Centralised cooling system not yet installed at Tengah: Resident forced to delay renovating new flat

Isabelle Liew
The Straits Times
December 31, 2023

Tengah resident Julie Tan had to delay renovating her new flat for more than half a month, as the centralised cooling system was not yet installed when she collected the keys to her five-room unit in November.

Ms Tan, 49, said she was shocked when SP Group, which manages the cooling system in Tengah town, told her that it was unable to complete the installation of the system in time.

She had approached the utilities firm at its customer service centre at HDB Hub in Toa Payoh on Nov 27, after collecting her keys that day, as she was wondering why she was not yet asked to pay for the installation.

“They said the installation would take another two to four weeks. We were hoping to move in before Chinese New Year, but it has to be delayed as we can start renovation only after it is installed,” the accounts executive told The Straits Times on Dec 13.

ST knows of at least seven Tengah households in one block in the Plantation Acres project that are affected.

In response to queries, SP and the Housing Board confirmed that the installation was incomplete for “a handful” of units, without specifying how many units or blocks were affected.

An SP spokesman said HDB had an accelerated construction schedule to hand over units to residents following delays due to Covid-19. As a result, the company’s installation partner, Daikin, was unable to complete the installation of the fan coil units (FCUs) before the key collection date.

Plantation Acres, launched in May 2019, was initially slated for completion in the second half of 2022.

Asked why keys were given out before the installation was complete, an HDB spokeswoman said that although SP needed more time, HDB prioritised handing over keys to home owners by the committed completion date to allow them to move in as soon as possible. Therefore, it was unable to accommodate SP’s schedule, she added.

SP said an additional four weeks are needed for installation after key collection, for Daikin to install the units and work with SP to carry out testing and commissioning works to ensure the system performs according to operating standards. Usage charges will be waived during this time.

The SP spokesman added that affected customers were informed before their key collection.

“We understand this may impact customers’ plans, and are working with Daikin to have the FCUs installed for these customers as soon as possible,” he said.

Although the installation of the cooling system in Ms Tan’s home was completed about three weeks after she collected her keys, she has yet to receive the remote controls for it, she told ST on Dec 29.

Ms Tan said she was initially worried about the delay as she has to vacate her current home by March 8, having sold her flat earlier in December with three months’ extension of stay. But she added that she is less anxious as renovation began last week.

“We should be able to move in after Chinese New Year. I just hope that the cooling system works well, because for now, we can turn it on only manually,” she said.

Another resident, who wanted to be known only as Mr Chiam, 34, said he was surprised when he received an e-mail from SP informing him about the installation delay only after he had collected the keys to his five-room flat on Nov 28.

“I was already at SP’s Tengah experience centre at HDB Hub, trying to make payment for my centralised cooling system’s units,” he added.

Mr Chiam, who works in the public sector, said he decided to cancel his contract, and SP sent him an invoice for a cancellation fee of about $800.

“Despite the controversy about quality, I was still willing to go ahead with the system. Since SP isn’t able to meet the handover deadline, why should we take the risk to wait?

“It’s disappointing that I’m still being charged the cancellation fee when it’s not my fault it wasn’t installed.”

Mr Chiam said he has e-mailed SP to ask if the fee can be waived, but has not received a reply.

Tengah, an eco-friendly and car-lite “forest” town, is the first HDB estate to provide a centralised cooling system as an option for home owners.

The system uses chilled water to remove heat, unlike conventional air-conditioning units that are connected to outdoor compressors and use refrigerants to cool down flats. Centralised chillers on the blocks’ rooftops produce chilled water that is piped directly into homes.

ST reported in October that the cooling system had run into teething problems after the first batch of residents collected their keys at the end of August, with some saying the system in their units was not cold enough.

In November, a petition signed by more than 150 Tengah residents highlighted that the chilled water usage rate of 20.38 cents per kilowatt-hour refrigeration (kWrh) for the period of October to December was higher than expected and requested that it be lowered. SP subsequently waived charges until Dec 31 and adjusted the rate to 13.2 cents per kWrh from Jan 1. The rate will be reviewed and adjusted quarterly.

According to an archived webpage on Nov 15 of the myTengah website, run by SP, eight in 10 – or more than 10,600 – residents of Tengah have opted for the system. A check on Dec 29 showed that this number had been removed. SP did not provide cancellation numbers when asked by ST.

Residents had also complained about the inaccessibility of public transport in the new town, and an additional bus service to Jurong Town Hall Bus Interchange was added in November. There are now three bus services serving Tengah.

The keys for 2,093 units – about 56 per cent of the 3,753 units in the first three Build-To-Order projects in Tengah – were collected by Dec 17, HDB said. They are Plantation Acres, Plantation Grange and Plantation Village.

The Straits Times

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