I’m really pleased with the way things have gone, really happy. It was a major job but it’s running well now and everybody is seeing the improvements that I’m making.Mr Dominic Carden - Owner Stinchcombe Manor
Everyone wants to be warm and comfortable at home in winter, but when that home is a care home for elderly, frail and often confused residents, then efficient, reliable and cost-effective heating and cooking is simply vital.
Stinchcombe Manor is a family-run care home housed in a beautiful Grade II listed manor house, built in the heart of the Cotswolds in 1836. But when Dominic Carden bought the home two years ago, four antiquated and inefficient oil-fuelled boilers were among the many problems he inherited.
“It was very run-down - a lot more than I’d anticipated really,” said Mr Carden. Finding the resources to rapidly replace the boilers when he also had to urgently replace the lifts and install a new fire alarm system could have been a problem. AvantiGas solved it by devising a solution which actually reduced the home’s monthly fuel and maintenance costs – even though the payments also cover the financed replacement of the outmoded oil boilers. These were replaced with a clean, modern LPG system – all done with no up-front costs whatsoever.
WHAT WE DID
Mr Carden is repaying the capital costs of the new system with its three boilers, three one-tonne LPG tanks and pipework over the 10-year period of his contract as part of his regular fuel payments, with a maintenance contract included in an overall monthly price. The total still came in below what he was paying before just for fuel. A break-out clause was also put into the bespoke agreement so that Mr Carden retains the option to pay off the capital cost early if he’d prefer to.
You could forgive him for wondering if the offer wasn’t too good to be true, especially coming at a time when care home budgets are tighter than ever before: “It’s very difficult, in this day and age, to believe you can get the kind of deal that we’ve done. Yes obviously I am paying for it (the capital cost) over a period of time but yes – it was difficult to work out that I didn’t have to find the initial outlay straightaway. If I’d have had to do that, I probably wouldn’t have had it done this year.”
But there was no doubt that the care home’s unreliable and inflexible heating and hot water system was long past its best: “The previous system was really old – I wouldn’t ever switch the oil boilers off, because the company that used to service and maintain them said ‘Don’t switch them off, because they’re so old and dilapidated you might not get them going again.”
He also had to keep the central heating boilers going all-year-round to provide hot water, as separating the two applications was not possible: “It was not at all good for economy – especially in the summer. I had to keep them going full blast. But hopefully this is going to be a major improvement for us.”
The three modern LPG boilers are now installed in one central boiler house – the old oil boilers were spread across three locations – and are linked in a ‘cascade’ format so that when the heat requirement is low, particularly in the summer, just one boiler can do all the work and there’s no longer a colossal waste of unwanted heat, as happened with the oil-fuelled system.
The new set-up also powers ovens and tumble driers which were previously fuelled by LPG cylinders. Mr Carden no longer has to find storage space for cylinders, bulk gas is cheaper too, and he no longer has to think about when to order fuel as his tanks are topped up automatically:
“I’m really pleased with the way things have gone, really happy. It was a major job but it’s running well now and everybody is seeing the improvements that I’m making. And hopefully come summer I’ll see even more benefits because I’ll be able to switch my boilers off and regulate it much more.”
Chui Green, Technical Sales Manager at AvantiGas, said she had worked closely with Mr Carden to deliver the solution that was right for Stinchcombe:
“With care homes, the need for consistent, comfortable and controllable heat is paramount, because of the vulnerability of the residents. And with off-grid care homes in older or listed buildings it’s often harder to ensure efficiency due to factors such as solid walls, limited insulation etc. Selecting a more efficient fuel or upgrading the boiler ensures cheaper running costs – all the more important when budgets are squeezed and the cost of delivering quality healthcare is going up. By controlling running costs, a care home like Stinchcombe can be more competitive.”
When Mr Carden was first considering his options to replace the troublesome oil boilers and end the constant worry of system break-downs, he looked into mains gas as a possibility. The mains supply runs along the road just outside Stinchcombe Manor, but capital costs were prohibitive:
“To bring in natural gas would have cost about £15,000 just for the groundworks, and the new connection, and then there’s the boilers and everything else. But Chui just gave me a courtesy call one day, and then we got together and sorted it all out.”
At Stinchcombe they believe in giving their vulnerable residents as much freedom and stimulation as possible. A local artist has painted murals on the walls to replicate familiar scenes including a Post Office and a pub, and residents who love dogs or aircraft or whatever their passion might be can have themed paintings in their rooms too.
Mr Carden’s aim is to ensure that they are warm, well-fed, and as stress-free as possible. At AvantiGas, we’ve done everything we can to make sure that the same applies for Mr Carden.