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What do you do about apartments that are always cold?

DALL·E 2024-02-12 12.03.21 - A cold, dimly lit apartment interior in a horizontal layout, now filled with various plugged-in heating devices like space heaters, an electric fireplFacing the chill of a cold apartment is an issue that affects tenant comfort, and satisfaction is all too common within commercial buildings. In areas with strict heating regulations, like New York City, making sure your properties are adequately heated goes beyond providing comfort; it’s often a matter of legal compliance. 

Let’s delve into proactive measures available to address cold apartments, focusing on creating a cozy environment that keeps tenants happy and meets local heating ordinances.

The Cold Hard Facts: Implications of Chilly Living Spaces

Imagine this scenario: tenants huddled under blankets, seeking solace from the biting cold seeping into their living spaces. This image is far from what any property manager would want their tenants to experience. The repercussions of cold apartments extend beyond mere discomfort, posing severe health risks, tarnishing your property's reputation, and potentially leading to costly legal repercussions.

The health implications of living in cold conditions are well-documented. Cold environments can exacerbate respiratory problems, contribute to hypothermia, and increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes. The cold dampens the immune system, making your tenants more susceptible to common colds and flu, leading to more severe health complications, particularly among the elderly and those with preexisting health conditions.

Moreover, the perception of your building can take a negative hit. Properties known for being cold and uncomfortable can struggle to attract and retain tenants. In today's digital age, a few negative reviews online about heating issues can deter prospective tenants from considering your property, impacting its overall marketability and profitability.

Legal challenges present another critical concern. In New York City, heating regulations are stringent, with specific temperature requirements that must be met during the colder months. From 2017 to 2021, a staggering 814,542 heating complaints were filed by residents across 70,766 different privately owned buildings, as reported by the New York City Housing Preservation & Development

These figures highlight the issue's prevalence and underscore the potential legal and financial risks property managers and owners face for non-compliance. Fines for failing to meet heating requirements can be substantial, adding a financial burden on top of the already significant issue of tenant dissatisfaction.

Uncovering the Chill: Why Apartments Stay Cold

The battle against the cold in apartment buildings is often fought on multiple fronts. Several factors can contribute to a less-than-ideal living environment, from outdated heating systems to the building's inherent physical flaws. Identifying these issues is the first step toward creating a warmer, more inviting space for your tenants.

Outdated Heating Systems

One of the most common culprits behind cold apartments is outdated heating systems. Older systems may need more efficiency to heat a space properly and may also be prone to breakdowns and uneven heating distribution. 

Heating systems that have not been regularly serviced can suffer from a range of issues, including clogged filters, return line leaks, and deteriorated components, all of which reduce their effectiveness. Regular inspections and smart heating controls can help identify systems that are past their prime and in need of replacement or repair.

Insufficient Insulation

Insulation plays a pivotal role in retaining heat within a building. Many cold apartments suffer from insufficient insulation, allowing heat to escape through walls, roofs, and floors. This problem is particularly common in older buildings. An energy audit can reveal areas where insulation is lacking or has deteriorated over time, providing a clear roadmap for necessary upgrades.

Drafts from Windows and Doors

Windows and doors are common entry points for cold air. Inefficient window and door seals, thin glass panes, and poorly fitted frames can lead to major heat loss. Over time, seals can degrade, and frames may warp, exacerbating the problem. Inspecting these areas for drafts and visual signs of wear can help pinpoint where improvements are needed. Solutions may include replacing seals, installing weather stripping, upgrading to double or triple-glazed windows, and ensuring doors and windows are properly aligned and sealed.

Structural Issues

The building's structure itself can contribute to heating inefficiencies. Cracks in the exterior walls, gaps in flooring, and uninsulated attics or basements can all allow heat to escape. These structural vulnerabilities make it harder to keep apartments warm and lead to increased energy consumption as heating systems work overtime to compensate for the loss. A thorough inspection of the building's exterior and interior can reveal these issues, which may require repairs or renovations.

Ventilation Systems

While proper ventilation is essential for air quality and moisture control, overly aggressive or poorly designed ventilation systems can remove too much warm air from spaces, contributing to the cold. Evaluating the efficiency and configuration of ventilation systems can ensure they are balanced to provide fresh air without compromising the apartment's warmth.

Considering the average age of buildings in New York is 90 years and 53 years across the United States, there's a high likelihood your building might not meet current standards. Don't wait for a problem to disrupt your budget and tenant retention—avoid making assumptions about your building's systems and address potential issues proactively.

Boosting Heating Efficiency and Embracing Smart Controls

The real game-changer in managing apartment temperatures comes from embracing the latest heating technology. Smart boiler controls offer unprecedented command over the heating environment, allowing property managers to adjust temperatures remotely and effortlessly at any time. This capability is invaluable for addressing and reducing cold apartments.

One of the standout features available to property managers is heat boost, which allows for the instant activation of heating within a building, operating independently of the system's current state for a duration of two hours. This functionality ensures that immediate comfort adjustments can be made without altering the long-term settings of the building's heating system, providing a seamless solution to temperature complaints. Activating a heat boost will temporarily override the building's current state, subsequently analyzing indoor temperatures to resume appropriate heating cycles.

Smart heating controls go beyond simple temperature adjustments; they provide detailed insights into the heating needs of individual apartments. By monitoring temperatures across different units, you can proactively identify apartments at risk for temperature problems. This foresight allows you to adjust the heating before tenants even feel the need to complain, ensuring satisfaction with their living space and your building.

The benefits of smart heating controls extend to cost-efficiency and sustainability as well. These systems can adapt heating levels based on real-time weather conditions and occupancy, ensuring energy is not wasted running heat continuously for mild outdoor temperatures. For instance, if the weather forecast predicts a sudden drop in temperature, the heating system can be adjusted in advance to maintain a comfortable indoor environment, preventing the typical rush of heat complaints following a cold snap.

By adopting the simple upgrade of your heating systems with the adoption of smart heating controls, property managers can significantly enhance the living conditions within their buildings. This approach solves the cold apartment problem and aligns with goals for reducing energy bills during heating season. With heating controls, you can stay ahead of the curve, ensuring your apartments remain warm and inviting, even in the coldest seasons.

A Warmer Way Forward

Combating the issue of cold apartments requires a comprehensive strategy that includes system upgrades, improved insulation, smart technology, and effective monitoring. Addressing these key areas ensures your properties are warm, inviting, and compliant with local heating regulations.

Tired of heat complaints and want happier tenants who stick around? Schedule a demo of Runwise to see how smart boiler controls can help you better manage the temperature of your buildings and reduce your energy bills.