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Colin Moran House of Multiple Occupancy

Colin Moran is the Director of Property People, 

an Estate agent with branches in Belfast and Tyrone. They also operate HMOs all over the Belfast area.



Describe the problems you faced, as the owner of a HMO.

To ensure that tenants have a predictable monthly budget, fees are included in the rent. But there's no real incentive for tenants who don't have to worry about utility bills to keep an eye on their heating use, so I've always ended up with huge energy bills.

Regardless of the number of requests I've made, the heaters have been left on all day, and windows have often been left open while the heat is on full blast. I'd explain to the tenants that the heating needs to be at a temperature that prevents frost when the rooms are empty for days at a time. But my student tenants who returned home during holiday periods frequently left the heating on when they left. I couldn’t sustain the bills.

It’s a difficult dilemma: on the one hand, tenants deserve to have control of the heating in their rooms. However, to reduce unnecessary waste and rising costs, the owners must also have sufficient control over them.

  • Why did you choose Genius Hub, over other smart controls systems?

    This was going to be a significant investment for me, so I did my homework on the different systems that are out there. And even when I chose Genius Hub, I only rolled it out in one of my properties to begin with, just to be sure.

    I needed a system that could identify energy wastage, and limit it. The two main bugbears for me were unoccupied rooms being heated, and rooms with open windows being heated. And Genius Hub detects both these problems and automatically turns off the heaters. 

    What swung it for me, really, was the extra level of control that Genius Hub gives, compared to other systems. No other brand has Smart Occupancy Detection, which is the feature that uses room sensors to identify when a room is unoccupied. I was able to set these sensors to automatically drop the temperature by 4ºC in unoccupied rooms, so this small change alone has made a huge difference to my bills. 

    [Note from Gaia Smart Energy: For every 1ºC you drop in temperature, you save 7% off the heating bill. So by dropping the temperature by 4ºC in unoccupied rooms, Colin was already saving 28% on his bills.]

  • Describe the installation process:

    Installation was very straightforward, and my tenants weren’t inconvenienced by it at all. A 6-bed property takes half a day to install, so we were easily able to arrange access to tenants’ rooms at a time that suited them to be out. 

    Smart valves were fitted onto existing radiators, and there was no need for re-plumbing. The hub was installed next to the internet router, and a motion sensor was placed in each room.  These sensors can be placed anywhere in the room where they can detect an occupant, which is great because it allows flexibility specific to the layout of each room.

  • Would you recommend Genius Hub to other HMO owners?

    Absolutely. So many problems have been nipped in the bud, since I had Genius Hub installed. 

    I’ve had problems in the past with tenants tampering with the heating controls. Now, I’m able to set limits to both the temperature (say, 22ºC) and the duration of the heating, so the heating can’t be left on around the clock. 

    Another big problem for me in the past was that there was almost always going to be someone in the building at any given time, and so the entire property could have the heating on all day. Now, Genius Hub figures out the various schedules of the tenants. It calculates their schedules, and if a tenant returns to their room outside of their normal schedule, that’s no problem because the sensors will kick in and heat their room again. 

    Another advantage is that I previously had tenants using electric heaters, which are very expensive. Because my tenants are now guaranteed a comfortable temperature in their rooms, they’ve stopped using electric heaters, so I’ve seen a drop in my electricity bills as well as my gas bills.

  • How do your tenants find the system?

    The tenants who remember the old system are much happier since Genius Hub was installed. They feel they’re in control of their heating, because they can boost it by adjusting the smart valve in their room. And if they forget to turn their heating off when they leave, the room sensors will do that for them.

    There were some concerns from tenants initially, that the system would limit them to a schedule that might not always suit them. However, they’ve now seen the room sensors in action, so they know that if they return home outside their normal schedule, the sensors will detect their presence and adjust the heating to a comfortable temperature again. 

    I suppose their reaction can be summed up by one tenant, who remarked that the best thing about the new heating system is that she doesn’t even notice it anymore.

  • How would you describe your experience with Gaia Smart Energy?

    I found Gaia Smart Energy knowledgeable and helpful, and they got the job done without any hassle. All of the equipment was explained and demonstrated clearly and thoroughly. I found them great to deal with. I have now rolled out the Genius Hub system to other HMO properties and I'm seeing the benefits in a reduction in Tenant complaints and  energy bills

Saved 41% on gas bills

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