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Renewables: Get a slice of the action

With buildings responsible for around half of the UK's carbon emissions, there is an upsurge of interest in renewable sources of heating. Chris Davis of Dimplex reports
Renewables: Get a slice of the action
Consumers are embracing the new energy options offered by renewables encouraged by the government, which has to meet tough targets on carbon emissions.

It has introduced the twin drivers of micro-generation grants to stimulate market demand, and legislation such as Building Regulations Part L as well as policy initiatives such as the Merton Rule (which typically demands a 10% contribution from renewables in new developments), to ensure that energy-saving measures are adopted across the industry.

One option in renewable-energy sources that is growing in popularity is heat pumps. Dimplex says it offers the UK's widest range, with more than 50 models on offer.

The pumps draw heat from the ambient environment (air, ground or water) and upgrade it enough to provide space heating and hot water. They have been used in Europe for decades. And, when they were first introduced to the UK, they were seen as more suitable for upmarket self-build projects, because of the capital outlay involved.

But the drive toward low-carbon buildings has opened up mainstream opportunities for heat pumps, both the well established ground source technology and more recently a new generation of air source heat pumps able to use the ambient air as their source of heat, making them cheaper and simple to install for both new build and retrofit.

Air source heat pumps can extract heat from the air at temperatures as low as -20˚C, and in the UK's mild climate, performance and efficiency are comparable with ground source models. With average winter temperatures of around 4˚C, coefficients of performance can be around 3.5 to 4.0. That means for every 1kWh of electricity used to run the system's compressor, 3.5-4kWh of heating energy is produced.

So, with the growth of opportunities in renewables, how can installers get access to this developing market?

Dimplex has introduced an Accredited Installer programme to help meet the demand for its air source heat pumps. The scheme, which includes a comprehensive two-day training course, is open to experienced heating, plumbing, electrical and HVAC installers. And, the company says, it gives them the opportunity to be approved to install the UK's widest range of air source heat pumps, a new and profitable stream of business.

A short exam at the end of the course must be completed successfully before accreditation. Once accredited, the installer receives vouchers for cash back against their first purchase and free commissioning. This means the £395 application fee is effectively refunded.

A programme of courses is running country-wide, and Dimplex has even invested in a new training centre at its Southampton headquarters to cope with demand.

The UK Microgeneration Certification Scheme (UKMCS) has been put in place by the government to support its Low Carbon Buildings Programme grant scheme which, from autumn this year, also supports air source heat pumps.

It takes the place of previous product and installer registration schemes such as ClearSkies. Manufacturer training courses such as the Dimplex air source heat pump installer course give installers a head start towards this national accreditation as well by satisfying the training requirement of the scheme.

The government has expressed its support for clean nuclear power, which, together with the growth in renewable generation (such as wind farms) and dwindling supplies of fossil fuels, means that electricity really is the fuel of the future.

Cost-effective electric heating is already the preferred solution for many developers, with easy installation, low capital cost and no emissions or flueing issues. And, for the user, it is controllable and can take advantage of off-peak tariffs.

Part L puts great emphasis on control and states that 'all systems should be provided with appropriate controls to allow reasonable levels of energy efficiency to be achieved in use'. Electric heating easily ticks this box. And combining it with renewables makes choosing an all-electric route to Part L compliance straightforward while, at the same time, reducing overall carbon emissions and meeting renewables targets.

Electric space heating is easy to combine with solar thermal water heating to incorporate a renewables option, providing up to 60% of the annual domestic hot-water requirement from free solar energy - even in northern latitudes.

As the design and siting of the equipment is key, it makes sense to go to one reputable company for the complete space and water heating system. So, this year, Dimplex has launched its own solar thermal water-heating system to offer the complete portfolio of energy-efficient electric and renewable heating products.

The Solar Eclipse is available as a choice of 12 prepackaged kits for easy installation. It is a complete off-the-shelf solar hot-water package, including 2m2, 4m2 or 6m2 collector packages, heat transfer system, full range of installation accessories and a choice of direct and indirect solar hot-water cylinders in a range of sizes.

So, with interest in renewables rocketing, and the future for controllable electric heating looking bright, now is the time to make sure you include electric and renewable options in your heating portfolio, Dimplex says.

Dimplex T: 01489 773336
1 October 2007


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