As you can imagine some of our houses in the Trust are completely off the beaten track…up mountains, down valley’s, on cliffs – you name it (in all likelihood) we’ve got it! This presents numerous challenges in the quest to bring our houses up to the standards of modern living. By this I mean, providing adequate heating, lighting, cooking facilities etc. to anyone who lives there.
In these inaccessible locations renewable technologies offer a perfect solution through “growing your own energy.” Indeed many have already ’grown their own’ for years through wood on their back doorstep.
On Friday I visited Papercourt Cottage on the Wey Navigations, and as a Londoner and quite new to the Trust I was quite frankly (perhaps naively) amazed at how somewhere so close to London was so difficult to get to. First a very windy, narrow little track needed to be navigated (no big trucks would be able fit down here!) and then the road stops and you a faced with a big muddy field of cows for the remaining 100m or so.
The cottage has traditionally been used as a workers cottage for those managing the locks however, having recently been vacated, it is now in the process of an upgrade. Previously a multi-fuel stove and Aga for heating, and on-the-grid electricity for lighting, TV etc. However, relying on solid fuel for heat requires a lot of time and effort to collect and manage and therefore does not always really meet modern living requirements.
Installing an Air Source Heat Pump (ASHP) seemed the most logical option at Papercourt. It came in a small enough unit to be transported across the fields relatively easily. I say ‘relatively’ as while they went across when the ground was frozen a couple of weeks ago to avoid getting stuck in the mud – the van did catch some ice and veered towards a nearby tree on the way (but minimal harm was done)…going in by boat was the second option but thankfully wasn’t needed! The multi-fuel will also be kept to provide a back up heating system, and lots of other energy efficiencies installed to keep the heat in (insulation, draft proofing etc.).
The heat pump is located on an outside back wall with the boiler and electronics installed into an adjacent small cupboard inside. However, to be able to neatly pack this boiler into its small space did require a bit more money to spend on an irregular (longer and thinner) tank. But overall spending this little bit extra made installation easier and also freed up space elsewhere – which was very desirable for a cottage of this size. The radiator sizes were the only initial concern…would their number/size look disproportionate to the size of the cottage? However, from my eyes they blended in nicely.
Developments in air source heat pumps have been shooting up in recent years. Although PVT wasn’t really an option for this house (the south side of roof wasn’t available for planning reasons in a conservation area and therefore it wasn’t really worth it on the north side) – the fairly discreet nature of the pump compared to solar panels arguably gives them an edge regardless. Together with its ability to still operate at very low temperatures (-25oC), unlike PVT’s very seasonal energy generation.
Although time will tell whether our new ASHP in Papercourt will do what it says on the tin (watch this space while some more monitoring goes on*), but from a purely installation perspective in a very hard-to-reach location – the ASHP has proved to be a convenient solution.
* I was there for the big switch on and for a fairly cold February day – the radiators were already starting to warm up nicely after a couple of hours (but more data needs to be analysed to see how much electricity was needed to generate this).