From hospital to hospitable in 900 years

// heating and ventilation

Want to upgrade the heating in your 900-year old Grade II* listed building? This is how Falcon Rural Housing turned a former leper hospital into four units for affordable rent.

Taunton is probably best known as the home of cider making but it has a long and interesting history. In the 9th century Alfred the Great made it into one of a network of fortified settlements across his kingdom, in the 11th century it started its meteoric rise to become the centre of the prosperous wool industry and, in the 12th century, St Margaret’s was built as a leper hospital to treat the disease. 900 years on, this Grade II* listed building, a long, single-storey thatched property, was bought by Falcon Rural Housing.
Falcon Rural Housing is a small housing association with 240 homes in its portfolio and prides itself on providing excellent quality, affordable rented housing for local people in the rural villages of Somerset. Although St Mary’s was in Taunton, it was too special to overlook, but it would present challenges when it came to energy efficient heating. Not only did the choice of heating have to be right for the property, it had to be right for the tenants and landlord too.
Heating engineer Paul Medlock, managing director, South West Boiler Repairs, has been maintaining and servicing the boilers in Falcon’s properties for the past seven years. All the heating systems in the portfolio, like the properties, are of varying ages,
and Medlock suggested that a phased boiler replacement programme should be implemented, starting with the oldest and least efficient. He needed to recommend which boiler should be used as part of this programme and decided that Intergas Heating would provide the best value-for-money solution.
“I’d come across Intergas boilers about eight years ago, liked the look of them purely because they’re so simple. Simple to install, simple to service and, when there are only 12 components and four moving parts, there’s less to go wrong,” said Medlock. Simplicity wasn’t the only reason the Intergas HRE Combi Compact appealed to him. He’d noticed that some of the major brands were now using plastic components instead of brass, and he felt this was a disturbing trend and a contributory factor in boiler breakdowns. Here Intergas fit the bill too. The HRE range has only three plastic components and the aluminium two-in-one heat exchanger removes the need for a diverter valve, valve motor, hot water plate heat exchanger and air vent.
Sam Southam, managing director, Falcon Rural Housing, had her reasons for welcoming Intergas: “The Intergas boilers are straightforward and we like that – and so do our tenants. Just the fact that they know how to use them properly is due to the simplicity of the controls; this means tenants are saving as much money on heating their homes and hot water with gas than they could with some of the more complicated ‘Eco’ forms of heating on the market.”
But back to St Margaret’s. While most of the retrofits are fairly standard, St Margaret’s with its listing building status meant that Medlock had to investigate flueing alternatives. “The flues to three of the four boilers would need to be installed within voids in the property and these voids were so awkward there would be no way to inspect any joints in the flues. The only solution was to install Intergas’s joint-free flexible concentric liner.”
While St Margaret’s is a straight combi-to-combi swap, other properties in the planned renewal programme involve changing heat-only boilers and DHW cylinders for combis. With other boiler brands this would increase the complexity of the system and its installation. With an Intergas boiler complexity is reduced on both counts thanks to the dual-pipework in the heat exchanger, which means there is no need for either a diverter valve inside the boiler or motorised valves in the airing cupboard. For Falcon this will eliminate what is probably the biggest single cause of heating breakdowns, which is good for both tenants and landlord.

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