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Exeter, Devon
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Exeter, Devon
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Bramshaw Plumbing & Heating, as a firm of Corgi, Oftec and Hetas registered heating installers have a large number of customers, particularly those on oil, who at the present time are very worried about the unending rise in their heating costs.  They are now increasingly looking at renewable resources and introducing sustainability into their heating systems.

I have to be honest and say that, apart from a few who are genuinely concerned about the environment, the vast majority of these customers are driven entirely by the economics of the situation although most would agree that they would feel happier if they were using an environmentally sound system.

We have been looking at these issues for several years and have come to realise that there are a couple of fundamental points that shine through:

  1. Despite rapidly rising fuel prices most customers do not want to lose the convenience and comfort of their present heating systems.

  2. That nearly all the systems currently installed in the UK were designed for an age of comparatively cheap energy and as such are quite wasteful of energy.

Our basic approach has been how we can improve the efficiency of existing systems and although we do not supply insulation products or services, we are always quick to advise customers that this is the first area they should explore.  Pound for pound improving the insulation in your property must be the most sensible first step.

We can then begin to look at the areas of waste in the use of energy and I can best illustrate this perhaps by giving an example of an existing customer with an oil-fired heating system and in the process of extending his property.  On the face of it, the existing quite modern boiler would have been quite adequate to take the extended heating and domestic circuits but that would have left the owner feeling even more anxious about his future fuel bills.  When we discussed matters further we found that throughout the winter they sat on many evenings in front of a woodburner because they love “open fires”.  But there was no back boiler on the log burner so there was no gain into the domestic hot water system.

After much discussion we have agreed to install a solar panel on their perfect south-facing roof and retrofit a back boiler in their log burner.  This traditionally would have been fed into a new cylinder and given plenty of domestic hot water but we are going to feed the solar panel and log burner into a thermal store.  This means that both can be used to supply domestic hot water and preheat the central heating.  The oil-fired boiler will only fire if there is a deficiency of heat from the other two sources but even when it does it will only have to raise the preheated water to working temperature – not from cold.

Our feeling is that increasingly people will want to move over to either wood chip, wood pellet or grain burners to be able to use locally sourced and sustainable fuels but that by taking a whole view of their requirements, existing systems can be modified with the present boiler being relegated to the “back up” role instead of being the main source of heat.

Few of us want to discard all that we have in the way of heating in favour of a brand new system but by integrating various heating components very good results can be achieved.


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Article courtesy of Bramshaw Plumbing & Heating, Exeter, Devon.



Ground source heat pumps use a similar technology to refridgerators to generate clean energy to provide heating for homes and commercial buildings. Suitable for the climate in the UK. Although they do use some electricity to power the pump, they are incredibly efficient and generate heat all year round. By using renewable energy which is stored in the ground a ground source heat pump is perhaps the most energy-efficient means of heating buildings. Perfect for incorporating with underfloor heating as this is the most efficient way of using the heat energy generated.

Unilke geothermal energy a ground source heat pump does not use hot rocks, which would require very deep drilling. Instead either a borehole or a series of shallow trenches with a loop of pipe to collect the heat. These heat collecting pipes contain water and antifreeze which is pumped around the system. The heat from the ground is absorbed by the water and this can then be used to heat your home and provide hot running water.

Regardless of the temperature throughout the winter the ground temperature around the pipes will stay at around 8 - 12°C which can produce hot water at 50°C for your home. This is perfectly adequate for an underfloor heating system and is suitable for radiator based central heating provided that your home is properly insulated. Using this system means that you can produce 4 or 5kW of heat for every 1kW of electricity. Ground source heat pumps are recommended by the Energy Savings Trust as being efficient and environmentally friendly.

A ground source heat pump may cost more money to install than a traditional heating system (there are grants available to help subsidised this) but in the long run you will find that you will see savings. With no heating fuels to pay for and very little maintenance required means that your ground source heat pump will pay for itself within its twenty year plus lifespan.


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