This was our central heating for the last thirteen and a half years.
A 1982 Rayburn Supreme in ‘mink’. It ran on coal. It was dirty, temperamental and uncontrollable. Once it was lit it was lit and that was that, except when it chose to go out for no apparent reason. Usually on a particularly cold night when the guesthouse was full. Or it would roar away bubbling the water in the pipes even when damped down to a minimum on an unexpected warm day amidst the changeable UK (and particularly, Welsh) weather.
For the first year or ten, Hubby loved it. It harked back to a simpler time. The idea of it was very cosy and romantic. Hubby thought he was Fred Dibnah. Our Rayburn sat in the engine room which is also our B&B guest breakfast room and they with Hubby took great delight in stories of stoking it and looking at the glowing embers of the coals and the constantly near boiling kettle or casserole on the hob.
But along side this romantic idyll was the reality of coal-fired central heating. It’s noisy, it’s dirty, it’s physically challenging and it’s bloody messy. Twice daily there’s the riddling of the coals the removal of heavy trays of glowing embers whilst trying not to breath in the fumes; the shovelling of coal; and the wiping away of a thin (thick) layer of black dust off every surface. Alongside which there’s the damage to the lungs and the extreme lack of eco credentials of fossil fuels.
Our thoughts came to downsizing in the not to distant future as the physical management of our antiquated central heating ran at odds with our ability to meet its physical demands. It was also very difficult to get and keep the house warm enough in the cold of winter, certainly not warm enough for our elderly relatives or ‘softy southerner’ friends 😉
That’s when we heard about the UK government grants available through the Domestic Renewable Heating Incentive (RHI), which was (and possibly at the time of reading, still is) offering grants of up to £10,000 to upgrade our home to make it more energy-efficient and eco-friendly. To qualify it was a simple case of getting an updated Domestic Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) to prove that any improvements could be made and improve your score.
Well we live in a gorgeous 1907 built country villa (trust me that sounds far grander than it is). When we moved in it was single glazed, had no wall insulation and still has, due to rooms in our roof (it was built that way), no roof insulation, and suspended floors. There was shown to be plenty of room for improvement. Put it this way. The EPC scoring system is 0-100. Assuming 0 is sitting under a tree, ours was 19, so basically a cave with a tarpaulin covering the entrance. Apparently because of the age and the materials of the build the best we could ever reach would be 52, but the opportunities to improve were definitely demonstrated to be there.
Along came Nick Cater , CEO (owner) of Birds’ Hill Renewable Heating . As soon as we met him we knew that we were in safe hands. He looked at our Rayburn Supreme, and discussed all the options for more environmentally friendly , more easy to regulate, super modern, very sleek, eco biomass boilers. Birds’ Hill are the UK distributor for Klover and whilst they are a tried and tested technology in Europe (25year) they are still pretty new to the UK.
Now these systems are not cheap, and to be honest the cost for what we needed (adding on what we wanted) came to something eye-wateringly scary to us poor folk! However, here in Wales, it turns out, we could also apply for an interest free loan through the Robert Owen Community Banking who, ‘provide ethical loans for businesses, people and communities across Wales’. You could apply on-line and it was so simple!
So we knew we had the loan and we knew we had the right team to do he work. Birds’ Hill is a successful Welsh business, based in Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire and servicing all of West Wales. They specialise in renewable energies. All their team seem passionate about it. And they have partnered up with Klover to be their UK distributor. I could not fault the team; everyone was friendly, jovial, hard-working, tidy, patient (I was in a particularly stressy mood throughout the installation, there was a lot going on in town, the B&B was full and it was the height of the summer season!) and very service driven.
Derek up the cherry picker, feeding in the chimney liner, thanks to our neighbours for use of their yard. New flue in and plastered, old flue filled too.
What I love best about partnering with Birds’ Hill was Nick Cater himself. His company, I’m sure, is growing rapidly, it will be interesting to see how it manages, but at present he chooses to, and is able to be hands on with every installation. He came out personally to meet us and assess the job before it began, advising on the loan and grant, the work, the potential issues and offering answers and assurances to all our concerns. He is also the person who comes to do the final inspection, sign off the work and get the grant activated.
Smart 120 Klover in situ, the wood pellets (basically a high grade kitty litter ( 😉 ) come in 10kg bags and are produced from a sustainable source (part of the grant requirements), easy to load into the hopper and the ash waste is in such small quantities , we only have to empty the tray once a week. Look at the cooking area – the hot plate alone is magnificent – I just thought I’d try it out whilst we did the test firing!
Apparently our Klover SMART 120 Pellet Boiler Cooker in red tiles is the first of that kind in the UK! However we are one of five people I know in our small town to take advantage of this scheme and have a Klover product installed.
And here it is in all its glory with the room redecorated.
I have one sadness, I feel extremely sorry for our very helpful and hard-working coal merchant, they run a family business, I suspect they have done so all their lives and they still supply Welsh anthracite. I know they’ll have to move with the times and diversify, but they were good to us as customers and I shall be sad to not have dealings with them any more. Thank you to Browns of Sennybridge for all their services over the last 13 years.