Bills are down on the farm

Owners of holiday cottages in Yorkshire are benefitting from lucrative RHI payments for a new renewable heating installation. HBD reports.

Steve Holtby and Elaine Robinson have purchased multiple ground source heat pump units over the years to provide heating and hot water to a number of luxury holiday cottages that they have renovated on Broadgate Farm, near Beverley in Yorkshire.

Ground source heat pump technology is based on extracting heat energy stored in the ground from sunlight and rainfall, and converting this to a higher temperature for use in a building’s heating distribution system. Ground source heat pumps extract heat energy stored in the ground from sunlight and rainfall, and convert this to a higher temperature for use in a building’s heating distribution system.

To extract this heat energy ground source heat pumps can use a number of different ground collectors, sometimes known as ‘ground arrays’. At Broadgate Farm, Steve and Elaine initially used a mixture of coiled pipes called ‘slinkies’. These were buried in the ground in trenches to a depth of 1-2 m where the temperature remains a fairly constant 8-10°C all year round.

As the development features multiple properties that pay business rates and are rented out separately, it is eligible for the Non Domestic RHI enabling Steve and Elaine to receive 20 years’ worth of quarterly payments from the Government based on the metered heat usage of the cottages. The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) has been introduced by the Government to encourage the installation of renewable heating systems.

Steve and Elaine bought the 19 acre Broadgate Farm site in Beverley in 2006. The farm site consisted of numerous outbuildings and old barns that were in various states of disrepair, so Elaine and Steve decided to renovate them into luxury self-catering cottages with the first ones opening in late 2009.

The barns needed heating systems installing, but as the site is off-gas the traditional heating options available would have been liquid gas or oil, which Elaine and Steve knew would be expensive and unpredictable. They decided to look into ground source heat pumps, as they believed the technology could provide lower running costs and knew this would be a better decision for the business in the long run.

Steve knew of a trusted electrician and a plumber who could fit the heat pumps, so enlisted the help of the manufacturer in overseeing the installation, which took responsibility for designing, sizing and commissioning the system. This also meant that the systems were fully eligible for the RHI, allowing Steve and Elaine to claim for those lucrative payments.

To harness heat from the ground, coiled slinky pipe was installed in trenches underneath a nearby field. Straight pipe was used for future installations as the property had plenty of land and could accommodate this cheaper option.

The cottages are all fitted with underfloor heating, plus oversized radiators and heated towel rails upstairs which increase the efficiency of the heat pump.

Based on the good performance of the first two units installed in 2009 and the high level of customer service provided by the manufacturer, Steve and Elaine purchased two more ground source heat pumps in 2011 and 2015 respectively to provide heating and hot water to a further two renovated cottages. The installations were fitted into the ongoing programme of building works at Broadgate Farm and completed within the winter months causing minimal disruption.

Steve and Elaine decided to use straight pipe for future installations. There is no difference in efficiency between these two types of ground collectors and they both need the same amount of ground, but as Steve was digging his own trenches it was easier to use straight pipe as it meant he could make the trenches narrower, which cut down the installation costs.

Steve and Elaine used an installer for the first few heat pump installations, but as Steve runs his own building company and knows skilled plumbers and electricians, he was able to oversee much of the work involved in future installations himself. This allowed the work to be conveniently accommodated into the schedule of ongoing renovations at Broadgate Farm and completed within the winter months causing minimal disruption.

Elaine said:

“Being able to access the Non Domestic RHI was a bonus as it has helped us cover the costs of the ground source heat pump installations. Having a ground source heat pump is a unique selling point for the properties; lots of customers appreciate the fact that we have a sustainable heating system installed.

“I would definitely recommend ground source heat pump technology to other holiday letting businesses. It is very important that our guests are warm and comfortable and have enough hot water.”