Heating Decision Making in Student Housing: influences and future options

Despite the efforts of landlords, local authorities and government, houses in multiple occupation (HMO) are often perceived as cold, and sometimes damp, with the tenants spending disproportionately large sums on energy. A 2018 report by the National Union of Students on students’ experiences nationally found that:

“49% of students described their HMOs as drafty and cold as a result of poor heating and/or insulation”

Moreover, UK properties are among the least thermally efficient in Western Europe and are responsible for 28% of the UK’s total CO2 emissions each year. Nevertheless, students are notorious for not managing their energy use; boilers are often left to continually heat an empty home, and tenants tend to open windows to cool off instead of lowering the thermostat.

Conversely, landlords sometimes allege that young tenants behave irresponsibly, failing to manage heating systems effectively, ignoring the environmental implications of their behaviour, and leaving others to pick up the bills for excessive heating or damage to property from lack of appropriate ventilation. Whatever the truth of the matter, how might the future situation be improved? Is it possible to improve tenants’ comfort, whilst simultaneously reducing energy use and bills in houses in multiple occupation, through the use of SMART controls?

Worcester Bosch

Led by the Worcester Students’ Union, the University of Worcester are working with local students, landlords, Worcester City Council, and Worcester Bosch Group to explore smart boiler controls in producing new opportunities for energy management for young people living in shared rental properties. Technological change sits in a cultural context, and more is needed to understand the attitudes of apparently ‘tech-savvy’ young people, particularly students, and landlords, towards taking action and to future take-up of these technologies. The research includes 150 in-depth interviews with students and landlords to ascertain their attitudes to domestic energy management, and the opportunities and potential limitations to the effective operation of these novel systems.

wccThis phase of the research is part of a wider investigation of energy use, the Energize Worcester Project.
A free half-day round-table workshop bringing together landlords, Local Authorities, academics, students, energy management systems manufacturers, energy providers, residents’ groups and others with interests in sustainability will take place at The Hive Sawmill Walk, The Butts, Worcester, WR1 3PD on Wednesday 11th December 9.30 to 1.30. To sign up please complete the form below   

  • 9.30 – 10.00 Arrival/Refreshments
  • 10.00 – 10.05 Welcome & Brief History of Energize Worcester – Katy Boom, Director of Sustainability University of Worcester
  • 10.05 – 10.20 Worcestershire Energy Strategy – Setting the scene locally – Alex Pearson WLEP
  • 10.20-10.40 Ewan Sutherland – Worcester Bosch – The current landscape for heating and hot water in domestic houses
  • 10.40 – 11. 10 Housing and energy: Ensuring students live in homes fit for study – Rachel Drayson NUS Insights Manager
  • 11.10 – 11.20 The Impact locally in the student housing market – a university reflection – Judith Bick  Residential services manager University of Worcester
  • Break
  • 11.35 – 11.50 Energize Worcester preliminary research findings – Engineering Students from Worcester Polytechnic Institue present their research
  • 11.50 – 12.20 Richard Forrester – Worcester Bosch – A walk through the web site and discussion on the findings
  • 12.20 – 1.00 Round Table workshops
  • 1.00 – 1.30 Networking Lunch, kindly sponsored by Worcester Bosch Group

Sign up to register for this free event by completing this short form 

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Rob Peachey
Rob Peachey
4 years ago

I have a property as an HMO and I also live there myself. I control the times of the heating on/off and every room has a thermostat to control the heat. IF THE BOILER IS ON. I realise this may not suit all my residents but I have never (Over 40 years) had a complaint about the heating. Naturally the walls and Windows are well insulated.

4 years ago

I presume that the survey quoted was for the U.K. as a whole. As the majority of Worcester Students are on an ‘included bills package’ the issue is wasted energy because it does not hurt their pocket. Despite various efforts by the University over the past 9 years there has been little or no change to the selfish attitudes of the students. They say they ‘care about our planet’ but then do the exact opposite. It’s time for some honest self appraisal on September 12th but I won’t hold my breath !!

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