Soaring heating bills force housing associations to remove heat pumps
Associations ditch green heat pumps
Several housing associations are taking action over new eco-friendly heat pumps installed in their properties after tenants reported unexpectedly high energy bills.
Five housing associations say they have been affected. One has removed and another is removing some of the ventilation heat recovery pumps from new homes. The heat pumps were expected to lower energy bills through their energy-efficient design - but in a few cases tenants received bills of up to £2,000 a year.
Some landlords are also considering legal action against the Swedish manufacturer of the pumps NIBE Energy Systems and/or the contractors that installed them. NIBE argues that the landlords have not installed the pumps correctly - and Inside Housing is unaware of any issues with the majority of landlords - between 30 and 50 - that have installed the pumps.
Plus Dane, Bedfordshire Pilgrims Housing Association, Affinity Sutton, Westward Housing Group and Shoreline Housing are among the affected housing associations.
Geoff Morgan, design management consultant at Rodney Environmental Consultants, has been called in by some of the housing associations to investigate.
Mr Morgan said one possible reason for the issues is that the heat pumps ‘are devised to work in buildings that have far lower heat loss than their equivalents in Britain, consequently they rely far less on the immersion heater than they do here’.
Plus Dane has replaced all 69 heat pumps it installed in 2010. A Plus Dane spokesperson said: ‘We have also compensated our customers for the energy costs they incurred. We are now seeking legal advice and examining all the evidence to determine whether we can recover our costs.’
BPHA is taking legal advice and has also helped residents pay their heating bills - it has so far paid £52,000 to residents. It is removing 43 of the 250 NIBE heat pumps it put in by 2010 but is yet to decide the fate of the remaining 207 pumps.
NIBE Energy Systems said 15,000 of its heat pumps had been installed in properties in the UK, mainly by housing associations, and claimed problems were down to the pumps not being installed correctly.
A spokesperson for the company said: ‘Despite clearly not being responsible for the issues facing these consumers, NIBE has been very active in trying to resolve them.
‘It has attempted to contact all concerned and offered free servicing, recommissioning and user training visits. NIBE has also produced instructional DVDs to help consumers understand how to use it efficiently.’
Phil Hurley, managing director of NIBE, added: ‘These systems are working brilliantly in thousands of homes across the UK without increased energy costs and, according to independent research, have dramatically reduced costs in many cases.’
Robin Curtis, director of consultancy Mimer Energy, said housing associations should not be put off using heat pumps and that correctly installed pumps could result in energy bills of £600 to £700 a year.
‘The UK is so far behind on heat pumps we have a terrible learning curve to go up,’ he added.