Heat Pump Workshop and Study Day

Footsteps, MECC Trust, Balsall Heath, Green Doors and hosted by the St Francis Church Eco Group.

St Francis Church Bournville Saturday 9 March

Footsteps and Green Doors organised this workshop to help faith community members share the benefits of using heat pumps in place of gas boilers.

The ‘cross-city’ workshop brought Footsteps, MECC Trust Balsall Heath and Green Doors together with the St Francis Eco Group to explore and learn about heat pumps from Phil Beardmore (Green Doors) and by visiting installed heat pumps at a local home and at nearby Cotteridge Quaker meeting house. 

MECC had identified a need to provide local community members with accessible and impartial information about heat pumps.  By holding the workshop at St Francis Church Bournville, we were also able to see heat pumps installed at a local home and at Cotteridge Quaker meeting house.  There will be a further MECC – Footsteps community energy workshop in Balsall Heath on Thursday 25 April.

We began with a welcome from Portia Lloyd, St Francis Eco Group followed by Khallid Mahmood, MECC Trust Director giving an overview of the Trust’s advice and community support work in the Balsall Heath, including providing energy saving advice over the past 18 months.

Phil Beardmore, Green Doors’ heat pump presentation

The key points from Phil Beardmore’s presentation included how heat pumps:

  • ‘Move’ the heat from the outside air to create warmth inside a house;
  • Are efficient: 100 units of electrical energy can move 3 – 400 units of energy into a house;
  • Must comply with regulations on noise;
  • Work best when run continuously using thermostatic radiator valves to control room temperatures;
  • Are usually installed after improving and upgrading insulation.

We also learnt about the importance of working with an established MCS accredited installer with positive consumer reviews on, for example, TrustPilot, Google reviews. This video offered a West Midland’s homeowner’s experience and advice for a successful heat pump installation:

Richard Wharton, Vicar of St Francis Church, commented:

I was thankful for the opportunity to host the recent workshop with MECC Trust, Balsall Heath and Footsteps as part of an interfaith approach to caring for God’s creation and reducing dependence on fossil fuels. Birmingham is a diverse, multifaith city and it is encouraging to work collaboratively and imaginatively in finding solutions to the complex challenges that so many communities around the world face arising from climate change.

Photo above:  Footsteps (Chris Martin)

Insulation and heat pump visit

We then walked from St Francis Church to Shivaji and Magdalen’s house in the nearby conservation area of Bournville Village.  They installed a heat pump following a complete remodelling of the house to create space for their family of four, at the same time as an extensive insulation upgrade to improve energy efficiency.

Shivaji and Magdalen went for a “full fabric-first approach,” involving lining the building internally with a sealing membrane to make it near-airtight; further insulating external walls internally with plasterboard and PIR boarding; and lining walls adjoining their neighbours’ houses to reduce noise transmission and improve thermal continuity. They installed tripled glazed wooden windows with small-panes identical to those they replaced, meeting the requirements of Bournville Village Trust (BVT) and the local conservation officer. Under the roof and elsewhere they have added enough insulation to meet and exceed building regulation standards.

The heat pump is near the boundary of the property, about 2.5 metres away from the house, tucked into a hedge. Shivaji says that despite being very sensitive to noise – “I’m the guy who notices the dishwasher is on even when I’m upstairs” – he has not heard it at all. “We’ve been consistently warm through a whole winter,” he adds. “We’re never at a stage when we’re waiting for the house to warm up”.   Below is a video of the Green Doors afternoon with Shivaji explaining their approach and the work that has been done on their end of terrace house. 

Visit to see heat pumps at Cotteridge Quaker Meeting House  

After discussions over a shared lunch at St Francis Church, some of us moved on to the optional visits to nearby Cotteridge Quaker Meeting House and, finally, to Chris and Harriet’s insulated house in Hawthrone Road. 

Over a six-year period beginning in 2005, Cotteridge Quakers undertook a full insulation of their meeting house which is also heavily used by the local community.  Five heat pumps were then installed to replace the old storage heaters and, finally, solar PV panels installed on the roof of the class room block. 

Photo: Energy Saving Trust

When the group visited they were able to see three different types of heat pump: air-to-air heat pumps with ceiling cassettes; a heat pump and air distribution system in the main meeting room; and an air-to-water system that heats six radiators to give background heat in toilets and a corridor.  They were also told that Cotteridge Quakers are now having to look at how best to replace as the system in the main meeting room as the equipment is approaching the end of its useful life after 18 years’ service.   The full story of how Cotteridge Quakers approached the project is available as a Green Communities Case Study from the Energy Saving Trust website.

Visit to Hawthorne Road insulated house

Finally, we visited Chris and Harriet’s insulated house in Hawthorne Road.  The house was insulated in 2010 using materials available locally from builders’ merchants and suppliers to demonstrate what could be achieved without the need for specialist installers.  Some of the challenges of installing a heat pump at the property were explained.  You can hear Chris and Harriet talking about their approach below.    

We ended with a cup of tea and biscuits and reflections with the architectural designer for Shivaji’s retrofit project who had joined us for the day.    

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