Heating cost control in HMO’s

Heating cost control in HMO’s

19:00 PM, 14th May 2014, About 9 years ago 175

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I would greatly welcome the advice of other members on how to effectively manage heating costs. I have 2 HMO properties and rents include; water, gas, electric and broadband. Heating cost control in HMO's

Over the past 12 months the electric and gas bills seem to have rocketed. I have checked and the tenants are not growing weed but I suspect that they are keeping the heating on 24/7 and opening a window when it gets too hot.

I know there are products for this out there but don’t have experience of how they work.

Are there tried and tested ways of controlling a reasonable temperature and locking down the thermostat or being able to monitor it remotely?


Mark Hartell


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Elizabeth Bax

13:41 PM, 5th June 2014, About 9 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Ian Ringrose" at "05/06/2014 - 13:37":

Tell me more about external wall cladding - I have a very cold semi - heat disappears once heating is put on (tenants in total control of the heating) - please, is it successful and if so how successful.

Nigel Fielden

13:53 PM, 5th June 2014, About 9 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Ian Ringrose" at "05/06/2014 - 13:37":

Ian - I used the PRT-N. They are great - only issue was that they recommend using Cat5 cable which is nice and cheap but the conductors are fragile - next time would use alarm cable instead which is multi core. The heating is on two pumped loops, one for the bedrooms and the other for the common areas, with a single port valve by each room. Two UFH wiring centres. The relays in the wiring centres drive the boiler switched live inputs and no problems with cycling.

Harlequin - they program their own programmer with their own timetable - 3 on-off times per day, weekdays and weekends. One it's set there is nothing for them to do. I give them simplified instructions 🙂

russell armstrong

14:04 PM, 5th June 2014, About 9 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Harlequin Garden" at "05/06/2014 - 13:41":

Hi Harlequin

What is the structure of your property, how old is it and how well is the structure sealed against infiltration (trickle vents, vents for gas appliances etc)?

Elizabeth Bax

14:20 PM, 5th June 2014, About 9 years ago

It's a late Edwardian brick built with a solid flank wall. It has a massive (about 1.5m) meter void under the floorboards. There are air bricks under the floor and a couple in the flank wall into rooms, which is the devil's own job to stop tenants from blocking up or keep open, so we also battle with condensation, given the replacement windows. The tenants also complain that the sealed unit windows let in draughts, which they don't so am guessing the hot cold exchange does this. I have put in a fresh air fan into one flat with a condensation problem (envirovent?) seem ok and sorted out the problem of condensation. The problem with this place is the the tenants don't heat the house - they put it on and off as an when they come in/go out as they pay the bills. It was different when we had the 'all inclusive' wrist band going on - it was like a the Bahamas and they walked around in shorts and T shirts.

russell armstrong

15:06 PM, 5th June 2014, About 9 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Harlequin Garden" at "05/06/2014 - 14:20":


Air change rate is the single biggest killer of heat retention. If its old Edwardian there is a high chance of fire places as well, is that correct?

If it a solid (non cavity) double skin structure then I would first look to start sealing the building. The ventilated floor will also be a big killer, to slow this air change rate down you could try a very good quality rubber (as opposed to foam which lets air through) thick underlay. Maybe laying a polythene sheet (taped and sealed joints and edges) first.

Of course the more you seal the more condensation becomes a problem (due to a thing call dew point and humidity levels) Condensation at a given relative humidity forms as soon as it hits its dew point temp, the greater the RH the more easily it will form as condensation on cold surfaces.

On the matter of air change rate, if you had a hermetically sealed building your heat loss due to infiltration (except when windows and doors are left open!) would be 0.

This is why plate heat exchanger vent systems work so well as they introduce tempered "fresh air" into the building by reclaiming the heat energy from the exhausted warm moist outgoing air. That's called controlled ventilation vs casual ventilation (which is not controlled).

All these systems the guys are discussing are all good and its just a matter of cost verses effectiveness and control. If you are fortunate enough to be able to completely start again and re-pipe the entire heating system I would always choose weather compensated controls.

As I said before they load match the outside air temp and the thermal performance of the building so much better than any other method.


Matt Wardman

8:28 AM, 6th June 2014, About 9 years ago

It's good to see this thread *finally* turning to building fabric.

Given that the law requires Ts to have significant control, it is about incentives, visibility of cost and minimising energy needed. I'd say that all the high-techy suggestions are - to a degree - deckchairs on the Titanic.

The main driver will be cost experienced by the Tenant.at the point it hits their bank account. That is the point that effects action. I really want to see is Ts adding bills to rents when making a rental decision.

In our student houses the first two are managed via a scheme offered by our agent which charges a fixed cost per week per student for services and does a rebate/surcharge at the year end. The agent lets the students choose between suppliers for the year, and charges 50p a week for the service. All students are on a single contract. This is the blurb:**moderated - self promotional links are not allowed - please see >>> http://www.property118.com/advertising/65073/ **

Our houses are roughly Unipol level 5 6-beds and have an EPC score of about 75. They were purpose built just before 2000.

The ideal Central Heating solution would be not to need any and we are at the point where the cost of building such a house is only slightly more (5% or so) than a traditional setup, and doesn't need much complicated gubbins. The next new one I build will use the 'passive house' process, but without certification, as it models how a house works in detail, and will use some form of solar storage heating without moving parts, with a small secondary source for 'boost'. It will not have gas.

Hot water is ultimately a bigger problem than heating, since the instant heating requirement is higher. You need a big buffer tank.

On refurb, external wall insulation and all the other bits and pieces (good DG, airtight doors, under floor insulation etc) may make a difference of 50-80% over a house with nothing updated). OTOH lifestyle changes can halve costs on their own, but LLs do not control that.

Underfloor insulation is important, or alternatively a 'skirt' of insulation outside the house walls, so that the ground under the house heats up over time.

@nigel fielden, @harlequin garden, @ian ringrose There is detailed conversation on refurbishment over at the Green Building Forum. I have put forward an LL view, but the more the merrier.


As an aside, has anyone else calculated the lifecycle cost of a gas boiler? Horrific.

Robert M

14:32 PM, 7th June 2014, About 9 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Matt Wardman" at "06/06/2014 - 08:28":

Hi Matt

It's all very well and good talking about the building, and incorporating low energy solutions into a new build property, or even in a renovation, but the OP seemed to be asking about an existing HMO property where heating, lighting, etc, are included in the rent. I imagine that most HMO landlords have older properties where the thermal efficiency is limited by their traditional build.

Most of my HMO properties date from 1900 to 1950s and the cost of retrofitting with solar heating, underfloor insulation, solid wall insulation, etc, would be prohibitive, thus I, and other LLs with similar properties have to deal with residents who have the mindset that as the heat is included in the rent then they may as well have in on full blast all day everyday and if they get too hot then they will open a window or door and let the heat out. This is the reality of renting out to HMO residents, and this is the behaviour that I would like to curb, so that heat and power is provided as required, but is not wasted.

Elizabeth Bax

15:16 PM, 7th June 2014, About 9 years ago

Finally someone on the same page and dare I say the 'real world' of HMOs

helena dolisznyj

7:23 AM, 10th June 2014, About 9 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Robert Mellors" at "14/05/2014 - 19:27":

Hi Robert.
I'm just setting up my hmo
I have put señor lights in communal spaces.

But I was thinking of just thinking of setting combi to come on at set times for heating only.
Or constant at low temp?
And as it in its own room that room would be locked?.
Is there anything other advice you can offer please.
Also what do you supplied in each room?

john kelly

10:27 AM, 10th June 2014, About 9 years ago


I have several HMO's i have just switched to Hive heating for £199 and set the combi boiler to come on for C/H from 6.30am - 8.30 and 4.30 - 10pm each day.
During June to Sept the Central Heating is off. I am astounded that some LL's leave it on 24/7 i do not see the need to do this unless you live in colder northern areas of the UK. We are in Essex so i suppose we are a bit warmer.

i use auto Pir lighting throughout all my HMO's in the communal areas. They work well, but i have found low energy bulbs are blowing quite alot, so i wonder if i am actually saving money!

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