Multiple barn conversions

Landowners who are developing multiple rural properties, and looking for off gas grid heating solutions, can offset the costs with lucrative funding from the Non Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), using ground source heat pumps on a shared ground loop array system architecture, says UK manufacturer Kensa Heat Pumps.


Class Q and Class R

Rural plots, in particular, old farmsteads, often come with numerous outbuildings and barns which are prime for renovation. The current Class Q and Class R regulations have helped to streamline the process of obtaining planning permission for the conversion of agricultural buildings into dwellings for domestic or light commercial use. The fact that up to five properties can be included under one application is particularly useful for landowners looking to undertake larger projects, for example, to establish a holiday lets business or develop office space to rent.

The condition of the existing properties will determine whether the renovation is straight forward, or if it requires demolishing and starting from scratch. In any case, the financial outlay of converting or rebuilding to a quality finish in line with current building standards can be costly when compared to a more straightforward new build. And with many rural sites in areas without access to the gas grid, landowners are often limited to more expensive energy sources, such as oil or LPG to provide heat and hot water to their newly converted dwellings.

Kensa is urging landowners to consider that with ground source heat pumps, not only are the running costs lower than traditional fossil fuel systems due to their exceptional energy efficiency but by utilising a simple shared ground loop architecture, they can not only offset the cost of the installation but also earn an additional income and realise a return on their investment. And they don’t require planning permission either.


Shared ground loop arrays

Ground source heat pumps harvest readily available free heat from ground and water sources via pipework (known as ground arrays), buried underground in trenches or boreholes, or submerged underwater in lakes and rivers. They convert this low grade heat into higher temperatures to provide 100% of a property’s heating and hot water needs.

When multiple individual properties on the same site all opt for ground source, they can be linked to a shared loop ground array (SGLA), an innovative system architecture being pioneered by Kensa. This brings the system owner many benefits, including significant cost savings and access to the Non Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). The Non Domestic RHI is a Government funded scheme offering 20 years’ worth of index-linked quarterly payments paid on the renewable heat that the system generates.

Projects featuring SGLA’s qualify for this funding, providing the properties have individual Energy Performance Certificates (EPC’s). Following recent landmark legislative changes, Non Domestic RHI payments for residential properties linked to SGLA’s are based upon the dwelling’s deemed heat consumption taken from the EPC. This means landowners are spared the costs and administrative burdens of quarterly meter readings and submissions. It also brings the certainty of fixed quarterly payments, thus a regular and secure income.

A shared ground loop array set up mimics a traditional gas framework. Each property has its own individual Kensa ground source heat pump installed within the dwelling, so there is no need for a costly and unsightly central plantroom. This means each holiday let or office space has independent control over its own heating and hot water requirements, removing the need for split-billing. It also gives tenants the freedom to switch energy supplier if they choose.

As few as two properties can be linked together in this way, making it the perfect solution for rural developments featuring clusters of barns or outbuildings. And as all the dwellings are linked to the shared ground array which is sized to deal with the peak heat demand, the cost of the groundworks is reduced and any digging or drilling can be done in stages around the build schedule.


Exceptional energy efficiency

There are many other benefits too – ground source heat pumps are electrically driven devices, so produce no point of use emissions, thus offering clean, safe and reliable renewable heating. And for every 1 unit of electricity used to power the heat pump, 3 units of heat are produced, making them ultra-efficient.

As the low grade heat from the ground or water is only converted to a higher temperature at the point of use, (i.e. inside each dwelling, and only when needed), the distribution pipework is maintained at an ambient temperature. SGLA’s therefore avoid the heat losses that are common with traditional central plant systems, thus keeping energy bills low.

And the good news for landowners is, that the more energy efficient the building, the lower the heating bills will be, adding further margin to profits. With the running costs being so low, the ground source heat pumps will be generating a profit simply for maintaining an ambient temperature even when a rental is unoccupied, as well as reducing long term maintenance issues like damp.

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