• Home
  • Search results
  • Green Home SC364 - Jim Hewlett benefits from free heat and electricity after installing a ground source heat pump and solar panels at his home in Tarbrax, West Lothian

Green Homes Network

< Back to search results

Green Home SC364 - Jim Hewlett benefits from free heat and electricity after installing a ground source heat pump and solar panels at his home in Tarbrax, West Lothian

If you would like to contact this member please click below and fill in your contact details.

Contact this member

Jim lives in a two-bedroom detached house in West Lothian. His energy efficiency journey started in 2011 when he received a cold call from a solar panel installer.

Installing solar panels

After the installer completed a survey, Jim had a 2.7kW solar PV system installed. Jim was satisfied with his new solar panel system, but after six years he had to replace the inverter at a cost of £2,735. Whilst the actual inverter was £1,280, there were additional costs for the additional fitting of micro inverters to each panel.

Unfortunately, two of the micro inverters failed almost immediately. They were covered under warranty, however, and were replaced at no extra cost.

Jim says his solar PV system was expensive by current standards, but the cost was offset by the higher Feed in Tariff payments which were on offer in 2011.

In 2019 Jim installed the first of three Pylontech storage batteries, a 2.4kWh US2000B Plus unit. He couldn't find any certified battery installers in the north of the UK so asked heating and plumbing firms to carry out the work.

During 2022, Jim reconfigured the battery storage. One of the older batteries was incompatible with the newer one despite the advice he had been given by the sellers. 

Now Jim is using two 3.5kWh units alongside the three 2.4kWh batteries bringing the total capacity to 14kWh. He charges them between 00:30 and 04:30, using his Octopus Go off-peak tariff to reduce the electricity cost and the load on the grid.

Installing a ground source heat pump

Jim’s 110-year-old house isn’t on the gas network, and because it’s made entirely out of brick and has no cavity spaces, it could get quite cold during the winter months. When his old oil system became unreliable, Jim decided to “get off oil”.

Jim contacted Home Energy Scotland to find out how he could make his home cosier and improve its environmental performance. He decided to install a ground source heat pump. The heat pump uses the electricity generated by his solar panels and turns it into efficient and clean heat.

The installation process, which took around a week, required a 450m trench to be dug on the property. This displaced 225 cubic meters of mud, which Jim says made the property messy for a period of time. However, once installation was complete, he could remove his oil tank and oil burner, freeing up more outside space.

Jim says that the advice he received from Home Energy Scotland “has saved me money, stress, and time” and adds that his heat pump’s “reliability, cost and energy efficiency are very acceptable and to look to be good for many years”.

“I wouldn’t go back to fossil fuels” says Jim. He’s since fitted an air source heat pump in his rental cottage and is delighted that his tenant is “very happy.”

Jim’s advice for others fitting a heat pump is to “make sure that any suppliers and fitters you use are genuine, and check with Energy Saving Trust and Home Energy Scotland to ensure they are sound.”

Improving wall insulation

Heat pumps are a very efficient form of electric heating, but they can still be expensive if installed in older homes with low insulation levels. Jim installed external solid wall insulation to improve his home’s thermal performance and make it more energy efficient. He accessed the Scottish Government-funded Home Energy Efficiency Programme for Scotland (HEEPS) programme, which subsidised his external cladding. Jim has been impressed by how the cladding removed the chilly areas of his home, while at the same time improving its external appearance.

Getting an electric vehicle

Finally, Jim purchased an electric vehicle and installed his own charge point. Jim funded these with an interest-free loan from Energy Saving Trust.

Because Jim can charge his car using the electricity generated by his solar panels, it means it’s cheaper to run than if he was charging it with regular mains electricity. It also means that it’s considerably cheaper to run than a regular petrol or diesel engine car.

Enjoying the benefits of free electricity and heating

During Spring Jim is hoping to run his household solely on stored off-peak electricity and solar power, having discovered that even in Winter the ground source heat pump runs until midday on the stored cheaper rate alone. 

Jim now enjoys free electricity and heating thanks to the renewable technology he has installed at his home. This has allowed him to invest in further energy efficient improvements such as LED lighting and A-rated appliances and solar charged batteries.

Jim says that the heat pump, solar panels, external cladding and electric vehicle “all cost a lot of money, but they will all pay for themselves in five to ten years. All of them except the car have done so already.” Jim has even been able to run entirely on solar generated electricity for several days thanks to his batteries, but says his relatively small panel array hasn’t quite generated enough surplus to export to the grid yet.

But it’s not just the financial side that’s been positive. “We feel we have done much more if you include the environmental and the example to others.”

His advice for other homeowners considering improving their homes is to “use your ears, don’t prejudge and, get the digger driver to put the clay back first.”

Feeling inspired?

If you too want to research different types of renewable technologies, our Home Renewables Selector will help you discover your options and calculate your savings. You can also use the Renewables Installer Finder to find professionals in your area. 

Pre 1919
Ground source heat pumpBiomass stoveSolar PVElectricity storage
A-rated appliance(s)Double glazingExternal wall insulationHot water cylinder and pipes insulationInternal wall insulationLoft InsulationLow energy lighting systemsZonal heating controlsHeating upgrade (non-renewables)

We’d welcome your feedback!

Thank you for visiting the EST Green Networks. You’ve been selected to participate in a brief customer satisfaction survey to help us improve your experience.

The survey is designed to measure your entire experience, please look for it at the conclusion of your visit. Your answers will be treated in the strictest confidence.

Yes pleaseLaterNo thanks