Kensa Heat Pumps has partnered with Cornwall-based social housing provider Coastline Housing to deliver the county’s first ‘micro ground source heat network’ project attracting income via the Non Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) and slashing tenant heating bills.

Living up to its Cornish name (‘Kensa’ comes from a Cornish word meaning ‘first’), Kensa Heat Pumps has recently completed a pilot project involving replacing inefficient night storage heaters with sustainable ground source heat pumps in twelve bungalows on the Wheal Vyvyan estate in rural South Cornwall which houses older and vulnerable residents.

The project also featured the first ‘micro district ground source heat network’ to have been installed in Cornwall. This innovative system architecture, pioneered by Kensa, features an individual ground source heat pump in each property linked to a communal ground array. This communal approach reduced drilling costs and made the project eligible for the Non-Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), giving Coastline Housing the opportunity to receive quarterly payments from the Government for 20 years.

It also ensured that each property can use their own preferred energy supplier and pay only for the heat they use, rather than more common district heating systems where it becomes necessary to meter for payment, which is more complicated for both the landlord and tenant. The system design is also exempt from Heating Metering and Billing regulations.

Kensa installed a 3kW ‘Shoebox’ ground source heat pump into each bungalow; the innovative Shoebox model, developed by Kensa, is the smallest and quietest ground source heat pump on the market. The Wheal Vyvyan estate has six communal boreholes drilled to an average depth of 60m; groups of two boreholes feed heat to the individual ground source heat pumps in clusters of four bungalows.

The project benefitted from a combination of funding including the Non-Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), an up-front grant from the Energy Companies Obligation (ECO) and new funding offered by DECC in the form of the Central Heating Fund (CHF).

In 2015, Coastline attended a seminar hosted by Kensa where they heard from social landlord Trent & Dove Housing about their successful experience of installing ground source heat pumps into similar properties. This prompted Coastline to carry out the trial project at Wheal Vyvyan which is the first of its kind to have been undertaken by the Cornish housing provider.

The ground source heat pumps provide 100% of each property’s heating and hot water needs and are expected to save tenants somewhere in the region of £300 per annum* when compared to the previous electric Economy 7 systems.

Wendy has been in her property for 18 months and thinks that the ground source heat pump is a big improvement on the night storage heaters. She said: “The heat pump is much more economical, I noticed a difference straight away. I was often cold with the night stores, especially in the morning, but baking hot during the night. This is much better and  the hot water cylinder fits nicely in my attic, freeing up valuable cupboard space.”

Chris has lived at Wheal Vyvyan for nearly eight years. He said:

The night storage heaters were a waste of space, they didn’t stay warm. The heat pump heats up the house quickly and is easy to control using the themostat. They did a great job drilling the boreholes; I wasn’t sure how they would get into such small spaces, but even though the drill was large, you can hardly tell where they’ve been.

Due to this success, Coastline is considering undertaking ground source installations on a larger scale to provide more energy efficient homes for its customers, and is currently working with Kensa to scope out a second ground source heat pump project in Cornwall.

Ralph Retallack, Energy Efficiency Manager at Coastline Housing said:

Coastline Housing is constantly seeking to reduce domestic fuel bills for our customers in line with our Affordable Warmth Strategy. Tenants at Wheal Vyvyan should expect greater comfort and control of their heating, whilst at the same time benefit from constant levels of heat and significant savings on their fuel bills.

Coastline Housing is the first housing association in Cornwall to install this type of micro district ground source heat network system. It allows our tenants to retain control of their individual electric bills, which is more convenient for them and saves Coastline having to become involved in any billing. The system also qualifies for the Government’s Non-Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) fund, which provides a welcome financial support for Coastline.

He continues:

From start to finish the project with Kensa has run extremely smoothly. This was very much a ‘hands off’ project for Coastline once work commenced; we have been impressed with the level of care and consideration for our tenants needs; the swift and professional delivery of the physical work; and importantly the careful restoration of areas where the borehole drilling took place. In addition, it has been great to be working with and supporting a fellow Cornish company.

Simon Lomax, Managing Director of Kensa Heat Pumps said: “The project was supported by a grant from EDF and will provide Coastline Housing with a lucrative 20-year income stream from the Government’s Non Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). There are a large number of rural social properties in Cornwall which cannot access the mains gas grid and these heat pump installations provide an excellent alternative to tenant and landlord alike.  We look forward to continuing our relationship with Coastline Housing in the future.

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