Ground Source Review: Brick Cottage
Howard Smith runs Smith Builders Ltd, an established construction company working on new build projects and property renovations across Powys, Herefordshire and the surrounding areas.
Being a skilled project manager and construction worker, Howard had always wanted to build his own home. He wasn’t looking to buy, but some friends of his were moving to a new village and he went to see their place. Whilst exploring, he noticed an overgrown plot with a dilapidated little cottage up for sale, so he got out of the car and had a look. He saw the potential immediately and bought it at an auction two weeks later!
The plot is a sizeable smallholding with two barns on site, but the property itself was very small, consisting of a living space and one bedroom only. Being a solid stone cottage, it was damp and wet. Due to its rural location, it took Howard over three years to get planning permission to build the house of his dreams in the garden. In that time, he quickly put a kitchen and bathroom into the old cottage to make it liveable, and moved his family in whilst he worked on the new house.
The new two storey property features 4 bedrooms and two bathrooms, plus a garage and carport. The project is a real labour of love. Howard is working full time in his construction business and then working on his own house during evenings and weekends.
Being based on site makes it easy to progress the build, although it does mean I’m always faced with a to-do list when I get home! Also, the four of us are currently living in the one bedroom cottage which is a bit of a squeeze! But I’m certain that it will be worth the sacrifice when the new house is finished. It’s the best decision I ever made!”
The plot is in a rural location and therefore off the gas grid. Howard knew his options for traditional fuels were limited and he was reluctant to end up with ‘dirty, expensive oil’ as he put it! He looked into a variety of renewable options, including air source, which he soon dismissed.
I met Kensa Heat Pumps at a trade show where we spoke about the possibility of using ground source heat pumps in this project. I was impressed with Kensa’s knowledge and passion for their product and their professional, consultative approach. They didn’t go in for the hard sell, but wanted to make sure it really was the right solution for me.”
Ground source suited his project, as he had a paddock at the front of the property with enough exposed land available for slinkies, and the equipment to dig the trenches himself. As the project is eligible for the Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), Howard could see that his initial investment costs would quickly be recouped over the term of the scheme, so it made financial sense to proceed.
Incredible drone footage of the slinky trenches being dug
I would advise anyone considering a ground source heat pump to look into the Government’s Renewable Heat Incentive scheme and work out the financial case. In most instances, you will see a return on your investment.
Yes, the initial payout is more than traditional fossil fuel systems, and some other renewable technologies, but the rate of return is also higher. When you factor in all the other benefits that ground source brings, such as lower running costs and reduced fuel bills, you’ll see you have an efficient, renewable heating system that you’ll see the financial benefits from for years to come.”
The new house is being finished to a high specification. Howard is keen to ensure that it is as thermally efficient as possible, so has installed a secondary timber frame filled with insulation. He has also installed underfloor heating throughout, which is the perfect partner for ground source heat pumps.
Building work isn’t quite finished yet, but the Kensa 13kW Evo ground source heat pump went in in May 2018. Howard is working towards the end goal a bit at a time, in between other projects with his construction business. Kensa will provide an update on Howard’s project in due course.