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Wednesday, 30 July 2014

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Major flaws found in heating systems at homes in Cumbrian town

Major flaws have been confirmed in a controversial heating system that’s left social housing tenants saddled with hefty bills.

Jimmy Robb photo
Jimmy Robb, of Longtown Action For Heat

Solar panels and boilers fitted to homes in and around Longtown – with the aim of cutting costs – have been beset by problems since their installation two years ago. And a report commissioned by the housing association that fitted them has backed claims that the system, particularly its boilers, is flawed with costly consequences.

It even reveals that one property had panels fitted on to the wrong side of its roof.

The study, seen by The Cumberland News, confirms: “The installed heating systems have inherent design issues that contradict the requirement for providing efficient, effective and economical heating to the properties.

“It is evident that the energy costs for each of the properties surveyed has increased over and above the normal expected rate and certainly there has been no reduction in costs despite the original intention of the refurbishment programme.”

Consultants spoke to one tenant who is paying £1 an hour to operate the system.

They examined the effectiveness of the solar system about 18 months after its installation in spring 2012.

Now, nine months later, residents have become increasingly frustrated that their findings don’t seem to have been acted upon swiftly enough.

Housing association Riverside, however, insists it is taking action and has already carried out upgrading work in 20 homes. A total of 175 in the Longtown area had the panels fitted.

Members of campaign group Longtown Action for Heat are demanding urgent action following the report from Avoca Consulting Engineers. Chairman Jimmy Robb said: “I want someone to be answerable to what’s in the Avoca report.”

The report found that the electric boiler systems have “generally been well sized and installed” but that the draughty properties which are poorly insulated mean “any heat generated by the system simply leaks out”.

Within months some residents noticed the rising cost of their fuel bills despite promises it would be energy efficient. One tenant said: “Everybody’s sick of talking about this. If we get another bad winter someone could end up dead.”

Riverside says it has commissioned another report into the system, findings of which the organisation expects to receive soon.

“We will hold meetings with tenants to inform them of the key outcomes,” a spokeswoman said.

Longtown Action for Heat wrote to Communities Secretary Eric Pickles three months ago asking him to investigate the matter. They also hope to see a Riverside representative at their next meeting in a month.

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