Heat pump at heart of dementia care home

Key equipment supplied

Project details

Increasing demand for care homes with specialist dementia expertise is leading to a whole new generation of carefully designed and beautifully appointed facilities right across the UK. As well as taking advantage of the latest developments in dementia care, these homes are also keen to harness top quality heating and hot water solutions to meet residents’ needs while also minimising running costs and lowering carbon footprint.
The new Callywhite Home in Derbyshire is an excellent example of this marriage between the latest medical thinking and engineering know-how. An integrated heating and hot water system, featuring a gas absorption heat pump, condensing boilers and water heaters from heating and hot water equipment manufacturer Lochinvar is central to its successful operation. Run by the family-owned Green Nursing Homes group, the Callywhite opened late last year. It was developed adjacent to a ‘traditional’ nursing home in the town of Dronfield.

Built over three floors, the home accommodates 39 residents – two of whom are over 100 years of age – and has been carefully designed for the elderly and those living with dementia, based on the industry’s guidelines for dementia care developed by the University of Stirling. As a result, the living spaces have been crafted to a very high specification so the staff can deliver a personalised care service to residents in a comfortable and supportive environment.


As well as 39 large bedrooms, the Callywhite consists of three lounges, three dining rooms, multiple sensory rooms, library, hairdressers and a landscaped courtyard. The nature of the facilities also means there is heavy demand for heating and hot water – 24 hours a day – particularly as every bedroom has an ensuite bathroom.

A number of technologies were considered by the design team led by mechanical, plumbing, heating and electrical contractors Martin Dixon Ltd. Planning rules also required that renewables be part of the final scheme. Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels were initially considered, but on closer inspection it was decided that Lochinvar’s Optimus gas absorption heat pump (GAHP) was a more appropriate choice for this type of project. As an added bonus, the Optimus GAHP met planning requirements at a considerably lower cost than the PV – even taking into account the potential solar feed-in tariff (FIT) payments.

To meet dementia care guidelines, it was decided that the space heating should be provided by an underfloor system delivering constant and gentle, low temperature heat while avoiding the use of radiators on safety grounds. Optimus GAHP has a gas utilisation efficiency (GUE) of 152% at a flow temperature of 50°C when ambient air is 7°C and is, therefore, ideal for this type of application.
Working closely with Lochinvar, engineers from Martin Dixon Ltd designed a bespoke system integrating the Optimus GAHP with Lochinvar CPM high efficiency condensing boilers to provide space heating requirements for the home.

The Optimus GAHP provides heated water to a thermal store, which serves the underfloor heating system. Adopting this approach means the two CPM gas-fired, fully condensing, stainless steel boilers, are only used as back-up and to provide extra heating capacity on very cold winter days. Using this integrated approach should provide considerable energy and carbon emissions savings.

Separation of heating and hot water generation has long been regarded as an effective and efficient solution for a range of commercial buildings; and two Lochinvar EcoCharger condensing gas-fired water heaters were also installed to provide all the water heating needs of the home. These are designed around the principle of low hot water storage, but fast recovery, and operate at energy efficiencies of up to 96% with low NOx emissions of just 32mg per KWh.
EcoCharger water heaters incorporate fully modulating pre-mix burners with a 5:1 turndown ratio so the system can meet variations in hot water demand at minimal rates of gas consumption. This helps the Callywhite achieve its energy efficiency goals with no drop off in hot water performance.
Hot water temperatures are also carefully managed using thermostatic mixing valves to guard against scalding, but without having to lower stored water temperatures and increasing the risk of legionella.


Care home manager Martha Buchanan is delighted with the results because the heating and hot water supplies are constant, but running costs are kept low.
“Clearly the needs of residents are the over-riding priority,” she said. “However, we are always looking for better ways of meeting those needs while saving money where we can.”

Reliability is her first concern because of the vulnerability of her residents. If a home is without heating or hot water for 24 hours, the industry’s watchdog the Care Quality Commission will require a report and a follow-up risk assessment. The manager’s office has a direct link to the plantroom alarm system and controls so Mrs Buchanan can keep a close eye on system performance.

“Heating and hot water are absolutely central to the operation of a home like ours,” she said. “So we are delighted to have such a reliable and energy efficient system. We have also had great support from the engineers at Martin Dixon Ltd.”
She also pointed out that the system needed to be easy to use because, while the staff are all specialists in the care of dementia patients, they cannot also be expected to be “heating experts”.

Green Nursing Homes was set up by Dr. and Mrs Jaiswal in the early 1990s and the group is now run by proprietor Deepak Jaiswal. Its other two homes in Derbyshire have been awarded Quality Premium status by Derbyshire County Council.

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