Kerry’s internship at tEC

tEC image_Intern_KTKerry interned with us for three months over the summer, working alongside our Energy Advisors, on a variety of projects in Southampton and Hampshire.

During her internship Kerry was able to take part in home visits and advice drop-ins, contribute to and deliver communication materials, analyse and map project data, research options for colleagues and clients, as well as day-to-day tasks within the office.

Kerry said,

“My internship at the Environment Centre gave me the opportunity to put the skills I had learnt at university into practice in a real work setting. The team helped me to settle in quickly and were there to answer any questions I had.

Throughout the internship, I had the chance to work on several exciting projects which allowed me to develop my professional skills, as well as learn about energy efficiency and how it can be improved in the home. My internship covered a wide range of tasks, including research projects, providing advice to clients and data analysis, all giving me valuable experience to add to my CV.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at tEC, and would like to thank the team for helping me to settle in and teaching me so many new things. Keep up the fantastic work that you all do!”

We really appreciated Kerry’s hard work, and wish her all the best for the final year of her degree.

Southampton Warmth For All: Project Achievements

tEC image_SWFA drop-in YMCAProject Overview

We have just finished delivering a one year project aimed at reducing fuel poverty in Southampton, and would like to share some of the achievements. The project was funded by the Scottish Power Energy People Trust and it allowed us to continue to deliver our fuel poverty outreach work across Southampton.

Through the project local residents were given support through a variety of settings such as home visits, appointments, events and workshops. This support included:

  • Advice on reducing energy usage at home,
  • Help switching energy tariff or supplier,
  • Dealing with fuel debt,
  • Applying for grants and discounts,
  • Draught proofing (including free materials),
  • Tackling condensation and mould.

Project Highlights

  • Households given face to face support = 797
  • Home visits and appointments = 81 home visits and 50 appointments
  • Events attended = 25 promotional events, 40 drop-ins and 10 workshops
  • Households provided with free energy efficiency measures = 502
  • Total perceived cost savings from energy efficiency measures = £24,285/year
  • Total savings from switching energy provider = £6,080/year
  • Other grants secured for households e.g. Warm Home Discount, ECO, Water Assistance = £22,900
  • Households assisted with fuel debt = 48
  • Referrals made to other organisations for additional support = 147
  • New Home Guides given out = 2,230


From a client attending one of our presentations:

I thought I knew it all, but after I had listened to your presentation at Southampton Mencap Carers Lunch, I realised that I still had a lot to learn. The best bit is that I applied for the Warm Home Discount for my son who is in receipt of DLA, and within a week he was sent a letter stating that his account will be credited with £140 before 31st March 2016. Thank you very much for an interesting and worthwhile presentation.

From an event organiser where we did a drop-in session:

Thank you to you and your colleagues for attending our sessions recently. My colleagues received some good feedback from families, who said the information they received was very helpful.

From a local agency who refers clients to us:

That is fantastic – thank you so much – really helpful as always!

Even though the Southampton Warmth For All project has finished, we can still help households in Southampton (and Hampshire) with these issues. So, if you or someone you know is struggling to keep warm and well, please call the Environment Centre (tEC) on Freephone 0800 804 8601 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm) or email to speak to an advisor.

Hitting the Cold Spots: Fiona’s Story

Fiona from Eastleigh called us with concerns about her rising gas costs.  We arranged for one of our advisors to visit to help her to understand her fuel bills and to provide information on savings that could be made through completing an energy price comparison and changing to an alternative fuel tariff.

Fiona had a number of medical conditions which made her more susceptible to feeling the effects of the cold as this had a detrimental effect on the levels of pain that she experienced, together with her ability to undertake many activities of daily living.  It was particularly important to her to keep her home warm.  Following a recent period of prolonged ill health, it had also been necessary for her to have her heating on for longer than normal.  This contributed to her using more gas and experiencing higher costs than she would normally have experienced in this time.

The advisor noticed during the home visit that Fiona’s fuel accounts were based on estimated readings.  Before undertaking the price comparison exercise, it was important to be clear about how much fuel Fiona was actually using.  The advisor read both meters and confirmed this information to her fuel supplier.  Through using this information to compare different tariffs, Fiona learned that she could make significant savings of around £160 over the year by switching to an alternative tariff with the same supplier.  At the same time, she was also able to fix her fuel prices for the next two years.

Fiona now feels much more reassured by the fact that her fuel prices over the next two years would remain unchanged and that she would therefore be protected from future price increases that may occur in this time.

Fiona said,

“I am most grateful for you finding a cheaper tariff.  The advice provided with changing supplier is likely to save me up to around £160 across the year.  I’m so pleased that I’ve now got my fuel tariff settled for the next two years; it’s taken a worry off my mind. 

I was very pleased with the help and attention that I received.  My Advisor was very understanding of both my personal circumstances and my situation.  I’m absolutely delighted; I’m over the moon!”

If you or someone you know would like help with switching tariff or supplier, please call the Environment Centre (tEC) on Freephone 0800 804 8601 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm) or email to speak to an advisor.

Switching supplier

tEC image_save moneySwitching energy supplier saves the average consumer £200 per year. Anyone can switch, whether you pay by bills or pre-payment meter, or are a homeowner or tenant.

If you don’t want to switch, it is still worth asking your supplier if you are on their best tariff, checking your bills are based on actual usage and not estimates and considering changing the way you pay. You can also ask your energy company about the ‘Warm Home Discount’ and ‘Priority Services’ scheme which they offer for households who need a little extra help.

The first step

­It is helpful to have your annual gas or electricity summary statement to hand as this will give you a more accurate comparison. This summary will include details of your current supplier, tariff, payment method, unit rate, standing charge and how much you use per year. These sections will be useful for comparison with other energy suppliers and to see how much you could save from switching. If you don’t know who your suppliers are you can call 0870 608 1524 for gas and 0345 026 2554 (Option 4) for electricity.

Tariff Information

Energy tariffs are made up of the unit rate and the standing charge. The unit rate is what you pay for each bit of electricity or gas you use, and the standing charge is a form of ‘rent’ that you pay to have the energy brought to your home. The comparison websites take all of this into consideration to give you an overall price.

Economy 7 or 10 tariffs give cheaper rates overnight and are often the best option for people with electric heating and hot water. However, you need a special meter and wiring to benefit from these tariffs.

A fixed tariff may be more expensive than a variable tariff at first but will protect you against future price increases, for as long as your contract lasts. Paying by direct debit can save you money, as will online accounts, dual fuel payments and avoiding pre-payment meters.

Comparing suppliers and tariffs

The easiest way to compare suppliers and tariffs is to use comparison websites. Below is a list of Ofgem accredited energy comparison sites, which offer an independent, unbiased and accessible way to view the different suppliers (just click on the name to go to their website). These organisations can also offer advice by telephone.

Then, simply use the website to enter your details, and you will get a list of suppliers and tariffs you can switch to and how much you will save by doing that. You can then refine your search to look for extra features, such as paper bills, no exit fees or green energy.

Final Step

Once you have chosen a supplier you want to switch to, contact them or go through the comparison site and they will sort out the rest of the process for you. You will be asked to give meter readings to the new supplier, so make sure you know where your meters are and how to read them.

Switching may take a couple of weeks, but you will not lose your energy supply during this time. If you have previously received the Warm Home Discount, do check if the new supplier is able to offer the scheme under the same criteria.

If you owe any money to the old supplier you will need to settle this first, or transfer the debt, and if you are in credit you should ask them to return it. You can get help with reclaiming credit through the My Energy Credit website or helpline 03707377770.

If you require further assistance with switching to a cheaper tariff or supplier, we can offer support and advice, please call our Freephone on 0800 804 8601 (Mon-Fri 9-5).

Southampton Healthy Homes: Barbara’s Story

Barbara was given our details by her local nurse to see how we could help. The only heating in her property was a storage heater in the living room and an electric convector heater in the hallway and she had to rely on other electric plug-in heaters to keep warm. Barbara lives with and cares for her friend who is bed ridden and has dementia, and they are both pensioners.

During the winter months they end up spending over £200 per month on their electricity to ensure there is enough heating in the property. They were concerned going forward whether the heaters would provide adequate heating and also over the cost of their electric bills.

A home visit was booked in with a Southampton Healthy Homes Advisor and an Energy Assessor. During the visit Barbara explained how she felt it would be beneficial to have a storage heater in their dining room which they use a lot and in the main bedroom, as these rooms did not have any fixed heating. The grant application form was filled in at the visit to see if a grant could be provided to help with this additional heating.

A grant was then awarded from Southampton Healthy Homes towards the cost of putting in these two necessary storage heaters, and the work was completed by a local Buy with Confidence contractor. Barbara was very pleased with this as these heaters mean she doesn’t need to worry about the weather getting cooler as there are now two additional heaters in the property, to ensure her friend is kept warm during the winter.

“First class service, from first interview to job completion.”

Through the Southampton Healthy Homes partnership, we were also able to arrange a home visit with Citizens Advice Southampton, to ensure they are receiving all of the financial support they are entitled to.

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

tEC image_storage heater_SHH

Hitting the Cold Spots: Chris’ Story

Chris lives in the family home which he inherited some years ago. Due to a health condition and low income, he had been unable to keep on top of essential repairs and maintenance over the years, and the heating in particular was in great need of an overhaul.

Chris received a letter about the Central Heating Fund and called us to arrange an assessment. One of our advisors visited him to complete an application form and to carry out an energy assessment. This showed that Chris would be eligible for a grant, which meant that his aging storage heaters could be replaced with an efficient gas central heating system.

A local Buy with Confidence contractor was selected and the funding was agreed. Within weeks, a brand new boiler, radiators and heating controls were installed. We visited Chris again to see how his home energy rating had been improved.

Chris said,

“This scheme has given me a massive boost and lift. It seemed for ages that nothing was going right for me, and I was unaware such schemes existed until you wrote to me.

You’ve given me something I could never have afforded otherwise, and you’ve improved my life no end for the winter. It’s done an awful lot for me. It’s been fantastic”

Installing gas central heating into Chris’ home improved the energy rating from an E to a high D; exceeding the average rating for homes in the UK. The change in heating system is also expected to save Chris around £374 per year on his heating bills, and now he can look forward to a warm and healthy home in the coming winters.

We are currently looking for further qualifying properties and households, so please contact the Environment Centre (tEC) for more information or to check eligibility, on Freephone 0800 804 8601 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm) or email Deadline for applications: Friday 14th October 2016.

tEC image_central heating client_HTCS

Southampton Healthy Homes: Marie’s Story

tEC image_new boiler_SHH

Marie found our details from the Energy Saving Advice Service as the back boiler in her home was old, not working well and not providing hot water. Marie was very concerned about the lack of heat in the home as this has a negative impact on her health. During the initial phone call we were able to identify two potential grants to help with replacing the boiler. A home visit was then arranged so two of our Southampton Healthy Homes advisors visited and filled in the grant application form with her.

A grant was then awarded from Southampton Healthy Homes, as well as a grant from Green Deal Communities, along with a client contribution from Marie. This meant that Marie could have the much needed, new, efficient boiler installed to provide the heat and hot water required with her health conditions.

Another of Marie’s concerns was the lack of loft and cavity wall insulation in the home so we gave her the number for an energy company providing a grant for the insulation. A visit soon followed and the home was then fully insulated, free of charge.

The new efficient boiler and the loft and cavity wall insulation has now meant the energy rating of the home has gone up from an E52 rating to a C74 rating, which could give an average annual saving on her energy bills of £521, based on the Energy Performance Certificate.

During the initial home visit a referral was also made to the Blue Lamp Trust as Marie had some security concerns in the property. A fitter from their scheme then visited and fitted new locks on the doors and smoke alarms for added peace of mind.

“The installation of loft and cavity wall insulation is crucial for me as keeping warm is a key part of the pain management of my health conditions. Most amazingly tEC organised both a government grant and an additional grant to replace my old boiler. Without their fantastic help and support I could never have afforded other crucial health changes in my home. I’m so grateful for their support.”

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 to speak to an advisor.

Hitting the Cold Spots: Lisa’s Story

tEC image_new boiler_HTCSLisa called us after receiving a letter saying she may be eligible for help to improve the heating in her home. We arranged for one of our advisors to visit Lisa and complete an energy assessment.

The gas had been disconnected from the home some years ago, and the only heating was from electric heaters using on–peak electricity; a very expensive means of heating. The energy assessment showed that it would cost £2,907 per year for Lisa to keep the home sufficiently warm for herself and her children. Unable to afford this, the family had been struggling to keep warm throughout the winters, only using their heaters when absolutely necessary.

A grant was awarded from the Central Heating Fund and a contractor was chosen to install a brand new efficient gas boiler and radiators. Lisa also contacted her electricity supplier and arranged for them to install a new gas meter, free of charge.

Lisa and her family are already enjoying the benefits of instant hot water from their new combi boiler, and are looking forward to the weather turning cold so they test out their new heating system!

Lisa said,

“I truly believe you have kept us from illnesses in the coming winter. There will be no more duvets on the sofa when watching TV.

Everyone has been very professional and kept us informed of what’s going on. The installers were brilliant and did a really good job.”

The energy assessments before and after showed that the home improved from a G18 rating – almost at the bottom of the scale – to a D59 rating, bringing it in line with the average UK household, and reduced her yearly energy costs by £1,667. Lisa now plans to have loft and cavity wall insulation installed as well, which will improve her energy rating even further, and help her family to keep warm for less money.

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 to speak to an advisor.

tEC image_new thermostat_HTCS

Southampton Healthy Homes: Patrick’s Story

tEC image_fixed boiler

Patrick was referred for Southampton Healthy Homes help by Citizens Advice Southampton, who are partners in the project. Their combi boiler was broken and had been condemned, because there was a suspected gas leak from the pipework, leaving them without heating or hot water. Patrick lives with his wife and two sons, and had just been made redundant so had no income. Patrick’s wife receives disability benefits due to a visual impairment and back problems. They weren’t eligible for help from the national energy supplier scheme and were unable to afford the boiler repairs themselves.

Patrick had already got a quote for repairing the boiler and replacing pipework to see how much it would be, but with such a limited income they didn’t know how they would cover the cost. The Southampton Healthy Homes advisors went to visit the same week, and were able to approve a grant to fund the full amount, so the work was booked in and the boiler fixed within two weeks. The advisors were also able to find a small grant for Patrick to cover the cost of extra electricity usage while the boiler was broken.

“If we hadn’t got help we would still be without hot water, and with four people in the house and being ill that was difficult. The advisors we saw were very helpful and gave us information on other help that we could get. Even the people who came to fix the boiler were very good.”

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 to speak to an advisor.

tEC image_fixed pipework

Hitting the Cold Spots: Margaret’s Story

tEC image_client boiler_no logo

It was during a particularly cold spell in March when Margaret’s boiler broke down, leaving her with no heating or hot water at a crucial time of year. Margaret contacted her local council who put her in touch with us.

We talked through Margaret’s situation with her on the phone and she told us how difficult she was finding it to cope without hot water, having to carry hot kettles up the stairs to wash, and how the cold was exacerbating her health condition. A visit was arranged with a Hitting the Cold Spots advisor.

Our advisor provided Margaret with an electric heater to take the chill out of her home and went through the different options with her. Margaret explained that her main concern was getting a new boiler, but that living on her state pension meant she could not afford to do this herself. Our advisor supported her to complete an application form for a grant, helped her to gather all the evidence she needed to support her application, and arranged for local heating companies to provide quotes for the work.

To her delight, Margaret’s application was successful and the grant body agreed to fund the complete cost of a new boiler. The new boiler was installed, and heating and hot water was restored in Margaret’s home.

Our advisor was also concerned that Margaret had been receiving estimated bills from her energy company which meant that she had been paying them too much every month. A call was made to the energy company and they booked an appointment to install ‘smart meters’ in Margaret’s home. With the smart meters now in place, Margaret can see exactly how much she is spending on her gas and electricity, and no longer has to worry about sending meter readings to her company.

“I am over the moon to get this all sorted after so long without heating and hot water. I don’t know where I would have been otherwise. It was like living back in the 1950’s! I am really grateful to Hitting the Cold Spots for their help.” 

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 to speak to an advisor.