Twenty first century heating for rural homes

People living in rural Scotland are being encouraged to install renewable heating devices in their homes if they are not connected to the gas grid.

Research by Scotland’s consumer watchdog, Consumer Focus Scotland, presented at the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations’ “renewables event” in Edinburgh recently showed both landlords and tenants are finding renewable systems can provide warmer homes at lower costs than traditional alternatives.

The report, 21st century heating in rural homes, shows a number of housing associations and local authorities in Scotland are successfully using solar panels, air and ground source heat pumps and community heating schemes.

Tenants and landlords also emphasised the need to support tenants as they get to grips with their new systems.

Simple measures like arranging visits to houses where the systems are already installed, providing clear information and simple controls all are suggested to help ensure that the benefits are delivered in practice, and that teething problems are avoided.

Consumer Focus Scotland is now calling for the Scottish Government to make support for tenants, and reporting on the results of projects, key parts of funding agreements for installing renewables.

Over half a million households in Scotland are not connected to the gas grid and 135,000 rely on heating oil.

High heating oil prices mean that renewable heating systems are increasingly attractive, although the upfront investment costs remain a barrier for many people.

In addition, half of households in rural Scotland are in fuel poverty and the construction of older and rural houses means that loft or cavity wall insulation is often not suitable.

Trisha McAuley, Deputy Director of Consumer Focus Scotland said: “Dealing with high fuel costs is a daily struggle, especially for many households in rural Scotland, but we have found good examples of housing associations and local authorities helping households cut fuel bills through the use of renewables.

“The research shows that it is vital that tenants using these systems for the first time get all the information they need so that they can have complete confidence in renewables.

“We would encourage landlords to gather case study evidence to show the impact on tenants’ bills.

“Housing associations now have a clear window of opportunity at this early stage to share best practice and help ensure households in rural Scotland have heating fit for the 21st century.

“Consumer Focus Scotland is also working to ensure that energy efficiency schemes make appropriate heating systems and support available to everyone without access to mains gas.”

David Stewart, Policy & Strategy Manager at the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, highlighted the work of housing associations and co-operatives in energy efficiency:

“The SFHA is aware that fuel poverty is an increasing issue for our members’ tenants, as domestic fuel bills rise above inflation. The issue is particularly acute in homes that are not on the mains gas network.

“We are therefore delighted that Consumer Focus Scotland has highlighted the outstanding work of SFHA members in developing renewables schemes that cut tenants heating bills and reduce carbon emissions.

“We look forward to working with members, Consumer Focus Scotland and other partners to build on this work and share the learning and experience of organisations.”