How to cut energy bills if you live in a flat

The latest official census figures show that more than 20% of the UK population lives in blocks of flats. That’s more than 10 million people nationwide.

If you’re one of them, have you thought about the energy efficiency of your block, and the impact this has on your heating bills? Or have you concluded there’s little that can be done to improve the energy efficiency of a high rise building – and that, even if it could, you as an individual within the block can’t do much about it?

The truth is that many buildings of three storeys and above can readily benefit from energy efficiency measures. For example, where a building is suitable for cavity wall insulation, heating bills for each flat could be slashed by 20% - that’s a typical saving of £120.

Ah, but at what cost – and who pays?

Installation generally works out at between £500 and £1,500 per property. But this work is available free of charge under the government’s ECO (Energy Company Obligation) scheme, which is due to run until March 2017.

Government provision – how it helps

ECO has been in the headlines recently because the government has relaxed the deadline for the scheme (which was originally 2016) to enable energy providers to pass on savings of around £40 to their customers (although not all have done so – but that’s another story).

There is a division between ‘standard’ insulation work (on houses) and ‘hard-to-treat’ cases (such as flats), and many energy firms are focusing on the former to achieve their targets in time.

But ECO support will continue to be available for so-called hard-to-treat buildings such as blocks of flats, so it remains something worth exploring.



Getting organised

 Another key concern for flat-dwellers who explore the potential of cavity wall insulation is co-ordination. The nature of the work involved and the necessary economies of scale require whole buildings to be done as a single project.

That means getting everyone in the building involved, including, of course, the landlord, where properties are let.

Fortunately, there are ways to convince your landlord or property management company that it’s a good idea to get involved in energy efficiency schemes.

Daniel Green of HomeSun, which specialises in cavity wall insulation, said: “As we’re now in the height of winter, with temperatures plummeting and energy bills ever on the rise, it’s a no-brainer way to save money on heating bills and have everything taken care of for you – for free.”

Green points out that landlords have an additional incentive to apply, as they begin to comply with legislation set out by the Energy Act 2011. This will prevent them from letting-out properties which fall below a prescribed level of energy efficiency without making improvements. He warns: “Fines of up £5,000 per property could be imposed for those falling short of the bar.”

If that’s a stick, there’s a carrot in the form of completion payments that might be paid to landlords by the firm that undertakes the insulation work.

Tenants united

Companies such as HomeSun will often work with tenants associations – or even individual tenants – to help spread awareness and encourage participation in a cavity wall project at a building with three or more storeys. They will lobby the landlord or property manager to advance a practical, professional proposal for the work.

* Up to 10% can save at least £244.64, MoneySupermarket data based on sales. June 2013

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