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Roof-mounted air source heat pump to guide route to net zero

Improving the energy efficiency of real estate in the UK will be one of the biggest ways we can help get to net zero. Housebuilder Bellway has installed a roof-mounted air source heat pump to investigate new ways to incorporate low-carbon technology into homes.

The house will test innovations in building materials, the effects of double and triple glazing, storing solar energy, recovering heat from wastewater, and how to make most efficient use of air source heat pumps.

The roof-mounted heat pump, said to be the first in the UK. Air source heat pumps are expected to replace natural gas boilers in most homes when they are phased out from 2025. They are already installed in a number of new homes, where they are usually fitted to, or adjacent to, an exterior wall where they dominate a property’s external appearance and take up outdoor space. Bellway has engineered the house to support the 200kg air source heat pump within the roof space. A second unit will be fitted to an external wall to enable comparisons between the two.

Each of these elements will be monitored in both regular and extreme temperatures, with varying weather conditions simulated inside the specially built chamber.

In building this home, Bellway is taking a lead in the housebuilding industry to test technologies to help meet net zero carbon targets

Jamie Bursnell, Group Technical and Innovations Manager for Bellway, said: “The results of this project have the potential to change how we build homes – and how we live in them.

“In building this home, Bellway is taking a lead in the housebuilding industry to test technologies to help meet net zero carbon targets. However, with many of these innovations, we don’t yet know how they will function for real families in real homes, or what their running costs will be. This is particularly important when energy costs have risen so significantly, and homeowners are being hit heavily in the pockets.

“Energy House 2.0 will enable us to find out how everyone can operate their homes more efficiently and how new technologies can assist our efforts in reducing carbon emissions by building more efficient homes.

“The research will produce reliable data that can help us all to make changes. We will compare the theoretical and real performance of different energy methods, finding out how our habits impact on energy consumption and retention.”

“Installing an air source heat pump within a loft space is a bold move – one that no UK developer or retrofit project has previously attempted.

“During the research period we will have people living within the home to test the performance of the heat pump during real-life use. If the unit in the loft performs well, it could create a new way for homeowners to reduce their carbon footprint without compromising on space or aesthetics.

“It is well documented that air source heat pumps could increase running costs but so far there is little reliable data on their performance. We are looking to find the optimum settings to maximise effectiveness and minimise cost for our customers. We will be able to compare the data from the two heat pumps to determine the most viable option for the future.”

The house will be tested in temperatures as high as 40C and as low as -20C. Weather conditions including wind, snow and solar radiation will be created in the chamber.

The research facility will contain two environmental chambers that will accommodate four houses and has the ability to replicate over 95% of the world’s climatic conditions.

Professor William Swan, Director of Energy House Labs, said: “Bellway’s Future Home is one of the first projects for Energy House 2.0, which is starting to develop into a hub to help industry address how our homes will need to perform in the future. Over the next year we will be undertaking globally leading research as the University of Salford and its partners start working on projects that solve issues ranging from cost of living and fuel poverty to living in future climates.”

Sensors located around the house will measure the difference between the energy it generates and the energy it loses in different climates. They will also gauge the comfort of the home, which will be further explored by guests invited to stay there during the project including University of Salford students.


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