Hitting the Cold Spots: David’s story

tEC image_CHF client radiatorDavid was referred to the Central Heating Fund by his local council who had been supporting him with making some much needed improvements to his home. Amongst the problems in the home was the heating – or lack of heating. With only two old gas heaters on the ground floor, and no heating at all upstairs, David’s home was very cold.

David is registered disabled and suffers from conditions that cause him chronic pain. The prospect of another cold winter in his home was understandably daunting. However, with his only income being his disability benefits, and with extra commitments to meet, it would not have been possible for David to save up for a new heating system himself.

Our Advisor visited David to complete an assessment, and this showed he was eligible for a grant towards the cost of a gas central heating system.  A quote was arranged from a local heating firm, the grant value was calculated, and David agreed to pay a contribution to make up the full cost of the work.

David’s house now has a fully functioning gas central heating system, and he can have comfortable all-round warmth at the press of a button. Not only is he more comfortable in his home, but he has already noticed that he is putting less money into his gas meter each week.

He now plans to shop around for a better gas and electricity tariff, and is also making enquiries about having Smart Meters installed so that he can take even more control over his fuel spend.

David said,

 “I’m a high functioning autistic person and I am disabled and have to use sticks and a wheelchair. I didn’t know I could get help. I’ve struggled for years with two gas fires, every winter I was just living downstairs. My council introduced me to tEC and it all went from there.

 

You’ve changed my life! From having nothing now the whole house is warm. It’s helping my arthritis and pain. Everyone has been so nice, I’ve felt I’ve been asked and not told. I was given good advice, feel informed and am genuinely so grateful for the help. It’s nice not to sit here shivering.

 

The heating engineers were fantastic. They were really friendly, gave me plenty of lead time and explained everything. They told me what they would do each day, when they would make noise, kept me informed, gave me choices and cleaned up after themselves. As someone with autism this is really important to me to keep my stress levels down and I wasn’t stressed at all.

 

What I thought was going to be a super stressful experience was actually very pleasant!”

If you know someone who could benefit from Hitting the Cold Spots help, please call the Environment Centre (tEC) on Freephone 0800 804 8601 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm) or email staywarm@environmentcentre.com.

Southampton Healthy Homes: Terry’s story

tEC image_SHH client new boilerTerry was referred to us by another local agency. Terry lives in a private rented flat and the only available heating in the property was an electric wall fire in the living room. Terry receives Employment and Support Allowance due to ill health and as such he is at home a lot.

During the winter Terry found it very difficult to keep warm and did not use the electric fire that much due to the expense of running it.

A home visit was booked for our Southampton Healthy Homes advisors to go out and visit Terry at home. Following this visit we spoke with Terry’s landlady who was also keen to improve the heating in the flat. A grant was awarded from Southampton Healthy Homes to help with the cost of installing an energy efficient combination boiler – providing heating and hot water to the flat. We were able to help Terry with each step of the process from arranging the gas connection to getting a gas meter installed.

The new boiler means that now the whole flat can be heated to a comfortable temperature and there is hot water on tap. Terry is really pleased with the new boiler and has found that the cost of the gas to run the boiler has been low.

“If it was not for you I would not have had the work done. I would not have any heating still and would still be sitting in the freezing cold. Thank you for helping me get it. Since getting the heating my chest has been getting clearer.”

In addition to helping Terry get heating in his flat we also got Terry registered with his energy company so we could then help Terry apply for the Warm Home Discount which he is eligible for but had not heard of. We also helped Terry liaise with Private Sector Housing regarding some other issues.

If you know someone who could benefit from our help, please call the Environment Centre (tEC) on Freephone 0800 804 8601 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm) or email keepwarm@environmentcentre.com.

Fuel Poverty Awareness Day 2017

Today is national Fuel Poverty Awareness Day; an opportunity to focus on the issues faced by those struggling to keep warm and pay their bills, and to highlight the work being done to try and alleviate these problems.

Across Southampton and Hampshire there are an estimated 50,000 households living in fuel poverty*. Fuel poverty is caused by a combination of low household income, inefficient housing and high energy costs. In addition, the majority of these households have young children, an older person or someone with a long-term illness or disability living there**. Fuel poverty can affect the mental and physical health of those living in cold homes and have serious impacts on their quality of life.

tEC staff visit_Sharp End Films image

We have been working on fuel poverty projects since 2009, here are a few highlights from our work over the past year:

Southampton

  • Provided advice to 1,116 Southampton residents at events or over the phone
  • Supported 413 households through home visits or office appointments, between us and our partners Citizens Advice Southampton
  • Funded 64 energy efficiency home improvements, at a value of £235,152, including heating upgrades, insulation, glazing and damp treatment
  • Distributed 1,337 energy efficiency materials, including draught-proofing and light-bulbs
  • Promoted the project to 448 patients attending flu clinics
  • Trained 172 front-line staff and volunteers in recognising the signs of fuel poverty
  • Helped around 900 households with crisis support, through SCRATCH and SCM Basics Bank

Hampshire

  • Spoken to 450 Hampshire residents on the Freephone advice line
  • Visited 152 households to provide hand-holding support with heating issues
  • Accessed funding for 82 heating improvement measures, at a value of £316,768, including boiler repairs and replacements and first time central heating
  • Trained 79 staff in recognising the signs of fuel poverty

 

Adam Goulden, our Chief Executive says,

“Everyone should be able to live in a warm and comfortable home that does not negatively affect their health and wellbeing. It’s great that we’ve been able to help so many vulnerable residents over the past year, but there is still lots to do to make this a reality for all fuel poor households. We will continue to work with our partners to support those households most in need.”

If you would like to find out more about our projects, or know someone who could benefit from our help, you can call us on Freephone 0800 804 8601 (Mon-Fri 9-5).

SHH nurse referral phone_Sharp End Films image

*DECC (2014) Sub-regional fuel poverty data: low income high costs indicator **NEA (2016) Fuel Poverty Statistics

Hitting the Cold Spots: Stephanie’s Story

tEC image_client storage heaterStephanie contacted us after hearing about the Central Heating Fund project following her attendance at an event organised by her local Council.  She is an owner occupier who lives in a house with an open fire, one electric storage heater and an electric instantaneous water heater, which she found cold particularly in the winter. Stephanie is on a low income and she struggled to keep her home warm and was unable to afford the cost of installing a fixed heating system in her home.  The Hitting the Cold Spots Advisor supplied two electric oil filled radiators to help heat the home, and was also able to secure a small grant to assist with the running cost of these.

The Advisor visited Stephanie to complete a Central Heating Fund application.  However, it was established that her property was too far from the nearest gas main to be able to connect her home to the mains gas supply.  A site survey was subsequently arranged to investigate the feasibility of using LPG as an alternative fuel source for a central heating system.  Due to there being a limited amount of outside storage space, the survey identified that it was also not feasible to continue with this option.

The Advisor therefore assisted Stephanie in arranging quotes from local Buy with Confidence electricians for the cost of installing new electric storage heaters in her property.  Stephanie’s application for Hitting the Cold Spots funding was approved, which meant that new storage heaters could be installed in her home.

Stephanie was very happy with the improvement in both the warmth and comfort in her home and said,

“The difference is amazing and the warmth and dryness in my home is wonderful! I feel better in myself, especially in the morning and 100% fitter. It makes so much difference to my well-being. Thank you so much Hitting the Cold Spots, for being so hands on and concerned for me and the fact that it was so cold here.

With no proper heating due to my financial circumstances, I had been feeling quite concerned about the winter weather coming yet again. It made me depressed – the constant feeling of cold and worry about switching on my portable electric heaters due to the cost. The fact that someone cared about whether I was cold or not was wonderful.”

If you or someone you know is struggling to stay warm and well this winter, please call the Environment Centre (tEC) on Freephone 0800 804 8601 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm) or email staywarm@environmentcentre.com to speak to an advisor.

 

Southampton Healthy Homes: Mary’s story

tEC image_radiator windowMary‘s daughter contacted us regarding her mother’s heating system. Mary is in her 80’s, living alone and had recently suffered from pneumonia. Her gas boiler had broken down and the heating engineer had made a temporary fix but it needed to be replaced. Mary was eligible for the national ECO (Energy Company Obligation) scheme, due to receiving pension credit and the Southampton Healthy Homes Advisors were looking to support her with any shortfall between the ECO grant and the full cost of the work.

Despite her eligibility for the ECO scheme, Mary’s application was eventually rejected due to the incompatibility of a new boiler with her current one-pipe heating system. This required the whole central heating system to be replaced instead of just the boiler, something that the national scheme couldn’t help with. Southampton Healthy Homes reassessed her application and offered Mary a grant to cover the majority of the cost for replacing the entire central heating system, and this was installed just before Christmas.

In addition to the heating system, during the initial home visit Southampton Healthy Homes Advisors noticed that Mary’s single glazed window in the living room had a rotten frame with a hole in it, which was allowing cold air in, and one of the bedroom windows had come out of the frame and needed to be replaced. Southampton Healthy Homes managed to secure funding for the replacement of both single glazed windows with double glazed ones, meaning that Mary will now be well insulated from the cold.

These energy efficiency works improved the property’s energy rating from an E45 to a D59, reducing the estimated annual energy costs of the home from £1,166 to £858, as shown on the EPC.

Southampton Healthy Homes Advisors also helped Mary apply for a discount through Southern Water, reducing her future water bills by 20%.

Mary’s daughter provided this feedback on the project,

“It was a long process from starting to find energy suppliers who would agree to a grant to them ultimately refusing the grant, through to Southampton Healthy Homes coming to the rescue. I must admit that had it not been for the Advisors calling me most Fridays to check on progress, I might well have given up before the end. We are very grateful not only for their approving the grant for both windows and the boiler and new radiators, but for their perseverance and help at each stage of the process, including their list of Buy with Confidence suppliers who have done a great job. Thank you.”

If you have a family member, friend or neighbor who could benefit from our help, please call the Environment Centre (tEC) on Freephone 0800 804 8601 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm) or email keepwarm@environmentcentre.com to speak to an advisor.

Hitting the Cold Spots: Lindsey’s story

Lindsey contacted us after receiving our letter about the Central Heating Fund. She wanted to find out what could be done to transform her cold house into a warm and cosy home. Lindsey suffers from health conditions, and is on a low income. We arranged to visit her at home to complete an assessment, which confirmed she was eligible for help from the fund.

Her cottage is in a beautiful rural location, but too far from the mains gas network to be connected. After talking through different options with us, Lindsey decided she would like an LPG fuelled central heating system to replace the aging storage heaters and temperamental hot water system.

“We never thought we could have central heating because we couldn’t get mains gas. We hadn’t thought of LPG before. Finding out about this made us realise that central heating could be possible.”

We helped Lindsey to find quotes for the installation of a central heating system from local ‘Buy With Confidence’ contractors, and once she had decided on a contractor she liked, we were able to confirm the level of the grant. Lindsey only had to pay a small contribution to the cost of the work herself.

Next, we helped Lindsey to make arrangements for a bulk LPG tank to be installed, and liaised with the local planning authority to get the necessary permission for this.

The date for the installation came around and everything went smoothly and according to plan. The contractors were on site for just 3 days, installing a high quality combi-boiler, radiators, and programmable room thermostat, and connecting the whole system up to the new LPG tank.

“The contractors were very thoughtful and sensitive, and they gave us lots of advice about the system and where the radiators could go.”

The installation was completed at the end of the summer before the weather turned cold, and Lindsey was delighted:

“It feels like Christmas! I’ve never been given a grant before. It feels strange to be given something like this, but it is great!

 

We could never afford new heating before so we were putting up with really old heaters, having to go from room to room to turn the controls and guessing what the weather would be like the next day so we knew what to set them at. I always worried about the cost and about setting them too high. We always had cold pockets around the house.

 

The hot water system only ever provided enough for one bath per day, and wasn’t even connected to the kitchen. I boiled loads of kettles for washing up…I’m sure I will save money now. The new, instant hot water is very convenient. The new radiators look much nicer, and there are no cold spots around the house.

 

This winter will show how much it will affect my health. In the cold my aches and pains from fibromyalgia are much worse, so having a warm home will really help. The winter will be a revelation for us!”

If you or someone you know could benefit from our help, please call the Environment Centre (tEC) on Freephone 0800 804 8601 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm) or email staywarm@environmentcentre.com to speak to an advisor.

tEC image_LPG tank

Southampton Healthy Homes: Emily’s story

tEC image_radiator_MumEmily contacted us as her home was damp and she had electric storage heaters which were very expensive to run and didn’t adequately heat the home. She and her five year old son also suffered from coughs, which she had been told were linked to the damp and cold.

We visited to see if we could help with installing gas central heating, which would also help reduce her electricity bills of £160/month. During our initial visit with a Southampton Healthy Homes Advisor and Energy Assessor options were discussed for the heating, an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) was produced and grant application form filled in.

Grants were subsequently awarded to the client via the Central Heating Fund and Southampton Healthy Homes. These grants, and a contribution from Emily, led to gas being connected to the property and the installation of a gas central heating system.

The work done to the property has increased its energy rating from an E to a C. Also, the projected annual energy costs for the home have reduced from an estimated £1,013 per year to an estimated £611 per year, according to the EPC.

“This has been a fantastic project. Every step has been explained to me throughout and I’ve had lots of advice to help me reduce costs around the home. The process has been quick and hassle free and all parties have been extremely helpful and friendly. My home is now well heated and hopefully my costs will be reduced as a result.”

If you or someone you know is in a similar situation, please call the Environment Centre (tEC) on Freephone 0800 804 8601 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm) or email keepwarm@environmentcentre.com to speak to an advisor.

Hitting the Cold Spots: Ylva’s story

Ylva contacted us after hearing about the Central Heating Fund project. She is a private tenant who lives in a flat with solid uninsulated walls, electric storage heaters and hot water immersion, which she found cold particularly in the winter. Ylva is on a low income due to health difficulties and she struggled to afford her electrical heating, which is more expensive than gas.

The Hitting the Cold Spots Advisor visited Ylva to complete a Central Heating Fund application, and also gave her guidance on how to use Economy 7 storage heaters most effectively in the meantime. As part of the application, the Advisor assisted Ylva in arranging quotes from local Buy with Confidence heating engineers, as well as liaising with her letting agent and landlord.

Ylva’s application for the Central Heating Fund was approved, which together with a contribution towards the cost from her landlord, meant that the new mains gas central heating system could be installed. The Advisor provided further support on switching to a single rate electricity meter from Economy 7 and with understanding her new gas and electricity bills.

The installation of gas central heating improved the EPC rating of the property from an F33 with estimated energy costs of £1196 per year to a D59 with estimated energy costs of £683 per year. Ylva was very happy with the improvement in comfort and convenience of gas central heating and said,

“The Advisor was very supportive and reassuring, explaining the whole process and co-ordinating between myself, the Lettings Agent and the heating engineers. They helped me process all the information connected with all aspects of the change in heating and hot water systems, including tariffs. This was especially appreciated as living with anxiety these things can be challenging.

Since installing the central heating my quality of life has much improved; I’m more relaxed and comfortable moving around and between rooms, it’s more convenient with hot water on tap and more comfortable and convenient with ambient warmth throughout.”

tEC image_client with radiator_website

If you or someone you know is struggling to stay warm and well this winter, and could benefit from our help, please call the Environment Centre (tEC) on Freephone 0800 804 8601 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm) or email staywarm@environmentcentre.com to speak to an advisor.

Southampton Healthy Homes: Jean’s story

Jean’s daughter contacted the Environment Centre as her mother was interested in installing a central heating system. Jean is a pensioner and whilst she was used to living without a central heating system, with her pension as the only source of household income, she was finding it difficult to adequately heat her entire house.

tEC image_heating programmer

Within a week of the initial contact, a Southampton Healthy Homes advisor visited Jean, together with one of tEC’s Domestic Energy Assessors. They assisted her in completing the grant application and conducted an energy assessment of the property.

The Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) showed that it was costing Jean on average £1,557 per year to keep her home sufficiently warm, even though cavity wall and loft insulation had already been installed, and recommended replacing the current single gas fire with a condensing boiler and radiators.

A grant was awarded from the Central Heating Fund, which meant that along with a contribution from herself, Jean was able to have her new gas central heating system installed just before winter.

The installation of a central heating improved the energy rating of the house from an F to a high C, which means that Jean will now have expected savings of £933 per year on her heating bills.

“I would not have had the work done without your help, because I always needed advice and guidance on the subject. I think it is a very good scheme, as I wasn’t sure how to proceed with the heating. Any other advice I might need in the future, I won’t be afraid to contact you.”

If you or someone you know  is struggling to keep warm and well this winter, and could benefit from our help, please call the Environment Centre (tEC) on Freephone 0800 804 8601 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm) or email keepwarm@environmentcentre.com to speak to an advisor.

Local Charities Day 2016

Friday 16th December 2016 is the first Local Charities Day; created to celebrate small, local charities and community groups, help them thrive and demonstrate the great work they do in their areas. As a small local charity ourselves we wanted to mention some of the work we do and then highlight some of the amazing local charities we work with.

We are the Environment Centre, commonly known as tEC. We’ve been working in the promotion and practice of environmental sustainability for 23 years today! We are involved in a variety of projects in Southampton and Hampshire, with a particular focus on helping individuals and communities reduce their energy usage, save money on their bills, stay warm and well, and alleviate fuel poverty. There are 12 of us in the team, with most of out and about each day doing home visits, running advice drop-ins and delivering talks and training. Have a look around our website for more information on the projects we run and advice we offer.

Video screen shot_tEC team

Team photo (L-R): Laura, Jo, Ariadni, Zaki, Adam, Christabel, Helen, Steven, Becky. Not in photo: Alison, Sheryll, Luke. Photo credit: Robert Hull.

 

We are lucky to partner with some incredible charities in Southampton:

  • Citizens Advice Southampton – Provide free, confidential & independent advice. The advice available helps people to resolve their debts, benefits, housing, legal, discrimination, employment, immigration, consumer and other problems.
  • SCRATCH (Southampton City and Region Action to Combat Hardship) – Provide services which relieve the effects of hardship, disadvantage and poverty for individuals and families living in Southampton and the surrounding area. These services include furniture and household items, Christmas gifts for children, redistributing surplus food, paint donations and welfare advice and support.
  • SCM (Southampton City Mission) – They run Basics Banks in Southampton providing emergency food and clothing to those in need, as well as delivering schools work across the city.
  • Alder Trust – Provide consultancy, research, project delivery support, and networking events; promoting the work of others alongside developing and leading their own services.
  • SSJ Handy Person+ – Provides a trusted maintenance and repair service for older people and other vulnerable people living in the city in their own privately owned/rented accommodation. This service enables people to stay living independently in their own homes and reduces the stress and anxiety that maintenance issues can often cause.

 

We work with some excellent organisations in Hampshire:

  • WinACC (Winchester Action on Climate Change) – Works to cut the carbon footprint of Winchester district, creating lower energy bills, healthier lifestyles and stronger communities.
  • HIWCF (Hampshire and Isle of Wight Community Foundation) – An independent charitable foundation that connects donors to the local causes and charities they care about.
  • Citizens Advice Hampshire – Support the independent Citizens Advice Bureaux in Hampshire, Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight, by identifying and developing options for improving services across the county.
  • Blue Lamp Trust – Promote and enhance community safety in Hampshire, through the Bobby Scheme, funding bids to reduce crime, the fear of crime and the risk of fire in the county and the Driver Education and Training facility.

 

If you need further advice and information in Southampton, see the Advice Southampton website and the Advice Southampton partners:

  • Age UK Southampton – Support independence and wellbeing and improve the quality of life for older people living in Southampton. Provide Information and advice for older people, volunteering opportunities, befriending, health and wellbeing programme, gardening service and computer classes.
  • Citizens Advice Southampton – As above.
  • CLEAR – Aim to improve the quality of life for refugees, asylum seekers and migrants in Southampton, providing free advice and supporting people in accessing local services to which they are entitled. They believe in empowerment through education, and in practical action to support established and developing refugee communities.
  • EU Welcome – Help arrivals to Southampton from the new A8 countries of the EU. Provide advice, signposting and support. Also organise and assist with cultural and social events to help with integration of those new communities with other established communities in Southampton.
  • No Limits – Offer free and confidential information, advice, counselling, support and advocacy for children and young people under 26 who live in Southampton and Hampshire. All services are confidential and free to young people.
  • SARC (Southampton Advice & Representation Centre) – Specialise in welfare benefits law and employment law, offering a wide variety of support on these issues to residents of Southampton and Eastleigh. SARC is a registered charity with a Community Legal Services Quality Mark.
  • SVS (Southampton Voluntary Services) – SVS is the umbrella body for local voluntary and community groups working in Southampton, proving them with independent support and a voice. They offer advice and guidance to both individuals and organisations, including information on funding, charity law, working with committees, volunteers, publicity and many other aspects of voluntary or community work.