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A historic estate in northern Wales, Plas Newydd, is getting a makeover.
The mansion on the Irish Sea once was a major polluter, consuming at times up to 1,500 liters of oil to keep it warm. But it has switched to a heat pump, which will extract the heat from sea water to keep the entire mansion warm.
The cost of the 300-kilowatt heat converter to the National Trust, which oversees the 18th-century estate, is £600,000 ($1,010,388) and is expected to save around £40,000 ($67,359) a year in operating costs. These savings will be invested in upkeep of the property, now a museum.
The pump is one of the first systems of its kind in the United Kingdom and so far the biggest. The National Trust says using a heat pump in Plas Newydd is its way to demonstrate the importance of using local sources of energy instead of imported oil or gas.
The BBC reports that the pump relies on a heat exchanger, not unlike a refrigeration device, to extract heat from the earth, air or sea water, then amplify the heat.
Plas Newydd is the first of five projects under way in the first states of the Trust’s plan to invest more in renewable energy. If the projects provide energy at appreciable savings, the charity is prepared to make similar conversions at 43 other properties it oversees.
Already the Trust has committed to reducing overall energy consumption at the properties it oversees by 20 percent, including cutting the use of fossil fuels by 50 percent and generate half its energy from renewable sources.
Using a heat pump at Pla Newydd really was a natural choice for the property, according to Adam Ellis-Jones, the assistant director for operations in Wales for the Trust. “With the Irish Sea right on the doorstep of Plas Newydd, a marine source heat pump is the best option for us,” Ellis-Jones told the BBC.
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But that didn’t make the conversion easy, he said, because marine-source heat pumps are hard to find, especially pumps of the size needed to heat the estate. “It has been a challenging project but an exciting one,” he told Wales Online.
The idea of heat pumps is becoming increasingly attractive in Britain, though they don’t work efficiently in every application. Plas Newydd is a good candidate for the heat pump because it isn’t connected to Britain’s gas grid and therefore until now could rely only on oil heat, which not only pollutes but is expensive.
As for cost, air-source heat pumps, which draw heat from air outside a building, are not expensive to install, but they are inefficient during cold weather. Heat pumps that extract heat from water or earth are more expensive to install, but also are more efficient because the water and earth are consistently warmer than air.
Because of their overall efficiency, heat pumps will be invaluable tools for Britain’s goal of reducing CO2 emissions by 80 percent by 2050, according to Tobi Kellner, the co-author of the “Zero Carbon Britain” report for the Center for Alternative Technology at Machynlleth, Wales.
By Andy Tully of Oil price.com
Andy Tully is a veteran news reporter who is now the news editor for Oilprice.com