Newbuild rural homes ease fuel poverty with low-carbon heat technologies

Pioneering housing project demonstrates an affordable and low-carbon heating solution for people living in an off gas-grid, rural area which suffers from high levels of fuel poverty.

Electrifying the provision of hot water and heat with a thermal battery, heat pump and solar panel integrated system
Cutting carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 85 tonnes per year
Tackling fuel poverty with a 40-60% reduction of residents’ energy costs

The challenge

The rural area served by The Highland Council, the local municipality in the Highland region of Scotland, suffers from high levels of fuel poverty as it is off the mains gas grid and people rely on other fossil fuels to heat their homes.

When building 117 new affordable homes at their Blar Mhor development near Fort William, the council saw the opportunity to replace the originally planned liquified petroleum gas system with low-carbon heat technologies to reduce carbon emissions and lower energy costs for residents.

The solution

The homes were fitted with air-source heat pumps, roof-mounted solar panels and Sunamp thermal batteries. The heat pumps and thermal batteries use electricity from the solar panels or from the grid.

The renewable energy from the solar PV panels reduces the homeowners’ electricity bills and carbon footprint. It either powers the heat pump (for heating) and general household needs (for appliances and lighting) or charges the thermal batteries (for hot water).

Typically, the solar panels charge the Sunamp batteries during daylight hours. This renewable energy is stored as heat in the battery’s phase change material core until it is needed later to provide hot water during peak times in the evenings, when there is little or no sunlight.

The heat-pump compatible Sunamp UniQ 9 iLTHP batteries (equivalent to today’s Thermino hp) were installed in the houses and the smaller UniQ 6 units in the apartments.

The Blar Mhor housing development being built in the shadow of the UK’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis.

The benefits

As a result of decarbonising and electrifying the provision of heat, levels of fuel poverty fell.

The council estimates a 40% to 60% reduction in household energy costs compared with the originally planned liquified petroleum gas system.

Carbon dioxide emissions will reduce by 85 tonnes per year they estimate. This is equivalent to taking 45 average petrol cars off the road. As the electricity grid continues to decarbonise in the future, the carbon savings will continue to grow.

The local area also saw improved air quality due to the absence of liquified petroleum gas combustion and associated carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions.

The Blar Mhor project is being supported by the Scottish Government’s Low Carbon Infrastructure Transition Programme.

The technical details

  • Predicted carbon savings: approximately 85 tonnes per year
  • Heating source: air-source heat pump (Daikin or LG) and heat batteries (Sunamp UniQ)

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