Let’s start with this question: How many of you took your own shopping bags to the supermarket before the mandatory 5p charge was introduced in October 2015?
The answer is very few compared to those of us who do now. And the main reason for this is that we are all resistant to change, particularly when it is enforced upon us and costs us money.
This just goes to show that despite our best intentions, we lean towards convenience. There are often more important issues to address than whether our actions are having a damaging effect on the environment.
It’s no different in the buy-to-let sector. Energy used in the home equates to more than a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK and from April 2018, all rental properties will need an energy rating of Band E or higher, otherwise they will be unlawful to let.
Currently 1 in 10 properties in the private rented sector fall into the F or G efficiency rating.
So we know that environmental protection is on the Government’s radar and we can only assume that regulation will become tighter and more progressive.
So it’s time for landlords to get ahead of the game, because imposing regulation on the UK’s 1.9 million landlords is a much easier starting point than trying to impose home efficiency and eco-friendly practises on individual home owners.
But there could also be benefits of becoming an environmentally conscious landlord.
Energy prices are expected to rise anywhere between 25-50% over the next five years, so by investing in newer technology, you could make a long-term saving by gradually moving away from non-renewable energy sources.
In addition, global warming is a growing social concern. Consumer research shows that when an individual knows that a company is mindful of its impact on the environment, they are 58% more likely to buy their products and services.
This is easily transferable to the buy-to-let sector and being modern and eco-friendly seems like a great, yet underused, USP for landlords to develop.
So what opportunities are available to professional landlords and what could buy-to-let properties of the future look like? And we’re not talking basic aerator taps and energy efficient lightbulbs.
Let the weather pay your bills
Consider using nature to heat and water your houses – Rain harvesters collect rain drops and reuse the water throughout the house for everything from flushing toilets to watering the garden, taking the strain off the mains water supply. Water bills could reduce dramatically over time which would more than cover the cost of installation.
Ground and air sourced heat pumps – A ground source heat pump system harnesses natural heat by pumping water through it. The heat pump then increases the temperature and the heat is used to provide home heating or hot water. The pump does need electricity to run but the idea is that it uses less electrical energy than the heat energy it produces – according to the Energy Saving Trust, a heat pump with mid-range efficiency uses the third of the energy needed for an average gas boiler to produce the same amount of heat.
Photovoltaic glass windows – These are a new breed of clear solar panels that really do look like clear glass. Imagine that every window could be an energy generator? Photovoltaic solar cells make energy by absorbing sunlight and converting it into electricity. Historically, solar cells have only been partially transparent because when a material is transparent, theoretically the light should pass straight through it. But researchers have now managed to overcome this.
Keyless keys – Mobile phone apps are now being developed that could eventually replace house keys. Just think how many times you’ve had to replace lost keys or tend to a tenant who has locked themselves out. You could replace the entire lock with a smart device, or place a smart device over an existing lock and the mechanism can be unlocked by recognising a fingerprint or an entire profile. Depending on which product you opt for, it is possible to give out multiple digital keys to each lock and even schedule when access is available. For example, you could issue your cleaner with a key and programme it to work on the days they are due to work.
Robot cleaners – Or why not do away with cleaners altogether and opt for a robot cleaner? In the early stages of development but one to watch, small automatic robots are designed to travel around the home cleaning the floors. You simply programme in the coordinates and off they go.
Electric car charging points – At the start of 2014, around 500 electric cars were registered per month in the UK. This figure is now nearer 2,500. And you’ve probably noticed that it’s not just central London who has charging points on the streets. You can even find them in the local supermarket. In future, could your tenants require you to provide much more than off-road parking?
LiFi – In the early stages of development, this is a light based data transfer delivery method which uses LED lighting rather than Wi-Fi radiowaves. It’s already been dubbed superior to Wi-Fi and 100 times faster and more secure.
Wireless charging – We are moving towards an age where the power chord will become obsolete. With the reduction of wiring and leads for our everyday products, we could end up with no more messy cabling to try and hide behind the TV. Wireless charging works by using an electromagnetic field to transfer energy between two objects. Another benefit of that is that the newer technology is expected to be much more durable and hard wearing, requiring much less maintenance and repair.
So, in addition to the motion sensor lighting, digital controls and smart meters available now, buy-to-let properties of the future could be more ‘Star Wars’ than ‘2point4 Children’.
Watch this space and start making eco-conscious decisions now, before you have to.