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Creative thinking is key to making our homes greener and fit for the future

There’s been a lot of discussion and debate over the last few weeks about what we, as society, businesses and individuals need to be doing to address the worsening climate emergency. 

By Bob Spedding, Head of Asset Strategy, Yorkshire Housing

At Yorkshire Housing we’re committed to reducing our environmental impact and tackling climate change. Our 16,500 homes across Yorkshire produce around 50,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year and we plan to get that number to net zero to 2050. And to help us do that, we’re investing £30 million over the next five years in an extensive programme of energy efficiency and heating system upgrades. 

We’ve already delivered a couple of major energy efficiency upgrade projects. Our first was in 2022 when we replaced solid fuel heating systems with air source heat pumps and installed solar panels, reducing our customers’ energy consumption and cutting carbon emissions by around 30 tonnes a year. We’re also nearing completion of a £1.3 million project where we’ve installed air source heat pumps, solar panels and external wall insulation, and have another similar project due to start in North Yorkshire later this year. But these types of measures aren’t always necessary or suitable.

We own and manage lots of different types and ages of properties, from small flats in towns and cities, to large family homes in rural villages, and when it comes to finding the right solutions to improve the energy performance of our homes, there’s no ‘one size fits all’. That’s why we’re very open-minded about exploring all sorts of new and emerging technologies that will not only reduce the carbon footprint of our properties, but will also make them warmer, healthier and more affordable for our customers.

A great example of this approach is our recent investment of £200,000 in a pilot project to trial infrared heat panels in 30 of our flats in York. The existing electric panel heaters which are at the end of their life and due for replacement, are bulky, inefficient and expensive to run. The infrared panels are also electric-powered, but because they have a very low wattage, they’re more economical, and their slim, minimalist design means they take up less room and are more attractive than many conventional heating systems.

Infrared heat panels are ideal for smaller, well insulated properties like flats that have small space heat demand, and this was a key driver in our selection process of identifying which of our homes would benefit the most from the technology.

Unlike conventional heating systems that heat the air in a room which can then escape from doors and windows, the panels use infrared technology to warm the fabric of a building, as well as the people and objects in a room. The heat they absorb is gradually and steadily released, maintaining a steady temperature and keeping rooms warmer for longer. 

We’re also installing sensors to measure levels of humidity and temperature in the flats. Excess moisture in the air can cause damp and mould, so the sensors will give us valuable information that will enable us to keep our homes healthy and tackle any potential problems before they happen. The data will also help us to understand how customers are adapting to the technology, and if they need additional advice and support on how to get the best out of their new heating system.

The pilot project is already underway, and installation is due for completion early next year. We’ll go on to fully assess the efficiency of the panels, thermal comfort and affordability for customers before we decide if we’ll roll them out across additional properties.

We’re really proud of this project. It’s 100% Yorkshire Housing funded, our in-house electrical team is managing the installation work, and we’re also supporting a forward-thinking and innovative local business, Wakefield-based Ambion Heating, who are manufacturing the panels. 

There’s still a lot of work to be done but we’re confident that thinking more creatively will help us make our homes greener and fit for the future, which is good news for Yorkshire Housing and our customers.