A Renewable Innovation

A Renewable Innovation

You would think that building a house off-grid using solar panels to make our own electricity would be renewable and innovative enough, but our latest renewable is probably the most innovative and possibly the closest to the leading edge we’ve come, to date.

 

Our off-grid ambitions grew out of a desire to burn as few fossil fuels as possible. Roderick James Architects understood this and found the Klover Smart 120 – a biomass boiler that has an oven and an enormous hot plate for cooking. Seems to be the only one of its kind and it has been a long time coming. I started talking to Firepower, the distributors, about finding a heating designer/installer for the Smart last March. Not March 2015, LAST March. 2014. But luckily Mike Coke and Tasha Norman at Firepower never gave up on Easterdown, despite most of the installers refusing to design a system for Easterdown.

I will never know why I couldn’t get a full quote out of these installers, but I’m pretty certain that it has something to do with putting this super boiler into our super insulated house.

The Klover Smart 120 is new and I think we may be the first new build house to install one in the UK. One installer was concerned because the Smart is first and foremost a boiler. You can only cook on it if it is heating your house. So we have a very small heating requirement, as the house is so well insulated, but we want the Smart to do all of our cooking. No electric or gas cooking in the background to help out.

One solution to the heating/cooking imbalance could have been to create lots of pumped circuits to take the heat away at times we want to cook, but the fact that we make our own electricity rules that out. So to be fair, we weren’t the ideal client.

Then Mike from Firepower rang to tell me that their newest installer is someone who really thinks about things differently. He was in Wales but might be willing to come to Easterdown.

Simon Cometson – Renewable Innovations – had no fear of the challenges that Easterdown presented. At one point he referred to designing a heating system for Easterdown as ‘an enjoyable distraction’. So how did he solve the heating/cooking/electricity balance for Easterdown? Like this:

JouleForRuby

 

Simon’s brilliance is this design – an enormous Thermal Store which acts like a heat battery. The Smart charges it up with heat and it will supply our direct hot water and underfloor heating because it can efficiently store the heat ready for when we need it. It is sized and designed to ensure we can cook when we want to.

contraptions

 

But I’m being unfair, not showing you the fun stuff. The installation was like a 3 day party. Lots of friends returning to meet the newest arrival to Easterdown. Besides Simon, Norman and Eddie from Renewable Innovations, we had Mike Roberts from Whiteway Carpenters and Steve from Direct Roofing back to get the flue in. The photos speak for themselves:

Smart arrives:

1journeyIn

2journeyIn

and Simon turns it into a trolley to get it into Easterdown:2.5journeyIn

3journeyIn

 

End of day one – Evening meal proves that our Cabin can seat and feed 5!

endOfDay1

Day 2 – lots of connecting:

Joule Thermal Store connecting to Ruby Smart (Ruby is our name I’m afraid – turns out Simon calls his Smart ‘Rosa’)

Ruby gets a Jewel:

connectingJoule

Connecting water from Cabin into the Main house:

connectingCabinWaterSupply

Day 3 – Ruby gets a breathing tube:

Day3-1

 

Down below:

Day3-2

Ignition:

curtsyBeforeStart

Ruby breathes for the first time, last time we’ll see any smoke:firstBreath

First whistle of the Kettle:

tharSheBlows

New Profile of Easterdown:

Day3-3

And, because Ruby is programmable, it will heat water without us waking up to light or start it. For the last year in the cabin I’ve woken up to light the Esse so we can shower a few hours later. Sometimes this has been as early as 3am. From now on I get 2 hours of extra sleep in the morning. Off-Grid LUXURY!!!!

 

11 Responses »

  1. So glad you are happy with the Installation and thank you both for your hospitality it has been a pleasure. We are sure you will have many happy cooking sessions with Ruby and should you need any cake making advice Simon is your man. Thank you from all at Renewable Innovations.

  2. Hi Vickie,

    Simon from Renewable Innovations suggests I contact you to discuss my project which is similar to yours.

    I’m building/reconstructing a cottage on my family farm in Lincolnshire and the only mains service it currently has is water. I’m really keen to live off-grid (though maybe my partner Abi is not so sure). I’m currently favoring a domestic anaerobic digester feed a CHP and directly a gas hob/oven with a diesal generator and batteries with underfloor heating. I aim to introduce a wind/solar solution once we are living there and the renewables market has settled. I also considered GSHP but pre-limary calculations suggested I needed 3.5 tonnes of batteries to get me through the night!

    Obivously you are no doubt very busy but if you have some spare moments it would be useful to understand how you arrived at your solutions.

    My website link shows the current cottage and I should have planning response on 12th Oct with plans to commence the rebuild on 19th October

    Kind regards
    Paul Read

    • Hi Paul,

      I think you may already have seen my opinions on anaerobic digesters via Simon at Renewable Solutions, (pretty negative because of the stink) but if your farm is

      1. large and remote, 2 considering one anyway and 3 able to create your own feedstock for the digester

      then you may want to seriously consider it. When I looked at the planning application for the one in Northamptonshire I rang EVERY bioscrubber filter company and came away thinking that this is the very weak link in the design and technology of them, and there is no investment in making the supposed ‘bioscrubbers’ actually work.

      I have only one opinion regarding the decision to live off-grid – it must be in proportion with your willingness and ability to be hands on. Regarding waiting until the market has settled – We have been living here, off grid for 18 months, 12 of which are purely solar and battery. We haven’t been able to register for any tariffs because we don’t have our air-tightness EPC yet. Have you found out what it would cost to connect to the grid? Compare that to the price of solar and batteries. But whatever you do, don’t tell any potential installer what it would cost to connect to the grid.

      And we have an LPG generator (conversion). Highly recommended. We couldn’t find anyone to maintain the small diesels and ours kept breaking down. Bit on the blog about this – the next generation.

      I noticed from your map that there was a sheep wash nearby. Do you have a watercourse? I would be very tempted to do hydro if you do.

      And have you seen the Navitron Forum? We couldn’t have done anything if it wasn’t for those great people:

      http://www.navitron.org.uk/forum/index.php/board,31.0.html

      I hope by now Simon has forwarded my email address to you, if not please let me know. (don’t go by the admin one here) I am happy to talk about this any time.

  3. Hello, I came across your blog while researching the Klover 120. Here in Ireland few people haveanything good to say about wood pellet boilers, I cannot find anybody with a Klover 120. I wonder if you are still happy with yours or if it gave problems? Thanks for any advice. Irene

  4. Hi Irene,

    I know a few people here that have had huge problems with their biomass boiler installations. Their experience has shown me how lucky I was to choose the Klover Smart 120 and my installer, Renewable Innovations.

    Firepower, who distribute the Smart 120 will only let installers who they have trained themselves work with one. I think this must be the key to getting a good biomass boiler.

    Firepower tell me that they do have a good, trained installer in Ireland. I love Ruby and cannot recommend the Smart 120 highly enough. She cooks like an Aga oven and cooktop except the response is really quick from cold by comparison. She is a workhorse that runs our underfloor heating and supplies hot water as well.

    Only thing I would like better would be if the fan was outside as I would prefer not to hear the fan. I’ve mentioned it to Firepower and I’m hoping that Klover will come out with a retrofit on this, just like they did with the cooking lids. (Did you know that Klover did not make a version of the Smart 120 with lids until Firepower asked them to do this?)

  5. Hi!

    Your home looks amazing! Congratulations and thank you for all that you are doing.
    Can you tell me, do you have a cooker extractor fan in the room with Ruby Smart?

    Thanks!
    Terri

    • No extractor yet as we are still deciding on the design of the kitchen. We are likely to choose a filter type extractor as we don’t want to drill yet another hole in the house. Ruby, like all wood burning devices requires a 100mm hole, but we have seen that we can have a kit to bring the required air to her through a pipe and we will get that installed at her next service. Thank you for the compliment on our home.

  6. Hi Vickie
    We’ve been considering the Klover 120 for some time but have yet to make the jump. A neighbour had a pellet boiler installed 4 years back and it been nothing but trouble and the new owners ripped it out and have gone back to oil – We really can’t afford such a negative experience.. Just wondering how the Klover is performing another couple of years on..? We currently have an oil fired rayburn which heats the hot water – no central heating as this side of the Rayburn packed up several years ago! The Rayburn at its lowest setting gives a gentle background heat and heats the hot water. Would the Klover be able to match this and maintain a constant background heat at its lowest setting + hot water? At it’s lowest setting how many pellets would we get through. I’ve enjoyed reading about your off grid experiences and thanks in advance for any advice you can give..

    • Hi Tim,
      Our ruby red Smart 120 (which we refer to as ‘Ruby’) has not been without issues (to do with manufacturing, not installation), BUT Firepower and our installer – Simon at Renewable Innovations have been so great and supportive – we haven’t been a single day without heat. And now everything is completely stable. However your description of trying to match your Rayburn’s experience isn’t really how the Smart 120 works. Ruby is primarily a boiler. It is a boiler that you can cook on as long as it is heating hot water. Yes, it is brilliant to cook on, BUT it is a boiler. This is why it is eligible for the renewable heat incentive. So you MUST heat hot water. And when the water is as hot as it is going to get, Ruby switches off. So if we need to do extra long cooking, we put the underfloor heating (UFH) on. We have a large thermal store and we cook twice a day – for an hour at lunch and 2 hours in the evening. At the moment, in winter, in the morning the thermal store is still hot from the night before and we put our underfloor heating on ( could be radiators) without putting Ruby on. And sometimes again in the afternoon. When we cook in the evening, as the lids are up, it heats the house. But it has been quite warm this winter. In Summer we’ve mostly used the hot water for showers and cleaning my milking machine. We sometimes need to run the UFH so we can cook. This year we have used one pallet of wood pellets. So our heating and hot water bill for one year will be around 300 pounds. But we are an insulated new build and we have a log burner. I don’t know if that helps, because it depends on what your house is like – how large, how well insulated. One thing to bear in mind, is that Ruby is noisy. There is a fan that is on whenever Ruby is on. With the exception of the noise, I think Ruby is brilliant. Certainly it is a fantastic cooking machine, the oven and the cook top are fantastic and fun to work with. We generally run it at the top setting, for the minimum amount of time and store the heat in an insulated tank, because we don’t like the noise in our open plan house. Another huge advantage is that it is programmable. Which means we can start meals while we are out and get home to a hot meal and a warm house. If this hasn’t answered your questions, please ask more.

      • Vickie thank you so much for your considered and honest reply. It appears that I haven’t really understood the operational differences between our current set-up and the Klover. Our house is old and definitely less well insulated than yours so we’d probably run it more frequently but I understand that it works more like a conventional boiler (something we’ve never owned – hence my ignorance..) and would not provide a constant background heat – rather bursts of heat as and when the boiler kicks in. The noise from the fan wasn’t something I’d thought of.. I think the only way for us to proceed now is go and see one of these things working. Our chosen installer has one in his house and has offered a visit.. Again thanks and good luck with all your future endeavours.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.