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Save your energy with help from the experts

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: October 25, 2012

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Keith Powell

I have over 25 years' experience in the electrical industry, serving my apprenticeship in the Midlands before moving to Paignton to join a local electrical contracting company. From there, I joined the South West Electricity Board. I enjoyed many years with them and gained invaluable experience in a number of areas. I joined South Devon College teaching staff in the electrical section, but now teach in the Energy Centre on renewable technology courses.

My current role is proving to probably be the most challenging yet, coordinating the curriculum programme in the new Energy Centre within the college. It is an exciting time in the building services sector, with new technologies emerging enabling us to educate the industry and public about renewable and sustainable technologies and energy saving.

P.V. Question: Is there still a payback for having a photovoltaic system on my property?

A: Yes, there is. The feed in tariff is still available; although not as high as it was initially, it's still an attractive proposition to receive a benefit from generating your own electricity. The tariffs are now on a sliding scale that has clearly defined criteria that will affect the payback. These criteria are based on the cost of the materials. It is important to remember that the cost of panels have dropped over the past year with systems now in the region of £6,000 fitted, previously they were costing £12,000 – £15,000 for the same system. It is also worth noting that with energy prices constantly rising, by fitting a photovoltaic system you are reducing your future energy costs. If you have any questions on this technology email Patrick.mcnevin@southdevon.ac.uk, our experts will answer any queries and choose one question to be posted in the next green guide.

Greg Hopkins

Greg is employed by South Devon College and is an expert on heat-pump technology. Greg has 30 years' experience in electro-mechanical design and control environments. Trained by Nu-Heat in Honiton in under-floor heating and heat pump technology, Greg quickly rose to the position of senior commissioning engineer and technical trouble shooter for the Company. Now working at the college, Greg is assisting in the development of the renewable training centre and the latest courses in heat pump technology.

Heat Pump Question: I am considering using a heat pump in my property, which type is best?

A:The most important issue to be considered when deciding on the installation of a heat pump is that the property be insulated to the highest possible standards in order to maximise the benefits.

There are essentially three types of heat pump and they vary by the way in which heat is extracted.

Air source Heat Pump uses a fan to drive air through a heat exchanger and reduces the temperature of the air by 10°C - 20°C as it absorbs the energy from it. They are generally fairly quiet but it is a good idea not to site them outside bedroom windows as they will run overnight in colder weather. They can be fitted a few metres from the property being heated but there will be a slight loss in performance unless very expensive pipe-work is used to connect over longer distances. A mono-block heat pump will generally be more reliable than a two-part system as it is possible for contaminants to enter the refrigerant circuit as it is being installed or filled which can shorten the life of the system.

Ground-source heat pumps generally perform better than air source, but the installation is a lot more expensive because there are ground works required in order to install the heat collection pipe-work. In cost terms the break-even point for a ground source over air source is about seven to ten years. Modern heat pumps are very quite compared with older models but it is still a good idea to provide a separate plant room or garage to house them as they are generally louder than fridge freezers.

One of the more critical factors in choosing a heat pump is the type of compressor that is used to convert the collected energy into usable heat.

Efficiencies can be gained by the use of a modulating compressor which adjusts the energy usage with changing heat requirements of a property.

These machines use Inverter drive technology and have very low starting currents and so are much more suitable for rural areas where high surge currents can result in significant dimming of lights and other effects.

The exhaust air heat pump ventilates the property as well as providing heat energy. They tend to have quite low output capacity and it is very easy to undersize these units resulting in high direct electricity costs. Equally, quite high volumes of air need to be shifted in order to extract the maximum amount of energy and over-ventilation and high running costs are not uncommon. If you have any questions on this technology email Patrick.mcnevin@southdevon.ac.uk , our experts will answer any queries and choose one question to be posted in the next green guide.

Patrick Mc Nevin

Paddy`s current role is the director of the South West Energy Centre at South Devon College and is helping to develop the new £6.2 million Energy Centre, which will be open in May 2013. Paddy served a six-year apprenticeship in the building services industry as a heating engineer, before moving into the gas industry in the early 80s . He moved to Jersey, working for the Jersey gas company for 14 years, rising to a position of deputy district manager. Paddy moved to Devon, where he successfully ran his own heating and plumbing business for several years, eventually moving into teaching at the college before securing his current role

Green Deal Question: I rent a housing association property in Torbay and I'm worried about rising energy bills, will Green Deal help me reduce my bills?

A:The Green Deal will help you reduce your energy usage and will have a major impact in managing rising fuel bills. This government initiative is accessible to people from all walks of life, but certain rules apply, depending upon your situation. As you are a tenant of the property, before you take out a Green Deal Plan your landlord will need to agree to the financial aspects of the Plan. In many cases, you will also need permission from your landlord to make improvements to your property – although this will depend on the lease agreement. Many Housing Associations are looking to work with organisations to develop partnerships to deliver the Green Deal to their tenants, which will include in certain cases funding from the Energy Company Obligation (ECO). This fund was set up to help people gain access to the benefits of the Green Deal initiative. Speak to your housing association about what they are planning to do, further information, guidance and help can be found on the Department of Energy and Climate change. DECC have produced some useful quick guides on Green Deal, link below, or visit our website : southwestenergy centre.com .

If you have any questions on Green Deal email Patrick.mcnevin@southdevon.ac.uk , our experts will answer any queries and choose one question to be posted in the next green guide.

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