This fact sheet provides information about how you can make your home more energy efficient and also advice about what financial assistance may be available to assist with fuel bills and energy efficiency.
Energy efficiency and safety
Taking a few energy saving measures and using electrical and gas appliances more efficiently can reduce your fuel bills. Here are some suggestions:-
- set your home to the right temperature, government guidelines are 21C for your main living room, 18C for your bedroom and 16C for the rest of the house
- set your heating to come on just before you get up and switch off after you have gone to bed
- if it is very cold, set your heating to come on earlier and turn off later rather than turning the thermostat up
- if you cannot heat all the rooms you use, heat the living room throughout the day and your bedroom just before you go to bed
- close curtains and shut doors to keep heat in the rooms you use most
- get your heating system checked regularly and keep your home well ventilated
- switch off appliances such as TVs and microwaves rather than leaving them on standby
- do not use a gas cooker or oven to heat your home – it is inefficient and there is a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning – see below
- fit draught proofing to seal any gaps around windows and doors
- make sure that your loft has at least 10-11 inches (270mm) of insulation – see below
- if you have wall cavities, make sure that they are insulated too – see below
- insulate your hot water cylinder and pipes
- have a gas safety check carried out once a year by a suitably trained, reputable, registered engineer – see below.
Gas safety checks
Information on gas safety checks is available on the Gas Safe Charity website. People who are considered vulnerable, for example, because of their age or disability may qualify for a free gas safety check. The Gas Safe Charity website has further information on this.
For more information on installing insulation and to find an approved installer in your area contact the National Insulation Association (NIA) on 08451 63 63 63 or visit their website .
Carbon monoxide poisoning
Low levels of carbon monoxide can cause serious harm to your health if breathed in over a long time. Incorrectly installed, poorly maintained or poorly ventilated cooking and heating appliances which burn carbon-containing fuels can give off carbon monoxide – a poisonous gas which you cannot see, smell or taste.
If you suffer from symptoms similar to that of food poisoning or viral infections, flu or simple fatigue and think they could be caused by carbon monoxide, see your doctor at once and say you think it might be carbon monoxide poisoning. The following steps could help alleviate the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning:-
- have your cooking and heating appliances which burn carbon-containing fuels, flues and chimneys serviced at least once a year by a suitably trained, reputable, registered engineer
- fit an audible carbon monoxide alarm that meets European Standard EN50291
- keep rooms well ventilated when using an appliance, and stop using an appliance if you think it may be giving off carbon monoxide gas.
To find out more about carbon monoxide safety, call the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Gas Safety Advice Line on 0800 300 363 or visit their website.
For further information about keeping your home safe and where you can go to get a carbon monoxide alarm visit the Carbon Monoxide Safety website.
Finding an engineer
The Gas Safe register is an official list of gas engineers who are qualified to work safely and legally on gas appliances. You should always check that your engineer is on this register. Visit their website to check your engineer.
Trust Mark is a government endorsed scheme designed to direct consumers towards reliable tradesmen. You can search their website for a local reputable engineer: find your trustmark tradesman
There are grants, benefits and sources of advice available to make your home more energy efficient, improve your heating or help with bills. It is worthwhile claiming all the benefits to which you are entitled.
Help from your energy company
You might be entitled to help for energy saving improvements to your home if you are receiving certain benefits and own or privately rent your home. Participating companies will help pay for all or part of the cost of installing the following types of measures to make your home warmer, healthier and more energy efficient:-
- solid wall insulation
- loft insulation
- cavity wall insulation
- boiler repairs or replacements.
To find out more, including which suppliers are participating in the scheme you can call the Independent Energy Saving Advice Service on 0300 123 1234 (9am-8pm Mon-Fri and 10am-2pm Sat). You do not have to be an existing customer of a participating supplier in order to qualify for support.
Help for people with a long-term illness through their local Home Improvement Agency (HIA)
If you are a homeowner and suffering from a long-term illness, you may be eligible for funding to contribute towards the costs of:-
- heating installation/repairs
- boiler repairs replacement
- loft and cavity installation.
For further information regarding the npower Health Through Warmth scheme, please visit the Foundations Independent Living Trust (FILT) website.
Warm Home discount scheme
The Warm Home discount scheme is a scheme to help low-income and vulnerable households with energy costs. Participating energy companies will be providing a discount of £140 on the electricity bills for certain customers in winter 2015/2016.
You can still get this discount if you use pre-pay or pay-as-you-go electricity meters. Your supplier will be able to tell you more about how you might receive this discount. For details of how to claim and to check your eligibility, go to the government website.
Cold weather payments
If you are claiming certain benefits, you may be entitled to a cold weather payment. These are made during periods of very cold weather to help people pay for extra heating costs. Payments will only be made when the average temperature where you live has been recorded as, or forecast to be, zero degrees Celsius or below over seven consecutive days.
Cold weather payments are £25 for each seven day period of very cold weather between 1 November and 31 March. To find out more about cold weather payments, contact your local Jobcentre Plus or visit the government website.
Winter fuel payment
This is a tax-free benefit for older people to help pay for heating during the winter months. Payments are between £100 and £300. You could be eligible if you have reached the qualifying age and you normally live in Great Britain. You can’t claim winter fuel payment for 2015 to 2016 after 31 March 2016.
Most payments are made automatically over a number of weeks from November onwards. Some people may qualify for a winter fuel payment but may not be paid automatically (for example, if they were not receiving one of the qualifying benefits in the qualifying week). If you do qualify but do not fit the criteria for automatic payment you will need to make a claim. To check your eligibility and to make a claim, go to the government website for more information on how to claim.
British Gas Energy Trust
The British Gas Energy Trust, which incorporates the Scottish Gas Energy Trust, awards grants to pay for gas and/or electricity bills and also offers grants to pay for essential household items such as washing machines and cookers. You do not have to be a British/Scottish Gas customer in order to access this assistance. For further information about what assistance is available and how to apply, visit their website.
EDF Energy Trust
EDF Energy Trust helps individuals and families in need by giving grants to clear gas and electricity debts. They also award grants to clear other household debts and purchase essential household items. To find out more visit their website.
Further help and information on energy efficiency
Energy Saving Trust
The Energy Saving Trust offers impartial advice about reducing carbon emissions, using water more sustainably and saving money on energy bills. You can contact their telephone help line on 0300 123 1234 or visit their website.
Home Energy Scotland Hotline (HESacs)
HESacs are a network of local advice centres across Scotland which offer free and impartial energy efficiency advice. For further information about your nearest HESacs centre call 0808 808 2282.
Foundations is the national body for home improvement agencies (HIAs) around England. Their charitable arm, FILT, is currently running the npower Health Through Warmth scheme, this scheme can assist people with heating and insulation measures. For further information you can call 0845 864 5210 or visit their website.
The Home Heat Helpline
This is a free national helpline that offers advice on entitlement to grants, benefits and payment schemes. It can also advise you on what basic steps you can take to save you money. You can call the helpline on 0800 33 66 99, or you can visit their website which offers a free online chat service.