Marchwood Diary - Part 3

Finishing and Measurements

Tiling Delays 15/05/10

For 2 weeks our floor tilers have not been in and we are getting worried that we will not have the space for all the furniture arriving on the 19th with no staircase and an incomplete ground floor. This was partly due to illness. They promised at the weekend to lay the remaining tiles and to grout them the night before the furniture arrived. They did indeed come on the Sunday but ran out of the special flexible tile cement with about 20 large tiles to lay.

There was no sign of them on the Monday so we had to get ready for the move by clearing the garage of the kitchen units and storing them round the kitchen wall where the floor would not need to be professionally grouted.

Decorating Progress 18/05/10

Decorating is progressing but is not looking as good as I had hoped. Some rooms where I had hoped to get away with one coat on the walls will need 2 coats as the Dulux tin recommends. The lighter colours are less of a problem than the darker ones.

The second problem is that my cutting in to the ceiling is not as good as I would like. Here also the lighter colours are less noticeable. In the dining room, which is a rich lime green called Forest Lake 3 , my first coat I did by eye, which was not very good, even though I have reading glasses which help me to see close up.

For the second coat I tried masking the ceiling with 24 hour masking tape. This made the painting easy but showed up the wavyness of the join between the walls and the ceiling compared with the straight painted line.

For the dining room I purchased a 9 inch paint guard. This proved quite slow but effective. I wiped the guard carefully after each 9 inch section. I speeded the process up a bit by knotting a J-cloth round my right wrist where I could wipe the guard quickly across it between each section.

At one stage the ceiling paint became very lumpy. I think it may have been old stock Wickes Trade Emulsion. When I spotted these lumps I skimmed them off when wet and over rolled the section. However I have now noticed a few which have dried and cannot be repaired so easily. I have now changed to Dulux Brilliant White Emulsion which has the disadvantage that it does not cover as well.

Most of the rooms have some damage from the electricians second fix, the floor tilers splashes and the traffic up and down the ladder so there is some repair work needed when all else is finished.

Goodbye Caravan 17/05/10

Just as we were really enjoying our time in the caravan it is time to end it. We have had a good camp site,with a deal of £80 for the week so we have been there for the last month. It is the Diamond Farm site near Bletchingdon and we can thoroughly recommend it. The team are friendly and helpful and there is a bar and games room open at weekends and an open air swimming pool in the Summer.

We decided to move our furniture in on the 19th May to avoid further storage charges while we were away for a couple of weeks. When we booked the move it looked as though the staircase would be in and maybe even the plumbing completed. As it was we were squatting with a ladder for stairs, only one toilet working and a makeshift kitchen with water from the tap outside! It was good we were going away and could hope for better conditions when we returned.

Emails on Holiday 25/05/10

We took our laptop and had asked to know how things were going so we were pleased to get an email in the first week. The tilers had done well at the weekend and did not have enough floor tiles to complete the tile skirting.

I knew my estimate would be a little short as Betty wanted tiles under the kitchen units which I had not allowed for. I knew the tilers would only be able to use the finished edges of the tiles for skirting but I had calculated that they would be able to use the long edges. In fact they said this would look strange so they used tile edges to match the adjacent floor tile; so short across the room and long for the length of the room. It looks very effective but uses more tiles than I had planned.

The email said they needed a further 24 tiles so I emailed Walls and Floors to send them ASAP, partly as a replacement for damaged tiles and partly paid for.

We also had a disappointing reply from Dale Bathrooms. In April Betty had found water under the newly fitted toilet. We called the plumbers who said there was a flaw in the casting and we would have to request a replacement. This was our job as the plumbing contract was to fit the en-suite with sanitary ware supplied by others. On the 18th May I requested a replacement and sent photos of the leak but heard nothing. I chased this up while on holiday and received the reply that the manufacturer would not accept liability as the toilet had been purchased last year.

I replied that I could not leave the matter there. I pointed out that

'We have a statutory right to receive a toilet which functions without leaking or to receive our money back.'

Rebecca of Dale Bathrooms was most helpful in chasing the manufacturer on our behalf.

Back from Holiday 05/06/10

Philip had said he would email us when the stairs went in but no word came. Betty tried not to get too built up before we arrived back but we were hoping for substantial progress from tilers, plumbers and staircase people to make the house more habitable.

We arrived and saw they had the posts for the porch in place. This was quite a feat as Vinney had made the rear post hollow to contain the rainwater downpipe and it looked just the same as the solid ones.

Round the back there was a path outside the back door made from recycled stone from the garden but Betty had wanted the second-hand stone to be used in the side way. We had not been very clear before we went away.

The staircase had been fixed the day before we returned so it was without bannister or spindles. Betty nervously scrambled up the stairs on all fours and we tumbled into bed. We learned that Vinney would complete this part of the work.

There was no sign of any plumbing work and the extra tiles had not arrived.

Over the next week we worked hard to continue the decorating, rig up a temporary kitchen, schedule the remaining plumbing work, chase the tile order and a claim against Dale Bathrooms for the faulty toilet.

One high point for Betty was when I temporarily plumbed in the washing machine and she was able to do a wash in our own house for the first time for 10 months!

Betty at Breaking Point 15/06/10

The time the work had taken was now making Betty very depressed. Her mind was filled with questions which I could not answer. Why did no one come to finish the jobs that still needed to be done? Why did the experts who had assembled the stairs not complete the work? Why did the plumbers not return to put right the damage they had caused and sort the 2 toilets that were not working? Was the faulty toilet pan their fault? Why did Dale Bathrooms not reply to the messages and emails we had sent? Why has the project taken so long? What mistakes have we made? Should we have been more aggressive in our demands? Should we have set deadlines?

She woke every morning with these questions and kept me awake at night with them in an almost unending stream. Such answers as I had did not satisfy and the questions returned again and again.

For me the why questions were not important. I just wanted to solve the practical problems that remained as soon as possible with the co-operation of the team we had. With our limited knowledge we had to trust our team to be making the best decisions on our behalf and make sure we were not the ones unwittingly causing the delays.

This of course made things seem worse for Betty as I was then part of her problem.

She reached breaking point as the plumbers arrived on Tuesday 15th and said that if anyone else said they were not coming when they had promised they need not come back! She then left for the day!

Suddenly we could see the progress 19/06/10

Tuesday 15th saw the plumbing of the heat pump completed, Wednesday our electricians wired the power and the controls for the system in time for commissioning on Thursday. Unfortunately the engineer was sick so commissioning was delayed until the following Tuesday. A leak was found but the system was commissioned and working by Thursday night.

A temporary sink was fitted and we had running hot water everywhere, at last, after 10 months. The kitchen fitters are due next Monday and the replacement toilet is promised for the same day.

Which brush for painting? 20/06/10

A Google search for which brush reveals the rule that you should use man made brushes for acrylic paints and natural bristles for oil based paints. This does not seem to work well as a guide for me. I have been using a lot of packs of cheap brushes from DIY stores and find them quite difficult to use. They seem too hard to leave a surface without brush marks and quite difficult to cut in an edge of a wall or woodwork without the bristles straying over the edge or not painting up to the edge. I have now tried paying a bit more for a brush that is fuller and softer with much better results.

For me the key to success is the range of bristles in the brush from fine to stiff which gives a good brush for cutting in.

This is a small brush from a supermarket cheap pack.

The bristles are coarse and do not hold the paint well at the tips so cutting in is particularly difficult.

I have tried masking tape before and often found the paint has run under the tape just where you don't want it. I am doing better with a better brush and also by sticking down the tape very thoroughly and painting the edge of it quite sparingly.

With a good brush you may not need the masking tape at all. This was a B & Q brush costing about £4. It has been used for cutting in a couple of rooms but still has a range of coarse and fine hairs and works quite well.

Here is an unused Homebase brush costing about the same which I expect to be good. Note the finest hairs have a supple tip which wears quickly and so the brush soon needs replacing.

Kitchen Fitting 21/06/10

Originally we had thought we would use the old cupboard doors and carcases as far as possible for the new kitchen. We would just add a new sink and Corian worktops to bring the whole up to date. However Betty really liked the wide and deep drawers that are often available with modern kitchens. The space in the extension did not plan easily with standard size carcases. The builders had broken our carousel corner unit and the sink unit proved to be rotten and stained so we re-planned.

A visit to the Bedroom and Kitchen Centre, 16, Buckingham Street, Aylesbury, HP20 2LE, 01296421824 in April proved very helpful. We arrived just before closing on Saturday but Paul stayed to give us the options and provide a rough quote. From the Excalibur catalogue we chose Ribblesdale in the French Walnut colour as the best blend with our oak. At £2600 fitted this seemed very good value as all the units were made to measure. It included a worktop which ran straight through to the older part of the kitchen and blended the two.

When they came to measure we asked for the Corian worktops with up stands, splash back and housing for the cooker hood and also added a built-in refrigerator to bring the total to £4100.

Ian arrived to fit the kitchen on time and was such a friendly and tidy worker. I had feared that we might have some difficulties as I was fitting the older carcases and lining up with the new.

I thought they would fit the new part and I would have time to fit the old part before they returned to fit the worktops. Ian wanted to do the whole job with as little delay as possible so both of us working together.

We asked for the legs to be stainless steel and visible but had not mentioned that we wanted new legs for the old cabinets to match.

Ian overcame the problem quickly, even though the legs were on long delivery, by ordering all the legs from another supplier for the next day by courier.

Our plumbers helpfully and quickly rerouted some water pipes which had been badly placed and all was ready for the fitting.

Ian provided such helpful advice to enable me to fit the old kitchen carcases and even lent me his jig saw. The new legs were not quite the length we expected so some further adjustments were necessary before it all went together.

We returned to find that not only was the worktop looking marvellous and seamless but Ian had added the filler pieces to my half to complete a brilliant job.

The next day he was disappointed to find flaws in the manufacture of some of the doors and drawer fronts which he took back but even now we are very pleased.

A note for the future.

It would be so much easier if all plumbers pipes could be less than 150mm from the floor level so that cabinets did not have to be adjusted for them. Is this missing in plumber's training?

Bedroom Furniture 20/06/10

We go round in circles over the bedroom furniture. None of the furniture we can afford seems to go with our teak G-Plan bedside cabinets. We have had these for over 45 years of our marriage so do not want to get rid of them. After much searching we had almost decided on Malm drawer units from Ikea together with their wardrobes.

If the boxes had not been so heavy we might even have purchased a drawer unit at the last visit.

Next stage was to look for a teak headboard on the internet but all we could find was G-Plan drawers and wardrobes going for between £50 and £190. Why not go all G-Plan again? Real quality at an affordable price! The disadvantage would be storage capacity. Modern wardrobes are 210 cms high but these would only be 170 cms. Still with only 2 of us in a 4 bedroom house storage could not be a problem! Then my sister came up with the option to add pretty boxes on top to match the bed covers if we needed them.

On Ebay we bought 2 sets of 4 drawers for £85 each, 2 wardrobes for £310 and a G-Plan round coffee table for £52.

We still don't have a headboard!

Wood Treatment 06/07/10

We have planned to use Danish Oil for all the doors and door frames downstairs to blend with the staircase. The doors are knotty pine, the door frames ordinary deal softwood and the staircase ash so we are aiming at a blend rather than a match. Our first trials have been with Antique Pine Danish Oil applied with a lint free cloth. This has worked quite well as you can even the colour as you go along.

However the grooves are difficult to reach so we wanted to try brush application. We tried this on the back of a cupboard door. As you can see in the top section the oil soaked in to the porous sections of the wood and produced the blotchy effect compared with the more even effect on the middle section. Brushing did not seem much quicker either, so it is back to the cloth.

Heat Pump Efficiency - 08/07/10

I wanted to compare the efficiency of the heat pump under various conditions. My first rough attempt was to time the litres dial on the water meter on the ground loop. By just counting the dial revolves 1.5 seconds per revolution and the liquid is coming in at 14.7 degrees and going out at 11.9 degrees C.

If every 1.5 seconds a litre of liquid is heated in the ground by 2.8 degrees then in 1 hour 6720 Kcals are delivered to the house. If we divide by 860 we get 7.8 kilowatts.

From my Owl Meter it would appear that 2.6 Kw of electricity are being used the heat from which must dissipate inside the house too so giving a total of 10.4 kilowatts for the price of 2.6 kilowatts or a Coefficient of Performance (COP) of exactly 4. Just what Nick predicted when he commissioned the heat pump!

My next task is to refine the measurements and determine what factors affect the efficiency. I will time the litre dial with a stopwatch to refine that measurement. My inspection holes indicate that the underground temperatures range from 16.1 degrees to 16.8 degrees. If these are accurate why is the incoming liquid so much cooler at 14.7 degrees? Will the COP improve with better heat transmission to the liquid? Can this be achieved by flooding the trenches?

I have found part of the answer to one question by putting a bubble wrap insulating collar above my thermometer probe as shown. This ensures that the temperature I measure settles to the temperature of the bottom of the hole and is not affected as much by the outside air temperature. I am now getter lower readings on all my inspection holes and some are as low as 14.1 degrees so the average may be nearer to the incoming water temperature.

Some holes today were as high as 18.6 degrees with an air temperature of 20.1 degrees. These did seem to be the shallower ones. Perhaps I can measure a temperature gradient with depth which may give some idea of the conductivity of the soil. Of course this is only for comparison purposes because the real test will be the efficiency etc. during the heating cycle.

More accurate COP measurements 08/07/10

I checked the meaning of the dials on my water meter, used a stopwatch to time 30 revolutions if the litre dial and calculated the COP at just above 3 so wrote an email to Ice Energy (Appendix 9)

 I received an email acknowledgement to say he had passed the query to the technical department but since then we have heard nothing for 10 days.

Meanwhile I have been looking at the performance in heating the water itself. It looks as though the pump cuts in when the temperature is 1 degree below the target temperature and runs until the temperature has reached 2 degrees above the target. This means 3 degrees has been added to 300 litres of water representing 900 Kcals of energy. To do this the heat pump has run for about 10 minutes giving a COP of about 2.8

This is fairly good as the gross COP is 3.16 suggesting the losses in heating the water might be in the region of 11 percent. This wasted energy is used to heat the circulating water, pump parts etc. but in the Winter would finish up warming the house.

Reading the dials again today, July 18th, it would appear the pump fired 5 times to heat water since yesterday. This needs some investigation.

Kitchen Complete 13/07/10

The Ian came to complete the kitchen and all went well. Paul had asked that we pay Ian a cheque for the fitting, £700, and the balance by credit card. He phoned several times that day to collect the balance, saying he was out of pocket because of the problem doors, but I wanted Betty to confirm the total as it seemed a bit higher than I expected. We checked together and it appeared another £300 or so had been added.

We queried this on the phone and Paul said we had added a refrigerator at £315 after the first quotation. Thankfully the quotation clearly included the refrigerator and I spoke to him directly. He then agreed to call me back later with an answer.

This time he agreed his mistake was to record our deposit as £700 instead of the £1000 we paid and all was agreed and settled.

You really have to check everything, even with those you trust.

The two halves of the kitchen blend well as you can see from the photo and we have the added satisfaction of recycling a lot of doors and units.

Furnishing the Cloakroom

Care was needed in choosing fittings for the cloakroom because this replaced the former staircase which was only 900mm wide. We chose quite small sanitary ware from Dale Bathrooms and re-used the former bathroom mirror. To join the basin cabinet to the toilet we obtained a panel from Ikea of the identical high gloss white finish and Vinney built shelves which harmonised wonderfully.

We searched for a suitable splashback behind the basin and best option appeared to be a custom made glass panel which could be coloured to any of the Dulux tones and would cost about £80.

We then achieved a similar effect for £20 with glass from the local glazier in Oxford.

We re-used the old bathroom lighting which we had found inadequate in the larger room but now, with 4 1 watt LEDs pointed at the walls, gave a good light.

The flat black toilet brush from John Lewis sale tucked away neatly in the corner.

Monitoring the Performance 17/09/10

I wonder how we can compare performance between ground source installations. It would appear that we could compare at various stages of the system as follows:-



Measured by

Input to the House

KWH energy for KWH electricity

Volume of water x temperature difference.

Delivery of energy to rooms

KWH energy for KWH input above

Volume of water x temperature difference of heating circuit.

Losses in flooring

Average floor temperatures compared with average water temperatures

Surface temperature measurements compared with input and return water

Effectiveness of radiator

Floor temperatures compared with room air temperature.


Room air temperature compared with wall surface temperature.

Surface thermometer

Overall Efficiency

KWH electricity for given temperature difference outside to inside


Do I have the equipment to make these measurements? I persuaded the plumbers to provide a water meter for the ground loop water so the first calculation can be made. If I can find the capacity of the circulation pump the second calculation can be made. I purchased a surface temperature thermometer from China on Ebay so the other measurements can be made. Ready to go! When it arrives.

Energy Saving Trust Report 29/09/10

The report “Getting Warmer- a field trial of heat pumps” came out a few days ago and I devoured it eagerly. It was disappointing. In 84 test sites the ground source did very little better than the air source as they had a COP of between 2 and 3.

I have just tested mine today at a best yet 5.05.

I asked EST whether they could explain their methodology and the Head of Low Carbon Technologies, Steven Harris, kindly phoned me today and discussed the methods for 13 minutes.

It was indeed very thorough and agreed technically by the heat pump manufacturers at every stage. Unfortunately the cost of monitoring each home for a whole year with £5000 of equipment could not be afforded by the average householder.

The results compared well with a similar German study for air source but their ground source figure was between 4 and 5 COP. He said the reason was that installers in Germany were of degree standard whereas ours had 1 week training.

I asked what the objectives of Phase 2 would be and he answered that it was to find out the reasons in each case for the poor performance. Anecdotally there were circumstances in the installation or use of the equipment which contributed in a minor or major way. Things like jam making raising the internal temperature but not being monitored. In another instance the daughter smoked at the open back door. Also pipes going to the wrong cylinder and ground loop kinks.

I asked whether there was any research based on the overall performance of the heating installation. Surely the cost of maintaining a house of x square metres y degrees above its surroundings would be a good factor. He seemed to feel that was being done but not by EST.

Getting to know my Heat Pump 07/10/10

“You can find your way round the manual, can't you?” said my commissioning engineer, and left. Well that was Summer time and the water was getting hot so I just took some measurements of the water heating cycle and little more.

Now its time to find out how it works. I have recorded all the measurements stored in the heat pump every minute during a heating cycle. This proved very interesting. The cycle is triggered when the return water from under the floor reaches a target set by the logic of the machine. More about that later.

This morning the target was 25.3 degrees at 9:20 am. The heat pump started and ran for 18 minutes until the new target of 29.7 degrees was met and it switched off.

During the run the compressor temperature steadily climbed from 48 degrees to 68.5 degrees. For the first 6 minutes the transfer fluid maintained the same temperatures at 33.7 out and 27.6 in. Then it rose steadily up to 38.2 out and 32.6 in by which time the floor return had risen to 30.3 and the pump switched off.

The outdoor temperature was 10.7 so it was remarkable that the first reading of the input fluid from the ground was 14 degrees and this only fell below 10.7 after 10 minutes of operation. By the end the input fluid was at 9.6 degrees. Through the cycle the output temperature fell from 9.9 to 6.1.

This meant that the difference between the input and output reduced during the cycle from 4.1 to 3.5 and the COP from 4.8 to 4.2 with an average of 4.5. This is rather better than early runs during which the system appeared to be running at 3.2. The difference was in the power drawn which the OWL meter recorded as 2.6 but now is recording at 2.1. Strange that! Is there a running in period? Or was the OWL faulty?

I spent some time looking at the manual. There are few things the customer should be doing, such as checking the level in a header tank, looking at filters etc. I looked at the header tank and found it was below the recommended one third full. The manual said I should phone the supplier before topping up. They said OK but take care there was not a pressure build up when you open the top.

The top opened without problem but the level fell further. I used the solution which had been left to top up but had to use my garden sprayer because the tank was too near the ceiling of the heat pump cupboard for a can. This was slow and awkward but worked and I marked the new level on the tank so that I could see any further loss. 2 days later I had lost some more so I topped up again. If this continues I must suspect a leak.

Getting the right feel 30/10/10

I am very happy with the temperatures the heat pump maintains throughout the house but Betty feels it is chilly today. I have been checking the accuracy of my thermographs against my OWL monitor so have noticed that the temperature in the office has dropped from 21.1C to 20.3 in the last hour to 18:40. It has been a milder day with some sunshine and the outside temperature is currently 11C.

Betty says the floors are not nice and warm like they were last week and she is not happy. Last week the temperature was 0 to 5 degrees most days.

So we are hot enough in the cold weather but not when it is warmer. The room thermostat reads 20.6 against a target of 21.4 but this does not seem to activate either the circulating pump or the heat pump.

Reading the manual it seems that I need to raise the heating slope using the fine adjustment by 0.5 of a degree and then flatten the slope so that I do not get too hot in the colder weather. Lets try that.

So simple! 31/10/10

Time to put the clocks back. How about the heat pump? Does it do itself? Back to the instruction book I enter Customer Level 2 and check. The pump is set to 100925 144225 Sa. Wow! The wrong month, the wrong day, the wrong time and I did not notice! Poor installation perhaps but I have seen those figures often and not tried to make any sense of them!

Of course the night shut down took place 5 hours too early so Betty noticed it was cooler in the evenings. It turned on again at 1 am so no wonder we got too hot in bed! Let's try again.

Adding up the cost 15/11/10

Betty has been marvellous at keeping our family accounts for the past 10 years and it has been exceptionally useful in adding up the costs of this adventure from the time we started planning in 2007 to the testing stage in 2010. It sounds a long time but a mistake cost us the first year. We have reached a grand total of £164,000, far more than the £100,000 max we hoped for.

The building contract was £103,290 plus VAT and the heat pump cost £8500 of which we should get a grant of £1500 and earn £900 pa from the government. Our remarkable second architect cost £2700. Party wall surveyor £898.

Bathrooms suites, refurbished kitchen and garden landscaping were additional to present a property with kerb appeal. Storage and temporary accommodation were significant. Read my diary when published to know the full story.

Out of a total cost including VAT of £164,000 we spent £118,000 on the structure, £16,000 on eco features of ground source heating and heat recovery ventilation, £7,500 on temporary accommodation and storage, £6,500 on fees, £6,400 on fittings, £4,600 upgrading the kitchen and £5,000 upgrading the garden.

In addition we did all the decorating ourselves, laid the laminate flooring upstairs, laid all the underfloor pipework and excavated and laid the ground loop. The decorator's quote had been £5,800 plus VAT and the ground loop was estimated at £2000 labour.

We were originally hoping to spend less than £100,000 but one thing leads to another and we have achieved our objective of adding more the value than we have spent.

We had really not properly understood the knock on cost of moving a staircase on the partitions, electrics, plastering and decorations but fortunately our builder had not planned to cut corners so he delivered far more than we had expected.

Comparisons with other heat pumps 17/11/10

I am developing a method for comparing the performance of our heat pump with other pumps and the performance of my house with other similar houses. I do not expect a refurbished house to perform as well as a new build. This is because I have done little with my cavity walls and I could only place 6mm of insulation under the underfloor heating pipes compared with 200 mm of polystyrene in a new build.

I hoped to be able to copy the methods used by the Energy Saving Trust in their comparisons of 83 dwellings using air and ground source heat pumps but they used £5000 of equipment for a year in each house so this was not possible. The results they have obtained do not seem at all useful in guiding the buyer or the user so I need to try something different.

They and Oxford Brookes in a smaller study tried to measure or estimate all the sources of heat energy in the home. I need a method that can be applied in a week and needs very little equipment.

The basic comparisons are needed at the point of purchase of a heating system and during the operation to identify inefficiencies by comparison with similar systems. My thought is that space heating cost should not be complicated by trying to plot all the other energy flows even if these may be significant. For example jam making by one of the EST test dwellings changed the energy consumption substantially so they concluded that the way the dwelling was used was very significant. My position is the reverse. The cost of space heating for comparative purposes can usefully ignore exceptional behaviour. The owner wants a system which can maintain an even temperature over the house. In practice jam making in the kitchen may not affect what the heating system does to maintain comfort by the sensor in the hall. He pays for the excess of this sensor temperature over the varying outside temperature. The heating system will work to maintain this desired difference between the inside thermostat(s) and the outside thermostat. This difference measured each hour by thermographs inside and out can be totalled to give the hour degrees of comfort he pays for. The energy used can be divided by this figure to get a kwh per comfort hour and a cost per comfort hour.

Multiplying by 100 and dividing by the heated area in square metres then gives a comparable cost per 100 square metre house.

Appendix 8 gives some examples.