A first-of-its-kind energy efficiency and low carbon demonstration programme is being piloted by the Housing Executive in Fermanagh.
Handiheat, a €2m EU Interreg funded programme, aims to identify practical renewable energy solutions in a bid to help fuel poverty in rural communities.
Low carbon heating pilots are now underway in six Housing Executive homes in Lisnaskea.
A virtual conference was also recently organised by the Housing Executive to present key findings from the Handiheat pilot, alongside partner agencies and keynote speakers.
Robert Clements, Handiheat Project Lead and the Housing Executive’s Sustainable Development Manager, explained more about the pilot.
He said; “For the retrofit in Lisnaskea, we installed hybrid heating and electric generation and storage installations, including hybrid oil boiler with air source heat pumps, solar photovoltaic panels, and battery storage systems as well as improved energy efficiency measures.
“Our main aims are to improve thermal comfort for householders, reduce energy bills and most importantly, reduce the carbon footprint.
“Initial feedback has already been positive and we have noticed improved thermal comfort importantly, carbon emissions have reduced.
“Householders are central to all the decision making. We wanted to make the technology work for the tenant, not the tenant work for the technology.”
Housing Executive tenant Irene McKiernan, busy mum to daughter, Willow, is noticing benefits with the new low carbon heating solutions in her home.
She said; “I have now got more efficient heat and the house is warm at all times. Although my electricity costs have increased, my oil usage has decreased – it balances itself out and is more cost effective overall.
“The technology was explained really well when it was installed and I was left manuals for everything. I feel very proud to be part of this and it is a step in the right direction and a greener option to use less oil.”
Mark Kiernan, Trasna Way tenant and member of the Handiheat pilot, is happy with his low carbon heating options.
He said; “It has been amazing from start to finish and has been a pleasure to be a part of. The technology has been very easy to use and understand. It is amazing.
“Climate change is important for all of us and this is my little way of planting a tree and saving the environment, one man at a time. We all have to do it!”
Grainia Long, Chief Executive of the Housing Executive, said; “We are committed to creating a low carbon future with our Sustainable Development Strategy and projects like Handiheat.
She added; “It is our view that innovative projects like this will help improve local health, reduce inequalities and assist in providing solutions for huge issues, like fuel poverty.
“I was thrilled to see how intrinsic this project is to our tenants and the effect that new technology integrated in their homes will have on their wider lives, health and well-being and on their children.
“Covid-19 has reminded us of the importance of a secure home for protecting us and keeping us safe, warm and dry.
“The relationship between housing and health is obvious through the Handiheat programme and the role that sustainable energy plays in this complex relationship is critically clear.”
Handiheat’s partner agencies are The Pure Energy Centre (Shetland); Austurbrù (Iceland); ARC Healthy Living Centre (N Ireland); Clár Irish Centre for Housing (Republic of Ireland); Luonnonvarakeskus (LUKE) Natural Resources Institute (Finland) and Karelia University of Applied Sciences (also Finland).
Handiheat’s associate partners are the Electric Storage Company and staff from the Ulster University who will analyse and monitor the effectiveness of the hybrid systems in the pilot homes over a two-year period.
You can watch Handiheat’s recent virtual conference here: https://youtu.be/uwtUmFF-qUQ
You can also find out more about the Handiheat project at: https://www.handiheatproject.eu/ and on Twitter at: @handiheat