Heat Pump Recognition Delivers More Than Simply Trophies

It's been a good week here at Ice Energy with the news we have been shortlisted in not one, but two categories at the National Energy Efficiency Awards.

The Exeter Road Heating Project has been shortlisted in the Large Scale Project of the Year category, an accolade it won earlier in the year at the regional awards held in Wembley Stadium. It's a project we're extremely proud of, not least because it's tackling the very real issue of fuel poverty in an area where improving heating standards really will make a difference to the residents. It's also a project which will benefit from Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) payments and one of the installations which has seen us shortlisted within a second category - RHI Installer of the Year.

Almost 200 flats across 4 tower blocks will be using ground source heat pumps to provide all their heating and hot water this winter in a project which aims to deliver cost savings of more than 80%. Previously, these residents have had to depend on ageing and expensive storage heaters combined with an electric district underfloor heating system. Not only were these systems inefficient, they were extremely difficult to control. The heat pumps which have replaced them however, are not only extremely reliable, they are all pre-programmed to the residents' preferred temperature and use a radiator distribution system complete with Thermostatic Radiator Valves (TRV's) for even greater flexibility and control.

It's been a huge project for us which has seen a series of boreholes drilled to depths of 205 metres in order to access the stored solar energy within the ground which will be used to heat each flat; we've also installed internet cabling in all four blocks so the heat pumps can be linked to the web for remote monitoring and diagnostics. The obvious benefit of this is that it allows the council to try and rectify potential issues remotely, often even before they become an issue for the resident. This can remove the need to send someone to the property which will generally mean having to co-ordinate the visit with the resident to arrange access and overall, can save the council money which can be reallocated elsewhere.

Remote monitoring can also help with educating the resident about the right way to run a heat pump heating system. One of the key points we try to get residents to understand is that a heat pump system is very different to a conventional heating system. Firstly, heat pumps are designed to run constantly but at a lower temperature so the fabric of the building is heated to the temperature specified by the resident. This means that instead of constantly turning the heating on and off which is both inefficient and expensive, any heat loss is simply topped up gently as and when required. A further 'issue' raised by residents is that their radiators don't appear to feel hot. Again, this is as a result of the lower flow temperatures so while the radiators won't feel cold, they will feel warm to the touch rather than scalding hot which is a lot safer, particularly for children or the elderly.

Managing the expectations of the resident is often as challenging as the installation of equipment, simply because they have generally only ever been used to boilers and / or storage heaters, so the concept of a heating system taking heat out of the ground is something completely alien to them. However, working with the client, in this case Enfield Borough Council, to educate the residents via one-to-one visits and open evenings for example is something we feel is an integral part of any project and something which will reap long term benefits for the residents.

Our Founder and Managing Director Andrew Sheldon tells a relevant story about the time he took a politician to see some residents who had recently had heat pumps installed in their properties. When asked about the difference heat pumps had made to her, one elderly resident told the visiting dignitary all about the heating improvements she was enjoying and how the local council ought to be rolling these types of installations out to everyone. The politician thanked the lady for her time and made to leave but before he could, she said this; "The biggest benefit is that I can now afford to buy my grandchildren presents at Christmas time." 

That's the real difference heat pumps can make to ordinary people struggling to heat their homes. So while it will be nice to enjoy the plaudits on September 16th, even if we don't ultimately win, simply by being shortlisted the hope is that other organisations can see the value of this scheme and look at similar projects within their own housing stock to help more people avoid the choice of whether to heat or eat.