NIBE celebrates 20 years in Ireland
This article was originally published in issue 35 of Passive House Plus magazine. Want immediate access to all back issues and exclusive extra content? Click here to subscribe for as little as €10, or click here to receive the next issue free of charge
Two NIBE Fighter 310P exhaust air heat pumps were installed in the house of former Swedish trade commissioner Nils-Ove Johansson when it was built 20 years ago.
“They are still working perfectly since installation in springtime 2000, twenty years ago,” Johansson told Passive House Plus.
Johansson explains that between 1998 and 2000, he surveyed the Irish market to find a suitable distributor for NIBE. “I met approximately 15 different companies,” he said. “I finally narrowed it down to three companies and had further meetings with them. I had to convince the remaining companies that this was the future of heating systems for Ireland.
“In the end I recommended Unipipe which was the smallest of the three remaining companies on the shortlist, but I believed they had the best operation to take on a project like NIBE, not least due to [Unipipe managing director] Paul O’Donnell’s enthusiasm for the products he already represented. Despite the size of one’s company, if one is enthusiastic and believes in the product success will come eventually, especially if you have a high-quality product like NIBE.”
Johansson’s own house ended up being NIBE’s first project in Ireland. At the time, he and his wife Margaret Sheeran, who was also working to promote trade with Sweden, started looking for somewhere to settle down. They found a suitable site on a hillside outside Cork City and applied for planning permission.
From the outset, their house was designed to have very low energy consumption. They imported a timber frame system from Sweden, and laid a raft foundation with 300 mm of polystyrene insulation, at a time when the building regulations only required 50 mm.
“We included underfloor heating pipes in the foundation also,” Johansson says. “Special polystyrene perimeter edges also were used into which concrete was poured— the first foundation of its kind in Ireland.”
The walls and attic of the house were insulated with 240 mm and 400 mm of mineral wool respectively. Triple glazed windows were also installed. The house was built by four Swedish carpenters over three weeks, together with local electrical and plumbing contractors.
“Our two NIBE heat pumps are the first and oldest NIBE heat pumps in Ireland and are 20 years in operation,” Johansson said. “They are connected to the built-in mechanical ventilation system from Sjodalshus which ensures clean, healthy, fresh air with low humidity.”
The system recovers heat from outgoing stale air in wet rooms and uses it to provide heat to the underfloor heating system, while also delivering fresh air to living spaces. The house was used for 15 years as a show home to promote Swedish-made houses, windows, doors and heat pumps.
Margaret Sheeran became the Sjodalshus representative in Ireland and established the Swedish Trade Centre Ltd office.
Unipipe is still NIBE’s distributor in Ireland. “The general public perception of exhaust air heat pumps is that they are something new, but in fact we’ve been distributing the technology in Ireland for 20 years,” Paul O’Donnell told Passive house Plus.
“Air-to-water heat pumps tend to be the most popular type of heat pump in Ireland, but in Scandinavia exhaust air is probably more popular.” While air-to-water heat pumps are perceived as less than expensive than exhaust air, the former requires the installation of a separate ventilation system, while the latter does not. This makes exhaust air heat pumps competitive on price overall, O’Donnell said.
Today Unipipe sells NIBE exhaust air heat pumps up to 6 kW in output, with new models soon to be announced. These can also be combined with outdoor air intake units to provide extra heating capacity. Larger NIBE units are also available in ground and air source heat pumps.
The company’s line up will be updated shortly as NIBE expands its S series range, currently already available in ground and air source heat pumps, into its exhaust air line up. The new S range features in-built smart technologies such as weather forecasting and compatibility with home voice assistants.
For more see www.unipipe.ie