As fuel poverty and the cladding crisis leave home safety on shaky foundations, FireAngel’s co-founder and chief product officer Nick Rutter explores smarter ways to protect residents and properties.
Millions of UK households are expected to be hauled into fuel poverty for the first time as energy bills soar, leaving low-income households vulnerable to cold, damp and mould. In Wales alone, up to 45 per cent of all households could be in fuel poverty following the price cap increase in April 2022.
Simultaneously, residents who have had dangerous cladding stripped from their buildings post-Grenfell may find that their homes are less energy efficient for months or even years. There has also never been more intense focus on improving home safety for social housing residents.
Adapting to an evolving legislative landscape
As it becomes evident that fundamental change is needed to ensure that people feel safe in their homes, legislation is being overhauled at an unprecedented rate. The Fire Safety Act 2021 was introduced to clarify who is accountable for reducing the risk of fires in England and Wales, and the Building Safety Act 2022 ensures a golden thread of information exists for a building with residents given ‘comprehensible and relevant information about fire safety matters’.
The Welsh government is also undertaking the biggest change to its housing law in decades. The Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 will come into force this December to ensure that both private- and social-rented properties in Wales are fit for human habitation. This includes regulations on fire and carbon monoxide safety, condensation, damp and mould.
However, there are concerns that traditional solutions for addressing damp and mould are often ineffective, time-consuming and strain already-squeezed budgets. Anti-mould wall coatings and regular roof and gutter maintenance only go so far, and cavity or external wall insulation can increase problems if installed incorrectly. This is particularly problematic for housing providers.
As waiting lists and placement times get longer by the day, there’s intense pressure on housing providers to fix problems quickly and move new tenants in. This, along with poor advice and limited access to specialist knowledge, can lead to only superficial issues being treated, leaving housing providers and their residents at risk of mould and damp reoccurring.
Holistic resident safety
The internet of things (IoT) can offer an alternative solution to help housing providers monitor humidity and temperature levels in a property. Carefully-placed IoT sensors can provide specific data in real-time, allowing a much earlier opportunity to investigate and remedy potential problems.
Installing IoT sensors in properties enables housing providers to create a tailored network of sensors and devices to detect everything from fire and carbon monoxide to temperature and humidity to monitor the onset of condensation, damp and mould. It also allows housing providers to deliver tailored advice to relevant tenants and provide accurate information about where they might need to adopt different ventilation or heating practices.
Smart sensors can provide a clear audit trail, recording accurate and regular environmental readings specific to each property and room. Since the data captured can be analysed remotely, there is less need for intrusive onsite investigations.
And as the laws on home safety continue to tighten, data collected from IoT sensors may also play a role in future regeneration projects. Analysing data for trends and patterns can show housing providers which regions or properties are particularly prone to damp and ensure those properties have the right insulation and ventilation installed.
Proactive prevention for residents
At FireAngel, our New Generation Cellular Gateway delivers a holistic resident safety solution, encompassing fire safety, AI-driven risk stratification and background environmental monitoring.
Through additional Zigbee sensors, the solution takes resident safety and wellbeing to previously unachievable levels, enabling housing providers to prioritise condensation, damp and mould interventions and increase fire prevention measures for residents who need it most.
By tapping into IoT, we can create smarter, healthier homes that protect residents today, tomorrow and in the future.
For more information on FireAngel’s New Generation Cellular Gateway, get in touch with our team of specialists by visiting fireangel.co.uk/connected-contact.
Nick Rutter is the co-founder and chief product officer at Fireangel.