Thinking about the winter months leaves most landlords cold. Many do not think to plan ahead. Others trust that circumstances will resolve themselves. To most, the months of blazing summer heat do not lend themselves to thinking ahead to burst boilers, faulty thermostats, and permafrost pipes.
Yet, by thinking now, landlords can leap the savings curve and increase the returns on their properties by reducing energy costs over winter. Landlords can make their properties more energy-efficient – and therefore economical – by starting in the summer. The services of plumbers, contractors, and even the price of fixtures will be cheaper when there is less demand, i.e. during the summer. Furthermore, by starting now, they have more time to brainstorm and get truly creative about their solutions.
It is this sort of foresight that separates the best landlords from the merely average. Tenants will appreciate a property that is comprehensively set up from the outset. Do not expect them to appreciate winter breakages, even if they are promptly repaired.
In the age of social media, the tenants are more vocal about the quality of lettings. Websites such as The Tenants’ Voice exist to rate and review landlords. In addition, the government is cracking down on energy inefficiency which costs tenants money. Research suggests that tenants are footing an annual average bill of £1265, and this is in cases where bills aren’t inclusive. If you, the landlord, are footing the bill, then you have even more incentive to act. Make the right decision and act now to insulate your wallet as well as your home (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/feb/05/landlords-draughty-homes-ban).
Condensation and damp get worse in winter. This makes sense, because during the winter months there is a greater temperature difference between the interior and exterior of your home. This causes water to condense on walls, windows, and even uPVC fixtures.
Homeowners and tenants keep their windows closed during the winter to retain heat, meanwhile they are also cooking, showering, breathing – and while we despair of our tenants sometimes, we could hardly prohibit them from doing the latter.
The solution? Check your home now. Search near and around windows and doors. Look for darker patches and black or dark green speckles. Sometimes damp is not obvious but it is still there, under the wallpaper, or beneath the carpet and floorboards. If your house a muggy smell or musty odour, you almost certainly have damp.
Most homes have damp, and even in small patches it can have big consequences for tenants and landlords. It is turns off around 44% of people looking to buy a house (http://www.envirovent.com/specifier/news/article/research-shows-mould-is-biggest-turn-off-when-choosing-a-home/). Furthermore, it can affect those with allergies to mould, and even contribute to adult respiratory problems. One study, rather disgustingly, found a direct link between household mould and the amount of phlegm, coughing, and wheezing in patients (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1485653).
The truth is that without a ventilation system in place to extract moisture from inside your home, there is no way to prevent the condensation building in winter. Tenants will keep their windows closed. The door will be opened only for fleeting moments at a time. This will create a muggy atmosphere within the house and – in the area where water pools – unsightly or hidden patches of damp.
By browsing the market now, you can research the best models and come to an informed decision on what system best suits your property. Furthermore, since prices are lower in the summer, you won’t be out of pocket.
During the winter, energy costs will go up. This is the case no matter how new your boiler, or how well you insulate your property. Yet the savings to be made are far from negligible. Loft insulation alone can slash energy bills by £240 a year (http://www.which.co.uk/energy/creating-an-energy-saving-home/guides/how-to-buy-loft-insulation/loft-insulation-costs-and-savings/). By installing cavity walls, you stand to slice off between £275 to £90 a year, depending on whether your property is a detached house or a two-bedroom flat (http://www.which.co.uk/energy/creating-an-energy-saving-home/guides/cavity-wall-insulation/cavity-wall-insulation-costs-and-savings/).
Here is a statistic: did you know that boilers account for 60% of domestic CO2 emissions according to the energy savings trust? This is a whopping percentage, and because the boiler is out of sight for the most part, it also tends to be out of mind as well.
Where boilers are 10-15 years old, they run 30-40% less efficiently than the most efficient condensing boilers. This can translate into major savings where boilers are accounting for most of the utility bills. If you have a boiler that looks like something out of the Flintstones, you stand to lose money, and where energy costs seem too high, this can involve needless wrangling over the phone with energy companies. This is too much time, hassle, and expense.
Installing a new boiler in the summer is cheaper. Boiler engineers are less busy in the summer. Even a schoolboy could tell you that boilers break down in the winter. It is Murphy’s Law: where something can go wrong, it almost certainly will go wrong, if only so the universe can spite you. By taking action against the possibility in the summer you do not have tenants going cold during the installation. Finally, you will be able to start making the savings from the very outset of winter.
While it is possible for a new boiler to break down during the winter, this is extremely unlikely. Even if it does happen, you will at least have the assurance of a warranty to ease your conscience.
You don’t need to be a GP to check your property’s pulse. The summer is the perfect time to apply some simple tests such as these.
Check for cold spots in your radiators. If there is a cold spot, this means there is air in the system. To resolve this, turn the system off and turn the radiator key until water runs efficiently. Bleeding the radiator can result in the central-heating pressure dropping, so if you have a pressure gauge on your boiler, be sure to check it. Installing a pressure gauge where you do not have one is a good way to consistently monitor the efficiency of your central heating system, so be sure to get one. Finally, if cold spots reoccur too frequently, you might need to speak to an engineer.
Along with insulation, keeping the heat in can be as simple as fitting draught excluders to windows and doors. These are cheap and can be purchased from DIY stores. With some kinds of windows, however, the heat will never be hermetically sealed in. Wooden frames are particularly bad for this, and single panes are much less efficient than double glazing. 23% of average heat loss in a home occurs through the windows, so it should come as no surprise to learn that double glazing can save as much as £500 per year (http://www.energydoubleglazing.org/save/index.html).
Finally, a good idea is to wrap up your water tank and to insulate your pipes with lagging. Burst pipes and boilers are a significant cost, but an even more significant hassle. By wrapping them you will come close to eliminating the possibility during the winter. This work is best carried out by contracts so, again, aim for a consultation during the summer when plumbers and engineers are less busy, and therefore less expensive.
Together with a ventilation system, these ideas are sure to winter-proof your property and secure vast savings on your current energy expenditure. Insulation and ventilation go hand in hand, just as the skin of your body would be useful without the lungs to respire and bring in the air. In many cases, energy saving is ineffective where is has been partially thought through. Think boilers, think burst pipes, think ventilation – and most importantly, think ahead. If the work to be carried out is expensive, you can save as much as 32% by having it completed during the summer.
For more information about either whole-house ventilation systems or heat recovery systems, please visit www.envirovent.com, and check out our blog for more energy saving and efficiency tips and tricks.