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Heat pumps take a lead role in project

A £2 million project looking at what measures householders will tolerate in order to reduce their carbon footprint will examine the potential of installing heat pumps in existing homes.


The Consumer-Appealing Low Energy Technologies for Building Retrofitting (CALEBRE) project, led by Professor Dennis Loveday at Loughborough University, started this month.


Six top universities are working together on the four-year project, which is supported by energy supplier E.ON and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.


Laboratory-based research will look at how to adapt heat pumps and insulation systems to be more appealing to homeowners and whether issues identified can be extended to other technologies.


A 200-strong panel of consumers will also be interviewed about their attitudes to renewable, low-carbon and energy-efficient measures while approaches will be tested in a house constructed to 1930s standards at Nottingham University.


Professor Loveday said: 'It is vitally important to bring a user dimension in the sense of taking into account the degree of disturbance that house occupants will tolerate. This project is very novel as we bring householders in to inform the design and evaluate the technology used.


'Another issue is that people do not always understand what technology is available and how to put them together in one package. If we can provide a one-stop shop and find the best combination of technology to reduce and decarbonise a home, we can offer guidance and help the development of policy.'


Gas-fired heat pumps will be investigated at Warwick University while Ulster University will look at electric heat pumps.


Professor Loveday said: 'We cannot go through the whole range of potential technologies so we are going to look at certain issues. The first thing is how to reduce demand for space and water heating. Insulation offers a way forward there.


'The other side of the story is energy supply. Heat pumps offer a very promising possibility, especially if you bear in mind that if you cut the heat needs of a house that will have an effect on the capacity of heating unit you need to install.


'The range of technology we are looking at are examples and not exhaustive. But hopefully the outcome of the project will be a proven framework other technology can be fitted into. We want an approach which can identify an optimised package of technology which fits in with user lifestyles.'


Loughborough will establish the consumer panel while Warwick and Ulster will also investigate the use of vacuum technology for insulation. Herriot-Watt University in Edinburgh will review ventilation strategies, including heat recovery, and will develop a software package to assess the 'optimum package' of measures for a property.


Oxford and Nottingham universities will investigate nanocomposite material, which can insulate and store heat.


CALEBRE will link with another £2million research project titled Carbon, Control and Comfort: User-centred Control Systems for Comfort, Carbon Saving and Energy Management, led by David Shipworth at Reading University, which will start in January next year.