How technology can be used to reduce carbon emissions

By Duncan Forrow, Switchee, Key Account Director
Switchee technology

Sustainability is a growing concern for many housing providers, with Net Zero targets being set.

In an era of increasing number of carbon reducing activities at every level, there is a renewed focus on the dilemma that housing retrofit creates. On the one hand, aggressive volume-based targets need to be met, and on the other, budgets are unlikely to be able to accommodate the wide-scale, full-house, retrofit projects which are needed to achieve net-zero. Finding this balance dates back to the Decent Homes Standard and beyond.

Whilst technology is not the entire solution to the problem of energy efficiency in housing, it certainly helps. Some of these technologies are new to the market, while others have gained popularity because of the pressing need to improve the energy efficiency of properties without compromising resident comfort. The issue of energy and affordability from a resident perspective is ever more important. Recent changes to the energy markets have the potential for the UK to teeter on the verge of a fuel poverty crisis – any sustainability measures implemented should always be considered in the context of the effect they will have on the health and wellbeing of the dwelling’s residents.

As Key Account Director for Switchee, I often have conversations with Social Housing Providers who are considering different technological solutions for full house retrofit projects; I therefore wanted to share some thoughts on a few of the options out there.

Heat Pumps

The technology is not new. It has existed for many years with its first application in the United States in 1945, with Europe following in the 1960s. They are, however, gaining some serious ground due to huge sustainability implications. A heat pump works by absorbing external heat (i.e. from ground, air or water) and transferring it to a building.These systems are hugely sustainable, as they’re a closed-loop, requiring minimal maintenance. They aren’t completely carbon neutral – generating low carbon emissions from the energy required to run the pump itself. Though this is significantly less than traditional heating systems and with the added benefit of no on-site emissions. Heat pumps are being deployed across the country by a variety of different social housing providers including Anchor Hanover, Flagship and Trent and Dove Housing.

Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery (MVHR)

A Mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR) system works by extracting warm and damp air from a home, drawing in air from outside and then passing both of these airflows through a heat exchanger. This takes up to 90% of the heat from the outgoing humid air and transfers it to the new, lower-humidity air coming from outside; pre-warming the air entering the property. The energy cost of running an MVHR is significantly less than the required energy to reheat a property to the appropriate temperature – benefitting the resident through reduced relative humidity without the energy cost.

Smart Thermostats

Smart thermostats are another area of expansion for sustainability teams looking to improve the energy efficiency of their portfolios. By observing and learning a resident’s daily patterns and optimising the heating around them, smart thermostats adjust the heating up and down to improve the comfort levels of residents without wasting heating during periods where residents are not affected. This means that the heating is on at a comfortable level when they wake up but goes off when they go to work or go to sleep.

Connected devices and remote monitoring

The ability to capture data remotely is a vital tool in understanding the performance of a building and the behaviour of residents, while also managing the heating systems within a home while reducing costs and carbon spend. This enables an empirical, data led approach to the needs of residents and their specific home, providing archetypal or behavioural insights and risk across a range of challenges faced by landlords and their residents. These insights empower landlords to know the true energy performance of properties, prioritise interventions, better understand if retrofit measures have resulted in positive change and ultimately justify the investment required for net-zero investments.

Specifically designed for Social Housing, Switchee goes far beyond being a smart thermostat. Providing landlords with the insight they need to actively manage building fabric and its performance. It is Switchee’s mission to fight fuel poverty and provide social landlords with remote data insights that reduce carbon emissions, cut maintenance costs and improve resident well-being.

Using five sensors, Switchee understands occupancy and optimises heating settings, saving residents up to 17% on their energy bills. In addition, the data collected by the Switchee produces a landlord dashboard displaying a range of welfare and maintenance KPIs and alerts such as mould risk, poor performing insulation, fuel poverty risk, boiler performance and disrepair risk.

We are delighted to be working with over 90 Social Housing providers across the UK and look forward to supporting more organisations across the sector in their journey to reducing carbon emissions, ultimately reaching net-zero, while maintaining and improving resident comfort and safety.

Get in touch with us today and explore how Switchee empowers residents to reduce their energy consumption and gives landlords the tools to provide exceptional homes.,
0800 133 7957,

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