Technology: air-to-air heat pump

Location: Eckford, Scottish Borders

CARES funding: CARES capital grant of £9,210

Date installed/operational: December 2021


Eckford is a small village in the Scottish Borders situated between the towns of Jedburgh and Kelso. Eckford Village Hall was built by the community in 1930 and has been in continuous use ever since.

The building is used by various groups for communal and educational activities such as sewing, crafts, socialising and meetings. Many of its users are senior citizens who value the opportunities on offer at the hall because of the positive impact they have on their health and wellbeing.

The hall’s most recent heating system had been poorly installed in 2011 by a supplier that had subsequently gone out of business. Sandra Kinnoch, chair of the hall’s board, said that “the heating system limped along whilst being supplemented by alternative heaters which were neither adequate nor cost effective.

“It became increasingly obvious that for the comfort of our users and the long-term sustainability of the hall we needed to upgrade this poorly installed heating system with a modern, eco-friendly solution in line with our environmental policy.”

Project aims and objectives 

The hall’s board set about making plans to upgrade the heating system. It wanted to replace the broken and costly assortment of heaters that were in use with a more eco-friendly, cost-effective solution for long-term sustainability.

The board sought feedback from the hall’s user groups on the existing system and asked them what they thought might best suit their needs. Everyone consulted said that the system was easy to use and provided a comfortable heat and were therefore keen to see a similar system deployed in the hall’s toilets and kitchen.

Outcomes and achievements

The board contacted Zero Waste Scotland’s Energy Efficiency Business Support Service (now Business Energy Scotland) for advice. A consultant visited the hall and provided a tailored energy audit and made several recommendations including installing an air-to-air heat pump, a solar photovoltaic (PV) array and LED lighting throughout. Sandra Kinnoch says this audit “was extremely helpful and identified other potential energy savings projects that could be considered.”

After carrying out some further research, the board identified that a Daikin air-to-air heat pump had a good reputation for reliability and ease of use. It contacted three installers for quotations to ensure they would receive best value for money.

In September 2021 the board applied to the Let’s Do Net Zero Community Buildings Fund from the Scottish Government’s Community and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES). It received a capital grant of £9,210 towards the cost of installing the air-to-air air heat pumps (14kW in total) and replacement of 28 lighting units with LED lighting.

The heat pump system took less than a week to install and was up and running in December 2021.

Sandra Kinnoch says: “The project has achieved all that it set out to. The newly installed system is working efficiently and effectively, and we’ve had positive feedback from the hall’s user groups too.

“It’s too early to measure savings in relation to the running costs of this new system versus the old one. However, by its very nature of operation, significant savings should be made over time.

“Our reserves policy and five-year plan both identify that the system will have an annual maintenance check to protect its longevity and that money will be set aside to replace the system when it comes to the end of its natural life.”

Eckford village hall's air to air heat pump

Eckford village hall's air to air heat pump

Lessons learned

The board also identified several lessons that they learned throughout the project. For example, the choice of heating system provided the board with some challenges. Sandra says: “At the outset it was extremely challenging to find any companies who were providing air to air heating systems; indeed, there were none to be found that were based in the Scottish Borders.

“Eventually, by using slightly different terminology in a Google search – for example, by using “air source” rather than “air/air” we unearthed a number of companies who could deliver on the project. Having said that, none of them were in the Scottish Borders but most were prepared to travel to carry out the costing exercise, installation, and any future maintenance visits.

“We asked three contractors to provide quotations for the same system so that we could make a like-for-like comparison. The contractor offering the best value for money was chosen.

“Unfortunately, the company that we selected, after having accepted the commission, closed its office and was no longer in a position to deliver the contract. Because we had received two other quotations, we were able to approach the company that was providing the next best value for money. This presented a challenge, however, as their quotation was significantly more expensive than the first. We carried out a change request in order to obtain additional funds to complete the project.”

Sandra has identified some tips for other communities undertaking a similar project.

  • “Ensure that you have checked all of the funder’s guidance notes to ensure that you have everything to hand before completing and submitting your funding application.”
  • “Develop a good working relationship with your CARES development officer – they can provide a wealth of knowledge, support and advice along the way. “
  • “Consider all the things that could possibly go wrong and have a plan B at your fingertips, just in case.”

It is clear that having a supportive community also contributed to the success of the project. The spokesperson added: “Having the support of our hall users and being seen to meet their needs means that they bought into the project at the start. They were also extremely cooperative when their use of the venue was displaced due to the work being carried out.”

Find out more about Eckford Village Hall.