How communal heating works
Communal heating is a system where heating and hot water is produced from a boiler in a communal plantroom instead of each flat having their own individual boiler. The boiler operating times are set by the council’s communal heating policy. Tenants and leaseholders who are connected to the system pay for their heating along with their rent or service charges.
Some residents have ‘pay as you go’ arrangements in place where they have a heat meter installed in their property. New laws mean all homes with communal heating must have a viability assessment and will be fitted with heat meters if they qualify. Affected residents are being informed as this work is rolled out.
Changes to when communal heating operates
In September 2022, we said we’re changing the dates and times your heating is on to reduce costs and energy use. Find out more about these changes and have your say.
Discount from the Energy Bills Discount Scheme
The Government's Energy Bills Discount Scheme is for 1 April 2023 to 31 March 2024, and replaces the Energy Bill Relief Scheme from October 2022.
There is now a cap (a limit on how high the price can go) on gas that is used in communal and district heating systems. This means that you will get a discount on your bills during the year up to 31 March 2024.
You do not need to do anything, the discount is already added to your bills.
Frequently asked questions
Benefits of communal heating
- It is cheaper for you - The average resident on a communal heating system pays £560 each year. If they used an individual boiler, they would pay £855 for the same amount of heating and hot water.
- We bulk buy gas to cut costs for you. Since the council can buy gas in bulk, we pay only 62% of the cost per unit that individual homes do.
- It protects vulnerable people Citizens Advice say that 1.4 million homes cut off their own energy use each year as they cannot afford the bills. Many more use less than they should to keep their homes warm enough. With communal heating everyone has at least 18 hours of heat a day during the heating season.
- You are protected against big price increases Just a few years ago the big energy companies increased gas prices by about 30% in one go. Since 2011 gas prices have risen by 38% for individual customers but heating costs have actually reduced for communal heating residents by 5%. Communal heating protects against price shocks. This is because we can buy gas more cheaply in bulk.
- Your homes are dry. Damp homes harm health, and many homes suffer from dampness and condensation when people cannot afford to heat their homes enough. Dampness is very rare in communally heated homes.
Types of communal heating
There are 3 main types of communal heating systems:
- 2-pipe systems - these cannot be turned off without losing hot water to the properties, so remain switched on overnight and during the summer.
- Standard (3 and 4 pipe systems) - these provide heating and hot water through separate pipework, meaning the heating and hot water can be controlled separately.
- Heating only systems- only provide heating to the property and switch off overnight and during the summer.
Most of these systems automatically vary the radiator flow temperature depending on the external temperature.
The heating service you receive depends on the type of communal heating system your property has.
Energy use and costs
Does my energy use impact my costs?
You can use the radiator valves (and a programmer or room thermostat where fitted) in your home to control the heating, for example by turning it down if the temperature is too high or when nobody is at home. Although tenants and leaseholders are charged for their heating differently, all charges are affected by how much heat is used on the communally heated estates. So, if more residents on these estates reduce how much heat they use, it will help to cut heating charges for everyone.
Calculating your charges
By law we must calculate tenants and leaseholder charges for communal heating differently. Tenants’ charges are calculated by estimating the total cost of heating and hot water for the year, for all our communally heated estates, and dividing this evenly between all tenanted properties. This is called a ‘pooled’ system because the costs are shared out. The costs are also adjusted for property size, so tenants in larger properties which use more heat pay more. These costs are divided across the entire year to make payments more manageable and avoid much higher weekly charges during the heating season.
Leaseholders’ heating charges are calculated by taking the yearly fuel consumption of the boiler house that services each leasehold property and dividing this by the number of properties that receive heating from that boiler.
Controlling my communal heating
- Check the settings on your radiator valves. Ensure these are set to a comfortable temperature and adjust the setting if needed. If they do not work, contact the council’s housing repair team Housing Direct on 0800 6943344 or 020 7527 5400 which is cheaper from a mobile.
- If your property has a room thermostat, again check that this is set to a comfortable level and adjust the setting if needed.
- If your property has a programmer, you can use this to alter the heating ‘on’ times, or to turn the heating off altogether for a period of time. Where hot water is provided by the system, the hot water times can also be adjusted using the programmer. For most households, in order to provide sufficient hot water, this will not need to be on for the full 24 hours.
- Ensure appliances are switched off, rather than left on standby, to avoid heat gains from these.