Medieval priory gets modern solution

A medieval priory has been equipped with a state-of-the-art heating system based on high efficiency Sanyo ECO carbon dioxide-based heat pumps.

Woodspring Priory, a former Augustinian priory beside the sea near Weston-super-Mare, was founded in the thirteenth century and dedicated to Thomas Becket. The Grade I listed building is now owned and managed by the Landmark Trust and is let out as unique holiday accommodation.

The priory was previously heated by an LPG heating system, which proved very expensive to run. The new heating system consists of three high efficiency Sanyo ECO split system heat pumps, based on carbon dioxide as a refrigerant. The system was installed by South West Heat Pumps and supplied by ICG Ltd.

The 27kW installation uses three externally sited condensing units, linked to radiators and a domestic hot water store that serve the holiday accommodation within the former priory building.

Martin Hook of South West Heat Pumps said: “The solution was chosen because the Sanyo ECO technology has proven itself in a number of other Landmark projects. It is an excellent product, delivering high performance heating while ensuring low running costs.”

The Sanyo system also operates very quietly, making it an ideal solution for Woodspring Priory and its peaceful location.

Due to the historic nature of the site, the installation was carried out under the guidance of an archaeologist, to ensure that site sensitivities were respected.

Mark Sharratt, Head of Buildings at the Landmark Trust, said: “As a charitable organisation, we are obviously keen to spend our resources on maintaining and preserving our historic buildings rather than on high energy bills.

“We decided on the Sanyo system due to its reliability and outstanding energy efficiency. We also wanted to minimise noise at the site, as it is a particularly tranquil location, which is greatly appreciated by people who stay there. The Sanyo units are excellent in this regard; you cannot hear them running above the sound of rustling leaves in the breeze.”

The Landmark Trust has already noticed a significant reduction in energy bills at the site. This is now being monitored as part of an ongoing project to quantify the savings over time. Mark Sharratt said: “We expect a relatively short pay back period due to the savings made on energy. With each increase in energy costs, payback from a heat pump system obviously arrives more and more quickly.”

The installation at Woodspring Priory is part of a rolling programme of heat pump installations taking place within Landmark Trust buildings. The charity has over 180 historic properties throughout the UK, many of which are in isolated and rural locations where energy availability and cost is an issue.

“Many of our properties do not have access to mains gas, and therefore rely on expensive oil or LPG,” said Mark Sharratt. “The fact that they are historic buildings without cavity walls and modern insulation also means that providing effective, efficient heating is an important issue for guests. Heat pumps provide a high level of comfort.”

The Landmark Trust is now carrying out a survey to identify its twenty most ‘energy-hungry’ buildings. It will use the information to prioritise investment in its heating replacement programme, with a significant contribution anticipated from heat pump technology.

One of the attractions of Landmark properties as holiday lets is the traditional open fires, which have been maintained in many buildings. Landmark is working with South West Heat Pumps to investigate the possibility of linking Sanyo heat pumps to a traditional wood-burning stove, in order to harness the benefits of both technologies.

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