How Colin keeps Wiston Lodge warm

Making sure our guests have warm rooms and hot water is vital and, thanks to our biomass boilers, the lodge is cosy even in winter. Our head groundsman, Colin Aitken, oversees the two burners and their infrastructure, a system which was installed in 2015.

The system is highly efficient, and needs strict maintenance. Every week Colin and his assistant Cody clean out the ash buckets, which collect the dense carbon waste produced by the burning. Then every month the burners – a main one and a back-up – are deep cleaned. Keeping them clean is vital to their smooth running, and even a large chip stuck in the system can cause a fault. 

Eight tonnes of woodchips are delivered every two weeks. These are piled in the woodstore behind the boiler room. From there, they are shovelled into a huge bin, called a hopper. At the bottom of the hopper, a giant agitator disk with four blades slowly pulls the chips towards a large moving corkscrew, which then feeds them into the burners.

Heated water is then transferred to the lodge via underground pipes. Heat exchange between the water store at the house and the store at the biomass plant keeps the temperatures responsive to demand and the weather. The water system works best when it’s being used – so run those baths and run ‘em hot!

The job is not only about maintenance, it’s about guest safety and comfort: Colin also has to ensure the water runs at the correct temperature to kill water-borne bacteria in the house, and needs to watch upcoming weather. If it’s going to get noticeably colder or warmer, he needs to adjust the boilers so that the heat in the house can be altered. Even in a large Victorian lodge it can get too warm.

The waste from the boilers is efficiently used – each day only about a cola-can’s worth is produced from each machine. Colin saves it and in summer the carbon is thinly spread on the grounds around the estate, where it feeds back into the soil.

Things have come a long way since the days when Wiston Lodge was heated only by oil and open fires.

Colin would like to give our boilers names – at the moment they are simply A and B. Help give them a bit of personality by sending us some gender-neutral suggestions!