With new metering and billing regulations and concerns over efficiency and costs, landlords are now looking at communal schemes more closely than ever. There is also a significant shift of risk from utilities to housing providers compared to traditional individual gas or electric heating.
At its most basic communal heating is any heating system that links more than one property to a single heating system. Typically this consists of a central boiler in a plant room that is fed with gas and the heat is distributed by pipes to the homes.
Taking a strategic approach will ensure that landlords remain compliant and can deliver significant efficiency and cost savings. The benefits of communal heating is the potential to be more efficient and provide lower cost heating with lower carbon emissions but these benefits can only be realised if schemes are well designed and managed.
There are more communal heating schemes than ever before, with new ones being built every year. In addition many of the older schemes have plant that is coming to the end of its life, having been built over 30 years ago. This has combined with an increase in regulation that means there needs to be a greater understanding of systems and how to manage them.
FIVE THINGS LANDLORDS SHOULD KNOW ABOUT COMMUNAL HEATING
1 System efficiency is the key to delivering communal heating that provide affordable and flexible heating. It is important that the overall system efficiency (i.e. from ‘fuel in’ to ‘heat delivered’) is clear, as should the single point of responsibility for achieving the efficiency.
2 Appropriate ‘plant’ metering: Meters must be provided so that plant room efficiency can be determined. A methodology must be available to determine overall system efficiency, together with the efficiency of the plant room and the heat distribution system.
3 The Housing Provider needs to be involved in, if not in full control of, the selection of the Metering and & Billing provider. Selection of the M&B operator will inform the choice of components. This will specifically include the heat meters, but potentially also the HiU’s. It is also likely to inform the requirements for metering communications equipment.
4 Pay as you go provides a good service to customers and protects housing providers from debt risk. There are two problems with credit meters. The first of these is that payments are typically received after a significant delay. The second, and more important, issue is that housing providers would be exposed to significant debt risk if credit meters are used.
5 Metering & Billing must comply with the requirements of the National Measurement Office (NMO) to meet the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive for metering & billing of communal energy systems.
And finally…while communal heating represent a technical challenge and these elements must be got right, equally important is how this is developed and delivered internally by housing staff. They need to understand the issues, what their role is and how this all fits together to deliver low risk, high quality and affordable heating to customers.