Heating cost control in HMO’s

Heating cost control in HMO’s

19:00 PM, 14th May 2014, About 10 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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Romain Garcin

15:40 PM, 2nd June 2014, About 10 years ago


The only thing I know is from the guidance of the Housing Health and Safety Rating System, which states that tenants should not be exposed excess cold or heat, and that they should have access to temperature controls to that effect.

As to what excess cold and heat are, the guidance says:

Cold: "A healthy indoor temperature is around 21 ̊C. There is small risk of health effects below 19 ̊C. Below 16 ̊C, there are serious health risks for the elderly, including greatly increased risks of respiratory and cardiovascular conditions. Below 10 ̊C a great risk of hypothermia, especially for the elderly."

Heat: "Include increase in thermal stress, increase in cardio vascular strain and trauma, and increase in strokes. Mortality increases in temperatures over 25C. Although not common, problems can occur in the UK."

Link to the document:

From the above, I would think that as long as temperature is or can be controlled so as to stay around 21C there should be no ground for the council to object.

Industry Observer

16:21 PM, 2nd June 2014, About 10 years ago

Hi Romain

Thanks for this, I had forgtten HHSRS and you answer most of the questions except the key one, which is control and who sets the temperature.

I'd still be amazed if an EHO on a HHSRS inspection was happy if the thermostat could not be controlled by the tenant. Just as they wouldn't be happy to find windows with locks and no keys, though possibly for a different reason.

Just doesn't feel right to me that a Landlord controls the temperature, as opposed to instructing a tenant how to control it.

We are just talking HMOs and Landlord as bill payer, of couse. I assume Landlords couldn't care less how much heat tenants generate or don't where they are paying the bills?

Industry Observer

16:25 PM, 2nd June 2014, About 10 years ago

And that Ian (and everyone else) I would suggest is why the Landlord cannot control the thermostat, or have a thermo valve on the radiator closest to it, but locked to say 16C.

The more I think about this the more examples I can think of. Here is another one. Residcent Landlord, in flat downstairs, rents out five others over 2 floors above, ordinary radiators bu the has the thermotat in his own accommodation. So he controls the temperature rest of the house.

Anyone think the EHO is going to like that?!!


16:29 PM, 2nd June 2014, About 10 years ago

- am I missing something here? control what you/landlord pays for and get the tenant to pay for any extra. The only think we can't control is the weather - and yes, I've had that conversation.

Ian Ringrose

16:34 PM, 2nd June 2014, About 10 years ago

Hi Industry Observer,

The landlord can control and lock the main thermostat; provided it is set high enough that the tenants can control their own rooms using the thermostat values on the radiators.

Thermostat values can be installed with a max temperature the tenant can set them too. However it only takes a few minutes on Google to find out how to defeat this.

A main thermostat in an unheated hallway set at 16c, may be enough to allow any of the heated letting rooms get to well over 21c. It TOTALLY depends on the building. The building regulations require a main thermostat so the boiler is not running when it is 25c outside!

The other option is card meters for each room and making the tenants pay for the high running costs of electric heaters.

Romain Garcin

16:41 PM, 2nd June 2014, About 10 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Industry Observer " at "02/06/2014 - 16:21":

Well this is indirectly answered in the guidance, I think: Though it says that tenants should have control the key is the hazard to health, and control, I think, is to ensure that temperature can be lowered or increased in order to not to be a hazard.

If the tenant cannot set the temperature but it is regulated so as to remain adequate then there is no hazard to deal with.

That being said, I am sure it somewhat depends on the council and the inspector...

Industry Observer

16:41 PM, 2nd June 2014, About 10 years ago

The whole issue is about 'control'. Forcing the tenant to have a temperature regime set by the Landlord though whatever fancy control mechanisms, thermostats with security controls, coal bunkers with padlocks on them or whatever.

Does a Landlord have to restrict himself to telling the tenants what to do, or can he do it for them?

Landlord saying like Mr Scrooge that the tenant can have one piece of coal and another if he pays for it to get the room temp above freezing is hardly going to pass HHSRS is it.

The whole issue here is about the word "control" as opposed to "influence" or "suggest" or "recommend".

The initial enquiry on this thread was what a Landlord can do to "control" use of electricity etc in a property. I know technically it can be done - question is whether legally it can be done.

Forgive me but doesn't it all smack a bit of Rising Damp?

Ian Ringrose

16:54 PM, 2nd June 2014, About 10 years ago

Hi Industry Observer,

The problem is how to stop.
a) A tenant having their room at 30c 24hr a day
b) A tenant opening the window while the heating is set to max in their room
d) A tenant using an electric fire to defeat the solution to (a) and (b)

While still giving tenants a reasonable level of control over the heating.

I expect that for most tenants in HMOs, there would be no issues under HHSRS if the heating in a room was setup so it could not run if the window was open, or the temperature was above 19c in the room. However there is no cost effective way of doing this that I know off!


16:55 PM, 2nd June 2014, About 10 years ago

As I said at the start, I think, is that if the heating is on 24/7 the tenant opens the window, if the weather is colder, they complain and make a fuss - if you pay for your own heating you put on a jumper. I have tenants in a shared house who make a massive fuss about the cold - they are in total control of the power, so they freeze, their last gas bill for 4 bed house was £650 for a year via a key meter because no one will take responsibility for a bill - yet they moan to me that it's cold and want thermal curtains and blinds, they have double glazing and carpet, mixed living produces complainers - that's it. Can we stop now please?

russell armstrong

9:12 AM, 3rd June 2014, About 10 years ago

HI All

I'm new here and have read this thread quite carefully. I am a qualified plumber and heating and vent design engineer, in the building services fro 30 years, so I have some experience to add here. First does this forum have other experienced ppl to help you out? I presume not as they would have answered your question.


Do you guys want an understanding of the types and reasons for the various options out there?

I can comment directly on a specific installation or I can talk about theoretical best installations or upgrades to what you have installed. The overall concept of "heating controls" are quite simple but to deliver a system that does what you want takes time and money, the variation found in between are many and varied.

I have to discuss matters from at least one point of view. I will talk about controls for HEATING only, once you add in additional "best installations" for hot water then it adds a further complicating layer.

So do you want me to discuss

1/ Existing installation or
2/ Blue sky options

If I discuss both at the same time the post becomes v. long

So some basic elements for heating (sorry if its teaching anyone to suck eggs.

Consider the building as a box. The box (when heated) looses temperature from the hot side to the cold side. It looses heat quicker when the temperature difference between the two is greater. Design engineers take a blend of (almost) worst case scenarios in order to size radiators and the boiler, but take into account diversification so as not to vastly oversize the installation.

The only method to slow down the heat loss is by insulation (forget the issue of infiltration and/or windows being left open) Infiltration is taken into account when designing but it is a best guess because ultimately the design engineer will not know how well the builder will "screw" the building together. New build go through a pressure type test to verify the integrity of the building envelope.

So the building now has insulation of whatever quality, it doesn't really matter what it is, it is what it is. You can save energy by improving the quality of insulation, but that's obvious, however when someone leaves a window open............

So we have a box that is insulated, the box looses heat in accordance with the laws of physics. The colder it is outside the faster it will loose heat. Make the building warmer and it will loose heat even faster, but we are trying to achieve comfort conditions so lets take for example a design day of internal temp 21degC with an external minus 3degC.

BTW although designers know that temps fall below 3degC they don't fall that far below for much of the time and so as not to oversize they will allow a certain amount of "drift" of the internal temp. Thus it may be acceptable for the internal temp to fall to 17-18degC when outside is minus 6, 7 or 8degC.

So when you plug all the figures in for a "design day" the boiler will need to input into the building enough energy to offset the heat losses to keep a steady state condition.

Variables to consider when putting heat in

The boiler has the capability of heating the heating water up to 80degC, so designers design the heat input into the building based upon a flow temp of 80degC and a return temp of 70degC. Delta T = 10degC

The radiators are sized individually (room by room) based on the rooms actual heat loss. A design heat output from a radiator is dictated by the temperature of the room verses the radiators "mean" temp. Thus a bedroom is designed to be 19degC with a mean rad temp of 75degC, the amount of heat coming out of the rad on that basis is dictated by its size (bigger more etc) So at the outset you put a rad big enough to cope but not to oversize (can you see how all the parameters are increasing here, allowances and fudges can make the installation so much larger than it needs to be, then we select the rad at the "next size up" just in case!!!

So for example if a room has a heat loss of 1kw a rad needs to be sized on the rooms design temp to give out 1kw at a mean rad temp of 75 room temp 19, go to your rad sizing chart and choose one that fits.

A living room may have a temp requirement of 21degC, the boiler flow temp may not be 80degC, the outside temp may not be minus 3, so for most of the year the system you have has the capability of massively oversupplying heat to the envelope unless we somehow control the variable heat input verses the temperature on the individual day.

People I introduce you to the wold of weather compensated, optimised controls.

If we could fit a fully integrated BMS (building management system) into the building you would have completed control of ANY function that you designed in. You could give the tenant the ability to override your settings for "boost periods" but the landlord set parameters would be returned to at the end of the said boost period.

However full BMS systems are outside most domestic dwellings cost justifiability (maybe)

A weather compensation optimised (WCO) system has the ability to match the heat input into the building (by varying the flow temp) automatically and tracks and calculates via sensors the effect of changes in outside temp vs the set point of the internal stat. Some systems have algorithms that are self learning and will calculate that to heat a building from x to y at an outside temp of z it will need to input a kw for b time to get there and will do it in the most efficient way, keeping the boiler firing in its most efficient flow temp (50degC) so it is in condensing mode as much of the time as possible. (thus giving even more energy savings at mid seasonal times (spring/autumn) when the requirement for heat input is vastly reduced)

Most domestic WCO controls are not truly self learning they operate on a pre-designed curve, but they are better that having a fixed-preset flow temp that stays the same all year round.

Is this useful do you want me to continue?

Best regards


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