Challenges to the introduction of heat meters in district-heated apartment blocks
Paula Morgenstern, UCL
This work uses a case-study approach to gather evidence for challenges to the introduction of heat meters in district-heated apartment blocks. The case study building is the Brunswick estate in Bloomsbury, London which is served by a gas-fired district heating system.
In 2009/10, the installation of individual heat meters for all flats at the Brunswick was planned under a borough wide sheme including 2800 properties in 11 estates. And while in some estates significant savings on both household heating expenditure and on whole block heating costs could be achieved through the introduction of heat meters, the Brunswick was taken off the programm in 2011 due to concerns about rising heating costs for residents through the change in payment structure from a fixed tariff to payment according to use.
This makes the building an ideal case to study challenges to heat meter introduction. This project will also look into possibilities to reduce space heating demand in the block, since the suspected inefficiencies of the block were the main reason to stop the heat metering program.
• Interviews with residents as well as with building management to gain information and identify non-technical challenges
• Thermal imaging to identify major sources of heat loss within the building
• Temperature monitoring in selected flats
• Modified co-heating test to gauge heat losses from the airing cupboards
During the analysis of the case study results, it was found that three aspects of control are relevant to heat metering in general:
1. Temperature control: Is the building equipped with sufficient technical means so that the occupants can control their living temperature to their choosen set-point?
2. Consumption control: Does the choosen living temperature have a decisive impact on the heating consumption?
3. Cost control: Is heating consumption related to heating costs?
The introduction of heat meters affects Point 3 and ends the decoupling of heating costs from consumption. But, in poorly performing buildings, this is not as straighforward as it looks:
While the blue graph at the top illustrates how heat metering would ideally work, the red graph below shows shortcomings in poorly performing blocks. Limited occupant control over consumption due to a strong influence of building fabric leads to occupants being charged a cost through heat meters which is firstly not fully controllable by them and secondly higher than in comparably sized well performing blocks. This raises problems with fairness especially between local authority owned blocks where heating costs represent a substantial part of the occupants’ income.
Recommendations for the case study building
The study also resulted in specific recommendations for the case study building including options to reduce energy demand. Because of the status of the Brunswick as a listed building, the retrofit of energy efficiency measures is complicated and aggravates conflicts about heat meter introduction.
Publications and Presentations
• Identifying challenges to the introduction of heat meters in poorly-performing apartment blocks. MRes thesis, 2011.
• In-situ measurement of heat loss from thermal stores. Proceedings of 2nd Conference: People and Buildings held at London Metropolitan University, London, UK, 18th September 2012. Network for Comfort and Energy Use in Buildings: http://www.nceub.org.uk
• Challenges to heat metering in poorly performing district-heated apartment blocks. Bartlett MRes Conference, 21.09.2012, UCL, London.
• Challenges to heat metering in poorly performing district-heated apartment blocks. Green Week UCL Poster presentation, 16.10.2012, UCL, London.
In-situ measurement of heat loss from thermal stores
Click here to view outputs (link opens in a new window).
One part of the technical analysis from the MRes project published as a paper
Challenges to heat metering in poorly performing district-heated apartment blocks
Poster summarizing the main MRes results for the general public