Operators of care homes face a constant struggle. They are forced to juggle the health, safety and well-being of their residents against increasing financial pressure. If opportunities arise to improve residents’ health and the standard of living whilst also saving money, they shouldn’t be ignored.
One of the most prominent – and unpredictable – issues is heating. Because care homes are effectively 24/7 operations, energy usage is one of their greatest expenditures. However there are heating options available that can help exceed residents’ expectations of their living environment whilst freeing up greater financial resources for the operators.
Money saved is money that can be reallocated towards improving the overall quality of care.
Rising in Residency, Rise in Costs
A report by Age UK estimates that there are 426,000 elderly and disabled people in 5,153 nursing homes and 12,525 residential homes. In the coming years, that figure is expected to rise significantly. Alarmingly, that rise coincides with energy experts’ predictions that energy bills will double in the next 10 years, after they went up 151% between 2004-2012.
But how can care homes cut costs to meet these challenges without compromising on the quality of overall care? The answer may well lie in the systems that care homes use to heat their buildings.
Future Proofing Care Homes
The Carbon Trust estimates that just 1°C of overheating can increase fuel costs by approximately 8%. With the intensity of heating demands in care homes it is logical to conclude that care homes would be some of the prime benefactors in implementing renewable heating technologies.
By making the investment in these technologies now – whether it be a solar thermal system, biomass boiler, or ground and air source heat pumps – care homes operators would be protecting the long-term welfare of the building and the residents. There may well be a fear that a total revamp of a heating system would be counterproductive; an upfront cost too great to commit in a fully operational care home that cannot afford downtime. However, that is not necessarily the case. Renewable heating solutions are affordable and the costs can even be offset by various government green funding initiatives. The fact that care home operators and owners will inevitably save substantial energy costs down the line means it is a cost worth bearing in the immediate short term.
But not only that, buildings’ energy performance is under increasing pressure to accord with legislative demands. Energy Performance Certificates are just one example, which come into effect in 2018. Care home operators must ensure their buildings comply with the minimum standard, or it will be considered unlawful to offer residence within their property.
There are measures available that are cost-efficient both in their implementation and their overall running costs. Care homes should look for Low-H2O radiators that use less water to produce the same amount of heat which will in turn reduce their energy bills.
The scale of these savings is considerable, with a quick return on investment and substantial savings year on year. Not only that, the living environment will become safer and more comfortable for the residents.
Spiralling energy costs in our care homes is a serious issue, but resolving it can be straightforward. Care home owners and operators are in the position to prepare their buildings to provide a future-proofed and more cost-effective quality of care.
By Phil Mangnall, National Sales Manager at Jaga Heating Products UK