-detached houses with adequate space within each curtilage for individual boreholes, making the installations eligible for receipt of the Domestic RHI, which is paid over seven years. Due to the lack of available storage space within the properties, the heat pumps are installed externally within purpose-built enclosures provided locally by GSM.

Each property is fitted with a Kensa Shoebox ground source heat pump installed as part of a micro district system; each heat pump is connected to a shared ground loop. Typically each micro-district heat network consists of one borehole feeding two properties.

As part of the heating upgrade, all properties were also fitted with new skinny unvented hot water cylinders, specified to fit within the existing cylinder cupboard. Radiators were installed in each room fitted with TRVs and new simple-to-use controls allow residents to have full control over when they require heating and hot water and what temperatures they require, which is improving tenants’ overall quality of life.

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