Affordable homes kitted out with Voltis Home power saving units have gone down a storm with visitors to a new development showcasing how sustainable technologies can be incorporated into mainstream housing.
The high performance domestic voltage optimisation units from Marshall-Tufflex were installed into two properties within the Housing Innovation Showcase, a £3.3million project in Fife, Scotland, aimed at promoting environmentally friendly building methods for the social housing sector.
For two weeks in May the project’s 27 homes, built by 10 development partners and expected to have total energy costs averaging just £300 per home per year, were open to visitors with thousands of people, including representatives from the Scottish government, BRE, Good Homes Alliance, housing associations, universities, major contractors, local authorities, architects, consulting engineers etc, taking the opportunity to find out more about the scheme.
The event was opened by Wayne Hemingway, co-founder of the Red or Dead fashion label and now a champion for affordable housing. “This project will help shape the future of housing in Scotland and the UK. The showcase gives the industry a chance to show off new technologies and thinking,” said Mr Hemingway, who chairs national organisation Building for Life and is a ‘London Leader’ for the London Sustainable Development Commission.
Voltis Home caused quite a stir at the showcase, according to Derek Grubb, senior architectural technician with Glenrothes-based Lomond Homes which developed two of the properties in conjunction with Kingdom Housing Association: “Voltis Home was the thing that grabbed most people’s attention,” he said. “Many people hadn’t heard of the technology but it’s a fairly easy sales pitch; the system is a doddle to install and, we believe, will return electricity bill savings of about 10% on an incoming mains supply of around 232Volts at this site.
“Housing associations latched on to the fact that there are no user controls and tenants therefore need do nothing to make savings. There’s also the bonus that domestic electrical equipment will last longer because it is not over supplied with power. I think Voltis Home is brilliant. It is so simple in operation, inexpensive and gives an immediate benefit from the moment it is installed,” added Mr Grubb.
Installer Ronnie Grant, of RB Grant, Kirkaldy, was similarly impressed, describing the installation process as ‘very simple and straight forward’. “Voltis Home does what it says on the tin,” said Mr Grant. “It has a good display that gives tenants information about savings and the automatic bypass feature is an important safeguard.”
Bill Banks, Deputy Chief Executive with Kingdom said: The Housing Innovation Showcase aimed to demonstrate how modern methods of construction and new technologies could be mainstreamed across wider housing programmes. We feel the project has demonstrated this potential and the installation of the Voltis Home system has identified a relatively low cost technology which can provide an environmental benefit and make a significant contribution to tenants energy costs. We are currently looking at how we can roll it out to our other projects.”
Housing Innovation Showcase 2012 is a partnership between Kingdom Housing Association (KHA) & Fife Council, with support from Fife Construction Forum & Green Business Fife. It features 27 new homes on a site in Dunfermline, each built by one of 10 development partners on behalf of Fife Housing Partnership and Fife Economy Partnership.
Lomond Homes, in conjunction with KHA, was tasked with building a pair of semi-detached homes for the project, and it is these that are fitted with the Voltis Home. The units were supplied by Edmundson Electrical, Kirkcaldy.
Lomond believes domestic optimisers offer both the public and private sector a good-value energy management solution, as Mr Grubb explained: “For a relatively low cost with a potentially short payback period Voltis Home can be installed, bringing instant benefits by reducing power bills and extending the life of appliances. I am also very impressed by the safety features built-in to Voltis Home, for example its ability to cope with power spikes and equipment that draws high electrical loads. That it can be easily retrofitted and has no user controls are added bonuses. RSLs want to address fuel poverty and have a keen interest in the welfare of their tenants, making voltage optimisation an exciting proposition for them.”
The Voltis Home units, which measure just 300mm x 240mm x 147mm, have each taken about one hour to install and, because Voltis Home is rated to 60Amps, there is no need to isolate some circuits such as the cooker or power showers, making installation straight forward.
The Housing Innovation Showcase homes are now tenanted. A key element of the project is a monitoring of the performance of the different house systems and a comparative analysis of the benefits of different renewable energy options and other enhanced specifications. The project has already won a Scottish Green Apple Environmental Award and been shortlisted for the Fife Partnership Excellence and Scottish Homes Awards.
Keith Brown, Scottish Government Minister for Housing and Transport, visited the project. He said: “The Scottish Government is committed to the long term sustainability of our housing stock – this is the reason we were happy to input £2 million into this development. It is very encouraging to hear how young, local trainees are actively involved, in creating sustainable housing to such a high standard and I'd like to add my congratulations to Kingdom Housing Association for this excellent development."
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