More than seven million households are facing fuel poverty this winter despite the government’s Autumn Statement, according to campaigners. As temperatures fall, residents may increase their gas-appliance use, from boilers and heaters to cookers and fires. However, the very appliances sought for comfort and safety can place lives at risk.
It’s essential that gas appliances are correctly installed and maintained to reduce the dangers of leaks, fires, explosions and carbon monoxide poisoning. As millions of Britons face higher gas bills, there’s a danger that reductions in housing providers’ incomes will push regular appliance servicing further down their priority lists, increasing the risks.
Another concern is that fuel-poor households will cut back on fuel to ease their finances, leaving them vulnerable to cold homes and the growth of damp and mould. Cold homes can have devasting consequences, taking thousands of lives each winter, and people living with mould are more likely to suffer from respiratory illnesses, infections, allergies or asthma, increasing the risks of ill-health, sometimes with fatal consequences.
A changing legislative landscape
As it becomes evident that fundamental changes are needed to ensure that people are safe in their homes, legislation is being overhauled across the UK. Changes to the Renting Homes (Wales) Act 2016 came into force in December 2022 to ensure that both private- and social-rented properties in Wales are fit for human habitation.
This includes regulations on condensation, damp and mould, and fire and carbon monoxide safety. However, industry experts have expressed concern that the traditional solutions for addressing damp and mould are often ineffective, time-consuming and expensive; anti-mould wall coatings and regular roof and gutter maintenance only go so far, and cavity/external wall insulation can increase problems if installed incorrectly.
This is particularly problematic for housing providers. As waiting lists and placement times get longer, there’s more 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 problems being treated.
A smart approach to residents’ safety
The internet of things (IoT) offers an alternative means for housing providers to monitor humidity and temperature levels in their properties. Carefully-placed IoT sensors can provide specific data in real-time, enabling much earlier interventions. Furthermore, installing IoT sensors in properties allows housing providers to deliver advice to relevant tenants and provide accurate information about where and when they might need to adopt different ventilation or heating practices.
Smart sensors can also provide a clear audit trail, recording accurate and regular environmental readings specific to each property and room, and because the data can be analysed remotely, there is less need for intrusive on-site investigations.
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.
IoT technologies now enable housing providers to deploy a host of sensors in their properties. This includes smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, enabling them to monitor fire risks as well as the onset of condensation, damp and mould.
FireAngel’s Home Environment 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 Home Environment Gateway, please visit fireangel.co.uk.
Nick Rutter is the co-founder and chief product officer at FireAngel.