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Renewable heating systems can be adapted to meet almost any challenge. Over the last decade, isoenergy has made a name for itself by installing bespoke, sustainable energy systems into buildings normally considered hard-to-heat.

In addition to the Grade I Listed country estates, Historic Houses and humble cottages we also come across some more unusual challenges. Here are some examples of what can be done with some first class design and a whole lot of experience.

St Paul’s Cathedral Visitors’ Centre

In 2017 isoenergy was asked to repair a failed heat pump system in the centre of London. The award-winning information centre for St Paul’s Cathedral had a ground source heat pump installed by another company almost ten years ago. As is often the case with poorly designed systems, they work fine for a couple of years before the ground freezes and the heat pump stops working.  

By the time isoenergy was called out to repair the system, the centre had resorted to using convection heaters to keep warm. Isoenergy quickly identified an undersized collector array was the core issue stopping the system from working. In addition to replacing all of the dubious plumbing, the fixed-speed compressor ground source heat pump was removed and replaced with an inverter-driven variable output heat pump which was configured to avoid over-extracting heat from the ground. The main challenge here was to fit the heat pump and required plumbing into a triangular space whilst the centre was open.

St Stephen's ChurchSt Stephen’s Church

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges for any heating system would be heating a Norman church. No insulation, solid stone walls, gaps around the doors and beautiful but thermally inefficient windows are a few of the ways a church loses heat.

What may appear at first glance to be a draw-back actually can play to the advantages of weather compensated heat pump system. Thick walls solid stone for instance, have a very high thermal mass and once up to temperature act as the radiators themselves for the space heating. At this point the heat pump need only bleed in relatively small amounts of energy to constantly top up the heat lost through the fabric of the buildings. This church is now heated exclusively by a 24kW heat pump system throughout the year.


Camphill BarnCamphill Barn

This site is home to a violin museum and workshop where the temperature and humidity needs to be managed to protect the stock. This presented another interesting challenge but one that heat pump heating is actually very well suited to. Heat pumps like to run constantly keeping the room to a designated constant temperature. Perfect for working with 300-year-old violins.

A 17kW heat pump was installed with energy collected from three boreholes in the car park. To help off-set the running costs, 7.25kW of solar photovoltaic array was installed across various buildings on the site.


Hermitage Community MooringsHermitage Moorings

This project involved heating a completely unique space with an environmentally sustainable approach. The moorings boast 20 berths for vessels on the Thames and the central barge is used as an educational centre helping locals learn more about the area.

A heat pump was installed here, taking energy from a bespoke stainless steel closed loop collector on the underside of the barge. This is used to collect energy for a 12kW heat pump that provides all the heating for the barge. Some of the challenges in this project related to the size and shape of the area for the plant to be installed. Isoenergy sourced low profile equipment such as tanks and everything had to be lashed down as the barge is in the tidal section of the Thames. This also meant that flexible connections were required to accommodate the barge going up and down twice a day.

These are but a few sites where good system design has overcome challenges posed by unusual buildings. When choosing your renewable energy partner to work on your project, consider whether they have an experienced design team in-house or take the gamble on calling is out later to fix it.


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