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Heating & Hot Water – a solution?

Category: Barn Conversion Journal March 28th, 2008 by mbc

From the start of this project, I’ve been through numerous options regarding the method by which we’ll heat the barn and generate hot water for domestic purposes. It’s been a long and twisty road but I think I’ve arrived at a solution that I’m comfortable with (at least for the time being).

Let’s start off with the one aspect that has always been in the plan – underfloor heating (UFH). With the healthy house ethos driving many of our design decisions, we’ve always intended to use underfloor heating and that has remained a constant. Actually, that’s only half true – I originally intended to have UFH on both the ground and first floor, but the idea of the weight of a screed on the first floor just seemed wrong to me (as does the idea of having no screed and therefore minimal thermal store). But I digress…

I started off with the intention of implementing what I thought to be a green solution of a ground source heat pump backed up by an electric water heater (pretty much to the disgust of my green friends). On advice this turned to an air source heat pump (to even more disgust from the green lobby). What eventually put me off these solutions (at least for the time being) is the apparent complexity of the technology involved, the need to consume an often difficult to estimate amount of electricity and a general feeling that I was over complicating the solution to my particular challenges.

I’ll also add that certain aspects of the heat pump installation industry seem to resemble uPVC window or second hand car salesmen. But again I digress…

After considering pellet and gasification boilers and again developing the creeping suspicion of over design I got to my current favoured solution…

Wait for it…

Solar Water Heating with a multi-fuel burner as the ‘primary’ heat source (& a backup electrical heating coil in the tank)…

We’d always planned for a multi-fuel burner in the barn, being the son of a coal merchant and living in the area from which the world’s finest anthracite comes, I have few qualms about burning coal. So the burner has been promoted to the primary heat source and coupled with a ‘foundation’ of solar water heating I feel I’ve a simple yet hopefully effective solution. We’ll specify a tank that can take additional feeds if we feel the need to beef things up with for example a pellet stove in future and plumb ready for that eventuality. As hopefully we’ll be able to move into the barn during the Summer we’ll start off with minimal requirements which will build as the year draws on. Will it all pull together and work? I’ll keep you informed…

Comments / Questions?

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Solar Water Heating

Category: Systems of interest March 13th, 2008 by mbc

Solar water heating systems use energy from the sun to heat water for use in the home. This water can be utilised for washing and general domestic uses as well as for heating purposes.

There are three main components:

1. Heat Collectors or Panels. The two main types are flat plate and evacuated tube both are normally fitted onto roofs but can be ground mounted. Evacuated tube systems use metal strip collectors in vacuum tubes and are the smaller but more expensive option. Flat plate systems use a dark coloured plate in an insulated container collect heat.
2. Heat transfer system. Transfers the collected heat to the water.
3. Hot water cylinder. This stores the heated water and supplies it onward to those systems that consume it.

In the UK, appropriately sized systems can provide up to 90 per cent of the hot water needs of a typical home.

Depending on specifics such systems should cost upwards of £1,000 in a new build domestic property with higher initial costs for a retro-fit. From recent research it should be possible to install system for £4,000-£5000 into the average home. Payback may be up to twenty years, but with current fuel price escalation this is likely to drop rapidly.

Designing a system to meet your needs will require consideration of supplementary heating systems, the site and its orientation to the sun (you will need some south-facing aspect), the heating & hot-water requirements of the buildings inhabitants and budget. As we in the UK are not overly endowed with sun during the winter months you will also need a supplementary heating system to provide hot water when the sun can’t – log, pellet, gas and multi-fuel burners and boilers can fulfil this role if configured correctly within the overall system.

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