Dunsley Hall Country Hotel, Staffordshire

Dunsley Hall Country Hotel, Staffordshire

Client: Dunsley Hall Country Hotel
Contractor: SMB Plumbing and Heating / Pedmore Plumbing and Heating
Type of works: supply of Greenstar CDi gas-fired condensing boilers and solar thermal panels.

Dunsley Hall Country Hotel and Restaurant in Kinver, South Staffordshire, has moved into the 21st Century following the completion of a two year refurbishment. The project has retained the heritage and character of the property, whilst introducing new sustainable technologies - solar thermal panels - to help reduce the hotel’s running costs and carbon footprint.

Owners, Terrie and Wilf Beardsmore, purchased the 700 year old listed building in June 2006 and found the property was badly in need of renovation and needed a total upgrade inside. From day one, the couple’s intention was always to bring the building back to life by sympathetically restoring the interior décor whilst introducing some new, environmentally friendly measures at the same time.

With fuel prices continuing to rise, Dunsley Hall’s inefficient old central heating system was one of the first areas to be addressed. As well as replacing an outdated coal-fired boiler with new, high efficiency condensing boilers, Terrie and Wilf were also keen to introduce solar thermal panels to make the building more sustainable.

They decided to contact specialists in domestic heating and hot water systems Worcester, Bosch Group to discuss their options and it was recommended that six Greenskies solar panels would help generate plentiful supplies of hot water using energy from the sun.

Terrie explains: “When we first purchased the house, there were lots of areas we needed to update to improve the property to 21st Century standards and get it ready to receive guests. However, to make the biggest difference to the house and manage heating costs in what can be a very expensive area for hotel owners, the most pressing task was to upgrade the inefficient old heating system we had inherited.

“Far from being modern, the old boiler was a coal-fired appliance, which was very expensive to run and not at all environmentally friendly. Being a local firm we were well aware that Worcester is renowned for its high quality products and excellent support service so we were in no doubt they could provide us with exactly what we needed. We decided to replace the old system with three new highly efficient Greenstar CDi gas-fired condensing boilers, which quickly made all the difference to the smooth running of the system. However, with fuel prices continuing to rise, we didn’t want to stop there. To reduce costs even further in the longer term and lessen the reliance on the boilers during the summer months, we decided to talk to Worcester about the possibility of installing solar thermal panels.

“One of the appeals of introducing solar power was that we would be able to switch our boilers off almost completely during the summer months and make savings on our gas bills. In the correct configuration, Worcester’s Greenskies panels are capable of providing between 50 - 70% of a homes hot water during the course of a year, so we were looking forward to generating free hot water for guest bathrooms, the kitchen and laundry, simply by using energy from the sun.

“Worcester advised that a series of six panels would be sufficient for the size of the property, so we started to explore the possibility of gaining listed planning permission for the installation to take place. Whilst you don’t normally need planning permission to install solar panels on a domestic property, because we own a listed building and run a business from the premises we had to approach our local planning and conservation officer to ensure we followed the correct procedures. We also had to pay an architect to produce drawings, but thankfully, the additional investment in getting the plans produced and submitted paid off, as we were soon given the green light to go ahead.

“In terms of payback, the size of the hotel means we expect our Greenskies solar panels to pay for themselves far quicker than if installed in a domestic property. Our guests are continually using hot water for showers and our kitchen and laundry also requires plentiful supplies of hot water to operate on a daily basis. As we didn’t have the panels installed during the first year of owning the hotel, we are going to be closely monitoring our heating costs this year to compare the two periods and work out what the overall benefit has been to the business. Last year our gas bill was over £3,000, so I’m sure that having the Greenskies solar panels installed in conjunction with Worcester’s high efficiency Greenstar boilers will make a noticeable difference when we evaluate the costs.

Son of the hotel’s owners Simon Beardsmore, a qualified plumber who runs SMB Plumbing and Heating was in charge of the whole project, working with installers from Pedmore Plumbing and Heating. He said: “The old system that was in the house was a solid-fuel system which had to be completely ripped out when my parents first purchased the property. It took a team of us around a week to totally remove all the old radiators and all the old iron work.

“Obviously, the property needed heating and hot water on tap, so we designed a system so that we would have a boiler to do the whole of the downstairs and we would have two boilers to do one part of the upstairs each. It’s a method of zoning the heating to ensure that if there’s a problem with one boiler or when a service is being undertaken, we have two others to rely on.

“In terms of the controls, we sorted out the room thermostats to be positioned in various places. We have one downstairs to cover the ground floor and we have two upstairs to split the two boilers off. We chose to install three Worcester Greenstar 40CDi gas-fired conventional condensing boilers to improve the efficiency of the system. The benefit of zoning the boilers is basically that if one part of the hotel wasn’t being used, you could shut that down to save money on your fuel bills whilst keeping the other boilers going to heat other parts of the hotel.

“In terms of specifying the Worcester products, I have always worked with Worcester in the past and have always found the products to be of a really high quality and extremely reliable. Before going ahead with the installation I attended the Greenskies training course at Worcester to ensure I was confident in leading the team on the solar installation.

“The boiler room was finished and the only job left to do was for the pumping stations to be piped up and connected to the cylinders. It took me about two weeks to do the whole of the pipe runs because we were installing three sets of panels. The pipework was the hardest part as the property is a really old building and there are restrictions on where you can position the pipework. I looked at running pipework outside, which you can with solar, as long as it’s lagged but we managed to find a way to keep all the pipework inside.

“The panels were fitted on to the roof without a problem. We worked along with the roofers at the same time to make sure that it was watertight at all times. The job went really smoothly and the technical literature supplied by Worcester combined with what is learnt on the training course all came in very useful.

“The whole system is now fully operational and very effectively. We’re very confident that we’ll see some significant savings on our fuel bills. It has been a very worthwhile project.”

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