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To heat or not to heat?

By October 7, 2022No Comments
an old radiator on a wall

For those owning or managing heritage or historic buildings, the huge increases to heating costs is raising many difficult questions.

The size of the increases is enough to push many organisations to the financial limit, and so it is wise to explore a few basic fundamentals as you explore a way forwards at the same time as being mindful of your insurance arrangements.

Think about the public

Firstly, let’s think about the public attending any buildings. Assuming you do have visitors, it’s worth stating that at the time of writing there is no legal requirement to heat buildings. However, if for instance an organisation was concerned how such a change would be taken by visitors, then they may wish to tell visitors that this is the case upon arrival, or indeed in their website or social media pages.

There are currently plenty of buildings in the UK that are either unheated for many days a week, or just on a frost-stat setting, the most notable being churches. In other words, it is possible to consider no, or very little heating. But the public are not the only ones to consider.

Think about your people

Secondly, let’s think about staff and volunteers. This touches upon Employers Liability cover, and in this case it’s worth ensuring there are places staff and volunteers can work/operate that are at a sufficient temperature for general good health and happiness. There is no law about minimum or maximum temperatures.

With these factors considered, drastically lowering temperatures for staff and volunteers assumes you will risk assess matters with them in case they have any medical factors taken into account. It could be that some personnel have to give a change of responsibilities if you are forced to lower or turn off the heating.

Think about the fabric

Thirdly, think about the fabric of the building. Whilst it is true that some buildings can suffer from excessive use of central heating, others do benefit from some heating as this can prevent certain damp problems, especially in cold spots. It may be that you need to experiment first, and gain advice from a company that carry out damp surveys if you become concerned.

Think about your insurance policy

Finally, purely thinking insurance here, it’s worth considering if your insurance policy already expects you to heat the building. The largest number of problems arise when buildings are deemed to be unoccupied and unheated, leading to burst pipes and expensive claims. It’s best not to assume your understanding of “unoccupied” is the same as the insurers, so do chat to your broker. Why does this matter? Well, if your building is always in use, your insurer may not worry at all about the heating being off. But if you have a building that may not be used for over a week at a time then it could well be deemed unoccupied.

Some insurers demand that unoccupied buildings have heating systems turned off a drained down, and others may negotiate to ensure you have the heating on constantly at no less than an agreed temperature e.g. 6 Celsius.

hayes parsons logo in green and blue

Hayes Parsons Insurance Brokers

Thank you to Partner Plus members Hayes Parsons for this invaluable article! Hayes Parsons has been working with the heritage sector for many years and is highly knowledgeable in sourcing bespoke cover for historic buildings. Heritage expert, Martin Howard, is available to advise and support you if you have any queries and will be glad to assist you with any of your insurance requirements. If you’d like to have a chat with Martin please use the following details:

Martin Howard Cert CII
Account Executive 0117 930 1668 | 07719 023 194

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