The average energy bill has doubled over the last 6 years, and many people are feeling the strain on their finances to keep warm. Find out how to reduce your energy bills, how to stay warm and well in winter, any grants that are available, where to go for help and advice, and what Lambeth is doing.
Sections in this guide (click title to view)
- 1. Reduce your energy bills
- 2. Stay warm and well in winter
- 3. Energy efficiency grants, advice, and services
- 4. What are we doing
1. Reduce your energy bills
The average UK household wastes an estimated £250 per year by not being energy efficient, but saving energy in your home can be quite simple. There are lots of ways to reduce the energy you use. For example make sure that you switch off appliances, block gaps around doors and windows (but not your ventilation grills!) and buy energy saving light bulbs.
Low- and no-cost tips to save energy
- Turning down your thermostat by only 1°C could reduce your heating bills by up to 10% - saving you some £50 per year. The recommended temperature in your living room is 21°C (70°F).
- Set your hot water tank to 60°C to prevent water from being overheated.
- Conserve energy by not leaving electrical items on standby. Prevent further wastage by not keeping laptops and mobile phones charging unnecessarily.
- Draw your curtains at dusk to retain heat in your home, and make sure the curtains, or any furniture, are not blocking your radiators.
- Take a 3 minute shower rather than a bath – showers use a lot less hot water.
- Wash your clothes at 30°C, with a full load each time.
- Defrost frozen food in the fridge overnight, as this will reduce the cooking time. And use the right size of pan for the amount of food you are cooking. Put just enough water in the pan to cover the vegetables rather than fill the whole pan, and always put the lid on to keep the heat in.
- Keep internal doors closed to reduce draughts.
- Look for energy efficient alternatives for your lighting.
- Insulate your hot water pipes to stop heat escaping.
- Fit your hot water tank with an insulating jacket. Using one that's at least 75mm (three inches) thick could save you around £30 a year.
- Put radiator panels or aluminium foil behind radiators against outside walls to reduce the amount of heat escaping.
- Use programmable heating controls to turn your heating on only when it’s needed.
- Fit thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) to keep frequently visited rooms warm whilst turning off radiators in rooms that aren’t being used – and close the doors of those rooms.
For the more tips and explanations, go to the Energy Saving Trust website. The Energy Saving Trust is a non-profit organisation, which give free and impartial advice about energy. They also have information about home improvements:
Your energy supplier
After reducing the amount of energy that you use, you may want to look at your energy provider: are you on the right tariff for what you use? Could you pay less? Have you considered switching supplier? Finding the right tariff used to be very confusing, but recent changes have made it a lot easier.
And Lambeth has made it even easier for you to see if there is a better tariff out there: register for the Big London Energy Switch and find out of you could get a better deal on your gas and electricity bills. The Big London Energy Switch is an energy switching scheme run by 20 London boroughs, aiming to help you lower your energy bills. It does not commit you to anything, so there is no harm in registering and find out if you could pay less.
Alternatively, you can call your own energy supplier and ask if they have a better tariff for you.
Be aware that energy companies offer discounts if you pay via direct debit and if you take gas and electricity from the same supplier (so-called dual fuel). If you are on a pre-payment meter, know that this is the most expensive way to pay for your energy. If you can, ask your energy company to switch you to a ‘normal’ meter (there may be a charge for this, usually around £50).
Also make sure you get billed for what you use, not what the energy company thinks you have used (estimated bills). So take regular meter readings and submit them to your energy company either online or over the phone.
If you would like some help with understanding your energy bills, independent price comparison website uSwitch has published a sample of the most popular suppliers' gas and electricity bills: uSwitch energy bills explained.
Monitor your energy use
It can be useful to know how much electricity certain things in you home actually use. Did you know that leaving your phone charger and other items plugged in all the time can cost up to £30 per year? Once you know how much electricity something is using, you might be more encouraged to unplug it or switch is off when you don’t need it, and save money.
Library users can now borrow special devices called OWLs to monitor how much electricity is being used in the home and how much it is costing. The monitors are easy to fit without any technical knowledge and come with a portable display showing how much electricity is being used in pounds per hour, or alternatively CO2 emissions. They can be borrowed for a maximum of three weeks at a time. A £5 deposit will be required which is fully refundable when the device is returned complete. Normal late charges apply. Please be aware that the monitors are not appropriate for all homes and require the electricity supply meter to be within the property.
The monitors are available from all our libraries. Find your nearest library.
2. Stay warm and well in winter
Winter is obviously the period when we need heating the most, but with energy prices rising year on year some may be tempted to switch off their heating when they need it the most. As living in a cold home can carry significant risks to its occupants, here are some tips to stay warm in cold weather.
Cold weather tips
There are many ways that you can make your home warmer and cheaper to heat:
- Try to keep a constant temperature of 18-21°C (64-70°F) in all frequented rooms. If this is not possible or affordable, keep one room warm but pre-heat the bed and bedroom before you go to bed.
- Set your heating to come on just before you get up and switch off half an hour before you go to bed. In really cold weather, set your heating to come on earlier, rather than turning up the thermostat to a higher temperature.
- Keep the heat in by insulating and draught-proofing your home and lining your curtains with thermal material.
- Wrap up warmly before going out - no matter how short the trip.
- Make sure you have some hot food and drink every day.
- Stay active - exercise will help keep you healthy and warm.
Prevent damp and mould
Poor ventilation is the most common cause of damp. Buildings need to "breathe" and rely on constant air circulation. Anything that stops the flow of air through your home prevents moisture from escaping or evaporating and leads to damp. Anxious not to lose expensively produced heat, many people turn their homes into sealed boxes with little or no ventilation. As well as being bad for your health, this can create huge damp problems, so make sure there is always some way for the air to circulate. Also, wet air takes longer to warm up than dry air, so ventilating regularly and sensibly will actually lower your heating bills.
Most damp is caused by condensation. Here are a few tips to keep condensation to a minimum, so reducing the risk of dampness and mould growth.
Avoid condensation by producing less moisture in your home:
- cover pans whilst cooking,
- use an extraction fan if available,
- do not to leave the kettle boiling, and
- dry clothes outside if you can. If you have to dry your clothes indoors, put them in a room where you can open the window and close the door.
Keep your home well ventilated to remove excess moisture, especially in the kitchen and bathroom – open a window for half an hour after using the kitchen or bathroom, and close the door to prevent the heat in your home from escaping. Also regularly open the window in your bedroom to let the moisture out that builds up during the night – you breathe out humid air.
Insulate and draught-proof your home, but do not block ventilation grills or trickle vents.
3. Energy efficiency grants, advice, and services
There are a number of organisations that can provide advice, information, and support to help you to reduce your fuel bills and to ensure that you are getting the best deal from your energy company.
Advice and information about grants
Home Heat Helpline
The Home Heat Helpline is a free, not-for-profit phone line set up to help customers who are struggling to pay their fuel bill and keep warm. Advisors are trained to give quick, clear information on the grants, benefits and payment schemes that you may be entitled to, as well as basic steps that can be taken to save money on heating bills by making your home more energy efficient.
Contact: Home Heat Helpline
Phone: 0800 33 66 99
Website: Home Heat Helpline
Energy Saving Trust advice centre
The Energy Saving Trust advice centre offers free, impartial advice to help residents reduce their energy consumption and save money. The advice centre can:
- provide information about energy efficiency, renewable energy, sustainable transport and reducing waste and water use.
- let you know about grants and offers available and put you in touch with local professional installers.
Contact: the Energy Saving Trust
Phone: 0300 123 1234
Website: Energy Saving Trust
Citizens Advice Consumer Service
The Citizens Advice Consumer Service provides free, confidential and impartial advice on consumer issues, including energy. Their website contains information on finding the best energy deals and checking on your consumer rights. They can also help you make an effective complaint to your energy company.
Contact: Citizens Advice
Phone: 03454 04 05 06
Website: Citizens Advice Consumer Service
Priority Services Register
All Big Six energy companies (British Gas, EDF Energy, E.ON, npower, Scottish Power, and Scottish and Southern Electric SSE) and a few of the smaller ones (OVO, First Utility) have support available for customers who might require some extra help. This is called the Priority Services Register, a scheme which offers extra free services to people who are of pensionable age, are registered disabled, have a hearing or visual impairment, or have long term ill-health. Every energy company offers a slightly different set of services, but these can include:
- a service more tailored to your needs. For example, you can ask to have your bills and meter readings in Braille, large type or audio tape;
- free quarterly meter readings if you tell your supplier you can’t read it yourself;
- priority reconnection if your supply is interrupted and advance notice if they have to stop your supply;
- arranging for your bills to be sent or copied to someone else, such as a carer, who can help you read and check them.
To find out what your energy company can assist you with, contact them directly or visit the Home Heat Helpline or call them on 0800 33 66 99 (free phone).
Warm Home Discount scheme
If you are a pensioner or on a low income, you may qualify for the Warm Home Discount Scheme. This gives a rebate to pensioners on low incomes and some other customers on low incomes. The rebate will be £140 on your electricity bill for winter 2015 -2016.
The cut-off date for receiving the qualifying benefits in order to get the Warm Homes Discount is the 1st of July preceding winter, so ensure that you receive the qualifying benefit in time!
If you are not a pensioner on a low income, you may still be eligible for the Warm Home Discount Scheme. Each energy company has different criteria, so contact your supplier to check whether you are eligible. Alternatively you can contact the Home Heat Helpline on 0800 33 66 99.
Energy Trusts and Funds
All Big Six energy companies have trusts or funds that could help you if you are having real problems playing your energy bills. All Trusts are slightly different and have different criteria, but generally they could help clear energy debts. Some may also provide grants to buy essential white goods, cookers, and boiler replacements.
To find out about the support offered and the criteria, call your energy company, the Home Heat Helpline (0800 33 66 99), an advice agency e.g. a Citizen’s Advice Bureau, or go online:
In addition to their Energy Fund, npower have also teamed up with the NHS and the national fuel poverty charity NEA to create Health Through Warmth, offering help to vulnerable people living in England and Wales who have long term illnesses and need assistance to fund and install heating and insulation in their homes.
Contact: Health Through Warmth
Phone: 0845 070 2809
Website: Health Through Warmth
Thames Water also offers help to customers facing hardship or financial difficulties. Call Thames Water on 0845 9200 888, or visit their website.
Help for landlords
If you are a landlord and want to improve the energy efficiency of your rental property (properties), the Landlord’s Energy Saving Allowance (LESA) allows you to reduce your tax bill by up to £1,500 a year for each flat, house or bedsit that you rent out. You can claim Landlord’s Energy Saving Allowance for the costs of buying and installing the following energy-saving products for properties you rent out:
- cavity wall and loft insulation
- solid wall insulation
- hot water system insulation
- floor insulation
From April 2018 onwards it will be illegal to rent out an energy inefficient property (an EPC rating lower than E). Do not be caught out by this, and look at your options to improve your rental property now!
London Boiler cashback scheme
The London Boiler Cashback Scheme will provide 6,500 Londoners each with £400 cash back on replacement of an old working 70 per cent or less efficient boiler.
To find out if you are eligible for the scheme, please visit London Boiler Cashback Scheme
The Flexible Energy Company Obligation (ECO)
The Energy Company Obligation (ECO) is an obligation on energy suppliers aimed at helping households to cut their energy bills and reduce carbon emissions by installing energy saving measures. Energy companies have an obligation to contribute to a national fund used to install energy efficiency measures.
A Flexible ECO scheme has now been introduced. Flexible ECO recognises that a lot of households who are not in receipt of benefits may still have needs related to fuel poverty. Local authorities need to have their own criteria for identifying households who would be eligible for assistance under Flexible ECO.
Flexible ECO is for residents of a private tenure only (home ownership and the private rented sector). Once households have been identified as being eligible for assistance under Flexible ECO, they may have access to energy efficiency measures funded under ECO.
The two main categories of private tenure households in Lambeth who will eligible for assistance under Flexible ECO are:
- Fuel poor households who are not in receipt of any of the following benefits: Employment Support Allowance (ESA), Job Seekers Allowance (JSA), Income Support, Pension Credit, Universal Credit or Tax Credit.
- Low income households who are vulnerable to the effects of living in a cold home and who are not in receipt of any of the following benefits: Employment Support Allowance (ESA), Job Seekers Allowance (JSA), Income Support, Pension Credit, Universal Credit or Tax Credit.
A Statement of Intent (SoI) is intended to state publicly the criteria that a local authority, or a group of local authorities, intends to use to identify households that meet the eligibility criteria under Flexible ECO. Lambeth Borough Council’s Statement of Intent can be downloaded below.
4. What are we doing
With large numbers of households in Lambeth living in fuel poverty and a high level of long-term illness many people are at risk. We are committed to tackling fuel poverty in the borough and to reducing the impact of cold weather on the health of our most vulnerable residents.
A household is in fuel poverty if it needs to spend a large amount of its income on fuel to heat its home sufficiently (usually 21°C (70°F) for the main living area, and 18°C (64°F) for other occupied rooms). Being in fuel poverty affects a person's health, quality of life and general well being and is a barrier to social inclusion. In the main fuel poverty is determined three factors:
- how energy efficient the home is;
- the cost of energy; and
- the income of the household.
In Lambeth we are working to promote energy efficiency and available grants to minimise the number of Lambeth residents who are in fuel poverty. We are promoting the Big London Energy Switch to see if our residents can get a better tariff for their gas and electricity.
We are also run a service called Every Pound Counts to assist residents in identifying and claiming benefits which they are entitled to.
Fuel Poverty Strategy
The council also has a Fuel Poverty Strategy that sets out the causes and current levels of fuel poverty in Lambeth. The document details the council's approach to tackling fuel poverty and activities taking place within the borough to deliver affordable warmth.
Lambeth's Fuel Poverty Strategy 2011-2014 is currently being updated, and will be published here as soon as it has been approved (target publication date: December 2014).
Lambeth’s Home Energy Conservation Act strategy
The Home Energy Conservation Act (HECA) has recently been amended and now requires local authorities to submit a HECA report to the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC). The report details the actions we are taking to reduce CO2 emissions from residential buildings in the local area. A copy of the report outlining the actions we will take to address CO2 emissions and fuel poverty in the borough’s housing is available to download below.