Our world is increasingly favouring the digital, from online banking to the increased influence of social media - we are becoming increasingly reliant on technology. This is also true for the social housing sector. The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the need for digitisation by limiting face-to-face interactions between housing providers and their tenants, if not for technology - housing providers would have had a hard time monitoring and maintaining their stock. But technology doesn’t just help providers maintain their stock, it can also be used to tackle rising fuel poverty rates.
It is estimated that an approximate 2.53 million UK residents are living in fuel poverty, with an additional 600,000 people on the precipice of fuel poverty as a direct result of the Covid-19 pandemic. This leaves them unable to afford even the most basic necessities such as ‘light, power, and heat’. This puts already vulnerable residents in a dangerous situation with underheated homes being linked to an increase in respiratory conditions such as asthma and bronchitis, fuel poverty also endangers a residents’ mental state making them more likely to experience symptoms of anxiety and depression. The usage of technology can help reduce fuel poverty by cutting the overall cost of residents’ fuel bills. For families who are living on the poverty line, every penny matters, and so the implementation of digital solutions could help to dramatically reduce financial pressure for the most vulnerable of tenants.
But what technologies are available?
One technology that is helping to reduce fuel poverty rates is the Smart Meter. These meters work by collecting data on a property and feeding it back to housing providers. In doing so, providers can identify problem areas within a home and implement effective solutions tailored to an individual property. This proactive, data-fuelled approach leads to more effective solutions and stamps out the pattern of ‘blanket repairs’ where all homes are treated as one unanimous entity. In this way, providers can tailor repairs to each individual property, addressing resident’s needs and roll out long-lasting solutions. Not only does this help lower energy wastage for residents, but it also reduces overall costs for housing providers.
The Smart Thermostat is another available solution which, similar to the Smart Meter, functions by learning about a property’s internal conditions such as its temperature, humidity, and motion. This can help to reduce fuel poverty by flagging up areas of energy inefficiency within a home. The Smart thermostat, like the kind offered here at Switchee, works by learning the specific heating pattern of a property and acting accordingly. In automatically applying optimised heating patterns, the smart thermostat ensures that the property is heated according to the resident’s needs and adjusts according to their personalised routine. This means that the heating is on only when needed, reducing any energy waste which leads to a reduction in fuel costs. Research shows that the Switchee Smart Thermostat can lead to savings of up to 17% which, for vulnerable tenants, can ensure that their property is properly heated thereby lowering the risk of adverse health effects.
The evidence shows that connected technology when used effectively can transform the housing sector. The implementation of smart meters and smart thermostats across a wider range of properties has already begun to change how residents consume energy and heat their homes, making energy usage more consumer friendly and reducing fuel related costs. If housing providers are open to digital solutions, they can make sure that vulnerable tenants are protected and help prevent the devastating consequences that come with fuel poverty.