The council has been pioneering the use of air source heat pumps in an attempt to reduce fuel poverty. About 65 council homes are already fitted with the devices which, in some cases, are able to reduce heating bills by 70 per cent.
So far Wealden has been awarded £175,000 from the Department for Energy and Climate Change and is seeking a further £270,000 for the next phase of air source heat pump installation.
Earlier this month, the council’s success in adopting renewable heating technology was highlighted at a conference for social landlords in London organised by the Government.
Wealden energy efficiency officer, Abdul Hussain, said it was important to work with heating contractors to encourage them to support the new technology.
The air source heat pump works like an air conditioning unit in reverse, taking heat out of the air outside and using it to heat a water-based central heating system inside the house. For every one unit of heat energy it takes from the air outside, it can contribute up to three units of heat energy to the system inside.
Cllr Graham Wells, Wealden cabinet member for housing and asset management said: “A combination of rustic architecture and lack of mains gas makes domestic heating costs very expensive for many Wealden households, forcing them to rely on solid fuel or electric storage heaters.
“Some 80 per cent of the district’s area is not connected to mains gas. This makes for a high incidence of fuel poverty with more than one in four households affected, particularly elderly and middle aged residents. By spearheading the use of air source technology and encouraging local contractors to support this cost-effective new technology, we are beginning to make a real difference.”
Wealden’s first air source heat pumps were installed in council housing at Bells Yew Green in 2011. The tenants, Zoe and Niall McGregor-Gould noticed the improvement from solid fuel heating with the air source pump technology providing an even temperature throughout the home, as well as helping them make significant cost savings. It also had health benefits, helping to alleviate asthma.