Now it’s getting colder – Understanding inclusive energy costs in Unipol Housing

Last year 64% of students not on rents inclusive of utilities (gas, electricity and water) said they would prefer to be inclusive – so this year, for 2017-2018, we have rolled out inclusive rents for all Unipol’s owned and leased houses and this now covers 107 houses (some students in houses managed for private landlords still deal with their own energy).

Mill Street Lights

An inclusive rent covers energy and we allow £6.50 a week (from your rent) for this. This anticipated level of usage should be enough for you to be warm and comfortable in your house and is based on responsible use.

To help you know how much energy you are using we now read your meters monthly and give you a statement every two months. This statement is a graphic that compares your usage to last year and shows how much of what we have allowed you are using. In cold months you use more energy than warmer months so it is necessary to take into account seasonal usage in making comparisons.

We did a lot of work earlier this year to compare the Unipol energy offer with commercial companies who offer a service to pay your utilities such as Glide and Split the Bills, and, based on a typical five bed shared house, this is what we found:

Tariffs – prices quoted in September 2017

Glide Split the Bills Huddle Average Unipol
kWhs SC kWhs SC kWhs SC kWhs SC
Electricity 17.63 67.92p 18.7p 0p 14.88p 59.43p 11.7p 46p
Gas 5.13p 0p 4.8p 0p 4.642p 22p 2.6p 47p
Cancellation £0 with 30 days’ notice 50% of remaining management fee £0 with 30 days’ notice None
Set Up Fee None £14.99 each tenant None None
Admin Fee None £1.50 per week None None
Deposit 1 Month’s Fee per person None None None
Ave energy charge for 5 bed house for 52 weeks* £2,170 £2,359 £1,989 £1,434
* energy charge is based on average usage in 5 bed Unipol properties for 2015/2016

So the Unipol offer was around 28% cheaper – and this saving is reflected in the rent level we have set.

Last year the average spend from the £6.50 a week we had allowed was £5.13 – why so low?

Unipol has invested a lot in energy saving measures:

  • most boilers are highly efficient condenser or combi boilers with instant hot water (so no tank of water to heat)
  • we have insulated the coldest walls of our houses
  • we use energy efficient appliances
  • all of our houses are doubled glazed
  • we have a lot of low energy lighting (and we are changing more to low energy each month)
  • We buy direct from suppliers, so it is cheaper (in almost all cases) for Unipol to buy energy than it would be for a tenant.

In 2017-2018, where tenants on all inclusive rents make savings, we are going to share the amount saved with tenants: The savings will be split 50:50 between the tenants and Unipol (to help us pay for further energy efficient measures that will bring even greater savings). If we had done this in 2016-2017 (the last year we have all the figures for) the average tenant would have got a refund of £36.13 back at the end of the year – so well worth using energy responsibly whilst still keeping warm.

A few things that increase costs:

  • smaller houses use more energy per person than larger houses because the cost of heating the common parts and standing charges are split between fewer people – so people in smaller houses need to be more careful
  • if someone leaves the house or flat, then this has the same effect and the costs for those staying increase – again extra care is needed.

We will track your energy usage throughout the year.  Every two months we will send you a statement with a graph showing the amount of spend expected vs the actual spend.  The graph will also compare the usage this year vs last year:

unipol_sampleenergygraph

Understanding energy supplements and energy costs in Unipol Housing

If you are living at Mill Street or Carlton Hill in 2017-2018 then you pay an energy supplement (£6.00 per week) with your rent that is adjusted upwards or downwards depending on how much you use.

All the information and energy saving measures given earlier are still applicable but here you, as the tenant, bear the risk if your usage is higher than it should be. Having said that, the average refund in 2016-2017 to students at Mill Street was £74.00 and at Carlton Hill it was 64.00 – so with a few exceptions everyone got money back for using less. A handful of tenants in one flat used £875 more than they thought – and that came from their deposit at the end of the year. They had been told to reduce their irresponsible energy use, but didn’t and ended up paying for it.

Close up of a hand turning a radiator TRV either up or down

The Golden Rules are:

  • understand how your heating system works (we can help if you need help)
  • keep comfortable and warm, even on the coldest days
  • never use secondary heating appliances (particularly fan heaters) as they are inefficient and expensive. Your main house heating should never leave you cold; if it does there is something wrong, so contact us straight away and we will help
  • use energy responsibly – turn heating down rather than open windows to let cold air in and turn off your radiator if you are going away for the weekend or out of term
  • keep an eye on your energy statements to see how you are doing

Keep Warm – Be Careful – and Save Yourself Money