Ground Source Review: Tulak Barge

When Nick Clack and Ali Roberts decided to live on a house boat, they wanted one that was as environmentally friendly and sustainable as possible, so they opted for solar panels and Kensa’s Shoebox heat pump.

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Ground Source Review: Tulak Barge

Elton Moss Boatbuilders in Chelmsford, one of the top canal boat builders in the UK, custom designed their new home. Owner, Artie Chalmers, admits that the resulting barge is probably one of the most complex builds they’ve taken on. Featuring sustainably sourced wood, a composting toilet, and a considerable solar array, the unique environmentally-friendly boat also uses a Kensa heat pump to extract energy from the water to provide heating and hot water.

Ground source heat pumps work especially well with rivers, lakes and ponds, as water is an excellent conductor. The heat transfer rate from water is higher than that in the ground, as the flow of water provides constant energy replacement. Also, the water is in close contact with all of the heat collector pipework at all times, making for a very efficient system.

About the custom-built boat

Named Tulak, meaning ‘to leave by boat’, it was built in Elton Moss’s factory in the Czech Republic. It is based on their Dutch-style, wide beam barge, and measures 12ft wide by 65ft long. Nick and Ali have a young son, so they required three bedrooms. The cleverly designed layout also has an extra cabin behind the wheelhouse, which serves as a snug and an office and can double up as a guest bedroom.

Where Tulak shows real innovation, is on the technical side. Much of the roof is covered in a ten 240W solar panel array. These charge up a large battery bank to provide power, and are linked to a back-up generator which comes on automatically when needed. Instead of a diesel engine, the boat has an electric drive system with a 20kW electric motor.

About the heat pump system

Tulak features Kensa’s multi-award winning 3kW Shoebox heat pump; one of the smallest and quietest heat pumps on the market. Measuring a compact 530H x 475W x 370L, it is the perfect space-saving solution, capable of producing temperatures up to 65°C for heating and hot water.

Kensa’s heat pumps have always been used very effectively in boats. Kensa was founded in 1999 by a pair of former marine engineers, and its first heat pump was designed to be installed on board a boat using sea water as the energy source. For every unit of electricity used, between three and four units of heat are created.

The boat has zoned underfloor heating which provides constant low level background heat, and there is a stove in the saloon as back up if needed. In addition, Tulak has thick insulation, particularly on the roof. The hot water tank is located in the engine room.

Nick says that so far the system has worked well and provides plenty of hot water. The real test will come during winter, but even in freezing conditions, canals in this country only freeze to a depth of a few inches, and the water underneath the ice continues to remain at a fairly constant temperature.

Artie Chalmers said:

Nick and Ali set out to build the most sustainable boat that they could and we are very pleased with what we’ve helped them to achieve.

The Shoebox heat pump from Kensa provides the perfect sustainable heating solution. Not only is it compact and quiet, but being able to warm the boat using the very water that it is sailing on is remarkable. We would certainly consider using this technology again in future eco-friendly projects.

Key Facts

  • Environmentally-friendly and sustainable canal barge
  • 12ft wide x 65ft long, 3 bedrooms
  • Water being used as heat source
  • Kensa's 3KW Shoebox heat pump
  • Zoned underfloor heating