The A-Z of Energy Terms Explained

Every industry has its own jargon. The energy sector is no different but that can make it difficult for everyday consumers to fully understand things like their bills, discounts, incentives or where to turn for help.

For those times when you look at your energy bill and wonder, “What does that mean?!” we’ve put together descriptions of energy-related terms, from A to Z.

 A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z

A

  • Annual statement – this is a statement from your energy supplier that gives you information about how much gas and/or electricity you’ve used in the last year, in kWh and £s. It will also tell you the name of your tariff and when your plans ends (if applicable). The information provided should make it easier for customers to compare tariffs to get the best energy deal.

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B

  • Back-billing – not all energy bills are accurate and sometimes, as a result of undercharging, suppliers issue a back bill or “catch up” bill. If the error was caused by the supplier, the customer can’t be charged for energy used more than 12 months before the corrected bill was issued.

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C

  • Cold weather payment – this government scheme provides vulnerable customers with a £25 boost during very cold spells (lasting at least 7 days) to help with heating costs. If you’re eligible to get a Cold Weather Payment, you’ll be paid it automatically, as eligibility is usually linked to benefits.
  • Credit (CR) – when you pay more to your supplier than the amount of energy you’ve used, you build up a credit. This is money that the supplier owes you but the balance is generally carried over to your next bill.

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D

  • Debit (DR) – this is the money you owe your supplier and is the opposite of a credit. You may build up a debit by paying estimated bills that are lower than the energy you actually use or by not paying a bill. If a debit continues to grow, a supplier may suggest increasing payments to catch up.
  • Dual fuel – if you use gas and electricity and they are with the same supplier, you have a dual fuel tariff. Some suppliers may offer discounts for dual fuel customers but it’s a good idea to do a price comparison before combining your accounts.

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E

  • Economy 7/Economy 10 – these are a type of tariff most often associated with households that use electric night storage heaters. More recently, customers who charge electric vehicles at home overnight may also be on an Economy 7 tariff. A special electricity meter provides a day (on-peak) reading and a cheaper night (off-peak) reading. The off-peak rates are available for 7 hours or 10 hours, depending on the tariff. If you don’t know the times that the off-peak rates are offered, speak to your energy supplier.
  • Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme – this government energy efficiency scheme is designed to reduce carbon emissions and tackle fuel poverty. People in receipt of certain benefits may be eligible for free or subsidised insulation and/or heating measures. Support is available to all housing tenures although eligibility for improvements depends on numerous factors.
  • Energy Efficiency – this refers to generating the same output with less energy. LED lightbulbs, for example, are more energy efficient than incandescent (old-style) lightbulbs because they provide the same amount of light but use a lot less electricity. It comes down to doing more with less.
  • Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) – properties that are built, sold or let require this certificate that indicates how energy efficient a home is on a scale from A (very efficient) to G (very inefficient). UK homes typically achieve a D rating on average. An EPC can help prospective buyers and tenants determine if the property is difficult to heat and how much they might spend on energy bills. Landlords are no longer able to lease a property with an EPC rating below an E. The EPC also recommends ways to improve the energy efficiency of a home.
  • Estimated bills – unless you are diligent about providing meter readings to your supplier or have a smart meter installed, most of your energy bills are probably estimated. Suppliers must make a best guess at how much energy you’ve used in the billing cycle and charge you accordingly. That means you might be overcharged or undercharged, which may lead to nasty surprises later on. See also credit, debit and back billing.
  • Exit fees – fixed rate tariffs often come with penalties for leaving your tariff before the end of your contract. The fees range in price but typically cost about £30 per fuel to leave early. That means that if you are a dual fuel customer, you may be charged £60. Some suppliers may waive this fee if you ask to switch to another of their tariffs. And if you’re within the last 49 days of your fixed-term contract (known as the “switching window”), you can switch tariffs without incurring a charge.
  • Extra help unit – this team of specialist Citizens Advice caseworkers provide advice to vulnerable customers with energy complaints. It is an alternative service to the Energy Ombudsman and customers must first be referred by the Citizens Advice Consumer Service.

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F

  • Feed-in-Tariff (FiT) – this government scheme pays people for the electricity they generate from certain renewable energy technologies, like solar PV and wind turbines. The government have announced plans to scrap the scheme after 31 March, 2019.
  • Fixed rate – this energy plan provides customers with a set unit rate for the duration of your plan. That is, the cost of each unit of energy you use will stay the same for a set amount of time, even if your supplier decides to hike prices for their other customers.

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G

  • Green Deal – these were are government grants and loans for eligible home energy efficiency improvements. The main measures available were are boiler upgrades and insulation. While there were are no upfront installations costs, repayments were are linked to energy bill savings. The Green Deal stays with the property, so if you move somewhere that has a Green Deal Loan, you’ll be charged a fee on your electricity bill to pay back the loan. An EPC will be able to tell you if it’s a property with a Green Deal.

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I

  • In-Home Display (IHD) – this device goes hand-in-hand with smart meters and is able to help customers manage their energy use. It can show you how much energy you use in real time, how much it’s costing, the name of your tariff, historical data and much more. Customers can also set alerts and warnings to keep track of their usage. For more details, see ‘smart meter’ section below.

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K

  • Kilowatt-hour (kWh) – this unit of energy is what energy suppliers use to measure how much gas and/or electricity you’re using. You can compare tariffs that suppliers offer by looking at what they charge per kWh (but make sure you also look at their standing charges).

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M

  • Meter Point Administration Number (MPAN, Supply Number or S-Number) – this 21 digit reference number is used to identify customers’ unique electricity supply points (usually individual meters). You’ll find this number on your electricity bill and on your meter.
  • Meter Point Reference Number (MPRN or M-Number) – this 11 digit reference number is used to identify customers’ unique gas supply points (usually individual meters). You’ll find this number on your gas bill and on your meter.

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N

  • Network operator – these networks are responsible for the electric cables and gas pipes outside a consumer’s home. These are the people to call if you experience delivery problems, for example, if your power goes out. You can find out who your network operator is here. They are separate to the utilities.

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O

  • Ofgem (Office of Gas and Electricity Markets) – this is the government regulator (although not a government entity) for the gas and electricity markets. They make decisions on things like price controls and have the power to enforce their decisions. When comparing tariffs, for example, Ofgem has a list of approved switching sites that show prices and options that are unbiased and fair.
  • Ombudsman – if you have a complaint with your energy supplier that cannot be resolved, one option is to escalate the complaint to the ombudsman. They can help resolve your complaint for free. The best place to start, however, is a conversation with your supplier, Citizens Advice and/or us.
  • On-peak / off-peak – these refer to specific times of the day when electricity or gas is either more or less expensive, respectively, and typically coincide with times that homes and businesses use more or less energy. Generally, off-peak cheaper energy is offered at night, e.g. Economy 7 electricity tariffs or on weekends, e.g. time-of-use tariffs, while on-peak dearer energy is provided during the weekday.

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P

  • Prepayment meter – this is a type of pay-as-you-go energy meter, where a key or card is used to add money to the meter to pay for energy before it’s used. You may even be able to top-up over the phone or online. Most of these meters offer ‘emergency credit’, which allows users a bit of time to top-up if they run out of prepaid credit. If customers with credit meters have accrued significant debts with an energy company, the supplier may attempt to install a prepayment meter to recoup the debt over time. A supplier can’t install a prepayment meter if it wouldn’t be safe or practical to do so. You can still switch supplier with a pre-payment meter, even with debt up to £500. Ofgem has capped the price suppliers can charge households with this type of meter.
  • Price cap – this is a limit set by Ofgem for what energy suppliers can charge typical customers. Currently, this cap is set at £1136 per year for a standard variable tariff dual fuel customer paying by direct debit, although benefits of this price cap will depend on the amount of energy you use, the tariff you’re on and how you pay. The price cap affects pre-payment customers, those on a standard variable tariff and people who receive the Warm Home Discount. But the best way to save money is to shop around.
  • Priority Services Register (PSR) – this is a free service offered by energy companies and networks that provides extra support to vulnerable clients. Vulnerabilities may include age (either advanced age or young children), language barriers and mental or physical illnesses, although there may be other reasons you would want to sign up. The support varies but can include advanced notice in the event of a planned power outage, priority in an emergency (e.g., temporary heaters and/or hot meals delivered), quarterly meter reading services and annual gas safety checks for homeowners.

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Q

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R

  • Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) – this government scheme promotes households to adopt renewable heating through financial incentives. There are requirements to enrol in the scheme, but if you meet the scheme rules, you can receive payments for the amount of clean, green renewable heat you produce.

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S

  • Smart meter – this new kind of energy meter transmits meter readings to your energy supplier automatically. They are gradually replacing standard energy meters through the UK and should be offered to everyone by 2020. These meters come with IHDs that can help customers better understand their energy use but, even without an IHD, the smart meter will continue to work. More info can be found on our FAQs page.
  • Standard variable tariff – in this type of energy plan, the price per kWh can fluctuate from month to month. It is typically the most expensive plan offered by an energy provider. Oftentimes, when a customer’s fixed rate plan runs out, they are automatically rolled over to a standard variable tariff. There are no exit fees on this plan, so it’s a good idea to look for better deals. Ofgem has capped the price suppliers can charge typical households on this tariff.
  • Standing charge – this charge is what you pay every day to be connected to the gas and/or electricity. There are separate charges for both. On top of this payment, you pay for the energy you use as well. Not all suppliers have standing charges but they may instead charge a higher unit rate. So if you’re away for much of the year or use very little energy, finding a company that has a zero standing charge could be right for you. Comparison sites should help you find that sweet spot.
  • Supplier – this is the company that provides your gas and/or electricity. You may have heard of the ‘Big 6’ but there are now many new smaller companies entering this market. While the supplier is who you pay your bills to, the network operator is responsible for maintaining the power lines and cables to get the energy to your home. You can choose your supplier but cannot choose your network operator. If you don’t know who your supplier is, you can call 0870 608 1524 for gas and 0345 026 2554 (Option 3) for electricity.
  • Switching window – the final 49 calendar days of a fixed-term contract when customers can switch energy suppliers without being charged an exit fee.

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T

  • Tariff – a fancy name for an energy plan or deal.
  • Tariff comparison rate (TCR) – this figure can help a typical energy consumer compare deals offered by suppliers. It’s given as a price per kWh and can be found on many energy bills, although it’s no longer mandated by Ofgem. While the TCR is only a guideline, it can help consumers navigate the often complex energy market.

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U

  • Unit rate – the price consumers pay per unit of energy, measured in kWh.
  • Utility – also known as an energy supplier or energy company. They are in charge of selling customers energy (gas and/or electricity), billing and customer service. If you don’t know who your supplier is, you can use the Meter Point Administration’s online search tool or call 0870 608 1524 for gas and call 0345 026 2554 (Option 3) for electricity.

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V

  • Variable rate – this is a rate, agreed in your energy contract, that is charged for each unit of energy you consume which fluctuates with market rates. Typically, if wholesale energy prices go down, so will the price you pay per kWh of energy consumed. Similarly, if prices go up, your unit rate probably will, too.

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W

  • Warm home discount – this government scheme provides vulnerable customers with a one-off £140 rebate on their energy bill during the winter period. People receiving guaranteed pension credit are part of the scheme’s ‘core group’ and should automatically receive the discount. Customers receiving other benefits or who are struggling financially may be eligible for the discount under the ‘broader group’. The criteria vary between suppliers, so it’s worth checking with them about their eligibility requirements. Ofgem has capped the price suppliers can charge households receiving this discount.
  • Winter fuel payment – this government scheme helps people 65+ in receipt of the State Pension (or other benefit) with their heating bills. Eligible energy customers should receive their payments automatically by the middle of January. The payment could be between £100 and £300.

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Z

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Big Energy Saving Week 2019

Big Energy Saving Week runs from 21st to 27th January this year. The week focuses on raising public awareness of how to save money on energy costs by switching energy supplier or tariff, accessing discounts or grants, and making homes more energy efficient. Citizens Advice runs Big Energy Saving Week in collaboration with the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Energy Saving Trust and local partners like us.

Southampton

On Saturday 26th January we are running an energy advice event in Shirley Warren from 10am to 1pm. There will be curtain lining and draught-proofing workshops, price comparisons, help with energy bills, information about grants available, energy saving goodies and free refreshments. More information can be found on the Facebook event.


Photos by R. McDaid

Gosport

On Tuesday 22nd January we will be attending Citizen Advice Gosport’s event from 10am to 2pm. One of our Hitting the Cold Spots advisors will be available to answer questions about the service and how we can help people stay warm and well in their home. There will also be information and support from Southern Gas Network, Scottish and Southern Electricity Network and Portsmouth City Council. Further details can be found on Citizen Advice Gosport’s Facebook page.

Southampton Healthy Homes: Alison’s Story

About the client

Alison is in her late 80s and lives on her own in her own home. Her daughter is her carer as Alison lives with dementia.

What did Alison need help with?

Alison’s daughter gave us a call as her mother’s 15 year old boiler wasn’t working properly and not providing hot water. Alison’s low income meant that she’d have struggled to pay to get the old boiler replaced. Our advisor then arranged a time to visit Alison and her mother at home to see how we could help.

How we were able to help Alison

During the visit we were able to fill in the grant application form for funding through Southampton Healthy Homes towards a replacement boiler. The advisor helped the clients find local reputable heating engineers registered with Trading Standard’s Buy with Confidence scheme so they could start getting quotes for the work. The grant application was successful and Alison was able to replace her boiler. In addition, there was no radiator by the downstairs bathroom and toilet, so with a financial contribution from Alison, this meant an additional radiator could be installed there at the same time.

During the initial visit and subsequent follow up visits, the advisor discussed the client’s energy bills, water bills and other support available, such as the Warm Home Discount and the Priority Services Register to check Alison was getting all the support she was entitled to. During the initial visit the advisor found out that the smoke alarm was not working properly so referred Alison to Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service for a Safe and Well visit and to replace her smoke alarm.

The double-glazed windows are old and draughty but Alison couldn’t afford to replace these. The advisor left some draught-proofing tape and thermal curtain lining fabric for them to help reduce the draughts and make the home feel more comfortable.

Savings and outcomes

  • Grant funding of £2,373 was secured towards the cost of the new boiler, along with a contribution from Alison to extend the heating into the bathroom
  • The new boiler is predicted to reduce her heating bills by approximately £50 per year (based on the Energy Performance Certificate)
  • The new boiler will also increase the comfort in the home for Alison and ensure she has reliable heating and hot water, and has improved her health and wellbeing
  • The estimated life-time bill savings from the draught-proofing are estimated to be £333 (based on Ofgem deemed scores)

“The service was excellent. The health and wellbeing of my mum has improved tremendously, since our involvement in the Southampton Healthy Homes project. The home is warm, there is constant hot water, less draughty, more comfortable. Mum and I are very grateful for the help and advice given by your advisor. Thank you.”

Get in touch

If you know someone who needs support with a broken boiler or draught-proofing, please call the Southampton Healthy Homes team on Freephone 0800 804 8601 or email: keepwarm@environmentcentre.com

Winterising Your Home

Frozen and burst pipes are not something anyone wants to experience, especially when you need your heating and hot water to be working. Why do water pipes burst in cold weather? When water freezes, it expands and that pressure can rupture pipes. So what can you do to prevent them freezing in the first instance? Read our tips below to find out.

Remember your condensate pipe

If you have a boiler that’s less than 10 years old, it’s most likely a condensing boiler. These have a white plastic condensate pipe that may discharge outside. To avoid the boiler shutting down from frozen condensate that’s backed up, it’s a good idea to lag this pipe by wrapping it in a foam sleeve.

If you notice that your boiler has stopped working and that the water inside the condensate pipe has frozen, try pouring warm (not boiling!) water over it. Hit the reset button on your boiler and keep your fingers crossed that it fires up!

Wrap it up

For added protection, lagging pipes can insulate them from extreme cold. This is especially important for pipes affixed to external walls, in basements and in attics. This goes for loos and outside taps as well.

Put on a jacket

All new-ish water tanks and cylinders will be insulated with a hot water jacket, but if yours is not, you can find inexpensive pre-cut jackets or blankets at hardware shops.

While you’re away

To prevent pipes from freezing, you have two options:

  • Leave your heating on. You may be tempted to turn your heating off when you go away over the winter in order to save money on energy bills. But be aware that the money you may save on fuel costs will be a drop in the bucket compared to the money you’ll spend on repairing water damage to your home and contents. Keeping the heating on will prevent the water in the pipes from freezing. If you have a thermostat, set it to at least 10°C; heating to this temperature may also prevent mould from forming during the colder months. Please be mindful that
    • The snowflake setting (also known as the frost setting) on many heating systems may not prevent the water from freezing – you’ll need to check that the frost- or room-thermostats are set high enough.
    • Setting heaters to come on for an hour in the morning and evening can still cause pipes to freeze if the home isn’t heated through. If you think this may be the case, it’s best to drain your tank and pipes.
    • You have enough oil or LPG before you go away if you use these to heat your home.
  • Turn the water off if you’re planning to be away for a while. You may have to look for the stop valve in front of your home on the footpath or near the driveway. Shutting off the water supply, even if there is a leak, will greatly limit the amount of water damage that can happen.
    • Just turning off the water may not be enough to prevent pipes from freezing. You’ll also need to either keep the heating on (see above) or drain the system.

Stay electrical and gas safe

Open fires, wood burners, portable heaters and electric blankets pose their own safety risks that you can reduce with the following tips:

  • Use and test carbon monoxide alarms for fires and wood burners.
  • Keep electric heaters clear from furniture and belongings, and don’t cover them with drying clothes. Also make sure the heaters are secure and stable so they won’t fall over and try not to plug them into an extension lead.
  • Roll or store electric blankets flat. Unplug them at night unless they have specific all-night controls. Avoid buying secondhand so you can be sure the blankets are safe and come with a guarantee. We also recommend getting them tested by a qualified electrician at least every few years.

Prepare for winter weather

Winter weather can wreak havoc on more than just your home. Would you be prepared with sand or salt if your path got icy or snowy? Do you know your neighbours and the help they might need? Check out our advice guide for more ideas on how to prepare.

Southampton Healthy Homes: Andrew’s Story

About the client

Andrew was referred to us by Citizens Advice Southampton for help with an energy price comparison. Andrew and his wife are both retired and receive guaranteed pension credit.

What did Andrew need help with?

Andrew was up-to-date on all his bills but was concerned about the recent price hikes. As the client was local, a Southampton Healthy Homes advisor arranged an office appointment for him.

How we were able to help Andrew

The advisor used the free, impartial online energy comparison service offered by Citizens Advice to compare energy tariffs and supplier deals. Based on the client’s location and estimated annual energy consumption, the comparison site provided a list of tariffs that could potentially reduce his bills. The client was eligible for the £140 Warm Home Discount although he had not been receiving it because his current supplier did not offer it. Filtering through the results with this in mind, the list narrowed.

The cheapest tariff required customers to pre-purchase energy online each billing period. This option could have saved the client money on his bills, but he decided that would be too much of a hassle and could end up costing him more if he forgot to do so. Instead, he opted for a tariff that was projected to increase his bills by about £10 per year but ultimately saved him money through the Warm Home Discount.

His advisor also helped him apply to the Priority Services Register, as he was eligible because of his age. The free service provides extra support to people during power outages, both planned and unplanned.

Savings and Outcomes

  • Andrew switched to a supplier that provided the Warm Home Discount, giving the household £140 towards their energy bills.
  • Advisors helped Andrew to apply for the Priority Service Register with his provider
  • Andrew found the switching service “very helpful”

Get in touch

If you would like help finding a cheaper energy deal and switching supplier, please call the Southampton Healthy Homes team on Freephone 0800 804 8601 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm) or email keepwarm@environmentcentre.com.

25 years of tEC

Back in December 1993 the Environment Centre (tEC) opened its doors to the public, with a mission to raise awareness and help people create a more sustainable future.

25 years on and we are still going strong having supported tens of thousands of businesses, organisations and households to reduce their carbon emissions, increase sustainability, improve air quality and keep warm and well in their homes. We do this by providing impartial information and advice, delivering outreach and training, carrying out data analysis and mapping, and managing practical projects.

Adam Goulden, our Chief Executive says:

“We are delighted to be celebrating our 25th anniversary this year. We have be very fortunate to have worked on a wide range of local, national and European projects from waste and recycling and active travel to sustainable construction and public engagement in climate change. Our brilliant team have helped many others take action including voluntary groups, charities, schools, businesses, health services and local government. This agenda has never been more important and we are looking forward to working on an equally diverse range of projects over the next 25 years.”

We’re currently working on energy efficiency, affordable warmth and air quality projects. We run a Freephone advice line and provide caseworker support across Southampton and Hampshire, helping households keep warm and well. Over the past year our experienced and qualified staff have provided energy advice and support to over 1,500 residents. In the last 5 years we have delivered projects for energy efficiency measures at a value of more than £3 million.

Our Southampton Healthy Homes and Hampshire Hitting the Cold Spots services provide the public with information on heating systems, insulation, energy bills, the Warm Home Discount and switching tariffs. More in-depth support is available through home visits and office appointments, including help to apply for funding for insulation, boiler replacements and heating upgrades, temporary heating if your heating has failed, draught-proofing materials and referrals for benefits and debt advice, home safety visits and healthy living services.

Call us for advice on Freephone 0800 804 8601 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm) or email keepwarm@environmentcentre.com. Help us spread the word by inviting us to talk to your community group, train your staff and volunteers or give out out promotional materials.

Colin Rowland, Chair of our Board of Trustees and Interim Executive Director of Borough Services at Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council said:

“I am really pleased to be celebrating 25 years of the Environment Centre. I have been fortunate to have been involved with the charity over most of this time in one guise or another and have witnessed first-hand its important role in providing environmental and sustainability services and support to households and businesses. In particular activities related to energy efficiency and combatting fuel poverty have been invaluable and have made a significant contribution to the health and wellbeing of people in the region. I look forward to an exciting future in delivering existing services and exploring new ways in which we can add value to public bodies and other organisations for the benefit of our communities.”

Debbie Chase, Service Lead Public Health at Southampton City Council said:

“I have had the pleasure of working with tEC for over 5 years. The energy efficiency support they have provided, in partnership with agencies across the City, has lifted thousands of people out of fuel poverty. Their services are trusted and highly valued by householders and the staff at tEC are always keen to learn and develop new skills. The tEC advisors have been trained in ‘healthy conversations’ to help them help others to improve mental health and reduce risky healthy behaviour and are working with community nursing to extend their reach out to more people with vulnerable health issues in our City. I congratulate tEC in their 25th year and look forward to the next 25 years of their development.”

Councillor Liz Fairhurst, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Health, at Hampshire County Council said:

“Happy Birthday tEC! Thank you for all your hard work supporting people to keep their homes warm each winter.”

Hitting the Cold Spots: Geoff and Maureen’s Story

About the clients

Geoff and Maureen live together in their privately owned home in Hampshire.  They are both in their 80s and manage on a low, fixed income.

Maureen experiences a number of health and mobility difficulties with ongoing pain, and receives disability benefits.  Without Geoff’s assistance, she is unable to leave their home.  Although Geoff also had some health difficulties, he undertakes a caring role for Maureen to assist her with daily activities.

What did Geoff and Maureen need help with?

Geoff contacted the Hitting the Cold Spots project seeking help with their faulty combi boiler which was approximately 14 years old.  At the time, he was accessing his loft several times throughout the day to re-pressurise the boiler to ensure they had access to heating and hot water.

When Geoff contacted the project, he had already arranged for a heating engineer to assess the boiler.  Some costly repairs had been identified but the heating engineer had advised that further work to remedy an additional fault could create additional problems and that a boiler replacement should be considered.  This was causing them both considerable concern as they did not have the funds to pay for the cost of this work.

How we were able to help Geoff and Maureen

The couple’s Hitting the Cold Spots advisor provided details over the phone of Buy with Confidence registered heating engineers that could visit to quote for the work required.  The advisor also scheduled a visit to their home.

During that visit, a carbon monoxide detector was supplied and a Priority Services Register form was completed to ensure that Geoff and Maureen’s fuel supplier was aware that they may need extra support, including during a power cut. The advisor also provided details of additional reputable contractors that could be contacted for quotation visits.

Once all of the quotations had been received, the advisor talked through these with Geoff and Maureen and made a funding application for them. The application was successful and they received a grant towards the cost of the required boiler replacement work. In addition, a referral was made to Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service for a free Safe and Well visit from their local fire station.

Savings and Outcomes

  • With the grant funding secured, Geoff and Maureen were able to get approximately £2,000 to enable the replacement boiler work to go ahead
  • They were added to their energy supplier’s Priority Services Register, ensuring peace of mind during a power cut
  • Their home was also made safer after a visit from the local fire station staff and the installation of a CO alarm

“Our Advisor was extremely polite, sensitive about our financial details, very helpful and knowledgeable about our needs. We were staggered by your generosity, without which I would still be climbing my loft ladder every 2-3 hours to reset the old boiler. I cannot express our gratitude for your assistance. Thank you.”

Get in touch

If you know someone whose health is affected by the cold and needs help with their heating, please call the Hitting the Cold Spots team on Freephone 0800 804 8601 or email: staywarm@environmentcentre.com

Big Energy Saving Network 2018-19

This year we are helping to deliver Big Energy Saving Network (BESN) sessions and advice to frontline workers and consumers, between October 2018 and March 2019. These are free sessions for community groups and for frontline workers and volunteers supporting Southampton or Hampshire residents who have concerns about their energy bills.

These sessions will:
• Make people aware of the savings that can be made by switching energy tariff or energy company.
• Provide information about help available for people struggling to pay their gas and electricity bills.
• Advise people about how to save money by being more energy efficient.

You can find a selection of BESN materials and resources here, including the consumer guide to help you understand energy and make savings here.

To find out more, book a session for your community group or frontline workers or get energy advice contact us:
• Freephone 0800 804 8601
• Local 02380 336 172
• Email keepwarm@environmentcentre.com

 

Southampton Healthy Homes: Gale’s Story

About the client

Gale’s daughter first called us when Southampton was experiencing a cold snap, having been given our number by Adult Services. Gale, who lives alone in her own home, has dementia and mobility issues that require help from carers with daily tasks, and she receives benefits to help pay for that care. A side effect of one of Gale’s physical disabilities has made it difficult for her to recognise and regulate her body temperature. She had a back boiler that kept her warm for over 20 years but, when a gas engineer came to service it, a leak was found and the engineer recommended replacing it. Although Gale had some savings, her daughter called us to see if there might be any grants available to help with the cost of replacing the old system.

What did Gale need help with?

Gale’s daughters became joint Powers of Attorney when their mother’s dementia got worse. They were in the midst of sorting through Gale’s finances when we became involved. While the family would have used all of Gale’s savings to pay for a new heating & hot water system, the home need to be redecorated after a water leak and years of wear-and-tear, so they were hoping to set some money aside for those repairs. We provided a list of Buy with Confidence contractors to Gale’s daughter over the phone and asked her to get quotes to start the process of finding grants in advance of our home visit.

“The home survey prior to work was carried out in a very caring, respectful and kind manner. Excellent.”

How we were able to help Gale

Gale’s Southampton Healthy Homes advisor and one of our Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) assessors visited her to fill out grant paperwork and to calculate the savings the household could make by upgrading the heating.

Gale’s daughter and son-in-law took charge of organising surveys and emailing us the quotes. Time was of the essence, so after comparing several quotes, the family chose an installer that could install the heating system weeks ahead of its competitors. Gale’s advisor was able to secure money from a carbon offset fund to pay for the majority of the cost of a new system, together with a client contribution. The grant award process and installation was able to get the new boiler up and running just three weeks after the old one had broken.

“The service received was prompt and extremely professional from start to finish and was expedited to meet our needs with lightning speed. Very very impressed.”

Savings and outcomes

  • Southampton Healthy Homes secured a grant of £5,292 to pay for over 80% of Gale’s new heating and hot water system.
  • The energy efficiency of Gale’s home has increased from an E46 to a D65, with predicted energy cost savings of £437 per year.
  • Gale has started cooking on her gas stove once again, which she sorely missed when the gas was shut off.
  • The temperature inside the home is now much easier to regulate with a wireless programmable thermostat.
  • The grant has helped free up money for other home repairs.

“The property has become a very cosy and comfortable place to live in. The heating balance throughout the house is now excellent. For someone of 90 years old it is probably the most important aspect of living in her own home. Once again very impressed.”

Get in touch

If you know someone who needs help replacing their old heating system, please call the Southampton Healthy Homes team on Freephone 0800 804 8601 or email: keepwarm@environmentcentre.com.

Smart Meters De-mystified

Most people in the UK have heard of smart meters thanks to Gaz & Leccy, Kirstie and Phil’s Smart Energy Tour, offers from their energy suppliers or anecdotes from friends and family who have had one installed. But, while the term is familiar, many may not know exactly what smart meters are, what they do or if these meters are the right choice for their household. Here we’ve responded to some of your most frequently asked questions:

I’ve been offered a smart meter. Do I have to accept?

No. By 2020, every home in Great Britain will be offered a smart meter, but customers do not have to accept. If you change your mind in the future, you will still be able to have one installed. And if your meter needs to be replaced in the future, then it will likely be a smart meter that is installed.

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How much does it cost to have a smart meter installed?

Not a penny! Energy suppliers will provide and fit them for free by trained engineers.

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Will I still have to provide meter readings to my energy supplier?

Smart meters take the hassle out of providing regular meter readings to your supplier. The readings are provided automatically and you can set how often you want that data sent to your supplier. The minimum frequency is monthly but you can ask to have the data sent daily or even half-hourly.

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How can smart meters save me money?

They put an end to estimated bills, which means you won’t be overpaying. They also make it easier for you to control your energy consumption with the wireless In-Home Display, which can show you how much energy you’re using in real time. You may realise that an appliance you use frequently is energy inefficient and choose to upgrade it or you may find that lowering the thermostat by one degree doesn’t make a difference to your comfort but does make a big difference to your bills.

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What does the In-Home Display (IHD) show?

The display shows how much energy you’re using and what it’s costing you in pounds and pence. You can view your energy consumption in real time or over a specified period (from a few hours to several months), with graphs of the data making it easier to understand. To keep track of your energy usage, you can also set alerts to warn you when you’re approaching a limit, either in kWh or £s. The engineer who installs the meter can talk you through how to use the display.

For prepayment customers, the display also shows how much credit is left on the meter, the emergency credit balance and the debt balance, if there is one. You may even be able to top-up via the display!

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Can I have a smart meter installed if I have a prepayment meter?

Yes! Prepayment customers may also find that smart meters make it easier for them to top-up their meter since they’ll be able to add money by phone, online or through an app, in addition to their current payment methods.

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Can I have a smart meter installed if I’m renting?

Yes, if you pay for your gas and/or electricity, although it’s best to clear that with the landlord first.

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Can I get smart meters if I have solar panels?

Officially, yes. Unofficially, it depends. EON and NPower will not install smart meters in homes with solar panels at the moment. Other suppliers, like British Gas, will fit them but some customers have experienced billing issues and needed to have the smart meters removed. It comes down to a technical problem with first generation smart meters, where the meter struggles to read the amount of energy generated by solar panels. This issue is being addressed and Smart Energy GB says, “in the future, your in-home display may also be able to reflect the energy you’re generating yourself, such as from solar panels.”

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If I have a smart meter installed, will it send or sell my information to companies other than my energy supplier?

No. Your smart meter collects information about how much gas and electricity you’ve used, which it sends securely to your supplier for billing. The meter doesn’t store any other personal information, like your name, address or bank details.

Energy suppliers need your permission to use your data for marketing. It is also your choice whether you want to share that energy usage data with other organisations, such as switching sites. All of your consumer rights are strongly protected by law and the use of your data is controlled under General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).

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Can smart meters cause fires?

This concern comes from a Watchdog programme which suggested that improperly installed smart meters caused several house fires, which is understandably worrying. However, as long as the smart meter is installed by a qualified engineer, there’s no more risk of fire than from standard analogue meters. The smart meters themselves have undergone rigorous safety tests and comply with UK and EU product safety laws.

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What if I want to switch energy suppliers?

At the moment when you switch some smart meter functionality may be lost temporarily if you have a first generation meter, also known as the meter going ‘dumb’, but this doesn’t prevent you from switching to a new supplier. Companies are aware of the issue and are working to ensure that customers can retain the ‘smart’ features of a smart meter. Often new suppliers can update the old meters remotely to keep those meters smart, and if not they can replace the meter for you at no extra charge. Customers shouldn’t have a problem with the second generation smart meters, and the aim is that all customers will be able to switch between suppliers with no loss of functionality from their smart meters.

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Do I need a strong wifi or mobile signal for my smart meter to send readings to my energy supplier?

Smart meters do not use the Internet and you don’t need wifi to have a smart meter. First generation meters use a SIM card to communicate and second generation meters use a dedicated wireless communications system all of their own (known as the Data Communications Company network). This does mean that some customers, particularly those in high rise flats or rural areas, may experience poor signals, causing the smart meters to go ‘dumb’, but the network aims to cover 99% of households in Britain by the end of 2020.

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A smart meter installer identified safety issues in my home (e.g., faulty boiler, dangerous wiring and fuse boxes). Will the supplier rectify those problems?

When engineers install a smart meter, they will do a free gas safety check and visual inspection of the electricity supply. They can spot and alert you to problems that you may not have been aware of otherwise. If they identify problems, they are obligated to take action, for example by condemning a boiler. It will then be the householder’s responsibility to rectify the issues.

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Will suppliers use my data to charge me more during peak times?

Maybe, but it should be cheaper at other times, so you can save money by using electricity and gas outside of peak times. Energy suppliers can only charge prices customers have agreed to, and you will know if you have signed up to a ‘time of use’ tariff.

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What if I am bombarded with calls, texts, letters or emails about getting a smart meter even after I’ve refused?

The government has said that “Ofgem will take up complaints with energy suppliers for customers who feel they are being bullied or coerced into getting a smart meter.” You can find out more on the Ofgem website.

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