- A chat with Smart Heat Pump Trial participants
We recently caught up with Richard and Moira who are participants in our Smart and Fair Neighbourhood Smart Flex Heat Pump Trial to learn a bit more about what their experience has been so far.
The couple live in a 20-year-old end terrace four-story house in North Oxford. Having previously installed solar panels on their home around 12 years ago, they were keen to install an air source heat pump to decarbonise the heating of their home. When they were able to receive the government subsidy in the final phase of the Renewable Heat Incentive at the end of March, they knew the time was right to go ahead.
Richard and Moira then agreed to take part in the Project LEO trial to help inform understanding of the complexities, barriers and requirements of installing this type of system and to use smart monitoring technology to test the viability of providing flexibility services to the grid.
As part of the trial, they agreed to install comms equipment from PassivUK that will allow Project LEO to control their heat pumps as part of the trial – in effect, we will be turning them up and down to see if they can deliver flexibility to the local energy network. The control system needed to be linked to Low Carbon Hub’s People’s Power Station online tool – the centre for the trial’s controls, monitoring and data collection. The installation of this comms equipment is the most innovative part of the installation process as it needed to work with the heat pump and talk to the People’s Power Station.
For Moira and Richard, the decision to install the heat pump and take part in the trial was motivated by the desire to save carbon emissions rather than aiming to save money on bills. This was also the reason for them installing solar panels on their home.
Using the smart app linked to the new heating system has begun to give them ease in controlling their energy use and, as the trial continues, it will enable remote access and further control of their system to maximise system flexibility.
It just makes the whole thing more flexible to use straight away. And to avoid coming back to a cold house, you can use the app, turn the heat pump on so the house is warm when you get home. It’s cool because you can control it from anywhere in the world as long as you’ve got an internet connection. We didn’t have that control of the gas boiler because it was so old.Richard, trial participant
The flexible potential of their energy generation paired with the technology to link them to the local energy system is key for Richard and Moira. Taking part in the trial is important to them as they understand the potential of a smart, flexible energy system to make the most of the energy resources – and in particular renewable energy resources – to meet our energy needs into the future.
Moira and Richard spoke about the potential future benefits of a smart system to integrate their electric vehicle with the heat pump. For example, in the future, they could potentially charge the EV batteries at night using a cheaper rate from the national grid supply, then, if the car isn’t needed the next day, use the car battery to power the heat pump when demand for electricity is high.
If you’ve got enough people trialling this with enough variations of panels, solar thermal, batteries etc., mixed with demand and supply cycles from the grid, then it will help in understanding how we can use energy more efficiently.
While the couple knows they have yet to compare the KWh usage in their home with last winter, they are looking forward to seeing the comfort and heat provided in the winter months from their low-carbon heating system. They have already used the heat pump to generate heat in their home on a few chilly spring days and so far, so good!
There was some disruption in their home in having the pump and accompanying control system installed, where they spent a few days without heat or hot water, but the couple appreciate this was part of a learning curve for the various contractors involved in the installation, in particular with the innovative nature of the comms equipment. They reported no significant barriers or planning issues with the installation.
We look forward to catching up with Moira and Richard again as the trial progresses and we test how their new heating system could provide flexibility to the network, providing further vital insights into how a smart flexible energy system can work.