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Plumbing renovation projects provide housing companies with a chance to start saving energy: energy renovations are now eligible for state subsidies

Roughly 80 per cent of households’ energy consumption is created by heating, and the heating of buildings generates approximately 30 per cent of Finnish carbon dioxide emissions. Indeed, developing heating solutions is the single most effective tool to control the carbon footprint of housing companies and individual residents.

Energy efficiency in housing companies is often centred around electrical engineering, even though heating accounts for the most euros in energy consumption.

“Tweaking electricity consumption can achieve up to one euro of savings per square metre, whereas heating and ventilation solutions can generate up to eight times more savings,” says Markus Hyttinen, expert at Sweco services for housing companies. Especially old buildings show potential for energy savings, and they are going to have to start reducing their repair debt in the coming years anyway.

Five-figure savings through energy investments

Energy choices should be discussed as early as during the project planning phase when the housing company is in the process of designing pipe renovations or other larger renovations. That is when the contractors will be there, the surfaces will have been opened and disruptions to the residents can be minimised.

“If an energy investment feasibility study is drafted during a plumbing renovation, for example, it will only account for 0.2 per cent of the total cost, but the energy savings may be tens of thousands of euros per year!” Hyttinen says.

An energy investment feasibility study will observe the overall situation of the housing company, such as future renovations within the next 25 years and human factors. “Extensive renovations are always challenging for housing companies, and people have strong opinions and feelings on them. When the options are reviewed well in advance, there won’t be too many decisions to be made all at once.”

State energy subsidies granted by ARA encourage housing companies to embark on energy renovations

The Finnish carbon neutrality goal for 2035 requires radical measures from everyone, and the state is now offering housing companies a new incentive. Companies may apply for an ARA energy subsidy for energy renovations, which is up to 4,000 euros per flat.

“The condition for receiving the subsidy is an energy saving of at least 32 per cent, which will not be possible without investment,” Hyttinen stresses. Companies must provide calculated grounds, i.e. a free-form application is not enough. “Comparing different options is smart. Experts will determine which measures should be employed to achieve the objectives as cost-efficiently as possible.”

Hyttinen believes that if the ‘carrot option’ offered to reach the climate goals does not pay off, government steering will be employed sooner or later. “Housing companies that do not make use of their opportunity to start saving energy in connection with other renovations may have to implement separate energy renovations. That will cost extra.”

Energy savings can be generated quite easily

An energy renovation is the most efficient way to impact a housing company’s carbon footprint and energy consumption. Not all energy renovations are extensive and costly. Adjusting the basic settings of the radiator network can reduce heating costs by 5–10 per cent, for example. Employing demand-driven ventilation is just as efficient, simple and affordable.

“Thanks to automatically controlled ventilation, you no longer need to guess how residents are going to behave or leave ventilation at the mercy of the weather,” Hyttinen says. In modern systems, the ventilation valve is connected to a sensor that identifies if someone takes a shower or no one is at home. “The information is transmitted directly to the ventilation machine.”

Ventilation heat recovery solutions are also a source of significant savings for housing companies. The method should be selected to suit the company. “Alternatives include flat-specific heat recovery solutions or centralised mechanical ventilation,” Hyttinen says. “A contemporary heat pump can also be connected to the ventilation system.”

Several housing companies have shown promising results, such as Asunto Oy 3. linja 5 in Kallio in Helsinki, where a ventilation renovation will be implemented in connection with a pipe renovation using centralised mechanical ventilation. “By calculation, heat recovery from ventilation will save roughly 12,000 euros a year,” Hyttinen says. “This also improves the indoor conditions of the flats, which is just as important to the residents.”

Read more about the most recent Urban Insight report, which discusses the effects of the heating on a building´s carbon footprint.