Blog from Alex Turret Environmental Practices Advisor who is leading on a pilot for remote control of energy systems at our holiday cottages. Previous Blog
As with any pilot project, particularly one on an unknown quantity such as an old listed building, not everything went entirely smoothly with the installation at Egryn Abbey. For example, it was found that to fit controls to the lighting circuit as originally planned would be too invasive and complicated in the sensitive environment that is this National Trust holiday cottage. However, after a certain amount of trial and error the fuel sensor and remote boiler controls have been fitted and the comms link activated. We will be monitoring the performance of the equipment over the next few months but I caught up with the victim (sorry, beneficiary) of our bright idea to discuss the potential advantages the project might provide. Georgina Ward, the National Trust’s holiday cottage supervisor for North Wales has some 40+ locations to manage spread from Powis near Welshpool on to Anglesey at the very tip of North West Wales. I asked her what she was looking for from the project: ‘One of my biggest fears is that I will run out of fuel at a holiday cottage, this could cause me to lose guests or bookings and could easily cost the National Trust a lot of money every time this happens. This keeps me awake at nights, but having the fuel sensor at Egryn has enabled me to know exactly how much fuel there is in the tank and to order fresh supplies in plenty of time. It has removed a huge potential risk for me and given me real oversight and control of my fuel ordering. Having remote control of the heating system also allows me to be more reactive and efficient there too. For example as standard the heating/hot water is set to come on twice a day which is unnecessary if the cottage is not fully booked. I can now override that setting remotely and save fuel costs. On the other hand in the winter if the weather is particularly bad I can run the heating over the top of the frost settings and keep the house fully warm, potentially saving me a fortune in plumbing costs from burst pipes. Perhaps the biggest wins though are in staff costs and visitor enjoyment. Currently I am relying on caretakers to make special journeys to check fuel levels or put on the heating system and turn on a welcoming light, these visits we have to fund outside of their standard hours which clearly impacts my staffing budget. In terms of the visitors and their enjoyment of the holiday cottages these enhanced controls will make their visits even more welcoming and comfortable and will provide an extra layer of security to help avoid any inconvenient occurrences. ‘ It seems that potentially the project ticks a lot of boxes in terms of managing our holiday cottages. However, the proof as they say, is in the pudding and only a few months of operation will provide us with a definitive assessment of whether the project is a success or otherwise. However it does look as if this very modern approach to a historic problem might pay dividends in the busy and pressurised environment of holiday cottage management.