Wars in multi-dwelling buildings: some residents struggle to stay warm in winter, others open windows to cool overheated flats

Autumn has come, but why are radiators in your house cold? It could be that your neighbours consume the heat that is meant for you, according to specialists. As Vaidas Barakauskas, the representative of Civinity, an international group providing administration and maintenance services of households and other buildings, the heating systems of almost all non-renovated residential buildings in Lithuania are not working properly as residents independently choose to install additional radiators, heat floors or change the pipe system. As a result, some houses even cannot be supplied with heat.

“The level of warmth in your house does not depend on the size of a radiator but on the flow of hot water running through heating equipment. The precise amount of water is calculated when the heating system is installed in a multi-dwelling building. Any arbitrary attempt by residents to make modifications without a design disturbs the balance of the heating system. Subsequently, some flats are too chilly, while others are overheated and their owners keep the windows open in winter,” says Barakauskas.

Even the most innocent alterations that seem insignificant to residents can disrupt the heating system. For example, some owners who seek to improve the aesthetic appearance of their flat choose to install a new radiator or other heating device with more narrow pipes through which hot water is supplied. This change may reduce the flow of passing water to all flats that are connected to the same heating duct, depriving the neighbours of warmth.

According to Barakauskas, the problem of heating in multi-dwelling buildings is getting worse and worse, and it is difficult to solve this problem because of the different interests of residents: some of them are keen to solve it, while others are not bothered at all.

“The heating system must be balanced. However, residents more often decide to make unauthorised   modifications which disrupt the flow of hot water – as a result living conditions in a residential building constantly deteriorate. The majority of Lithuanians live under the similar conditions,” points out Barakauskas.

In his words, this problem could be solved by renovating a residential building or at least upgrading its heating system. Such modernisation would cut heating bills by up to a third every year – it is supposed that this amount of heat is lost now through the windows. Barakauskas also stresses that the balanced heating system would allow all residences of a multi-dwelling building keep their flats equally warm.

“The buildings that have an unstable flow of hot water tend to waste particularly much warmth in the transitional seasons of autumn and spring: at this time of the year some flats become too hot and their owners let the excess heat out by opening windows,” suggests Barakauskas. In his opinion, renovation or the upgrade of the heating system would solve the problem of excess heat.

V. Barakauskas emphasises that it is important that residents reach a common agreement on the maintenance of the heating system and says that detecting the true reason of the unbalanced water flow is quite difficult as this defect may occur in one or a few flats. So, there is no other solution to this problem than the renovation of the whole heating system.

Barakauskas notes that the decision of residents to independently change heating devices may cause more serious problems for all dwellers of the building, not just a difference in temperature in separate flats.

“This season we were unable to turn the heating on in time in three multi-dwelling buildings in Klaipėda due to a leaking heating system. We suspect that some residents have individually reconstructed it in their premises. The owners of the premises had to be persuaded to let heating specialists in to check the tightness of the heating system. We were unable to turn the heating on in time without carrying out a routine inspection. This caused inconvenience for 180 families,” says Barakauskas.

According to Barakauskas, to keep the heating system from getting unbalanced in the future, residents should carry out renovation in their premises in accordance with a design which must be coordinated with the administrator of a building. This would help to ensure the stable flow of water and an optimum temperature in all flats of a building.

The representative of Civinity suggests that in the long run the level of warmth in a flat may change due to an outdated heating system, which gets clogged with deposit and air locks occur. These problems could be solved by carrying out the renovation of a building and the upgrade of the heating system.