Hitting the Cold Spots Winter Launch 2018

Now in its eighth year, Hitting the Cold Spots continues to help Hampshire residents stay warm and well. Being able to keep warm is vital for everyone but particularly for young children, older people and those with health conditions.

With the onset of colder weather you may be getting concerned about how you will manage in the winter months, but Hitting the Cold Spots is here to help with advice and practical support. You can contact us directly and we also welcome referrals from friends, family and professionals. Hitting the Cold Spots is run by the Environment Centre (tEC) on behalf of Hampshire County Council.

How can we help?
The service provides detailed advice over the phone or via email for anyone wanting information on: heating systems, insulation, energy bill worries, the Warm Home Discount and switching tariff.

We offer additional practical support for eligible owner-occupier households including: home visits from our experienced advisors, help to access funding for boiler repairs and replacements, temporary heaters for those without heating and referrals for benefits and debt advice, home safety visits and healthy living services.

How can you contact us?
You can speak to the Hitting the Cold Spots team via our Freephone advice line 0800 804 8601 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm), dedicated email account: staywarm@environmentcentre.com or at community events across the county.

If you would like us to give a talk to your community group, train your staff and volunteers or send copies of our promotional materials, please let us know. Find out more and view resources on our website: www.environmentcentre.com/projects/hitting-the-cold-spots and www.hants.gov.uk/coldspots

Please note the above services are subject to availability and conditions may apply. Hitting the Cold Spots is funded by Hampshire County Council.

Southampton Healthy Homes Winter Launch 2018

Today we had the winter launch for our Southampton Healthy Homes service, in partnership with Southampton City Council. Organisations from across the city attended to find out more about the project, including our Advice in Southampton partners: Citizens Advice Southampton, No Limits, Age UK Southampton, CLEAR, EU Welcome and Rose Road Association.

Councillor Satvir Kaur and Dr Debbie Chase, from Public Health, kindly opened the event speaking about the impact of living in a cold home and the importance of keeping warm and well. During the breakout session we had very useful discussions on engaging with local communities, supporting vulnerable clients and overcoming barriers to accessing services. The feedback from these sessions will help us ensure we are best meeting the needs of our clients and local residents.

Southampton Healthy Homes provides information, advice and guidance to residents on how to keep warm and well at home. This includes switching tariffs, help to apply for the Warm Home Discount or deal with fuel debt, benefit checks, support to apply for insulation or heating improvements grants or free draught proofing materials. In addition temporary heating will be available to households where their heating has failed.

You can access the project via a free phone advice line, dedicated email account or find us at community events across the city. More in-depth support will be available through home visits and office appointments. If you would like us to give a talk to your community group, train your staff and volunteers or send copies of our promotional materials, please let us know.

Find out more and get advice by Freephone: 0800 804 8601 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm), email: keepwarm@environmentcentre.com or online: www.environmentcentre.com/healthy-homes

Brace Yourself. Winter Is Coming.

The summer’s scorching heatwave seems to have wiped freezing temperatures from our minds. But the brutally cold Beast from the East from earlier this year could make a return – possibly as early as this month! Though nothing is certain, it’s best to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. So here are some of our toasty tips to make your winter a touch warmer:

Snug as a bug in a rug

  1. Layer up: be it clothing or blankets, warm air gets trapped between the layers, helping you stay warm.
  2. Drink hot beverages: tea, coffee, hot chocolate or even broth will warm you from the inside out.
  3. Keep cosy with slippers: not only will they keep your feet warm, they can keep you safer around your home by improving grip while also saving your socks from excessive wear-and-tear.
  4. Change your covers: look for a duvet with a high tog rating (1 tog is the coolest, 15 tog is the warmest).
  5. Use a hot water bottle or microwaveable heating pad: place it under the covers before you hop into bed or keep it on your lap for more concentrated heat.
  6. Snuggle a loved one – don’t forget about Fluffy or Spot!

Trap the heat

  1. Open your curtains when the sun comes out to soak up the radiant heat, but make sure to close them at dusk to stop the heat from escaping when the temperatures start to drop.
  2. Double your drapes: adding a second layer of heavy fabric to your curtains is a great way to reduce the amount of heat that’s lost through your windows.
  3. Wrap your windows: consider secondary glazing if you have single pane windows. All you need is the film, a hair dryer and a pair of scissors.
  4. Detect the draughts: find and seal any gaps under your doors and around your windows, keyholes and letterboxes and unused chimneys.
  5. Insulate your home: 25% of heat can be lost from an uninsulated roof! So consider loft insulation (300mm recommended) to slow that heat loss.

Get more out of the heat

  1. Be reflective: add reflective radiator panels to bounce heat away from the wall and into the room.
  2. Radiator care: if your gas central heating isn’t providing enough warmth, try bleeding your radiators to release trapped air or, if you notice the fluid is brown or the heating is noisy, flush the system to get rid of gunk and allow the heat to distribute more efficiently.
  3. Remove obstructions: reposition your sofa or other furniture away from radiators to feel the full effect of the heat from the radiators.
  4. Cook at home: not only will you get a hot meal, you can also use the residual heat from cooking to warm your home.
  5. Control your heating: timers, thermostats and TRVs can help you schedule your heating needs, heat only the rooms you use and keep your home at a suitable temperature – all while saving you money on your heating bills.

Still cold?

  1. Keep moving: put away laundry, do the washing up or run around to raise your body temperature.
  2. Be sociable: visit friends, family, a faith organisation or a local community centre to take advantage of the central heating instead of staying in a cold home.
  3. Broken boiler? Confusing heating controls? Expensive heating bills? Call us for free advice and information tailored to suit your situation.

Energy Company Obligation (ECO3)

The current ECO2t scheme ended on the 30th September, and an adapted ECO3 scheme will run from 1st October 2018 to 31st March 2022.  Here is a summary of the public consultation and government response on the changes to ECO, which are available here. The biggest change to the scheme is that the full focus of funding will be on Affordable Warmth, for low income and vulnerable households, to help the Government meet their fuel poverty commitments. This means that there will be household eligibility criteria for all measures, and these have also been updated.

Another change to the scheme is that the supplier obligation threshold will decrease over this time, to 200,000 customers from April 2019 and to 150,000 customers from April 2020, so more suppliers will need to provide ECO funding. With the introduction of Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) in April 2018, the ECO scheme has been updated so that landlords can’t use ECO to meet minimum standards, apart from the hard to treat measures of solid wall insulation and renewable heating.

The Local Authority Flexible Eligibility (ECO Flex) element of Affordable Warmth, which was introduced with ECO2t in April 2017, will continue with the percentage of obligation available rising from 10% to 25%. Deemed scores, which were also introduced with ECO2t apart from for district heating, will continue to be set by Ofgem, although the 30% uplift to all scores is removed.

Eligibility criteria

  • Means-tested benefits (see below) as before
  • There are no longer income thresholds for Universal Credit and Tax Credits
  • Disability Benefits (see below) are now eligible
  • Child Benefits and Armed Forces Benefits (see below) are also eligible, with equivalised income threshold*, and self-declaration*
DWP means-tested benefits DWP Disability Benefits Armed Forces Benefits
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
  • Income Support (IS)
  • Pension Guarantee Credit
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Universal Credit
  • Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
  • Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
  • Attendance Allowance (AA)
  • Carer’s Allowance
  • Severe Disablement Allowance
  • Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefits
  • War Pensions Mobility Supplement
  • Constant Attendance Allowance
  • Armed Forces Independence Payment

Energy efficiency measures

As well as changes to eligibility, ECO3 also includes changes to measures delivered. Broken heating system repairs or replacements will be capped at 35,000 systems per year, though other heating upgrades (including heating controls) are allowed to be delivered outside of the cap, and the repair of boilers and broken electric storage heaters will be limited to 5% of each of the supplier’s obligations. There will be a 400% uplift for replacing broken boilers and 240% uplift for broken storage heaters. Solid wall insulation installs will be capped at 17,000 homes per year.

To protect rural households, the Government will require suppliers to meet at least 15% of their obligation by delivering measures in rural areas, broken oil boilers are allowed to be repaired or replaced and there will be a 35% off-gas uplift for insulation measures. Ground source heat pumps are an eligible ECO measure even if they receive the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), as long as obligated energy suppliers do not receive the RHI payments, but other technologies are not eligible if receiving RHI. In addition, up to 10% of a supplier’s obligation can be met through innovation* and up to 10% can be met through in-situ performance*.

Measures allowed in privately owned housing:

  • Insulation
  • Broken heating repairs and replacements (doesn’t include coal, but does include oil)
  • First time central heating (doesn’t include oil, and if replacing electric storage heaters these must be broken or inefficient)
  • Inefficient heating replacements (doesn’t include coal and oil), alongside certain insulation measures (wall insulation, Room in Roof insulation, flat roof insulation, insulation of a mobile home and under floor insulation, but not loft insulation)
  • Efficient heating replacements if replaced by renewables
  • District heating

Measures allowed in social housing:

  • E, F and G rated properties are eligible for insulation and first time central heating (doesn’t include oil, and if replacing electric storage heaters these must be broken or inefficient) but no other heating repairs or replacements
  • Prior insulation requirements will continue to apply where the FTCH is a district heating connection
  • Innovation measures will be eligible for D-G rated properties

Measures allowed in privately rented housing:

  • Tenants need to meet Affordable Warmth eligibility criteria
  • A-E rated properties are eligible for the same measures as privately owned properties (insulation, first time central heating, inefficient heating replacements, efficient heating replaced by renewables and district heating) apart from broken heating repairs and replacements, as this is the responsibility of the landlord
  • Properties that do not meet the minimum standard i.e. F and G rated properties are not eligible for grants for most measures, apart from solid wall insulation and renewable heating systems
  • Green Deal loans are available to landlords looking to improve the energy efficiency of their properties to meet minimum standards, from the Green Deal Finance Company

ECO Flex

Up to 25% of the supplier obligation can be met through measures delivered under Local Authority ECO Flex, and there is a 25% uplift on measures delivered to F and G rated properties.

Solid wall insulation in-fill

  • This will remain largely the same as under ECO2t
  • Under Affordable Warmth, in-fill for SWI and district heating is available if 66% of eligible households receive either of these measures. If so, an adjacent property can also receive the same measure, as long as the number of these ‘in-fill’ properties does not exceed 34% in that area
  • Under ECO Flex, in-fill is allowed to count for up to 50% of the eligible households, so that local authorities can manage residents’ expectations and avoid situations where a decision could be perceived as inequitable, for example if one household doesn’t receive a measure due to them not living adjacent to an eligible household

*Guidance documents are due to be published with a further explanation of these elements.

Are you eligible for the Warm Home Discount 2018-19?

What is the Warm Home Discount?

The Warm Home Discount is a scheme providing eligible households with a £140 electricity bill discount for winter 2018-19. This discount is available to credit and pre-payment customers, providing your supplier is part of the scheme and you meet their eligibility criteria. The scheme is open to applications now and it is worth applying early to ensure you get it.

Who is eligible?

There is a Core Group who are automatically eligible and don’t need to apply. These are householders who were receiving Guaranteed Pension Credit on 8th July 2018. If you decide to switch energy supplier after this date and before you receive the Warm Home Discount, you should expect it from your previous supplier. However, if you have been awarded Guaranteed Pension Credit after the 8th of July 2018 then you will need to apply for the Warm Home Discount yourself.

If you don’t meet the criteria for the Core Group you may be eligible under the Broader Group and will also need to apply yourself. Eligibility criteria varies slightly between energy suppliers but is usually based on low income, means tested benefits and a vulnerability in the household e.g. disability or child under 5. You can check the individual eligibility criteria with your energy supplier or by clicking the links below. If you apply but then decide to switch before you receive the Warm Home Discount, you will need to reapply with your new supplier.

Which suppliers are part of the scheme?

* The energy companies indicated with the asterisk only offer the Warm Home Discount to the Core Group.

How to apply?

You need to apply directly with your energy supplier, you can find their contact details through the website links above. Depending on the supplier you can apply online, by phone or by post.

If you have any further questions about the Warm Home Discount or would like more advice about reducing your bills and keeping warm you can phone us on Freephone 0800 804 8601.

Plastic Free July

Our intern Christie volunteers for Surfers Against Sewage, and can see first hand the impact that plastic pollution is having on the marine environment. Here she shares some tips on how you can reduce your plastic use and help prevent this problem.

As plastic pollution has become such a dire problem, there are lots of campaigns to help people reduce plastic and waste and live more ethically. Some of the tEC staff are currently taking part in Plastic Free July, a challenge to either reduce disposable plastic use or remove it from your lifestyle completely for a month, which will hopefully form changes that will continue long after July is over. If you are interested in curbing your plastic use, here are some tips on how to get started:

  1. BYO (bring your own) Reusables: Put together a plastic free kit of essentials that you can carry around with you such as a canvas bag for shopping, metal, glass or bamboo straws, refillable water bottle and travel mug.
  2. Make your own meals: Cooking from scratch can sound daunting but once you’ve learned a few meals you’ll never go back- it’s cheaper, healthier and tastier- plus there’s no plastic packaging!
  3. Switch up your wardrobe: Plastic microfibers from synthetic clothing find their way from the washing machine to the ocean and the water we drink! Try converting to items made from natural cotton, hemp or linen.
  4. Use bars of soap: Solid, unpackaged bars are becoming more popular for everything from dish soap and hand wash to shampoo and conditioner, they are often longer lasting and have no plastic packaging.
  5. Switch to recyclable/compostable items: Bamboo toothbrushes, stainless steel razor, natural bath sponges, so many items were around long before their plastic replacements and switching back to them stops the risk of them becoming more plastic pollution.

As reducing waste and plastic is given more and more attention, it’s becoming easier to find alternatives. To get started, search for your nearest ethical, zero-waste shop to buy plastic-free alternatives and package-free products.

Southampton Clean Air Zone (CAZ) consultation

Southampton City Council and New Forest District Council are consulting on their proposals for a Clean Air Zone. It’s time to have your say.

The closing date for feedback is Thursday 13th September. Paper copies of the consultation are available and there will be public drop-in events where you can find out more information or ask questions.

A Surfer’s Perspective

Our intern Christie volunteers for Surfers Against Sewage, here she tells us what that involves and how you can take part too.

Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) is an organisation started by a group of Cornish surfers almost 30 years ago as a national campaign to improve water quality. Since then it has expanded to become a national marine conservation charity focusing on protecting waves, oceans, beaches, marine wildlife and coastal communities. Currently, the organisation’s main focus is marine plastic pollution, but they also work in many other areas from mitigating climate change to designating natural surf breaks as heritage sites.

I first joined SAS after hearing about an autumn beach clean they were running at a local beach in my hometown and decided to volunteer as a cleaner. At first glance there was barely any litter on the stretch of beach but within minutes of raking just a few centimetres under the sand, the volunteers turned up swathes of rubbish that was choking the beach and sea. Each beach clean often removes several kilograms of litter, most of it made up of disposable plastic items such as bottles, packets and cutlery, as well as lots of discarded nylon fishing gear.

As someone who has grown up surfing and living right beside the ocean, I continually see first-hand just how important the ocean and beaches are to people and the planet. Since I first came across SAS almost 8 years ago, I’ve taken part in beach cleans all over the South Coast and Cornwall and I now organise several myself as a beach clean leader. The organisation has expanded hugely since 2012 and now has a nationwide network of regional reps made up of volunteers from all over the UK. Regional reps are the first point of contact for all campaigns and work in leading beach cleans, giving educational talks to local schools and communities, connecting with local councils and MPs, highlighting regional issues and promoting SAS’s national campaigns and initiatives.

The latest waste-reduction initiative, plastic free communities, has had over 300 towns pledge to cut their plastic waste and, as autumn comes along, there will be beach cleans all over the UK in need of passionate volunteers – it’s fun and easy to take part!

Keeping Cool This Summer

It’s been unusually hot these past few weeks, which comes as a welcome surprise to some while others can’t wait for it to cool down. The UK is facing a number of challenges as a result of the heatwave, with water shortage warnings from water companies, hosepipe bans and even rail service delays due to overheating tracks.

Apart from problems with infrastructure, heatwaves can pose serious risks to people’s health. Sustained heatwaves are associated with an increase in hospitalisations and even deaths, especially if temperatures don’t fall substantially in the evenings. Milder reactions to heat exposure, like heat rashes and muscle cramps, can be treated with rest, a cool environment and more water. But if you’re concerned about serious heat-related symptoms, call NHS 111 or 999 in an emergency.

We can provide tailored advice over the phone about ways to keep cool and well at home, so please call us on Freephone 0800 804 8601.

Want more tips to beat the heat?

Stay hydrated

  • Drink plenty of cold fluids, preferably without caffeine or alcohol
  • Eat fruit and veg with a high water content e.g. melons, cucumber, tomato, salad, citrus etc.

Cool your body

  • Run a cool bath, take a cool shower or wipe down with a wet washcloth
  • Slow down – try not to overexert yourself in the heat


  • Avoid the hottest part of the day (11am-3pm)
  • If you must go out, dress for the heat – wearing sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat and light, loose-fitting clothing minimises skin exposure and protects you from UV rays.

Cool your home

  • Shade the windows or use a reflective material
  • Ventilate when it’s cooler outside (typically at night)
  • Turn off appliances that aren’t being used. Standby power adds heat to your home. And it’s doubly important to turn off old-style incandescent bulbs if you have sufficient lighting otherwise since these give off most of their energy in the form of heat as opposed to light!
  • Though many people think of insulation to keep their home warm during the winter, insulation can also keep your home cool in summer. Contact us for more details about the different ways to insulate your home or about the schemes that could help with the cost of the work.

Still not cool enough? Find a library, community centre, shopping centre, place of worship or even a shaded park to cool off.

If you’re wondering when the heatwave will end, check out the Met Office website for updates on weather changes, including any hot weather alerts. And be sure to keep an eye out for family and friends who are more susceptible to the heat, like young children, older people or those with health conditions.

Southampton Healthy Homes: Margaret’s Story

Margaret contacted us as her combi boiler hadn’t been producing hot water for four months. Her occupational therapist provided her with an information leaflet about our Southampton Healthy Homes project and suggested she get in touch. Margaret has health problems that leave her unable to work and she recently lost her husband, leaving her unable to afford the cost of replacing her broken boiler.

A Southampton Healthy Homes advisor visited Margaret two days later and helped her get quotes from Buy With Confidence and Gas Safe registered heating engineers, as well as fill in an application for a grant to other charitable trusts. During the application process, Margaret’s boiler completely broke. A referral was made to the local welfare charity, for a utility top up voucher to help Margaret cover the higher electricity costs from temporary heaters, whilst awaiting the trusts’ decision.

In less than a month’s time, the trust agreed to fully fund the boiler replacement, giving Margaret heating and instant hot water again. The trust also decided to provide financial help her pay off debt from her husband’s funeral.

Margaret was very happy with her new boiler:

“Now I have again heating and hot water at all times.”

She was also very thankful for all the help she received:

“Like to thank everyone involved who helped me so much plus [the trust] for the grant and [the heating company] who installed the new boiler.”

As well as helping with the heating, the advisor helped Margaret apply for the Warm Home Discount, a government scheme that offers a discount of £140 off electricity bills.

If you know a friend, family member or client in a similar situation, please call the Southampton Healthy Homes team for advice and support on Freephone 0800 804 8601 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm) or email keepwarm@environmentcentre.com.