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Improving energy efficiency of housing


Nyíregyháza, situated in the north east of Hungary, is the 7th largest town in the country, with 120,000 inhabitants. It is the capital of Szabolcs- Szatmár- Bereg County. Almost one-third of the cities’ housing stock was built using concrete panels in the 1960s and 1970. The energy consumption within these buildings is extremely high: they suffer from very poor insulation, with numerous thermal bridges, poor air-tightness and severe water infiltration. The depreciation of this building stock can also lead to severe social problems and to the creation of urban slums.

There are 44,000 households in Nyíregyháza, including 22,000 blocks of flats, of which 12,644 are connected to a district heating system. In order to improve the comfort of the population and decrease the amount they spend on energy, the city decided to modernise its district heating system and housing stock. The first stage involved a programme called ‘Opening’, which was launched in 1997 to upgrade the thermal distribution circuits for more than 12,800 flats. This resulted in a considerable decrease in energy consumption and was the most cost-effective measure possible.

The second stage known as the ‘Panel programme’ started in 2001 and involved retrofitting panel blocks. Most of the flats involved in the programme were privately owned, which presented a challenge in securing agreement to retrofit.

Other programmes have included improving the energy efficiency of streetlights and indoor lighting.

Building details

Type of building: Multi-residential
Year of construction: The housing stock was built in the 1960s and 1970s
Heating and cooling installed _ District Heating System

Project Description

Aim To reduce energy costs for citizens, improve their comfort, and prevent the development of urban slums, through renovations to the housing stock and heating systems to improve energy efficiency.
Key points A number of different programmes have been implemented by the Municipality of Nyíregyháza in order to improve the energy efficiency of the housing stock, as described below.

_ NYÍTÁS’ or ‘Opening’ project

_ The ‘NYÍTÁS’ or ‘Opening’ project involved improving the circuitry of the district heating system, reducing efficiency losses for more than more than 12,800 flats. This involved improving both the distribution network for the heating system and the buildings using the system. The following measures were undertaken in these two areas:

_ Reconstruction of the distribution network

- Replacement of some sections of the mains pipework
- Improvement of levels of insulation
- Installation of variable mass flow control in every heating centre
- Installation of modern valves, pumps and DDC controllers (direct digital control)
- Installation of individual heat meters in every building

_ Refurbishment of the buildings

- Infrared pictures taken of the buildings to show where heat was being lost
- Advice provided on maintenance of panel insulation
- Installation of thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs)
- Required temperature regulated by DDC controllers depending on external conditions
- Hydraulic adjustment for optimal operation
- Installation of heat meters in every staircase
- Heating cost-dividing device on radiators so that occupants pay for the heat they use

_ The Opening programme has been well received by occupants of flats that are part of the district heating scheme. This is because it has allowed them to:

- Control their heating
- Pay for heat as it is used
- Heat their flats at a lower cost because of their improved control of the heating system
- Have a higher comfort level
- Increase the value of their flats

_ Panel Programme

_ The ‘Panel Programme’ began in 2001 and involved improving the energy efficiency of the housing stock built in the 1960s and 1970s through a combination of modernising the heating system and installing insulation. Slum prevention, cost savings, and increasing property and landscape values were all drivers for the programme.

An apartment block after refurbishment as part of the Panel Programme

_ In order to choose buildings to take part in the Panel Programme, collectives of flat owners within a building were invited to submit an application (note: the Panel Programme was not open to individual flat owners). Selection of participants was based on a rating system, with points allocated according to factors such as the age of the building, the architecture, the level of commitment of the collective to improving the building (in terms of both effort and finances) and the importance of the building in the cityscape.

_ 208 applications were received for programme, covering 12,152 flats. Of these, 140 applications were approved, covering 5,626 flats. So far, 3,658 flats have been completed (equating to 89 completed projects).

_ Of the 3,658 completed flats, it is estimated (through random sampling) that the programme has resulted in an energy saving of 26.8 TJ/year.

_ The chart below shows the number of project requests (pink), grant decisions (light blue) and completed dwellings (dark blue) since 2001.


_ Lighting programme

_ An indoor lighting programme was undertaken to replace inefficient lighting in public buildings. Under this programme, 34,800 lamps were replaced in 101 public buildings, resulting in a 32.5% energy saving. In Arany J secondary school 1,426 lamps were replaced, alongside 1,299 lighting switches and 530m of earth wire. The installed capacity was reduced from 202 kW to 84kW, saving 58.5% of their energy use – 176.7 kWh a year.


_ In addition, energy efficient street lighting was installed, resulting in an energy saving of 38%.

Reason for inclusion as Shining Example This shining example shows how an integrated, city-wide approach with financial support can lead to large improvements in energy efficiency of public buildings and housing stock at relatively low costs. By improving the housing stock and therefore making the public more aware of the benefits that energy efficiency can bring, they will be more inclined to take on further improvements themselves.

Costs &


Costs &


To secure the agreement of householders for the refurbishments required by the Panel Programme, the costs were subsidised by the local council and the State. The State financed one-third of the Programme costs, one-third was provided by the city council with the final third provided by the owners themselves.

_ The total amount invested through the Panel Programme currently stands at €10.2 million. €3.3 million of this funding has come from the State, and €3.1 million from the municipality. So far, the project has save 26.8 TJ/year with a payback time of 9-12 years for replacing the windows and
15-30 years for insulation of envelope of building.

_ The indoor lighting programme required a total investment of €2.8 million and resulted in a 32.5% energy saving. This is equivalent to savings of €224,000/year, giving a payback period of 12 years.

_ The Opening project was funded by householders, who made a one-off payment (€10/radiator), the government and Nyírtávhő Ltd, the district heating company owned by the local government (Nyírtávhő Ltd purchases hot water from the power station and distributes it to consumers). The payback time for the reconstruction of the heating system through the Opening project is 2-4 years.
Benefits The Panel Project has resulted in energy savings of 26.8 TJ/year. An evaluation of the retrofitting measures has shown that an overall 68% energy saving can be achieved. In terms of the contribution of different components of the retrofit to reducing energy consumption, heating modernisation accounted for a 46% reduction, the replacement of windows 13%, and insulation of the building facade a 9% reduction.


_ Due to the considerable savings that can be realised, alongside the improvements in the household conditions and the increased value of retrofitted flats, citizens are very interested in the programme, with energy efficiency now a clear priority.

_ The indoor lighting programme saved 32.5% of energy and the street lighting programme saved 38%.

Partnership details

Partners &


Energy efficiency in Nyíregyháza is promoted through a partnership between:

- Municipality of Nyíregyháza- local government for Nyíregyháza
-  Municipality of Szabolcs- Szatmár- Bereg (S.S.B.) County- local government for S.S.B. County, which Nyíregyháza is the capital of
-  College of Nyíregyháza- a university
-  E-misszió association- a non-governmental organisation
-  PRIMOM fund- Enterprise Promoting Foundation Incubator House and Information Centre. The aim of the PRIMOM Foundation is to aid the economic development of Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg county, through establishing and promoting an enterprise-friendly system


Achievements _ An obstacle faced by the Panel Programme was the fact that many buildings that required retrofits to improve their efficiency were privately owned and therefore under no requirement to take-up measures.

_ However, by subsidising the costs of the retrofits so that the household only bore one-third of the cost (one-third was provided by the State, and one-third by the Municipality) take-up of the measures was more attractive. The number of applicants to the programme has grown to over 12,000, with citizens becoming more aware of the benefits that energy efficiency can bring them.

To know more



City of Nyíregyháza
Contact Péter Nagy
Phone + 36 42 524 544

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