The fluctuating costs of oil, potential for supply issues and its environmental consequences, have prompted one Norfolk based housing provider to successfully source an alternative and ensure it’s properly protected and maintained to reap maximum benefits for them and their tenants.
Freebridge Community Housing owns and manages Beaupre Hall, one of 17 sheltered housing schemes in West Norfolk, where accommodation comprises a mix of bedsits and one-bedroom flats for elderly residents. The properties are supplied with heating and hot water powered by a large oil-fired boiler system housed on site.
Keen to reduce the £30,000 annual oil bill to fuel the site, Freebridge sought the help of renewable energy technology experts Green Home Energy Solutions (GHES) in Norwich. Andrew Edmonds, Head of Property at Freebridge Community Housing, explains: “Reducing the annual cost of fuel was obviously our main consideration in wanting to replace the oil system that was in place and we wanted to identify more cost-effective solutions available.
“Working with GHES, we made the decision to overhaul the existing system and replace it with new water buffer stores and most importantly, two large wood pellet biomass boilers from ETA. We’re confident of the long-term savings that can be achieved for the organisation and our customers.”
Removing the huge floor-standing oil boiler system and pipework was a difficult job and took a week for a team of four to dismantle, explains Kevin Cooke from GHES: “Getting the old system out was a big and dirty job but thankfully we were able to leave the pipework in place after giving it a good clean out with a thorough hot water flush. We then fitted two ETA biomass boilers into an existing boiler house and connected them up – this was actually the easy part of the changeover!
“Biomass systems require the additional installation of buffer stores which in this case were two 1500 litre tanks, and at Beaupre Hall these had to be lifted and manoeuvred into a small loft space. Once these were in place we then needed to get a large 2” MagnaClean Commercial filter on to some intricate pipework.”
Given the size of the job, it was completed with minimum disruption to the elderly residents on site says Andrew Edmonds: “We provided the residents with electric heaters and ensured there would be enough hot water to meet their daily needs while the system was off-line. Communication was also key to the success of the changeover as there was a danger that residents would question why they were facing disruption simply to replace a perfectly good working system. We needed to ensure they understood how the changes would benefit them.”
Darran Burrage, ADEY’s Area Sales Manager for Anglia, says: “For Freebridge and its tenants changing from oil to a renewable energy system has been an investment for the long term. GHES recommended the installation of a MagnaClean Commercial filter to help ensure the system delivers those long term financial benefits, by ensuring the system remains as efficient as possible for the whole of its lifespan.
“Damaging black iron oxide sludge doesn’t just affect traditional domestic heating systems, it can build up in any system type including those fuelled by renewable energy sources, causing serious inefficiencies and the eventual breakdown of the system. Going from oil to biomass is quite a change and although GHES took care to flush the system through, the Freebridge maintenance team will need to service the MagnaClean filter around three times a year as it continues to collect and remove the dirt left in circulation.”
Andrew Edmonds concludes: “We’re really pleased with the new system, we can see the dirt being collected by the filter after just a few months and have also seen an impact on our energy bills which we’ll continue to monitor. We’ve also been visited by similar organisations keen to see how the biomass system is working for us and we are about to start a second biomass conversion at another site which will also benefit from MagnaClean protection.”
Savings for all systems
Kelvin Stevens, ADEY’s Managing Director, comments: “The cost of heating housing stock is hugely expensive and it’s great to see forward-thinking housing associations like Freebridge, embracing new technologies to save money.
“However, for many different reasons, others are unable to make that investment but they could still experience similar benefits and cost-savings by ensuring a comprehensive central heating maintenance programme is in place.”
To deliver maximum results, ADEY developed its award-winning four-step best practice approach to heating system maintenance that places magnetic filtration technology at its heart:
- Clean – introduce a good quality chemical cleaner to the heating system
- Flush – thoroughly flush the system to remove sludge and debris
- Maintain – install an effective magnetic filter to prevent sludge build-up – service annually in line with annual boiler service
- Protect – dose the system with a good chemical protector and top up annually “Using our proven filters could reduce an authority’s maintenance call-outs by up to 37%, and save tenants 6% on heating bills year on year. However, the key to achieving these results is to fully understand the effectiveness of the products being used as part of a best practice approach to maintenance,” explains Stevens.
“In the ten years since ADEY invented magnetic filtration, many competitor products have entered the market, but there are big differences between them all so authorities need to do their homework and make sure they invest in effective maintenance and system protection. The same principle should be applied to chemicals as a key part of best practice and, as a minimum, authorities should look to use only those that achieve the BuildCert standard.”