District heat users – are you happy with your service?

by Louise Strong, Energy & Home 26 February 2014

There are around 210,000 households who get their heat supplied through a heat network – known as district or communal heating. But little is known about people’s experiences or the prices they pay.

Homes or other buildings with district heatingget their heating from a central source, such as natural gas or biomass boilers, with the heat then being transferred through a network of hot water pipes.

To meet its carbon reduction targets, the Government is planning for many more households to be on a heat network in urban areas. The last time we discussed the issue on Convo many of you had strong views on this topic and you’ve continued this discussion in recent months. Robert Vesty told us:

‘Me and my partner moved into a one-bed apartment at the end of November and we have just challenged the DH supplier about the costs. Many residents were shocked, as we were, to receive high bills. We were only told at the last minute that the DH scheme would be how our heating/hot water would be supplied, and while I’m all up for it in principle, I feel that the companies supplying it are ripping us off.’

District or communal heating challenges

We’re keen to find out more. District heating schemes are a monopoly and consumers have little choice but to remain with the same supplier even if they are dissatisfied. Also, unlike consumers with gas or electric heating, the supply of heat to homes on heat networks is not regulated and these consumers do not have access to the Energy Ombudsman. So it’s hard to know who to turn to when things go wrong. Ana is concerned about the lack of regulation:

”The Government should regulate the market first, and make sure they are not sending affordable housing dwellers into fuel poverty.’

I’m keen to hear more from you, so please continue to share your thoughts below as your interest has prompted us to take a deeper look into district heating.