Going underground to keep warm and save money at the same time
With fuel costs rising more homeowners are going underground for their heat. Sharon Dale reports.
BUYING a new boiler is one of the most galling of property expenses because its feels like a cost with few benefits.
There is no financial return, unless your previous model was hopelessly inefficient, and you can’t help but compare the ugly metal contraption to the handmade sofa or beautiful painting you could’ve had for the same price.
But there are a growing number of exceptions to this rule and Frances Trowell is one of them after ditching her oil-fired boiler for ground source heat system
The initial cost may have been high at £25,000 but she no longer has to pay £4,000 a year for oil and her annual fuel bill has been halved.
For the last two years the pump has supplied all her hot water and heated her house.
“We needed a new boiler anyway and I had been reading about ground source heat, so I started to explore the options and thought it was a good idea.
“You need quite a bit of land to lay the pipes and we had that,” says Frances, who bought North Corner Farmer at Thruscross, near Harrogate, eight years ago.
They bought a Worcester Bosch system that was fitted by a plumber with ground source experience.
The Trowells also had trenches dug a metre deep for the pipes and created a separate plant room for the collector unit and the hot water storage tank.
The system works by pumping a mixture of water and antifreeze through the buried pipes. As the liquid travels round, it absorbs heat from the earth which is used to warm radiators, underfloor heating and water.
A ground loop system for a four-bedroom house costs an average of £18,000, though if you have no space to lay the pipes, you can have a bore hole – up to 100 metres deep, which costs about £22,000.
Although the heat from the ground is free, the pump is run on electricity, so there is still a cost.
“It has halved our fuel costs and it wasn’t invasive or messy to fit inside the house, says Frances.
“It was simply connected to our existing radiators and underfloor heating.
“Apart from being greener, it has improved our quality of life. The heat throughout the house is an ambient temperature all the time and we have plenty of hot water.
“The pump is also very low maintenance.”
Architect Francis Shaw installed two ground source heat pumps in the medieval castle in Hellifield, near Settle, he transformed from ruin to beautiful home and B&B .
Fans of Grand Designs may remember Francis and his wife Karen digging trenches and laying the pipes themselves.
The hard work and £25,000 cost was worthwhile, says Francis, who recommends pump supplier Ice Energy: “I’d say we save 50 per cent on fuel bills by having this system, but it is low grade heat, so the radiators never get very hot, so you may have to buy bigger radiators if you are retro fitting.
“We also find that the water from the pump is tepid, so it needs a boost, and there is maintenance. You have to keep an eye on fluid pressure and clean filters.
“I am pleased with it though. It is an effective way of heating a 10,000 sq feet building with walls that are 10 feet thick.”
Although the initial cost is high, the pumps are growing in popularity, especially with households reliant on oil. Payback time for them is said to be between seven and 10 years.
“The payback time for a pump is much quicker for those using oil. For those using gas it is slower because gas is still the cheapest form of heat,” says Grant Henderson of York-based installer Solar wall.
Frances and husband Nick have saved £4,000 in the last two years but are now selling their idyllic home, so their payback will end.
Although they will see a return on the extension and interior makeover they have invested in, the heat pump hasn’t added to the value of their home.
Tim Waring of Knight Frank, which is marketing the property, says: “I don’t think they add to the value of a house, though they may well do in the future. People are becoming much more interested in the energy performance of a property and running costs are a concern.
“What this green technology has done is make the property unique and even more saleable.
“The heat pump has has created a huge amount of positive interest among buyers.”
North Corner Farm is for sale through Knight Frank, £795,000: 01423 530088 www.knightfrank.com
Peel Castle, Hellifield, near Settle, luxury bed and breakfast, www.peelcastle.co.uk
WARMER: North Corner Farm is now heated by using a ground source heat pump which cuts fuel costs.