The heat is on to reduce energy bills across East Devon public leisure centres and swimming pools

Air source heat pumps may not be the solution to reducing East Devon leisure centre heating bills, a new report has found.

Consultations are to continue about how to reduce energy bills in East Devon’s leisure centres, writes local democracy reporter Rob Kershaw.

Exmouth swimming pool recently made national news for its use of a ‘digital boiler’ powered by cloud data servers.

Some estimates suggest this method of heating could more than halve the pool’s energy bill, although East Devon District Council (EDDC) officers believe the figure is closer to 30 per cent.

The council is the landlord of three public pools in Sidmouth, Honiton and Exmouth, and it is keen to reduce energy bills, with the heating of swimming pools being one of the costliest expenditures.

At an LED (Leisure East Devon) monitoring forum meeting on Tuesday (April 11) the company’s chief executive Peter Gilpin revealed that engineering giants Bosch had completed a free audit of heating systems in the district leisure centres.

It found that heating through air source heat pumps are not the “panacea” that some may think.

The audit suggests that new boilers, like ones recently installed in Sidmouth, often work better than new air source heaters, which are too big for places like Axminster’s Flamingo Pool.

The chancellor’s budget last month confirmed that over £60 million is to be spent on leisure centres with swimming pools, and East Devon’s facilities may be able to grab a share of that cash to improve facilities.

Government funding of £40 million is also available for decarbonisation, with a further £23 million prioritised for socially deprived areas.

But there is some debate about which energy source is the most efficient. Independent Cllr Nick Hookway suggested that the council engage “consultants as quickly as possible to provide us with further information to make a long-term decision.”

Most councillors at the meeting agreed to seek expert guidance on heating solutions, while officers will prepare a bid for government funding.

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