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Real Property UK

REAL PROPERTY UK

CASE STUDY

DARLINGTON

Real Property UK own and manage more than 30 HMOs (Houses of Multiple Occupancy) in the thriving town of Darlington, county Durham. Owner of the business Paul Million was very concerned about the amount of heat and therefore money that was being wasted in the Winter from his properties, often left all day with the heating on, the windows open and no one at home.

Paul needed something to keep his tenants happy and his bills down so he installed 28 Genius Hubs into all of the properties that could benefit from zoned heating control, taking advantage of the Genius Hub Smart heating system and occupancy detection to turn down the heating in rooms when they are not being used.

Rolling the system out was only done after a careful and thorough test of the system was completed. Paul installed the first Genius Hub one whole year before, and he installed it into the property occupied by Paul Stevens, head of maintenance. If there were going to be any problems with the system then Paul Stevens would be the one to decide whether or not this was a good product to roll out across the estate.

One year on and all of the properties now have Genius Hubs and management of the systems has been passed onto the owner’s right hand lady; Carla. Here is Carla’s account of the day to day management of the system.

How did you hear about Genius Hub?
Through an installer we had, he was really helpful and very knowledgeable about the system.We also used him to install the system into the rest of the properties as part of the main roll out of the system. One of the engineers from Genius Hub’s head office in Birmingham came to visit three to four of the properties with us to check that we were specifying the right kit and then it was down to us to fit it with their help on the phone if we needed it.

Why smart heating controls?
Saving money is important, and keeping the tenants happy of course. It is a competitive market and we want to provide value for money for our tenants. We also know that managing the household bills is difficult for them, especially when they share the house with others who may only be there for a number of months. So we take care of the bills for them, but we also need to make sure that just because the household bills are now part of the rent that energy is not carelessly wasted, which can certainly happen. We needed a smart zoned heating system that was easy for the tenants to use, so they can boost the heating in their individual rooms when they want it, but would also turn down the heat when they are not there and turn it off if they open a window. Genius Hub ticked all of those boxes.

Why did you choose Genius Hub?
It began with a recommendation by the heating engineer we use. But we weren’t going to only take his word for it. In all the research we did, Genius Hub kept on coming back on top, looking at the reviews and other landlords and plumbers that we spoke with, we could see that it was the Genius Hub that was specifically geared to HMOs. The other systems we found were not geared to HMOs and were just basic domestic systems for peoples’ homes and these would easily be tampered with by the tenants.

What were the main considerations before the purchase?
We knew Genius Hub worked in HMOs but what concerned us was that there weren’t enough case histories of other systems. That’s why we decided to trial it for a year ourselves before rolling it out across all of our properties. We were also not sure how much equipment to get, and then how much work was required for the installation. We were pleased to meet one of the Genius Hub engineers at one of the properties at this stage, as all of those questions were answered when we visited some of the properties with our heating engineer and the engineer from Genius Hub.

Was there anything you were concerned about?
Sometimes you were Heat Genius sometimes Genius Hub. We didn’t realise this was because you now control other things as well as heating so you dropped the ‘Heat’ part of your name. When we realised that, it all made more sense as we then found a lot more case studies and examples of people who had used this technology in their properties.

What were your first impressions of the Genius Hub?
We were very impressed. The first person I spoke to gave me a really good feeling; it was clearly a family company with big business mentality. This translated all the way through from the engineer who came to the properties to the technical customer support we get now 12 months after the rollout.

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How did you design and buy the system?
We emailed some room lists over to the office (in Birmingham) and it was designed by Genius Hub. It was really easy. We then got back all of the designs and recommendations for the number of smart thermostats, and smart valves they suggested to go into each property, and once that was checked by our own maintenance man Paul we placed the order. 

How was the installation?
Easy as pie! The tenants were really impressed, it was so quick and unobtrusive, in most cases the tenants didn’t even know that we’d been in, our heating engineer was in and out so fast. This was in part thanks to how Genius Hub preconfigured all of the equipment in their warehouse before it was shipped to the property; so there was no messing around on site. The valves and room sensors were all clearly labeled on the boxes as to which rooms they went into and it was all pre-paired with the Genius Hub part that goes next to the internet router in the property. So all that we had to do is screw on the valves, stick on the sensors and wire in the bit for the boiler, it takes literally minutes!

What do you like about the Genius Hub?
I love the fact that it has an app, so I don’t have to go on my laptop, or even visit the property in some cases. I love how I can set it up and forget about it. After it was first installed there were a few comments from the tenants, as one would expect, but after a few weeks they had all forgotten about it. With the new tenants it is easier as there isn’t a change. Generally everyone likes how it works.

What has been your Genius Hub experience overall?
Pleasant, easy, everyone I spoke with was really nice, knowledgeable and helpful about the system. When I phoned the tech team and I spoke to a lovely lady, she was so helpful! It’s great to have local customer support in the UK.

Have you benefited in any other way?
Yes, we finally can tell when the tenants are using electric heaters and we can do something about it. Portable electric heaters are dangerous, expensive to run and are banned, now we can see on the app when they are being used, due to the sudden spike in temperature.

How do you use the system?
I use it daily on the app and occasionally on my laptop. It’s so handy that I can see if there are any problems in any of the properties at a touch of a button.

How have you found using the app?
Really easy for the basics. There are loads of other settings in there which are also really helpful, I found these when the engineer showed me how to access and use them as well as when I phoned the technical customer support. It’s easy to use given that I’m not that technical really.

Would you recommend the Genius Hub?
100% yes, it’s brilliant and saves me so much time.

Conclusion
I don’t know how Paul coped with it before, how he managed more than 30 properties without Genius Hub. I guess that he just had to deal with the fact that he was watching his money disappear out of the open windows in the Winter, with the heat blasting on and him paying for the gas bill. This is not a problem anymore though and the tenants couldn’t be happier. I’d highly recommend this system to others in our position.

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Min-Y-Gaer

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MIN-Y-GAER

CASE STUDY

CRICCIETH, WEST WALES

Min-Y-Gaer is a Victorian house overlooking Tremadog Bay in Criccieth, West Wales. It provides accommodation for 14 members of The Pines Care Home staff in 10 individual rooms plus a four-room flat. The house has facilities for communal cooking, some areas for relaxation and there are some offices used by the administrative staff of the care home.

Genius Hub was installed in the property as part of a renovation project in Summer 2017. Owner Andy Paynter had previously had problems with the management of the heating. There had been a standard 7-day programmer and thermostatic radiator valves on most of the radiators but this was not sufficient to provide effective control of the heating.

Shift patterns of the staff meant that some rooms were occupied during the day and some at night. Staff would leave the radiators on and then open windows, which was clearly an inefficient and wasteful use of energy.

Concerns of smart heating controls?
Andy was initially concerned about the number of rooms within the building and was not sure that heating controls would work.

Genius Hub conducted a free site survey and explained how their Genius Radiator Valves are specifically designed to wirelessly receive messages to open or close from the Genius Hub “Brain-Box”, thereby providing individual room-by-room control.

How easy was the installation?
Installation of the Genius Hub is quick and easy but, in this case, Andy chose to use his own electrician to install the system and unfortunately a mistake was made with the boiler wiring. 

Andy told us he quickly got through to the Genius Hub support desk who were “very helpful” and they gave clear and concise advice on how to resolve the issue. Andy said, “It was really good to know that they were there for us.”

Is Genius Hub making savings?
Initially, they used the system with the timings set to be the same as the time-clock they had before. Therefore, the heating was still on most of the time and minimal savings were made. However, as they got used to the system, they started using the Footprint mode. With the Genius Hub Room Sensors, the system learns the usage patterns of a room, automatically heating it, and then turning down the radiator when the room is empty. Genius Hub ensures that the rooms are warm when occupied but never wasting energy. As Andy said, “This is the point where significant savings were made.” Also, the window detection feature means that the system will turn off a radiator if a window is left open.

Now they are used to all the features, they find using the system easy and straightforward. Andy told us, “We can see the savings, as we can see that the tenants only use their rooms for two hours and then leave again. You can feel when you go into a room that’s not being used, the temperature is a little cooler at 18º, not 24º like it used to be! We can actually feel the savings when we go into the room. It’s great!”

What do you like about the system?
The Genius Hub system is automated. So, once it is set up, it is ready to go and users do not have to think about it. The whole system is controllable via a simple app, so there is no need to visit the property. If there are any issues or problems, this can all be viewed from the app. If a tenant would like the temperature a little higher, this is done remotely as well. Andy said that he likes the system because it “just works” and that neither he nor his staff need to worry about it. Maintenance man Liviu, who now looks after the system using a smartphone, loves it.

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Reducing the bills in HMOs and Student Houses

Reducing the bills in HMOs and Student Houses

I often get asked the question from landlords; how do I reduce the heating bills in my HMO (House of Multiple Occupancy) but at the same time not alienate the tenants by them being too cold. The problem is that the tenants want to have control over the heating in their room (which is totally reasonable as they are paying good money to rent that room) but we all know that as the tenants are not paying the bills there is no real incentive to turn the heating down when they leave the room or go away during the holidays. Worst still the tenants can leave the window open when the heating is running if they are too hot!

The solution is to give the landlord control of the heating, but the tenants control of their room. To automatically turn down the room when it is not being used, and automatically shut off the radiators if a window is opened close to them.

Recently we installed the Genius Hub into a number of student houses for Student Cribs because they want to give their tenants premier comfort in their rooms but not have to keep the heating on 24/7 to achieve this

The problem with other systems they had tried in the past is they control the boiler on its own, and this means that money is continuously wasted heating unoccupied rooms. Also these systems often have to be manually triggered by the tenants in the house to boost the boiler, causing complaints from the tenants because they have to get up in the middle of the night to boost the heating, or it is cold in the mornings if they get up before it has been boosted by another member of the house.

Genius Hub solves these problems because it only heats the individual rooms with smart TRVs (Thermostatic Radiator Valves) which replace the existing TRVs. Occupancy detectors notice when the rooms are being used and when they are vacated, so the rooms automatically drop to a set back temperature when the room is left.

Carbon Trust state that for every 1ºC you drop in temperature you save 7% off the heating bill. The Genius Hub automatically drops the temperature by 4ºC in rooms when they are not being used saving 28% when the tenants are not there.

If you add this to not wasting heat with windows being left open and turning the heating down in the holidays the Genius Hub saves landlords more then 30% off their heating bills, and gives them peace of mind that in the spring they will not be stung with an enormous bill because the tenants left the heating on all winter.

Genius Hub is a Carbon Trust accredited product because of the savings that it generates. Student Cribs are using it to help deliver value to their tenants in affordable rent as well as premium comfort in their rooms.

Installation is fast and simple, a typical 6 bed property would take about 2-3 hours. The Genius Hub is installed next to the Internet router and the Genius Valves screw onto the radiator without the need for any re-plumbing. The occupancy sensors can be placed anywhere in the room where they can pick up the tenant in the room.

Student Cribs are benefiting from the savings and the tenants are benefiting from the better comfort when they are in the rooms, it really is a win-win solution.

If you would like to get information about smart heating in HMOs please get in touch with me directly or contact the office at enquiry@geniushub.co.uk or 0121 667 8000.

Book your free Genius Hub survey here!

Take a look at other case studies and how our customers are saving 30% off their heating bills.
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Bernard Sampson

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BERNARD SAMPSON

CASE STUDY

MANCHESTER

Renting with bills included puts landlords at risk of massive energy bills. We look at how The Genius Hub allows landlords to stay in control of their tenants’ energy use. The challenge: It’s a dilemma that will be familiar to any landlord. An increasing number of tenants prefer to rent with bills included, to allow more certainty about their monthly spending. This puts landlords in a difficult situation, because although they’d like their tenants to be comfortable, the tenants have no incentive to turn the heating off when it’s not required.

With student tenants, there are a couple of months each year (during Christmas and Easter breaks) that the properties are empty, and only need to be heated to protect from frost. Even if only some of the students are away or out at University, there’s no need to heat empty bedrooms – but tenants never remember to turn their radiator off before they leave.

How can The Genius Hub help landlords?
All smart thermostats are great for allowing landlords to remotely switch off the heating when properties are empty, and some systems even allow you to control each radiator individually. The Genius Hub allows you to do both, but with the unique advantage that it uses Smart Sensors to learn when each room is normally used, and schedule the heating automatically. 

That’s particularly important for landlords, because it means you don’t need to know the schedules of each of your tenants in order to figure out when the heating is required: The Genius Hub works it out for you.

Even if your tenants deviate from their normal schedule, The Genius Hub won’t leave them in the cold; it will automatically begin heating that room when their presence is detected. The Genius Hub also makes it easy to see the temperature in each room of the house, so you can even spot when your tenants are using expensive electric heaters. It will even shut the radiator off automatically if your tenant leaves a window or door open.

 Why did Bernard choose The Genius Hub?
Bernard’s houses previously had a 7 day programmer timer that was in a locked box in the kitchen. “It’s a simple solution that at least means the heating isn’t on all the time, but it’s difficult to know what times to set when each of the tenants have different schedules. You end up heating the whole house almost all the time, because somebody might be home.

I looked online at lots of different heating controls, but The Genius Hub is the only one that can learn when each room is being used.

That really helps, because then I don’t need to know the schedule of each student, it just sets itself automatically. “You have to make quite an outlay initially for all the valves and sensors, but it seemed worth it for the peace of mind of being able to see the temperatures and know that I’m not paying for the tenants to walk around in shorts and T-shirts, leaving the windows open or heating empty rooms.

Initially, I just installed it in 2 of my properties, to see how it performed in reality.” He adds that Genius Hub are a “pleasure to work with” and have been “very communicative throughout the whole process”. 

The system is monitored and controlled online, but Jack tells us he prefers using the app on his phone, as “it’s so easy to use”.  He goes on to explain he was in London one afternoon and realised there was a small number of rooms in use at the hotel that evening, and he could “turn the rest of the rooms down from there” adding “it was great!”

HMO Insitu

Has The Genius Hub helped?
Bernard’s had the system installed in two of his properties for a couple of years so far, and his impressions have been good. “It’s been very reliable, which is the most important thing – you don’t want to have to deal with grumpy cold students or have to keep visiting the properties to fix something! 

The only thing I have to do is occasionally change the batteries, really. But when there have been any issues, the customer service has been really excellent. 

Genius Hub resolve problems really quickly and are always easy to get in touch with them and speak to somebody knowledgeable. They’re also happy to speak directly with the tenants, which is such a relief after playing piggy-in-the-middle with Internet providers etc.!

The Genius Hub also lets me log in remotely from my laptop or phone and turn off the heating when they leave on holiday, which saves me making a trip to each property.”

Has The Genius Hub delivered energy savings?
“In the first year, I wasn’t sure whether the automatic mode would cope with the students’ erratic schedules so I just set up timers for each room. That save 16% energy compared to the previous year. But in the second year, I swapped it into the automatic ‘footprint mode’ and last winter it saved me 22%. Not bad – but still, it’s more for the peace of mind that I won’t suddenly get a massive gas bill.”

Conclusion
Overall, Bernard is very positive about how The Genius Hub is working for him as a landlord. “Would I recommend The Genius Hub? Well I’ve just bought 7 more systems for my other properties, so I guess that speaks for itself! I’ve also mentioned it to a few other landlords and one of them went on to buy 10 systems. I think a lot of landlords would really appreciate The Genius Hub, they just don’t know that something like that exists. I’d strongly recommend it to any landlord that’s renting properties with bills included.”