Kensa's shared ground loops in apartments

Is this the end of air source and gas in new builds?

The Kensa Group has launched a funding and delivery package for new build developments that challenges the status-quo and paves the way for developers to embrace widespread deployment of ground source heat pumps in new build housing.

Despite the merits of ground source technology – the lowest running costs; very low CO2 emissions; low maintenance costs; zero point of use particulate emissions; non-combustion and safe – deployment has been slower than expected because of the cost of providing the underground infrastructure; indeed according to BSRIA in 2017 just 11% of heat pumps installed were ground source heat pumps.

Kensa’s offer of a zero cost infrastructure to developers means that a ground source heat pump is now cheaper than an air source heat pump and in many cases, cheaper than a gas boiler system.

The UK Government has recognised the value of this 100-year infrastructure investment and have made changes to the Non Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) regulations with regard to deeming and split ownership making Kensa’s funding mechanism for multiples of properties possible.

The move is timely following the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reporting that urgent action is needed to phase out fossil fuels by 2050 if we are to limit global warming rises to 1.5C, and the Committee for Climate Change recommending an end to new gas grid connections by 2025. According to Kensa Group Managing Director, Simon Lomax:

This offer should signal the end of air source heat pumps and gas in new build developments.  It is widely understood that ground source heat pumps are more efficient, reliable and durable but their issue has always been the cost of the ground array.  We have now solved this problem.  Kensa can fund, install, own and maintain the ground array which means this cost is no longer borne by the developer.  Very simply, we supply the underground infrastructure at zero cost.

The 2018 RHI Regulations included an important refinement; along with clarification regarding split ownership arrangements, for the first time, Non Domestic RHI quarterly payments for residential properties linked to Shared Ground Loop Arrays are now based upon the deemed heat consumption taken from the Energy Performance Certificate, prompting funders to back Kensa’s offer of ground arrays at no charge to the housing provider.

Dr Matthew Trewhella, Contracts Director at Kensa Contracting explains:

The changes to the RHI and Kensa’s funded offer eliminates the key barrier to deployment of ground source heat pumps which are widely recognised that, money-aside, are the best heating system available. By removing the expense of the ground array Kensa is mimicking long-standing ‘split ownership’ arrangements in the gas sector with the underground infrastructure owned and maintained separately from the heat pump installed inside the properties.  Kensa’s model sees the housing provider fund the heat pump, which is sold with the property and maintained by the purchaser, whilst the ground array is fully funded via the RHI income.

Government’s ambition for the widespread electrification of heat is driving policy to deliver lower carbon developments, and with further decarbonisation of the grid electrically delivered heat is widely regarded as the future of heating.

For many off-gas developments, air source heat pumps have been a common choice, but Kensa Contracting is now offering its Shoebox ground source model in a novel fashion which should allow house builders to specify a more appealing heating system whilst reducing build costs. According to Lomax:

Air source heat pumps can spoil the appearance of a home, often create noise pollution issues and require planning permission for most new build applications.  These problems all disappear with the Kensa solution.  Better still, a ground source heat pump delivers lower carbon emissions, which creates a clear opportunity to reduce other build costs whilst still satisfying building regulations; our analysis reveals significant savings are possible.  Anecdotal evidence also suggests higher selling prices are possible for homes benefitting from a ground source heat pump.  Best of all, the scale of the RHI payments means Kensa is often able to subsidise the cost of the heat pump, which means the overall cost falls far below any rival heating system, including a gas combi boiler.  We expect our solution to appeal as an alternative to a gas boiler, too.

To support their offer Kensa has developed a range of ultra-small and ultra-quiet Shoebox heat pumps with a capacity of 3-6kW designed to fit within the majority of new build homes.  The heat pump is partnered with a hot water cylinder in a tiered single footprint arrangement requiring an 800mm x 800mm cupboard. Typical efficiencies exceed 300% which means householders benefit from ultra-low running costs with further savings expected once time-of-use electricity tariffs become common place.  The installations can also provide passive cooling during summer.

Lomax concludes:

Ground source heat pumps are a strategic technology for Government if it is to meet its carbon emission reduction targets and the available support reflects the desire to increase deployment in the new build sector.  It is now possible to have the very best heating system at the very lowest cost, a true ‘game-changer’.

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