Nov 17, 2019 Last Updated 10:52 AM, Aug 14, 2019

Fighting fuel poverty

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A recent survey for the National Housing Federation on welfare reform, found that housing associations estimate that nearly one in five of their working age tenants in receipt of Housing Benefit are affected by the size criteria, and on average, more than a quarter (29%) have fallen into arrears since its introduction on 1st April 2013. Steve Matner, UK Residential Key Accounts Manager for Hager UK explains more.


These figures have sparked debate across the country with Channel 4 airing its own documentary ‘How to get a council house?’ which delved into the changes to the welfare state, aiming to answer the question: How do councils cope with a lack of properties and a surplus of people in need of homes with affordable rent?

Social housing providers now need to look at different ways to adapt to the changing landscape and become less reliant on increasingly scarce government funding and more self-sufficient in finding value in existing relationships with suppliers to retain resident’s comfort and business viability.

As public sector organisations meet their borrowing limits development will grind to a halt, which is why Hager has developed a strategy to provide electrical solutions that are cost efficient, robust, and reliable.

National Energy Action (NEA) and Energy Action Scotland (EAS) recently reported in the UK Fuel Poverty Monitor that the number of British households living in fuel poverty now stands at almost 4.5 million. By investing in energy efficient products which control and reduce usage, housing associations and local authorities will be helping tenants avoid falling below the breadline.

A simple way to limit energy usage is through wiring accessories that control lighting, for example occupancy sensors and dimmer switches. Dimmed lights not only consume less power but can also extend the lifetime, while offering a stylish alternative to the traditional light switch.

The benefit of occupancy sensors is that they can be set to ‘absence detection’, which is activated when a person enters a room and makes a conscious decision to switch a light on, consequently avoiding nuisance detection. This is different to ‘presence detection’ where the light will automatically come on when it detects movement, potentially unnecessarily. The light is then turned off after a certain time period from when the infrared sensor no longer senses movement. This is an innovative solution for housing associations when considering energy saving solutions and particularly popular in children’s bedrooms, downstairs toilets and garages.

Introduced in 2002, the ‘Decent Homes Standard’ set housing associations with a target of ensuring that all social housing meets set standards of decency. As an innovator in the electrical industry Hager has worked to develop its products to provide particular benefit to the affordable housing sector. Electrical solutions are the veins of any home, and when it comes to social housing, where there is a high turnover of tenants, solutions need to be resilient in saving energy, providing electrical safety, security, and meeting legislation.

Essentially properties need to be designed for rent, and equipment durability is even more important in ensuring that products last longer and ultimately reduce maintenance costs. In the current housing climate products like wiring accessories and consumer units need to be of optimum quality and safety levels.

Often lower priced goods can have a reputation for being of a poorer quality which can subsequently provide a false economy if frequent repairs need to be carried out. Because of this safety standards are also taken extremely seriously at Hager. This is demonstrated via a dedicated facility at the manufacturing plant in Telford responsible for assessing various Hager products from sites across the world due to its rigorous testing process.

By pre-wiring and pre-testing products, Hager significantly reduces the labour costs as well as safeguarding from damage which is a key requirement when tenants change on a frequent basis. It is by sourcing from reliable and proven manufacturers that housing associations can ensure that risk is minimised in their properties. Arguably there are different ranks of product testing, and we go beyond the basic required level of testing by considering all potential scenarios and repeating the process multiple times.

The pull of demand in this sector means that projects, more often than not, have tight completion deadlines. With the pressure mounting, housing associations need to be choosing suppliers that have a proven track record in consistence of supply and product availability.

Public sector housing design will often incorporate specific requirements to meet the needs of tenants in order to make sure the property is absolutely fit for purpose. As a result of the reforms we have seen more housing associations and local authorities turn to us for bespoke engineered solutions designed in collaboration with the customer to manufacture to their specific needs. For example, Hager has previously supplied local councils with a series of bespoke full metal distribution boards for durability, and expects a general trend to follow across the country. We also believe that having a UK manufacturing base is essential to our public sector customers in meeting tight delivery schedules.

When the 17th Edition of the Wiring Regulations came into force in 2008, social housing providers were faced with further regulations around protection, control and distribution needs, including the protection of every socket in a house, protection to cables buried in walls and protection to circuits in special locations such as bathrooms.

In response, Hager adapted its consumer unit portfolio to encompass the Hager 17th Edition Consumer Unit which was developed closely with contractors and housing developers providing an aesthetic design that would fit into both new and existing properties. In retaining a high level of protection for the equipment, it improves installer and tenant safety reducing number call-outs.

To aid customers in the affordable homes arena in comprehending these changes, Hager offers technical training into the 17th Edition Wiring Regulations including the amendments. The regulations point out that consideration should be given as to whether all circuits can be connected to a single residual-current device (RCD), since this could lead to the loss of supply for the entire installation if there is a fault on just one circuit. Protection for smoke detector circuits is also likely to require special consideration.

Delivering affordable and quality public housing solutions that meet the ‘Decent Homes Standard’, as well as other regulations, is a mission in itself. It is therefore imperative that housing associations and local authorities pay attention to the vast scale of electrical solutions on the market and that they consider sustainability, safety, security, longevity and efficiency at every level.


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