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Heating a chapel conversion?

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  • June 22, 2008 at 11:02 am #3932

    Key Master

    jbm1967 asks an interesting question on the main site about heating:

    I live in a chapel conversion built in late 18th century. It has a 20ft high ceiling in main room and this room is 36 ft x 36ft. I installed underfloor heating in this main room and it works well (can get room to about 21 c in winter previous year with rads 18.5c tops). All other rooms have conventional rads and are all warm enough. The problem I have is with oil consumption. I use 1200 ltrs a month from approx Oct – May. Yes seriously 1200 ltrs a month and at £0.60 a ltr I’ll soon be going bankrupt. I have insulated under the ufh and in the loft but there is nothing I can do to the walls (grade 2 listed building with lath and plaster walls) I cannot decide if air source pumps is the way to go or something like a wood pellet stove. I need about 33kw (and due to heat loss running this almost constant) Anyone got any ideas how I can save money in the long term?

    June 30, 2010 at 3:53 pm #5432

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    September 7, 2012 at 9:33 pm #5433

    Key Master

    If the boiler is quite old, it is probably inefficient, so any decent new boiler might lift your efficiency from around 70% to around 90%, and save you fuel.

    When the original question was posted, the alternatives weren’t much cheaper, if you didn’t have access to gas. Since then, heating oil has got even more expensive, and the Renewable Heat Incentive has been introduced, which makes it highly rewarding to switch to green heat if you are eligible. Unfortunately, the Government excluded domestic users from Phase 1, but you can get Renewable Heat Premium Payments of £950/year while they decide how to support domestic heat in Phase 2, which should be introduced in summer 2013 (according to their promises). Or you can find a neighbour who could share a heat supply with you, or a local business-use for some heat. Either option for sharing would make you eligible for Phase 1 of the RHI.

    If the building isn’t well-insulated, you should avoid heat pumps. And solar thermal will only do a fraction of your load (mostly when you don’t need it, i.e. summer). Your practical option is biomass heat: wood pellet or chip. Unlike heat pumps, biomass boilers will happily provide the same quality of heat as your old fossil-fired boiler, which means all you have to replace are the boiler and fuel store, not your whole heating system (e.g. radiators).

    1200 litres is around 12.75 MWh. If a new boiler improved your efficiency from 70% to 90%, you’d need around 9.9 MWh/month of fuel in future. That’s just over 2 tonnes (3.2 m3) of wood pellets per month, or a bit over 3 tonnes (12.5 m3) of seasoned chip per month. If you get a sensibly-sized fuel-store, you’d only need a couple of blown deliveries of pellets a year, at around £190/tonne (£4,560 for 24 tonnes), or half a dozen deliveries of chip, at around £28/m3 (£4,200 for 150 m3).

    Nowadays, heating oil costs around 60p/litre, when you need most of it, so 1200 litres per month means around £8,640/year. Without any subsidy, a biomass boiler could save you over £4,000/year.

    A decent 33 kW pellet boiler system might cost around £25,000 installed. A chip boiler and store will be a little more, will need more space, and will need more manual intervention (e.g. more ash to dispose of more frequently). Don’t go for the cheapest options if you want the system to be reliable and smoke-free.

    Without any subsidy, a biomass system could pay for itself in your circumstances in just over 6 years. If you can find a way to get RHI Phase 1, or assuming Phase 2 will be at least as generous to domestic consumers as Phase 1 has been to commercial and community users, you can dramatically shorten the payback period. Phase 1 RHI would be worth over £5,000/year in these circumstances. Added to a fuel-saving of over £4,000, you’ve got a payback period of under 3 years, and another 17 years to profit from the savings and RHI payments. Heating can become a net income-generator, rather than a huge cost.

    I have a barn conversion, which I used to heat with a combination of a ground-source heat pump and LPG boiler. LPG was only supposed to be backup, but we ended up using it as much as the heat pump to maintain a comfortable temperature and heat the hot water to a legionella-killing temperature. We’d installed underfloor heating, which is supposed to work best with heat pumps, and our insulation and glazing was supposed to be good, but it still wasn’t good enough for a heat pump to be practical. We recently installed a pellet boiler for us and our two neighbours (installed in a stable central to the three properties), and it’s delivering the quality of heat and hot water that we need, without LPG backup, at a significant cost-saving. And we only have to refuel around three times per year, even for a boiler serving three large properties. We have a small amount of ash to take out around once a fortnight, which we use around the garden as a fertiliser or tip in the green bin. Otherwise, it’s self-cleaning for daily use, and should only need a major service around once a year.

    My company (Forever Fuels) is a national supplier of wood pellets, so I’m “eating my own dog-food”. I’m very happy with the experience so far.

    September 25, 2012 at 1:33 pm #5434

    Key Master

    Apologies to the last poster, in my over zealous killing of spam posters I wrongly ear-marked you – please feel free to post again, I promise I won’t kill you next time!


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