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The Mayor of London’s Warmer Homes programme provides grants of between £5,000 and £25,000 for heating, insulation and ventilation improvements and solar panels for low-income households. Landlords can also apply as long as the tenant is eligible.
Warm & Well in Merton
Information to help you stay warm and well in winter, as well as grants for eligible people.
If you're aged 65 or over, with a long-term condition or disability, or on a low income, you may be able to access energy advice from our local partner Thinking Works who help residents most in need stay warm and well. For further information, see their contact details:
Freephone: 0800 118 23 27
How to save on your energy bills – a presentation from Thinking Works
Good morning everyone my name's Giles Reed, the director at Thinking Works.
Thinking Works is a not-for-profit organization and we specialize in Energy Efficiency and helping people at risk of fuel poverty. We've been going for over 10 years and support over 2,000 households a year, and what I wanted to do in this talk this morning briefly is to go through the situation that we have at the moment with energy prices. I'm sure you're all aware but I just wanted to drill down a little bit into the detail of that and then discuss what support options are there.
The three key areas that I think we need to look at and then onward steps and where you can go for more information. So to start off with let's have a look at the energy price guarantee. So this was a an announcement that Liz Truss made when she was prime minister and this replaced the energy price cap. Just briefly on this I do want to make it sort of clear that although it is a guaranteed price it doesn't mean that it's a guaranteed amount that you would actually spend on your energy. What it means is it guarantees the unit rates. It was for two years, it is now for only one year so the figures that are on there relate to this year only. But it's important that we look at what this means – some of you may have heard in the media – the people saying that it's going to be 2,500 pounds per household that is very much an average and what we really need to look at are the unit rates which are down here. This is important because how you can work out how much it's going to cost you this winter is really looking at how the energy price guarantee unit rates relate to what you were paying last winter and that's what I want to look at.
So the energy price guarantee and just say that these unit rates are average, so as I've found from people submitting bills to me despite the fact that it's supposed to be a guaranteed rate I have seen some differences between them. So electricity 34 Pence for a unit of electricity and 10.3p for a unit of gas but what does that mean? We need to put that into some context and that's why I've put the average for previous winter. The reason is an average is because prior to Energy prices going as crazy as they are now people could shop around and there was a lot of variance between the cheapest and the most expensive tariffs. Not so anymore, but when we look at the previous winter we look at an average of 16p per unit of electricity, so when we're looking at it being guaranteed at 34 Pence it's a doubling of that rate. Similarly with gas at 10.3 Pence it was at around five so again we are broadly seeing a doubling of those costs.
The other thing I want to look at here is a standing charge and to explain what a standing charge is. So standing charge effectively it would be better described as line rental. We're used to it with it with phones that you pay and the broadband and other things that you pay a monthly cost for that service to come to your home, and that is what the standing charge is. It covers the cost of the wiring, the piping. It's a fixed cost so if you used zero energy at all – and this is what we're hearing more from people – is there they're saying well I haven't switched it on, I haven't used it. If you use nothing at all the standing charge for electricity is just over 46 Pence a day and is over 28 Pence a day on gas, so that means before you even switch anything on in your home, you've got gas and electricity of just over 22 pounds a month, without using anything. So use nothing at all, 22 pounds a month and that's worth bearing in mind because there's this fixed cost that's going to come in there, so when we're looking at the costs sort of doubling, and you can look at these rates and see how they compare to yours. Really the reason I want to put that illustration up there is because it's important to then look at what that means to you.
We're getting calls in from people saying well my direct debit has gone up from being a hundred pounds a month to 200 pounds a month what can I do? the reality is it needs to be 200 pounds a month to cover these new costs, so if it needs to be 200 pounds a month to cover those costs what can we do about it? That's what I want to talk about at more length this morning so really, in reality, it boils down to three areas that we can look at that can give you help with this.
The first of those areas is to maximize your income. If you can increase your income then you could you could meet these new doubling of costs. Now, if you are in receipt of benefits, it's worth thinking about when the last time you had a benefits check was, maybe your circumstances have changed. It also is the case if you have a long-term condition or a disability have, you spoken to any advisors to see whether there's any benefits available for that, and if you're in work it's just having those very real conversations to see is there any way to increase your income from that. So if we can increase our income that's one way that we can try and meet the challenges of doubling bills.
The second is that we need to improve the heat retention. If it's going to cost us double the price to heat our homes and more than double, how do we keep more of that heat in? We need to look and see what the grant landscape is. Can we get a grant for improving the insulation in the home? Or are there any low-cost ways that we can use to try and keep some of that heat in?
The third is that we need to look at reducing our expenditure. So it's about looking at how we're using energy in our lives and thinking and it's very much down to the individual. I'll reiterate this later when we're looking at examples and to look and see within this, where can we make some of these savings? So these are the three key areas I want to look at, because if you can increase your income, reduce how much heat is being lost by your home, and reduce your energy consumption then these are ways that you can meet this doubling of the cost.
So what support is out there now? This is current to as it stands for this winter only and it's worth knowing what support is coming and how it's coming so that we can see what that will mean against this doubling of the prices. The first is that we're all going to get the Energy bill discount and that's 400. It's very important to explain this is not money and we get a lot of calls every week from people saying that they haven't received their 400 pounds or they haven't received their money. This isn't money, this is purely against your bill. It's essentially a credit, you will not see any money, you will not see any change to your direct debit payment, all you will see is some numbers on your bills change. It's not 400 pounds in a lump, it's paid as 66 pounds for two months and then 67 pounds onward from that up to this value of 400 pounds. So that's a credit to your to your bill but it is helping people meet this doubling of the costs. If we look at that average they use earlier 2,500 pounds, you could then say that it's bringing that down to two thousand one hundred pounds for all regardless of circumstances.
Then depending on your situation there is more help available. So if you have a means tested benefit, so this is people who maybe receive Universal Credit or guaranteed pension credit, they get a further 650 pounds, that's in addition to the 400 pounds. This one is actually in money, it's paid in with the benefits, but again when you add those together that's over a thousand pounds. When you're looking at that 2500 pound sort of average bill, if we can take more than a thousand off of that, it's getting it into more manageable zones. There is also a pensioner cost of living payment, so if you are 66 years old or over, or were as of the end of September, you get a further 300 pounds. The best example I give is my mum who is 74, still working unfortunately but because of her age, we'll get 200 pounds for her winter fuel payment and the additional 300 pounds here. So she'll get 500 pounds and that's paid in with her with her pension and that's on top of the 400 pounds credit. So in total, she doesn't receive any other benefits, so in total she's getting 900 pounds worth of support. So it's worth knowing that that's coming in. There is also then a disability cost of living payment, so if you have a long-term condition, if you receive perhaps an independence payments and disability living allowance, you get a further 150 and that is on top of these other payments. So none of them replace anything, it's all it's all an additional amount because of an additional vulnerability. There was also a warm home discount. Previously this had been 140 pounds and had been paid to those with pension credit, and there was a secondary group which was different for every supplier. So British Gas’ criteria is different from EDF’s and was different across the board. They've scrapped that, you can no longer apply for it, this is the first year they are automating it and I should say that everything on there is all automated there's no application form for any of these things which is a bit of a double-edged sword. The good thing is that it means because there isn't an application form nobody has to worry about the admin or getting it done. The downside of that means that if you feel you are just below the level for instance for getting receiving benefits or your circumstance doesn't quite fit how they are automating the payments that you can miss out, and this is my worry about the 150 pounds for the warm home discount. I am waiting to see what will happen with the secondary group because the criteria is a bit opaque this year so what they're looking at, you won’t need an income related benefit like Universal Credit but they're also going to be using housing data to decide whether you've got high bills and when we're looking at people's actual bills they're just going to make it based on housing data which, for me, is a little bit of a worry. I'm keeping an eye to see what that's going to look like but again for those who get it it's another 150 pounds on top of all of those other bits of support.
So broadly it is good news, that's a good support package but it doesn't get us to where we were and we still need to all do more to get to a place where I think that it's going to be manageable to stay warm and well this winter. The one on the bottom about that is Thames Water help, so this is one that Thames Water don't generally promote very much but you can pay half for your water if you have a household income under 20,111 pounds and if there's one thing that I imagined that there are many people in this room right now that are eligible for and are probably unaware of it is this discount because the water board is a monopoly they have to make sure that there are provisions in place for those who are vulnerable and this is what they have in place. What there isn't is any remit that they have to actually promote and advertise this discount so it's important to know and downstairs if you have time afterwards I've got application forms on our Thinking Works desk and we can give you some of those and our team can help you complete them as well. It's just a two-page form the average water bill in Merton for a for a three-bed semi house is around 500 pounds so chopping that in half and then you don't need to have a water meter however you pay for your water whether it's water meter or it's just rated charges it's half so that's a really significant saving. That would also add another average of 200 pounds off of people's bills, so worth knowing about.
So then how do we look at improving the heat retention in our properties? So key number one is knowing about the major grant program that's running at the moment, which is the Greater London Authority’s warmer homes grant scheme. So this is a grant that's up to ten thousand pounds, so it's a significant amount of money that can be it can go towards a predominantly installation works, but also some heating works. You do need to have a household income under 20,000 after deductions and not to get to sort of complex into it now, but the main thing to know is that if you feel you have a reasonably low income it's worth coming to speak to us afterwards, because we can do a check with you one to one and see if you're eligible for that. In addition to having the low income you also need to have it says EPC – the EPC stands for energy performance certificate – so it's the energy rating of your home needs to be deal or Worse the way the energy performance certificates work is a bit like at school, A means you're doing brilliantly and a G is bad news, it means you're you've got a very inefficient home. They want to prioritize the most inefficient homes, so if you have C then you're not eligible for the scheme because you're not in that that worse category. Some homes don't have this energy performance certificate and then they would come and do one for you and make the decision about whether or not you'd be you'd be eligible. But again that's a key scheme, there's money there to be to be had for those that are eligible for making these improvements, and that can be loft insulation, it can be solid wall insulation, so even if you have a home that for years you've been told the walls cannot be insulated it probably can. There's some fantastic example homes that around by me in the in the Figges Marsh area where the solid wall insulation, and it is brilliant, it looks great, if you want to know whether examples of where this has gone in the borough come and speak to me and I can let you know where those are in the in the borough.
So the other thing is if you're not eligible for that, well what else can we do? There's some pictures here at the bottom really to point some of this out and this is where you need to look at you know low-cost ways of keeping this heat in. These are things like draft proofing, looking at ways of controlling ventilation. This little white box, I don't know if you've seen, it's what I've got in my daughter's room, it is just an air brick coming into the box room and it's very common. Again, when you're looking at homes around 100 years old, in the little box room there's often just an air brick and air just comes on in. Just having the means to be able to control that to be able to decide how much airflow you're getting in there, it is a really important part of heat retention and putting in things like radiator reflector panels and small measures like that can help the reflector panels literally to do what they say they're reflecting some of that heat that's coming out of the back of your radiator into the room. They're a cost-effective way of helping to keep more heat in your room.
What I definitely say when you're looking at any heat loss, something we'll reiterate in a second when we look at other ways of saving, is you've got to sort of do your own bit of sleuthing. I trust my fingers implicitly and whenever I'm going around the house to try and work out where air is coming from, I'm feeling around to see is it because that there are – I was talking about the gentleman earlier about this, because in my back door it's double glazed but the mechanism's gone a bit and it's got a gap in it and for love no money I've been unable to get somebody to come out and actually fix it, I've called many people they won't come so in the end I've gotten some foam strips and I've built it up into that gap and it's blocked that and the way I've known it's blocked is by putting my fingers around it to feel whether there's any drafts coming there. Another example, I went to a home and they'd had their living room, it was all double glazed, and then and they're wondering where's this draft coming from? And I saw a big fireplace put my hand underneath it was an absolute gale coming down from this fireplace and you can get things like a chimney balloon which you can put up in that fireplace which allows just enough airflow that you don't have any issues with damp building up in your chimney, but it basically it meant it prevents these gusts of wind coming down that where you're losing all the heat in your room.
So you do your sleuthing around and try and find out where this heat is being lost, and normally during the winter I'll take things like a white tack that you can get from the pound shop and just to show you, I have a mid-terrace house, it's over 100 years old there's just gaps everywhere. Now you do have to have a balance between your home breathing, and whenever you're talking about blocking up ventilation you've got to be extremely careful that you're allowing your home to breathe. So any measures I tend to do are temporary but this is where white tack is good, if I find that there is a bit surround skirting or things where I can feel drafts so they're with my fingers, I'm using putting the white tack in, but these are things that I'm taking out in the summer because there is this it's very key to know that there is a balance and everyone's home is different.
Everything that you do I'd say an energy saving, view it as an experiment and nothing is permanent because if you imagine a person living in a one bed flat on their own has an enormous different energy demands and lifestyle to a five-person family in a detached bungalow. So the advice given today is very broad and that the most important thing that I can say is note and sort of audit your own home.
Most of us kind of have an idea about where the sun is falling on the home or where some of the warmth is, but really think about that because these are some of the ways that we really can make some big savings but it does involve us thinking about how our home works and every single home is different. This is what I want to talk about now, so when you're looking at your home and you're looking at areas of saving, Golden Rule if it gets hot it's costing you a lot of money. The caveat to that is fridges and freezers because they're not getting hot. I mean the way that the heat exchange works is that they are drawing a lot of energy to create that cool, but the example I've put in here is with a good reason. I got asked over the summer, we had a boiling hot summer and people said well I don't want to put the fan on it's going to be costing a lot of money. A fan is just a motor turning around these fins, look at the difference between the fan at 50 Watts and the fan heater. So we add a heating element to the fan it leaps up from 50 watts to 2000 Watts. Now we mentioned earlier this 34 Pence per unit. A unit is a thousand watts for one hour, so it means that our little fan heater here looking very small and innocent is using in itself and around just another 70p and once you add the valve on it's about 70p an hour to run your fan heater and it will just turn through the energy. So when people sort of say, well shall I, you know, at the end of the day unplug everything and do those things? It's useful it will make savings, but those savings are small. Where you want to look at is all the key areas where things get hot, so this is what we're going to sort of look at.
So first one of course, main thing is getting hot, you're eating so what can we do about that? Now this is where it does get very difficult when you're looking at advice because the bottom line of this is that if you switch your central heating on this winter, it can be extremely expensive. I was at a house in Merton Park two weeks ago and I looked at the tariff and calculated that to run their system their central heating was one pound 80 an hour to put the central heating on. That's an extraordinary sum of money, but what do, if we'd say you know don't switch on the heating, this is a risk to our health, so we have to look at keeping ourselves warm, and it's very very important with this so are there ways that we can, for instance, have the heating off for an hour or two and keep ourselves warm. What can we use for that? So, I have things like, I mean even here I have a heated gilet, but you don't even need that. I wear permanently thermal under layers and basically layer up. When I'm at home, I have my hat on and I wear these things and it does feel very Dickensian when talking about this advice, but again, it's down to the individual, and I need to stress that if you have a health condition that's made worse by the cold, you've got to make sure that your body temperature is the right temperature, you're warm, otherwise there are health implications.
So for me as an example, so for myself, my wife and my daughter, the thermostat I set 16 degrees, which seems very cold, but you have to look in a different way. That's 16 degrees for the house which, I've found through experimentation, means that the home doesn't then suffer from any mold issues, but with all of the base layers on none of us in the home feel 16 degrees, we are up at 20 degrees, so it's kind of moving away from looking at it I guess from a way of saying: well we need the home to be a temperature, but it's accepting that the temperature in your home if you need to make savings. It's accepting that that can be lower as long as you yourself are warm, and you can do these things about it. I should stress though, it isn't for everybody and everything I sort of say you have to know yourself, and what you can do, you can always try things incrementally. So for instance, if your home is 20 degrees, what does it feel like to put it down to 19 degrees but wear an extra layer? If that works, what does it feel like at 18 degrees but wearing extra layers? So it's all about testing, and everyone is different and so I do want to stress that.
The next side is in washing, so I don't have a tumble dryer and how do we do that well I use a lot of these closed sources, and I've looked at where the sun moves on this mid-terrace house that we have, and in the mornings at the front and in the afternoon it's at the back. So I have these clothes racks, and the clothes go on those racks and they're at the front of the house in the morning, and then I shift them to the back so they can get even in winter sun they get that. I do have one of these electric dryers I'm still in two minds about, how good they are. They're okay, they're very low wattage. The average tumble dryer is 2,000 Watts, the one that has 220 Watts, so it's 10 times less energy. What I tend to do is let the sun do its work and then if it needs finishing off, so for instance I've got my daughter's school clothes, if it's Sunday night and they're still a bit damp I've got to sort that out, so I can plug this in and it gives me a cost-effective option for that. Also because the heating part is the expensive bit, I can 100% say that it makes a huge difference to do extra spins and not just doing an extra spin cycle at the end of your wash where everything is in there. I split the load so the washing's done, and then I take half out and put it in the basket and so I do an extra spin with only half the load in there. Why? Because the extra space that the washing gets when it's bashing around in the drum gets a lot more liquid out. I then open that, hang that up and put the next part in, spin it because the spinning is pennies compared to what it costs to heat, because it's just again it's a motor, so it's a very good way of getting more of the moisture out, and it's very cost effective way of saving.
Cooking. So, with this one I'm sure everyone has had this you know it is now the most popular thing in the world the airfryer. Wonderous and good as it is, as it says it is, for me it depends on your circumstances. The average airfryer is around a thousand Watts, average oven 2,000 Watts, but there is a big size difference, where the airfryer comes into its own is if you're cooking for one or two and there I think it works brilliantly because it's very cost effective at making small meals. So for instance, if I come home and my daughter says “I want three fish fingers”, and I have to turn on an oven for 2,000 Watts for three fish fingers it's absolute madness. Those can go in something like an air fryer and can be done four times less cost. So when I see it's got its places is in its size. If you were cooking for a large family, then your oven's great. It's its size for a reason, but it is 2,000 watts and it does cost a lot if you're using the oven. Again, it's about batch cooking and cooking anything you can do when it goes in. If I'm doing three fish fingers, can I chop up some potatoes and have them roasting in the bottom. Even if they're only part cooked, I can then finish them off either in the microwave or with boiling. So it's looking at different ways of combining cooking. When I'm using a pan and cooking pasta in there and I now put an egg or two eggs in with the pasta water, because there's no issues it's boiling I don't need a separate pan for that, it's coming off of one heater. You can put a steamer on the top of that and put your vegetables in there, it means you can use one ring to make an entire meal. So there are things you can do, again it's experimentation, it's just seeing you know what can you do and trying to sort of look at things with fresh eyes.
There's also bathing, this is a another big area, and it mentions on here the electric shower. So where I rented before an electric shower in there, called the Triton 9000, and it was called the Triton 9000 because it was running at 9000 Watts, so the average Kettle is 3000 Watts, it's like three kettles boiling away, and we talked earlier about being 34p an hour for 1000 Watts, so it means you know you're looking at around three pounds to run about 9000 watt shower for an hour. So if there's long showers on an electric shower in your home, it's an enormous cost. But similarly, and as it says up here about the bath, the average bath is 80 litres, this is an enormous volume of water to get hot. We've all sat there and watched a pan of water on the hob taking ages to boil, I think you know how cranky this has taken a long time to put, so you then think about the heat it takes to heat that volume of bath water. If you can trim off 10 centimeters, 20 centimeters, however low you can go, these are real savings this year when you're looking at the energy costs. So if you're having your bath, does it need to be as full as it can? You can you test it out, see how low you can go, but it's a very good way of saving.
Finally, lighting. A lot of us have these curly bulbs that came, they're called CFL bulbs compact fluorescent lamps, and they're about five times better than a standard bulb. But LED bulbs are 10 times better and they're now very affordable. You can get them from the supermarket and other places. They're very cost effective way, and because they use 10 times less energy than your old tungsten style bulb, if you replace all of the lighting in your home with LED bulbs as I have, there is enormous savings. That gives an example, I was right around to the friends that had a kitchen extension, and they were showing me, it was a beautiful thing, but they had 10 light fittings in with 50 watt halogen bulbs in. This 500 watts of juice just burning away, it's an enormous thing, and if they change those 10 lights, the comparable ones are 5 watts in LED, so you drop from 500 watts to 50. These and anything that saved you last winter is now saving you double this winter, so those are well worth looking at if you want a small investment for a big return. LED lighting is probably one of the best things you can do.
Finally, fridges and freezers. So most of the things we've looked at are things that get hot. The fridges and freezers are getting cold, but they do use and can use a lot of energy for them to do that. Now, your fridge and freezer isn't running the whole time, it's on a thermostat, once it achieves its cool temperature, it sits as that at that as long as the temperature is that cool, once it rises it'll go on. You'll often find that when you open the fridge or freezer and you've gotten what you want out and you close it, you'll suddenly hear it whirring away and that is because the action of opening it. You've let some heat in, and it needs some power to cool it down. What you can do to improve the efficiency of your fridge and freezer is put more in it. So if you haven't got a full fridge or freezer, it's using way more energy because it's just got air in there which isn't great for trying to keep the temperature down. If you just take bottles of water and fill them up, if you've got any empty bottles and put them in there or even loaves of bread, or another good thing if you've got space in your freezer, once it's made, this pot of water particularly in the freezer when it's frozen, and it's a block of ice that helps keep the temperature down in the fridge or freezer, and it means that it keeps in general the unit if it's temperature down, and it cools on energy a lot less. So if you have fridge or freezer that isn't entirely full, just stick some bottles of water in there, if you've got space for a loaf pop it in there as well. It's a very cheap way of making it cooler, and it means that the thermostat will come on less.
So, very sort of quickly, that is the whistle stop tour of some main areas that I personally have looked at, and do look at, and for me I should definitely say there is nothing that I advise on that I haven't tried or do myself and I'm constantly or very often on a daily basis trying different things out to see exactly how things will work. As a prime example, I've since found that hanging towels over the stair banister gets them drying, and anywhere else in the house and it just seems to be that hot air has funnelled up the stairs and it just happens to do that, but that's just something that I found. Again, it's just it's all about experimentation and about your individual circumstances.
Where else can you go for more information? Well, Merton Council has done an incredible job of putting together a cost of living website, which has got a myriad of resources in there and I'd strongly advise visiting the page. It's got information about our services and lots of other helpful services that the council has. The next steps is for you to look at your own homes, and your own your own circumstances certainly and come and visit this page for further details. If you want more information about ways to save or you think you're eligible for it for any aspect of our service, which is being referred for a larger grant, or if it's for us to give you some more energy advice, please do come and see us as well. But at the end is very brief whistle stop at all, and that's where I'll end. I hope you've found some of that useful today and there's some information you can go away with, and it will hopefully save you some energy. So thanks very much for your time this morning.
Help from your energy supplier
You might be able to get help for energy-saving improvements to your home if you claim certain benefits or live in social housing. This is called the Energy Company Obligation (ECO).
Energy Company Obligation (GOV.UK)
Energy Saving Trust
Information to help you make your home more energy efficient, reduce your carbon emissions and lower your energy bills.
Energy advice for your home - Energy Saving Trust
Previous schemes that are now closed
The national Warm Front Scheme ended on 19 January 2013. We have mentioned this because people still search for it on our website.