Friday, 20 January 2012

Good riddance oil!

What to do with our now defunct oil tank and feed lines now we've switched to wood pellets? Well, having heard about the potential for domestic heating oil to pollute the soil and water courses from leaks from split or corroded tanks and pipes I am glad to get rid! Out of all of the process of sacking oil as our main heat energy source, secretly, I looked forward to the departure of the oil tank the most...

Thanks to the guys at KD Tanks for not demolishing next door's house during this precisely performed procedure! I did not know where to look!!


Saturday, 14 January 2012

Finally finished!!!

The last few plumbing issues and tidying up bits were completed today. Thank you to Steve for spending Saturday getting us up and running with our Biomass/solar thermal domestic heat system. Fantastic!

The radiators and water are hot hot hot! We have hot water on demand 24/7 thanks to our fabulous thermal store - 300 litre cylinder of water that holds the heat we input from the new wood pellet boiler and the solar loop. We will also utilise every bit of energy harvested by the solar thermal panels, using a renewable fuel to do the rest when there aren't enough sun hours or our demand is higher when the heating is on. Right on cue there was not a cloud in the sky today so our solar collectors were doing their thing this morning and pre-heated the water in the thermal store for us!

So we've realised a five year dream of getting the house off oil! It hasn't quite sunk in yet just how much of "our bit" we've done to reduce our climate impact but I'm starting to feel very good about the "choice" we made as to what to spend this money on as it was "doing nowt int' bank" (cash ISAs).

I could have ripped out the kitchen and had a dazzling dream new one but I can make do a while. Or even a few weeks of luxury long haul, but where would be afterwards - no money and an oil boiler to feed and then replace in a hurry with another one when it eventually broke down midwinter - that's where. Then the Renewable Heat Initiative (RHI) came along and I thought "I want some of that" and "this is what I should expect from my taxes - help to do the right thing".

I can cross this project off the list now and see what might be next over a nice glass of champagne...

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Biomass boiler - almost there!

Well it's been an eventful day to say the least. Installing our domestic biomass boiler has become a journey of discovery for us and our installers Wessex Biomass...

We'd hoped today was going to be the last day of the job...

Yesterday work on the flue was into the roof void with just the external work and making good to do and little else to complete on the system today other than refilling the thermal store and central heating circuit and commissioning the boiler.

The roof work on the flue turned out to be relatively straight forward, around noon a 1000kg of wood pellets turned up and between three of us were restacked in the garage. 130 kg easily fitted in the boiler's hopper. Once the boiler has got our thermal store up to temperature we will get to know how rapidly it consumes pellets and get into a routine of topping up the pellets hopefully weekly or even fortnightly. This will involve emptying a few 10kg bags of pellets into the hopper - I can more or less manage this and it is easier than filling our water softener which is also 10kg bags as the hopper is much more accessible.

With the boiler and system controls all programmed we were ready to fire it up and much to Steve our installer's satisfaction this went without a hitch. Amazing bit of kit!!

We were then instructed on the maintenance routine for the new appliance. This makes sense to us as we are used to a wood burner we have in our sitting room - the boiler is a lot easier to look after than this. The integral ash store should only get full every 1450 hours of running time (months).

The euphoria was not to last as it became apparent something was a miss elsewhere in the system...

The boiler was over heating so more head scratching for Steve to work out why it wasn't transferring heat to the thermal store. We'd already had fun and games trying to explain the pipe work for the thermal store cylinder to ourselves before it was reworked to give optimal benefit from the biomass boiler. It will just keep the water thermal store hot so it is there to heat on demand for hot water or pumping round the radiators for space heating.

Incredibly the radiators were getting rather warm despite the thermal store not getting up to temperature - how so? The answer was conduction via the return circuit from the boiler to the radiators of which the thermal store is really a very large kind. Turned out our oil boiler had been plumbed in backwards so, with no consequence, the water flowed in the opposite direction to that intended. However, the assumption was made based on this 17 year old mistake as to which pipe was flow to the cylinder and which the return...

So we'd ended up with backwards plumbing and two pumps opposing one another... Luckily one of them could be inverted to cure the problem temporarily but corresponding work required tomorrow also to the cylinder to make it work efficiently...

Glad to have realised the problem. Wessex would not have left us until all is working satisfactorily but hard to imagine how it would have been spotted and rectified if we'd just gone for an updated oil appliance. And I'd been joking all week that everything we try and do in this house is a problem and not what you expect to find - some houses, lovely as they are, seem not to want to be altered! Either that or some real cowboys were in on the development...

But...We have hot water tonight!!!!



Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Hello biomass boiler...

Ready for the guys to arrive and pick up where we left off yesterday...

The old boiler is in a heap outside awaiting recycling! A bit of brawn and ingenuity with improvised rollers got the new toy down the few metres of gravel that is our drive and into the garage close to where it will sit.

Most of the drama yesterday afternoon was concerned with getting the flue through the garage ceiling and between the floor joists of the bedroom above. Bit of joinery needed for the bedroom ceiling though as, predictably, we've hit a joist!

Ah suddenly here they all are - are you ready kettle? Sounds like all the electrical work is going to happen today, more plumbing, more flueing...

Expecting a pallet full of wood pellets at some point - don't know where they are going to put it! I am strong and ready to start shifting it...

More later!



Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Domestic Biomass Install - its all go!

Installation proper got going early this morning...

It's only 11am and already scaffolding has been delivered,
and put up, to do the flue and I've ordered our first pallet load of wood pellets to come tomorrow.

The main event this morning was the delivery of our new Windhager boiler!! Needed three men to get it off the back of the lorry and manoeuvre it onto the concrete floor inside the garage. Thank you to my neighbours for being patient for five minutes while this happened!

Slight spanner in the works is that the old oil boiler is proving tricky to remove at this moment but only a matter of time...

Most thankful for the mild weather while we are without heating. Even so we were glad of the log burner in the living room last night!

Time to put the kettle on I expect!!!



Sunday, 8 January 2012

Our domestic biomass installation starts tomorrow!!!

Tomorrow the plumbing to our thermal store is going to be rejigged to make the system work as the tank manufacturer intended and integrate our solar thermal panels and boiler as best as to make the whole thing work as efficiently and cheaply as possible. Luckily we've not got anywhere near running out of oil as we feared we might when the project had to be put on hold last autumn... ...when someone (moi) made an innocent mistake when checking the planning permission situation. My first piece of feedback about the process to the government under the Premium Payment scheme will definitely be about planning!!! I strongly suspected that getting information/advice from the local council would be a time consuming hassle so, thinking I was a person of reasonable intellect, followed the instructions on their website to establish for myself whether we would need planning permission for the new boiler's flue. When you live in a designated area - the North Wessex Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in our case - sadly things are a bit more restrictive. I say sadly because the whole reason I want to switch to biomass is to do something significant to reduce our impact on the environment - what does "natural beauty" mean on a residential street in any case? Anyway I made the mistake of not realising that we can't build a flue on the wall that is nearest the footpath that goes down between our garden and next door's without applying for planning permission. A public footpath is a "highway"... Rethink required so we decided we needed to get at least informal advice from the planners on what we can and cannot build under permitted development rights. Was not wanting to cough up the £ or more importantly wait the requisite 8 weeks (chances are longer than that eh Wiltshire Council?) it takes them to turn round the full planning permission decision - deadline the end of March 2012 to redeem my voucher and get the cash from the government! To cut a long story short we submitted an advice request (costs £60 and supposedly takes 3 weeks max.) and after 7 weeks and several reminder emails and phone calls we get an answer - the wrong answer. They are only looking at my other neighbour's property (who can build a flue wherever he pleases pretty much) and not mine! Once this is pointed out the query is sorted in 10 mins flat! We have the advice but guess what - they are only going on the same information I could access myself. So why is the advice on the government's planning portal website to contact the planning office if you are in an AONB?? Hopefully we can get this changed to help those of you thinking of going in with the Renewable Heat Initiative - wonder what proportion of properties not on mains gas are in designated areas? Just beware anyway - especially if you are up close and personal with a public footpath, bridleway, byway or genuine highway... That's the end of the boring stuff!!!!!! I'm off to bed - one more sleep... Claire


Saturday, 7 January 2012

We are getting a biomass boiler!

It's the final countdown this weekend to the installation of our biomass boiler. Just in time for the fifth anniversary of our coming to this house in Winterbourne Bassett, Wilts, we are realising the dream of dispensing with the oil tank and giving up the "black stuff" for heating and hot water. Our "on borrowed time" oil boiler is going in favour of a wood pellet boiler and touch wood by the end of next week we'll be cashing in our Renewable Heat Initiative premium payment voucher...

Preliminary works on our existing thermal store tank start Monday. Then we'll be one step towards an integrated renewable heat system including the solar thermal panels fitted in 2008. No more scary oil invoices...

Back tomorrow with the story thus far - planning permission woes!