Red Kite flies in to tackle fuel poverty for tenants

An innovative housing organisation in Buckinghamshire is aiming to tackle fuel poverty for its tenants through the use of renewable air source heat pumps, which are helping save hundreds of pounds a year on heating for each home.

Red Kite Community Housing in Frederick Place, High Wycombe is an unusual social housing provider because it is the only tenant-led, not for profit, charitable housing organisation in the country.

The organisation manages around 6,630 properties which were transferred from Wycombe District Council at the end of 2011. Many of the homes are on estates in the urban centres of High Wycombe, Princes Risborough and Marlow, but several hundreds of others are off the gas network in more rural locations and rely on electric heating or solid fuel.

Red Kite installed 32 of the market-leading Ecodan heat pump systems just over a year ago in homes that have previously been using solid fuel, and the organisation is now looking at extending this programme to tackle their remaining properties off the gas network.

James Brownbill, Project Manager for Red Kite said:

“We offered our tenants a choice for their new heating system and we chose to go with Ecodan based on the predicted savings and the comprehensive support available from the manufacturer. We’ve now analysed the results of using these over the past year and have been delighted”.

When Red Kite was set up, the organisation made a number of promises to its tenants and one of them was to look at the renewable side of energy within properties, to help tackle the rising costs of fuel.

“Energy bills were very high for tenants particularly those off the gas network and this can also lead to other problems for us as a landlord because if tenants aren’t able to fully heat their homes, it can cause maintenance issues with condensation and damp.”

“When heating needs upgrading, many other housing associations just change like for like, but because we are different, we wanted to work with our tenants to find out the most cost effective ways of keeping them warm”.

Red Kite enlisted the help of Ecodan manufacturer Mitsubishi Electric, to work with local communities to see what system would suit them best and help educate tenants on the best ways of benefiting from renewable heating.

“We looked at other manufacturers but were impressed by the passion of Mitsubishi Electric, especially the support they have been able to offer to help educate our tenants on the new technology”.

Modern air source heat pumps have been on the market for over six years now but are still new to many people.  They work in a slightly different way to traditional heating because they heat radiators to lower temperatures than gas or oil, yet they can reduce energy bills significantly because they harvest free, renewable heat from the outdoor air.

James added:

“Working with our tenants, we have been able to demonstrate that the heat pumps do deliver reliable heating and that they can help reduce fuel bills, so it was important for us to be able to analyse a full year of data and get tenant feedback.”

“We’ve got a huge programme throughout Red Kite for upgrading properties, fitting new roofs, new windows and adding insulation, so fitting heat pumps fits well with the programme and helps us deliver on our promises to our tenants”.