If you look at a radiator in an average Russian house, you will quickly see that something is missing: it is simply not possible to turn off the heat. It passes merrily through the pipes, whether it is Siberian winter outside or spring has arrived with twittering birds and rising temperatures.
In most cold countries where there is a need to heat homes during the winter, a few oil crises have taught consumers a lesson on how to cut heating bills. However, in Russia, a country with more need for heating than most and where cold weather lasts for seven to eight months in many regions, consumers do what they have always done: they simply open the windows when it gets too hot indoors. Now Danfoss aims to change this, but it will be a long, uphill journey.
A couple of figures illustrate the extent of the problem: 70 per cent of all households in Russia have district heating. It is estimated that the country has a district heating supply network of more than 1.8 million kilometres and the loss of heat in most systems is between 20 and 70 per cent – so a good deal needs to be renovated.
Back in 1993, Danfoss, which had just been established in Russia, saw this coming. Thanks to efficient lobbying and close cooperation with the country’s biggest producer of heating panels, Santechprom, Danfoss managed to dominate the market entirely and – most
importantly – managed to make the authorities in Moscow introduce guidelines for the use of thermostats on radiators. The guidelines are only recommendations but, in practice, eight out
of ten contractors comply with them.
Heating bills stay the same
However, although the thermostats have been installed, many residents cannot really see the point of them – and some even remove them.
The trouble is that they still pay the same for their heating, whether or not they turn it down and save energy. In Russia, everyone pays the same, with bills depending on the size of
the apartment, not how much the household uses, and so far heating has not been tremendously costly. Payment takes place according to a special national rate and, in addition, the borough often grants additional financial support.
“It is not an easy task to convince a contractor that he should invest in the ‘whole package’ that Danfoss offers, including heat exchangers and meters in each apartment. This only increases the price of the apartments and is not a sales argument that attracts buyers,” says technical director of Danfoss Russia, Aleksandr Artyukh.
Consequently, only a few of these projects exist and they are primarily examples of how it could be – with savings of 30-40 per cent on heating bills.
“Global warming and treaties such as the Kyoto agreement are not very important subjects in Russia. This country has large oil and gas reserves, and this means that there is little motivation for making savings,” says deputy technical director of Danfoss Russia, Viktor Granovskiy. He goes on to point out another important aspect: a deeply-rooted fear among politicians and officials that Russians could freeze during the long winters.
However, some factors are in Danfoss’ favour: the Moscow city council has decided to eliminate the district heating subsidiary, and this should strengthen the district heating consumers’ focus on their heating bills. Also, four regions will soon introduce rules like the ones in Moscow regarding the use of radiator thermostats.