Electrification of Heat – 1940s apartment block ground source heat pump installation

Your Homes Newcastle (YHN) manages a block of 16 supported accommodation flats for young people on behalf of Newcastle City Council.

The flats were originally heated by old electric night storage heaters, which caused many issues for residents. The temperatures provided by the heaters could not be managed. The heaters also did not work sometimes, and they were quite expensive to run. In addition, the hot water cylinders in the flats were small, which meant that the flats with baths did not have enough hot water for a full bath.

Newcastle City Council were approached to participate in the Electrification of Heat (EoH) demonstration project, funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). EoH is seeking to better understand the technical and practical feasibility of a large-scale rollout of heat pumps into existing British homes.

The Challenge

The recruitment and installation phase of the EoH project ran from July 2020 through to October 2021, and despite the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, 742 heat pumps were installed into a broad spectrum of housing types and socio-economic groups, that reflects a representative sample of households across Great Britain.

The range of different heat pumps installed, included:

  • Low-temperature and high-temperature air source heat pumps
  • Ground source heat pumps
  • Hybrid heat pumps incorporated with a gas boiler
  • Some additional technologies, such as heat batteries were incorporated.

Householders were asked to reflect on their first hand experiences of taking part in the programme, including disruption during the installation work, thoughts on the noise and aesthetics of the technology and the outcomes for warmth and comfort.

The Solution

The outdoor space around the block of flats was suitable for boreholes, so the decision was taken to install ground source heat pumps in the flats. Efficiency for GSHP is consistently high all year round as ground temperatures are relatively constant. The old electric storage heaters were also removed from the flats and radiators were installed in their place.

The EoH project offered an opportunity to reduce heating bills for residents as well as give residents better comfort and control of their heating. Newcastle City Council and the project contractor ran an educational campaign to provide information about heat pumps and promote them to residents.

While GSHP are usually more expensive to heat a single property, because there are 16 flats, it was more cost effective per home.

The Outcome

The installation of the ground source heat pump system was planned to take 12 weeks in total, including drilling of boreholes and retrofitting the heating systems in all of the flats. The process went on several months longer than anticipated as it encountered a number of delays, including
restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic and issues with entering some of the flats.

The biggest benefit for residents has been the increase in comfort levels. The flats are now warmer, and residents can have fuller baths or longer showers. Residents also have more control over their heating schedules – this is especially useful for those residents who work and are not at home all day. Some residents also like that they can dry clothing on their new radiators, which was not possible with their old electric storage heaters.

The ground source heat pumps should also be around 40% cheaper to run than the old electric storage heaters, depending on which electricity tariff the residents are on.

Read the Full Case Study

Social housing residents ground source heat pump installation into a 1940s apartment block in Newcastle

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