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Article Date: 3rd September 2019

LG Electronics - Gateway Project Showcases LG Units in New District Heating Project

LG Units - District Heating Systems - Social Housing Flats

LG - Multi V 5 VRF

LG has been an important cog in the machine that has helped renovate some dilapidated social housing flats in Northamptonshire, that has seen its Multi V 5 VRF solution providing the heat and hot water through a district heating system, utilising four of LG’s Hydro Kit units to provide sufficient heating and hot water for all the flats in this exciting new refurbishment project, via Heat Interface Units. The system’s design will ensure that heating bills are competitive, energy use is maximised and maintenance is affordable and sustainable over the medium to long term for the Council investing in this District Heating system.

There’s a new refurbishment project, for a mirror image pair of social housing flatted blocks in Kettering that may be the template for all such buildings – of which there are hundreds up and down the country – proving that old, energy inefficient buildings can be turned around to provide sustainable tenancies for tenants in or close to fuel poverty, needing safe, warm homes.

Kettering Borough Council had a number of options open to it when deciding what to do with these two blocks of flats. They could have sold the blocks as they were for private renovation or demolished them both and cleared a site for new build. But they wanted to renovate them themselves and provide high quality, modern, affordable housing for future ‘sustainable’ tenants’ and keep the building, known as Montrose House – as part of their property portfolio. Lovell was the project manager on the scheme and BHC was the architect. Frese District Heating was the heating installer for the scheme.

It was a huge challenge. Interestingly the first block of eighteen apartments has been completed and the second one will be started in late March 2019. The way these have been approached gives a perfect before and after cameo, to illustrate what was there, and what is possible.

The first block required all the upgrades you could imagine, with remodelling of the floor space to provide a sensible and spacious layout for the new apartments including four on the ground floor that were designed to allow people with a range of disabilities to move in and make a home for themselves. The red brick walls required exterior cladding and substantial insulation to make the buildings energy efficient, along with the installation of new windows and doors. Nothing hugely revolutionary there. But the desire of the council and the team renovating these buildings is to provide homes that are easy and inexpensive to keep warm and inexpensive to maintain going forward. And that’s where the exciting new approach kicks in.

Frank Martin from Frese District Heating takes up the story: “As a company, we are used to working on expensive apartments in Canary Wharf, but this project, whilst small for us, offered huge opportunities to make a real difference. The brief from the Council was clear and had the support of the leader of the Council, so we set about devising a scheme that would deliver everything that was required, and then more.”

In order to keep costs of heating and hot water down, a district heating system was agreed as the best way to proceed, future proofing the buildings, utilising a central plant room to house most of the equipment, channelling the heating and hot water via an HIU – a heat interface unit - in each apartment. Most tenants will utilise a reasonable cost prepayment system for their heating and the system selected allows them to top up their prepayment card at a local shop and the heating will run immediately. No need to punch lengthy numbers and passwords into smart phones or control panels.

The system includes the installation of an area of solar PV panel generation on the roof of the building which provides the electricity for the system to operate, for common lighting, door entry systems and the like. There is no gas in either block of apartments. The district heating system will be driven by the latest LG VRF units – the Multi V 5 – which has in this case, been designed to provide just heating and hot water through the hydro kits. It’s a cost neutral system and a low carbon system that all fits in perfectly with the council’s environmental policy. Maintenance is inexpensive too because the majority of this is undertaken remotely, making the total annual cost of maintenance of the system highly affordable.

Frank Martin again: “This is a new niche market for us and this size of district heating system works exceptionally well with an air source heat pump driving it. It’s far more efficient and less costly to install than the individual combi boiler set up that has tended to be the stock in trade approach for social housing apartment buildings. With this system there is no need to install gas piping throughout the building of course. We looked at all the major suppliers of air source heat pumps and went with LG predominantly because they were interested in working with us on this renovation project. They took an immediate interest in looking for the best solutions to our requirements and offered a real depth of knowledge and input. We were also pleased to find out more about the Multi V 5 and it clearly offered what we needed in conjunction with their tried and tested Hydro Kit units. We were able to site the two Multi V 5 units on the roof top – the units take up minimal floor space and are around 15% lighter than comparable units.”

LG - Multi V 5 VRFThe LG units incorporate the ultimate Inverter Compressor which improves energy efficiency and enhances compressor reliability. It also incorporates Vapor Injection, which provides a two-stage compression effect that provides efficient heating operation in low temperature conditions. The LG Multi V 5 offers biomimetics technology – with enhanced fans increasing air flow rate by up to 10% over standard fans, whilst reducing power consumption by up to 20%. The extended shroud on the units provides higher heat exchanging capacity to increase the air flow rate and the four-sided heat exchanger improves heat transfer by up to 20%, which eventually enhances capacity and performance.

“The technology incorporated into the LG units was another major factor in our decision to work with LG and we’ve been impressed with the operation and performance achieved so far, although we will want to analyse this over a longer period before we can quote accurate performance data,” says Frank.

The benefits of a district heating system are many and varied but amongst them are the ability to install the system with planned maintenance built in, the fact that access to the tenants properties – a major issue for direct labour teams operating in the social housing arena wanting to service systems – is not required, because the system is monitored along with the plant room in real time, remotely, by Frese, who can take necessary actions from their control room, many miles away from the property – and there is ‘built in’ critical failure response that can be actioned immediately should it be required.

The hot water aspects of the system are perfectly adequate for the building. It’s capable of delivering water at 75 degrees C if required but will be modulated down to 60 degrees C to meet demand.

Kettering Borough Council has 3,700 properties in total – split between general needs housing and sheltered housing. The council is keen to find renewable solutions to the on-going upkeep and maintenance of the properties – it’s the start of a change of culture that sees new technology coming in to address the issues of fuel poverty and to provide easy maintenance of the housing stock – with very real benefits to both the council and its tenants. This is why it’s believed this is possibly the template for all councils and housing associations in the UK with similar type and age properties in the years ahead, as they need to renovate them all.

A final word to Frank Martin: “The council wants its tenants to be happy in their homes and enjoy the benefits of being safe and warm. We believe that this project ultimately achieves just that.”

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