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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Deepak Rajput

9:05 AM, 15th May 2014, About 9 years ago

I have the same problem at one of my HMOs.

I've been advised to get one of those lockable cash boxes, cut a hole in the back and and mount the box on the wall over the timer.

Probably need one with a combination lock of some sorts otherwise maybe a problem for a service engineer to access if you're not with them.

Sounds extreme but probably effective.

Ian Ringrose

9:28 AM, 15th May 2014, About 9 years ago

Heating costs can change a lot from year to year just due to the weather, so it is hard to get an incentive system that works well. However it has been shown many times that if you give people a small reward for doing what they know is good to do anyway, then the result are total out of proportion for the size of the reward.

If you have 20 student flats that are all basically the name, then you can get the students to complete with each other, so making saving energy a game, but how do you stop them under heating and getting mould?

Alistair Cooper

9:35 AM, 15th May 2014, About 9 years ago

Thx Mark. I fear I have been a bit apathetic in my post however and it is interesting to read that even a small reward can make a significant difference to behavior so I am pleased to say that property118 has inspired me to give the reward system another go, especially in properties with less turnover.
I'll report back in 6 months time!

Robert M

9:44 AM, 15th May 2014, About 9 years ago

The incentive system may work for student lets, but I think they will be far less effective in HMOs let to DSS residents, as the turnover of residents can be fairly high, and their concern for the landlord's bills is non-existent. Many only stay for a few months, a few only stay for a few weeks, so with such short-term residents I don't think an incentive scheme would be workable.


11:09 AM, 15th May 2014, About 9 years ago

I recommend locking away the boiler and it's controls, installing a tamper proof thermostat upstairs (usually the warmest part of the house), draught proofing all doors and windows, put thermostats on radiators and insulating lofts and walls.

I'm trialling card meters in rooms at the moment which seems to be working well, not least that the tenants are remembering to turn off their equipment after use. I'm amazed, though, at the lack of finding anything plugged into the kitchen or hall sockets, but maybe that will come in time!

Growing weed is actually quite hard to do - you need lots of space, noisy fans and evidence of compost being littered through the house. You'd also fall through the front door with the smell. I budget on £100 pm each for gas and electric for a terraced house, electric showers and heating set 6-10am then 4pm-11pm.

Hope this helps

John Daley

12:11 PM, 15th May 2014, About 9 years ago

Hi Mark

First things first, are they actually using more energy. Gas and electricity prices have moved up substantially over the last few years. Check the bills for the units used over comparable periods. Make sure you have the lowest tariffs and check every year.

Secondly have a think about anything else that has changed, different tenants, building works etc. Is the heating system serviced and working correctly ? Radiators sludged up etc.

Then it's the property and its efficiency. Are the walls and roof properly insulated. If not you can probably get the job done for free if the residents are benefit claimants, you can probably get a new boiler on the same basis. Contact a few energy companies for grant funded work. Put linings in the curtains if you have not got double glazing.

If you supply white goods make sure that they are modern A rated ones. When you are paying for the energy, as you are here, then putting crappy old fridges and washing machines is a false economy. This kit leads a hard life in HMO's and the better quality kit will live longer and use less energy. Put in low energy bulbs everywhere.

Then it's the residents. No one will ever care if they are not responsible for the direct payment of costs. Whilst it is an admin burden getting the residents to pay separately for utilities is a certain way to get them to take more responsibility.

All the stupid answers relating to reducing the supply of heat or hot water should be treated with extreme caution. If you do something that restricts the tenants access to heating and hot water you are likely to have to explain your daft plan to an environmental health officer. You are also inviting damp and condensation to add to your troubles.

Its possible to meter energy use using calorie meters but it's expensive and completely over the top in an HMO. You can get a TRV that is lockable and can be set at a reasonable level (to achieve 21C on a cold day for a living room) or turned down by the resident. You have to balance your losses with the cost of the works.

Steve Masters

14:03 PM, 15th May 2014, About 9 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "John Daley" at "15/05/2014 - 12:11":

Peglar do a lockable TRV that I have used, Google "pegler mistral trv"
Haven't checked to see if the tenants have worked out how to remove the pins though!
But I did buy a bag of extra pins from Pegler just in case.

I increased the time the central heating was on for and noticed that the electric bill went down by a similar amount that the gas went up by. Saving neutral but still under my control and a lot safer than electric fires burning unattended in rooms!

On my next conversion I'm considering making the central heating system on each floor a separate zone under the control it's thermostat and zone valve as I have noticed that the top floors tend to be hotter than the ground floors (heat rises).

HMO heating standards require that all habitable rooms and bathrooms must be able to maintain a minimum temperature of 21C and be controllable by the tenants. I take it this means that I can control the heating so that it doesn't go much over 21C and the tenants can control it so that it can be turned down if desired (as if!).

High fuel bills are a fact of life for HMO landlords, it needs to be factored into profit calculations from the start.

Chris Amis

14:44 PM, 15th May 2014, About 9 years ago

A sensible safety idea might be to hard wire any heavy current devices and then only have low current trips on the ring in each room. Then tenants cannot plug in extra bar heaters.

But that would upset the EHOs who seem to insist on 6 double sockets in each room, a nice double fire hazard.

Ian Ringrose

15:08 PM, 15th May 2014, About 9 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Chris Amis" at "15/05/2014 - 14:44":

-> "A sensible safety idea might be to hard wire any heavy current devices and then only have low current trips on the ring in each room. Then tenants cannot plug in extra bar heaters."

The problem is a hair dryer uses over 2kw so will trip out a low current MCB, but even a 1kw heater running all the time is very expensive.

Chris Amis

15:48 PM, 15th May 2014, About 9 years ago

I know someone in the HMO game who deals with this by not including electricity, the tenants have to buy cards. Each room gets it own card meter and hardwired electric panel heaters.

The card selling gets to be a drag as tenants expect open all hours service and there are lots of sob stories.

It needs a lot of tenants and a business office the tenants can visit to make it work.

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