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07 Sep 2010 04:09:20

Dream holiday funded by savings

Dream holiday funded by savings in heating bills
11 June 2010

An Oxfordshire family has just come back from a dream holiday in Spain funded entirely out of savings in their heating costs thanks to a new system which uses renewable energy from the outdoor air to slash fuel bills.

The system – called an Ecodan® air source heat pump – has dramatically lowered the costs to heat the 3-bedroomed home near Chipping Norton and enabled the Pearce family to not only pay for their holiday but also repay all outstanding bills with their electricity supplier.

Mark and Hayley Pearce and their two children Amber (8) and James (10) flew home to Enstone from Torremolinos, Spain on Tuesday night.

Just two years ago, the tenants of West Oxfordshire social landlord Cottsway Housing Association had accumulated a £1,000 electricity bill with their supplier Southern Electric due to increasing fuel prices.

“We agreed to pay by standing order in future and set a monthly amount to help us repay the bills,” explains Mark Pearce.

The couple then had the new heating system installed by Cottsway to replace the old electric storage heaters and solid fuel open fire in the lounge and simply left the standing order as it was.

Now, just 18 months later, they have not only repaid the outstanding amount to Southern Electric but also saved enough in credit to fund their dream holiday to Spain. “This is the first trip abroad that we have been able to take as a family and the kids were thrilled to bits,” said Hayley.

Before the new heating system the Pearce’s mid-terraced home spent £1,137 a year on household electricity bills and solid fuel. The house is not on the gas network and the storage heaters and coal fire gave the property a carbon footprint of nine tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.

With the new system, costs have been slashed to £384 for the heating and the carbon footprint of the home has been reduced by 65 per cent to just 3.2 tonnes.

Cottsway Housing Association is the largest registered social landlord in West Oxfordshire and is pioneering the use of environmentally friendly technology to provide heat and hot water at half the cost of conventional systems.

The firm, which owns and manages more than 3,700 homes (and provides services to both leaseholders and part-owners in a shared ownership scheme), has installed air source heat pumps to replace storage and convector heaters and solid fuel fires in some of its houses.

“We knew we would see a cut in fuel bills for our tenants but this has even surprised us,” said Gary Salter, a surveyor in the company’s asset management team and one of the architects of the plan.

The Ecodan air source heat pump installed by Cottsway Housing is designed and manufactured by Mitsubishi Electric and operates on a small amount of electricity. The system works a bit like a refrigerator in reverse, taking latent heat out of the air and using it to warm the house and provide hot water. It works effectively in temperatures below minus 15 degrees centigrade.

There are thousands of homes in Scandinavia with a similar technology and it is now being promoted and bought by energy suppliers in the UK – Scottish Electricity recently bought 1,200 – so it is tried and tested, even though it’s fairly new to the UK.

“It’s essentially very simple to install and operate, and it will work with conventional radiators like those in use in most homes heated by gas central heating,” explained Salter. “We are delighted with the results from all of the Ecodan systems we have installed to date and we are now looking to add a photovoltaic system from Mitsubishi Electric to reduce the energy bills even more.”

The Pearce family are all quick to agree: “No one relishes paying a large bill for heating and hot water,” said Mark Pearce. “But you do want a reliable system to provide heat when you need it. We love it – and since it relies on a neat box situated outside the home it even takes up less space than a boiler or storage heaters. We’ve kept the fire, but really just for show – it’s the heat pump that keeps us warm!”

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