Pump up the heat

One area with huge potential for decarbonisation is heating and hot water. While this issue must be tackled in all buildings, there is a huge opportunity for housing associations specifically to take steps to decarbonise as Achilleas Georgiou from Mitsubishi Electric explains

Currently, heating and hot water are significant emitters of carbon, and home heating contributes up to 17% of the UK’s carbon emissions. Around 1,600 housing associations in the UK make up 20% of the country’s housing stock, so changing how they provide heat for their tenants is vital, and decarbonising this section of the UK’s housing market would be a huge step towards net zero. To get there, more energy-efficient technologies are a must. These will not only lower emissions but lower energy costs – keeping bills down and helping to keep tenants out of fuel poverty.

Recognising this opportunity, the UK Government has supported the shift to renewable technologies in housing associations, offering support such as the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund to improve the energy efficiency of social rented homes.

Heat pumps: The sustainable choice for housing associations

Heat pumps are a reliable option for making heat more sustainable. Their efficient performance allows them to produce 3 kW of heat energy for every 1 kW of electricity consumed, while a gas boiler produces less than 1 kW.

As well as reduced energy usage, there is tangible evidence that heat pumps keep energy prices down for social housing tenants. For example, the Clydesdale Housing Association saved around £850 per year for each tenant after installing over 30 air source heat pumps. This helped keep tenants out of fuel poverty, all while contributing to a greener economy.

Ensuring optimal product performance and minimising disruption

Effective management and maintenance of heating systems play an important role in ensuring tenants benefit from cost efficiency and stay comfortable. Poor visibility of the internal workings of heating systems means inefficiencies often go unchecked, and repairs almost always need to be done in person. Heat pumps offer an alternative solution. Many heat pumps are built with technology that allows them to be monitored and controlled remotely and can even have issues fixed by expert engineers without the need for a site visit.

Housing associations can greatly benefit from this. By giving tenants close control over their heating and making maintenance and repairs straightforward, the product’s lifespan can be extended. Greater efficiency leads to greater return on investment and ensures systems work effectively for tenants.

Maximising product lifespan and tenant comfort

Extending the lifespan of products is also essential to maximising investment, and keeping waste energy to a minimum is a critical way to ensure this. Fortunately, heat pumps have this consideration built in.

For example, heat pumps allow the temperature to be adjusted individually in each house or apartment, meaning tenants can choose what is appropriate for them. The benefit of this over a centrally controlled temperature is that no energy will be wasted heating homes that prefer a cooler temperature. Not only this, but it keeps tenants happy and comfortable, too.

That said, tenants should be informed on the most effective way to operate their heat pump. Heat pumps are designed to run for longer periods and keep the room at a constant temperature, rather than being turned on and off regularly like a gas boiler – which newer users may not initially understand.

The ease of controlling the temperature of spaces is another measure that will ensure energy-efficient use. Remote controls and apps help tenants manage their heat pump from their personal devices. From there, they always have visibility over how the system runs, set weekly heating schedules, and even see the weather forecast to plan future energy use.

This type of cloud-based monitoring is helpful for tenants and makes professional management and maintenance of heat pumps much simpler. Heating engineers can access the systems’ monitoring information, data, and diagnostics remotely – enabling them to fix some technical issues remotely. With more seamless maintenance and energy-conscious controls, heat pumps make efficient use simple.

Final thoughts

As the UK advances toward achieving net zero emissions, we must rethink how the country’s housing stock is heated. This is especially pressing in the case of housing associations and large developments, where tenants don’t have as much choice over their heating systems. Heat pumps can help greatly reduce emissions across the board and provide other benefits to tenants, housing associations, and those who maintain the products. Lower energy usage, greater efficiency, and sophisticated remote access make heat pumps an effective solution for approaching modern heating.

This technology is already available, and it can make a real difference to home heating.

Achilleas Georgiou is communications manager at Mitsubishi Electric