'Efficient' heating system left families with big bills

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-19511637
Covered on BBC Radio 4 "You and Yours" (and presumably on Rip Off Britain) about Exhaust Air Heat Pumps (which I've never heard of before).
Seemingly these are being fitted to Affordable Housing because it means they can meet more stringent energy efficiency requirements, but the systems are ineffective, and generating massive heating bills as they fall back to electric heating.
Some housing associatios are now having to pay for the excessive heating costs of their tenents, and wholescale ripping the systems out.
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Andrew Gabriel
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Listening to "You and Yours" this lunchtime it sounded like a combination of...
- marketing "over enthusiasm" - possible cost cutting causing underspecification - building homes which are still not as well insulated as possible and no match for northern European standards.
There appears to be little in the way of facts and a lot of finger pointing. It will be interesting to see it, in the fullness of time, a proper detailed analysis of what went wrong is performed.
When one watches Grand Designs and sees totally passive houses being successfully built, it's hard not to become cynical at modern home building; the tools are there and the designs of high efficiency houses are proven but presumably it is bad for the builders' bottom line so we're stuck with crap.
Paul DS.
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Until the end of the programme when the final cost (financial and in some cases emotional) is revealed.
MBQ
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...snip...

Agreed but we're talking about very different things. These heat pumps seems to have been installed poorly, in homes insufficiently insulated and I'll bet someone made a tidy sum producing these "eco-homes".
But the residents have paid dearly for this and it's probably not their fault at all. But that doesn't make it the heat pump manufacturer's fault either necessarily (which Is how I read the original post as saying). These sorts of pumps work fine in much colder climes than ours, but where the homes they're fitted to are much better built.
Paul DS.
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On Mon, 10 Sep 2012 17:16:17 +0100, Paul D Smith wrote:

Agreed, space heating isn't mentioned only hot water heated from recovering the waste heat in exhaust air from the building. This implies that the building occupied normally doesn't need any space heating, ie is very well insulated.
Looks more like the housing assoc's have been sold a pup. The figures do more or less work out. 550W 24/7 for a year is 4818 kWHr. 10p/unit near enough their quoted £500/year running cost. Of course that doesn't include *any* other electrical use which could easyily be another 5000 kWHr... bring the total bill to around £1000/year.

Aye, if a place doesn't need any extra space heating recovering the waste heat in the exhaust air seems emminently sensible. 1kW 24/7 is enough to keep a decent sized thermal store well hot. Yes a succession of baths will cool it and bring in the backup (expensive) immersion heater. So there also needs to be a change in habits, stagger bath nights through the week for each family member. Rather than everyone having a bath on Sunday night. Have a shower in preference to a bath.
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The unit does have radiator and underfloor heating (water) output, according to the datasheet.
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Andrew Gabriel
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On Tue, 11 Sep 2012 16:16:34 +0000 (UTC), Andrew Gabriel wrote:

Just going by the story not facts, they just get in the way!
I can't see why such a system shouldn't work but it does rely on having a very well insulated house that doesn't need any extra heat input to keep it warm. ie the heat input it does require comes from the waste heat from appliances and the occupants.
As always from the media we aren't getting the full story.
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This one sounded to me like a way of fiddling some energy efficiency figure they had to meet, so they met the figure without generating energy effiency, and the system never stood any chance of being able to perform.
I've just glanced at the data sheet. It seems to have a 550W compressor (much smaller than the air sourced heat pump in my living room), which it claims can pump 1.5kW.
1.5kW is horribly low for the heating capability of a central heating system (which includes hot water generation). But then I got to think I'm not even sure it's that good - it's not an air sourced heat pump pumping 1.5kw in from outside, it's just pumping 1.5kW from the house's exhaust air. I'm still thinking about it, but I think it's heat generating capacity is actually only its 550W power consumption, and not it's heat pumping capacity as it's not pumping any heat in from outside. Add to this just the heat recovered from the typical 2 air changes per hour. Either way, it's not surprising it doesn't work.
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As with many technologies, the idea is great and no doubt could be made to work given careful choice of control logic and a really efficient heating system as well. Unfortunately the first into these new ideas often get burned and the technology gets a bad name probably wrongly. Brian
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I though that the current standards brought us pretty much up towards that.
I live in a property built in 2000 to the previous standards and my heating uses about 2500 kWh per annum. For that usage it doesn't make sense to spend 3K (or more) on heating equipment, when a couple of 30 quid panel heaters cuts it (which is what I have - actually there are 6 but I never need more than 2 turned on).
If it had the 2006 standards I would expect to only have the heater(s) turned on for about 10 days a year!
Or perhaps, because the way that 2006 changed the measuring process a "pass" is allowed for there to be less insulation if the actual heating system is more "efficient". If so that seems to be a very serious error, not the least because further down the line when the system breaks down, so owners are not going to be able to afford the replacement costs and just go out to buy electric heaters.
(and of course, there the perverse incentive for manufactures of expensive kit to push their "solution" instead of the insulation)
tim
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One estate were told their bills would be about 500 quid a year - less than yours? But ended up at three times that. Which isn't a million miles from mine in a large Victorian house with solid walls - and I'm retired, so have the heating on as much as most. Of course where you are in the country can make a difference, but something doesn't add up.
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Dave Plowman (News) used his keyboard to write :

They were having to use electric, rather than the much cheaper gas heating, to top up the inefficiencies of the system.
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wrote:

Whilst logically the correct explanation I don't think that gas is the base fuel used here
tim
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The R4 prog mentioned an immersion heater which was used to top up the heating system. One person who had some sort of energy meter said it was using approx 10 quids worth per day. At 12.5p per kilowatt that's 80 kWH.
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Dave Plowman snipped-for-privacy@davenoise.co.uk London SW
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Dave Plowman (News) wrote :

Take that report with a pinch of salt. If that were true, it would equate to 15 to 25 tankfulls of hot water.
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I don't think you understand how this system works. The 'immersion' heater heats the house as well as the hot water.
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Dave Plowman snipped-for-privacy@davenoise.co.uk London SW
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Dave Plowman (News) presented the following explanation :

You are correct, I did not realise that. Which suggests a 3Kw immersion heater running flat out for the full 24 hours.
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Harry Bloomfield wrote:

and that's what it takes to heat a medium sized house in winter.
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It happens that The Natural Philosopher formulated :

With no (effective) heat recovery.
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On Sep 11, 11:08 am, Harry Bloomfield

She said she had run up a £1500 debt with the energy company, so not only will she be paying expensive key meter rates for electricity, but the key meter will be set to gradually recoup the debt she already has.
Philip
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