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  • David Leavitt

Winter's Coming!

I mentioned in my last post that Chelom and I visited Knockderry on January 2, 2023. Not only was water streaming down the art clad walls of the Music Room, but the entire building was freezing cold. We felt discouraged and not particularly positive about going through with the purchase of the castle. At that point, we still had the option of backing out. As we stood in a very cold living room expressing our doubts and discouragement to David Johnson and David Gibbon from GLM Architects, David Johnson remarked "this castle will feel like a completely different place with a little warmth. That resonated with us, comforting us in a moment when we very easily could have allowed the discouragement of a moment derail our hopes.

I don't know how long Knockderry Castle has gone without a central heating system. But from the looks of the dilapidated boiler in the basement, it seems clear that it's been a number of years that only portions of the castle was heated with other forms of heat. That cold day in January, while discouraging at the moment, has motivated us to ensure that there's not another winter as long as we're the owners that Knockderry Castle isn't heated with an efficient and warm heating system. Chelom and I began researching various heating systems almost immediately after purchasing Knockderry. We commissioned a study to determine what the heating needs would be to ensure that the castle is a warm and inviting place. For heating sources we looked at oil, electricity, geo thermal, wood chips, wood pellets, and whole log burning boilers. One thing is for sure: While all 18 fireplaces in the castle will be operational, their purpose will be for coziness, not the primary heat source.

Oil seemed the easiest, but neither the cheapest nor the most environmentally friendly. Electricity was too expensive. Wood pellets or wood chips made us feel too dependent on a fuel source that requires refining. We didn't want to be heating on the whims of a few wood chip or pellet processors. That left us with wood logs. I'll admit that I started the process a little biased toward a log burning boiler as Chelom and I had heated two homes with a wood log boiler in Utah over the course of about five years and had a great experience with it. The one thing that Knockderry's seven acres has is plenty of fallen wood to use for fuel.

We two wood burning boilers from Central Boiler Company. The Classic Edge 960 Titanium is 92% efficient, making it among the most efficient wood log burning boilers on the market. Each boiler produces up to 106 KW of heat. With two Classic Edge 960 boilers, we'll be able to supply heat and hot water to not only the castle but also the adjacent cottage that came with the castle. With fourteen full baths, 4 half baths, and three kitchens between the castle and the cottage having enough hot water on demand is no small task!

The boilers will be located in the outbuildings away from the castle and cottage. We'll place insulated hot water lines underground to access both structures. Once the hot water is in the castle, it will flow through a series of heat exchangers which will keep the castle cozy and warm all winter long. During summer months, we'll only operate one boiler for the production of hot water. What we're most excited about is the fact that for the next several years, we'll be able to heat the castle with fallen wood from the estate itself.

George, Paul, Colin, neighbor Stephen Dick, Chelom and I have been coordinating and working with CB Biomass (the UK distributor of the boiler) to make sure we've got a access to the outbuildings, electrical and water source run to the outbuildings, so that we can have heat in the castle. We're working toward a mid September date to actually have heat in the castle.

Here's to warmth in the winter!

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Mar 18

What were the main reason's not to work with a geo-thermal heating system? I can imagine that the soil alone would make it difficult to drill deep enough, but i wonder if there were other reasons as well.


Sep 18, 2023

Amazing that you can heat this entire castle (and cottage!) with just 2 boilers 👏


Sep 11, 2023

That is incredible - so much work! But it will be 100% worth it of course. Are propane or natural gas not an option over there like it is here in Idaho? Probably not the most affordable, but just curious.

Nov 19, 2023
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Unfortunately there is not a mains gas line on the peninsula that Knockderry Castle sits on and gas is almost as expensive as electricity in the UK.

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