An old hospital site in Forfar has been turned in to a private and social housing development with eight properties featuring Dimplex solar panels and Ascari electric boilers – not only to comply with Scottish Building Regulations, but to reduce tenant running costs.

Angus Housing Association was keen to have sustainable energy solutions as a key part of its development. Mike McManus, development manager, Angus Housing Association, explains: “We bought the land from the Health Board, demolished the old hospital and working with Scotia Homes we will have a mixed development for families and seniors.

“Using renewable energy was a key feature for our specification but so was moving towards an all electric solution because of the costs, as a landlord, of the annual inspections and maintenance that come with using gas. Over the last couple of years we’ve had a policy of pushing towards using more renewables and we’ve installed solar hot water with gas before but this will be the first time we’ve used solar with electric heating.

“Building Regulations here in Scotland are tighter than elsewhere in the UK and simply going the all electric route would not have worked for us, even with the advanced control options available. And we hope to work with a local university to review this trial.”

The full development by Scotia Homes consists of 25 properties, with 14 managed by Angus Housing Association. Of those 14, eight two-storey, two-bedroom family homes have solar renewable energy. The social houses are due for completion in November 2008 and the private housing will be finished in March 2009.

Bruce Gordon, senior architectural technician for Scotia Homes, which was established in 1990 and completes around 350 homes across Scotland a year, says: “This was our first installation of solar and it worked very well for us. We undertook a lot of research beforehand into various systems and options as well as reviewing a number of manufacturers. The people at Dimplex were very helpful and provided us with guidance and information to help us make a well informed decision and were happy to get involved in discussions with the plumber and electrician about any issues. We also had a site visit from Dimplex and everything just came together – we’d certainly use Dimplex again.”

With the high levels of insulation required in new homes and the consequent reduction in energy needed for heating, energy requirements for water heating are often a significant part of the overall energy needs for a property. The use of solar thermal water heating easily reduces energy consumption, reducing the carbon dioxide emissions for the property which helps to comply with Building Regulations.

The solar thermal system is combined with a Dimplex Ascari electric boiler, which provides all the heating requirement. Because it’s electric it can be installed virtually anywhere, without the restrictions and costs of flue installations that come with gas boilers and it’s ideal for new build such as the Angus Housing Association development, as well as for retrofitting as it works with standard wet radiators.

And as it is electric, the Ascari works at the flick of a switch with none of the risks associated with gas boilers such as carbon monoxide poisoning or gas leaks. As a result it doesn’t require costly annual servicing and safety checks, making it ideal for landlords.

Angus Housing Association manages more than 1600 houses in Angus and Dundee, and although it’s early days in assessing the success of the solar installation, has already specified solar again for a new four-house development in Arbroath.

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