Powering the Future: A landlord's guide to affordable energy upgrades

Posted on Monday, April 22, 2024


Glynn Williams, UK country director at energy solutions provider, Grundfos, looks at the energy upgrades that landlords can and should make to their properties.

As we navigate the evolving landscape of UK net-zero ambitions, it's essential for landlords leasing domestic properties to play an active role in enhancing energy efficiency within their properties.

The recent decision to scrap mandatory EPC obligations for landlords provides a unique opportunity for the sector to contribute proactively to a sustainable future.

From “hydraulic balancing” to replacing old “circulator pumps”, there are several opportunities within the home that are often neglected compared to more conventional and resource-intensive upgrades such as upgrading insulation.

Energy efficiency upgrades that deliver significant environmental and financial benefits don’t need to be costly or take long. Grabbing low-hanging fruit upgrades can streamline energy consumption, leading to substantial savings in both the short and the long term.

Maximising circulator pump efficiency

Circulator pumps, the often overlooked components that push hot water around central heating systems, play a crucial role in energy consumption. Modern pumps consume significantly less energy while providing the same heating output by modulating their speed according to the temperature change required.

In the average home, heating systems and boilers account for around 60% of energy consumption. So, improving these systems at their core can generate substantial savings.

In fact, modern pumps consume up to 75% less energy to provide the same heating output.

By upgrading outdated circulator pumps, landlords can reduce energy expenses either for themselves or for tenants responsible for bills, offering a win-win situation for both parties. The upfront cost is a small investment compared to the substantial long-term savings, with the upgrade paying for itself within two years.

Identifying illegal pumps

Landlords should check not only that the circulator pumps in their properties’ central heating systems are sufficiently new, but also that they abide by the UK’s compliance standards. Non-compliant circulators could account for as much as 10% of the one million pumps imported to the UK annually, with each one resulting in energy bill increases of up to £110 per property per year.

Identifying these illegal pumps is therefore crucial for keeping energy costs down. To ensure a pump is compliant, landlords should check if its Energy Efficiency Index (EEI) is less than or equal to 0.23, confirm the presence of an official CE marking, and ensure the power usage does not exceed 85 Watts.

Balancing heating systems for optimum performance

Many rental properties suffer from inefficient and unbalanced heating systems, leading to discomfort for tenants and inflated energy consumption. In fact, the Energy Ministry – formerly BEIS – has suggested that just 10% of the UK’s heating systems are properly balanced.

Hydraulic balancing is a simple yet effective fix for an installation professional to provide, ensuring the efficient distribution of hot water through heating systems. This adjustment not only improves home comfort but also results in energy savings ranging from 5% to 20%, translating into noticeable reductions in heating bills.

Running Home Energy Audits Currently, more than a quarter of consumers never monitor the energy performance of their heating system and an additional 40% only check it once a year. It is crucial that households run regular home energy audits, identifying areas where energy is being wasted and pinpointing ways to optimise energy use.

Regular home energy audits are essential for identifying areas of energy wastage and optimising energy use. Landlords should ensure routine checks on the efficiency of their boilers, a step often overlooked.

Efficient boilers are key to avoiding wasted energy, compromised comfort, and high energy bills. Investing time and resources in these audits can pay off handsomely in the long run.

Checking the right temperature

Boilers set at unnecessarily high temperatures – between 70 and 80 Celsius –contribute to wasted energy and increased costs. Many households with condensing combi boilers can be suitably warmed with heating flow temperatures of around 50 to 70 Celsius.

Landlords can make a significant impact by adjusting the maximum temperature of their boiler and investing in controlling devices such as radiator thermostats.

Avoiding common misconceptions and pitfalls

Lastly, landlords should dispel myths about expensive energy efficiency measures. While improvements such as insulation and upgraded windows are valuable, focusing on the root causes of energy waste through critical improvements in heating systems is the only way to get to the heart of the issue. Addressing these inefficiencies can lead to substantial savings and quicker returns on investment.

Empowering landlords to implement these practical, cost-effective measures is crucial for realizing the collective goal of a sustainable and energy-efficient future. By taking these steps, landlords not only contribute to national objectives but also create a positive and economically viable environment for their tenants.

For those unsure about implementing these measures, seeking guidance from organisations such as Citizens Advice or consulting with accredited energy efficiency experts is a prudent step forward from here.

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