Saving Energy

The cost of gas and electricity keeps rising and for some people they regularly have to choose whether to ‘heat’ or ‘eat’.

Here are some fast facts from National Energy Action (NEA):

  • In the UK, 4.5 million households are in fuel poverty (figures from DECC 2012 10% indicator).  This represents 17% of the overall population
  • More than 27,000 people die from the cold each winter in England and Wales, and many more become ill
  • Almost 1 million households with children in England are in fuel poverty
  • 65% of fuel poor households in England live in the lowest energy-efficiency rated homes
  • Cold-related illness is estimated to cost the health service over £1 billion a year
  • Over a third (36%) of older people in the UK say they live mainly in one room to save money

Incomes between 2005 and 2012 rose by 30%. Energy prices over this period rose 140%.

The NEA have produced this checklist which you might find helpful.

How can you save money on your energy bills?

Switching - go on, give it a go!

Most energy suppliers have special tariffs for people who are on a low income or have health problems. It is always worth ringing your supplier to see if you are on the lowest tariff available.

There are also a host of online sites that can help you compare the different energy suppliers to see which one could save you the most.

We would recommend that you actually compare the comparison sites as they do differ and can give you different options. The main comparison sites are:

Give it a go and let us know how you get on!

Find out everything you need to know about switching suppliers here. 

This advice is based on the assumption that you have an Economy 7 electricity tariff (electricity tariff that gives 7 hours of cheap rate electricity over night). If you are not sure if you have this tariff then either check your electricity bill or ring your electricity supplier.

If your hot water cylinder is not set correctly, it could cost three times more to heat your water.

Unlike the rear section of your storage heaters that can only draw off-peak electricity, your hot water cylinder works on a programmer that draws electricity when programmed to do so.

So, if your programmer is not set correctly it might be drawing electricity at the wrong time, costing you 3 times more than it should to heat the same quantity of water.

There are 4 main types of hot water cylinder programmes, all manufactured by Horstmann.

Each programmer has different instructions - make sure you're using the right instructions for your hot water cylinder. Once you have established your programmer type and worked out when your off-peak hours begin, you can programme your cylinder to heat up in the off-peak period.

We recommend programming the cylinder to come on 15 mins after your off-peak period begins and 15 mins before it end. If you are unsure when your off-peak period is then programme it to start at 2.45am and finish at 6.45am, as almost every off-peak period is active during these hours.

Click on the images below for user guides for each programmer.

Economy 7 Programmer.pngElectronic 7 Programmer (Series 2).png

 

Electronic 7 Programmer (Series 3).pngHorstmann BX2000 Programmer.png

 

Boost Facility 1 or 2 hour

Whenever you require additional hot water outside of an off-peak period, simply press either the one or two hour Boost button.

  • Press '1 HOUR' boost button for 1 hour of hot water
  • Press '2 HOUR' boost button for 2 hours of hot water
  • The boost period may be cancelled at any time by pressing the 'CANCEL' button

The boost will automatically switch off at the end of the chosen boost period, ensuring that you use only the minimum of standard rate electricity required to meet your hot water needs.

Should an off-peak supply become available during a boost period, the BX2000 will automatically connect to this and cancel any remaining boost period. 

Pressing either of the boost buttons during an off-peak period will have no effect. Repeated pressing of the boost buttons will not extend the boost period.

On systems with dual or two separate immersion elements, the boost supply activates the short or top element. The off-peak rate supply activates the long or bottom element.

Power cuts

In the event of a power cut or a short circuit that flips the switch on the main consumer unit, your programmer may reset itself to midday. If the programmer thinks it is the wrong time of day it will heat up your water at the wrong time, and may cost you 3 times more than it should. We recommend that you keep your programmer exposed (not hidden by furniture or objects) so you can see the clock and make sure the correct time is displayed.
 

This advice is based on the assumption that you have an Economy 7 electricity tariff (electricity tariff that gives 7 hours of cheap rate electricity over night). If you are not sure if you have this tariff then either check your electricity bill or ring your electricity supplier.

Used correctly, your storage heater is an efficient way to heat your home.

Your Dimplex DuoHeat Radiator is a traditional (off-peak) storage heater with an instant (on-peak) heater on the front.

Off-Peak Storage Heater - approx 7p per kWh (depending on your supplier) 

Instant On-Peak Heater - approx 18p per kWh (depending on your supplier)

Dimplex DuoHeater Heater.png

Very important notice - the cheap storage heater component will only work if both the on-peak and off-peak electricity supply are plugged in and turned on. If you do not want to use much on-peak electricity turn the control down to the blue 'front control' bar.

How to adjust your instant on-peak heater

Your on-peak heater is controlled by a plus and minus control on the top. You can raise or lower this to adjust the heat output, but remember this part of the heater is direct acting and will use on-peak electricity during the day, which is around 3 times more expensive than off-peak electricity.

How to adjust your off-peak storage heater

If you are on an Economy 7 tariff, you can make the most of cheap overnight electricity rates by using the storage heater element. The controls of your off-peak storage heater can only be accessed by pressing the + symbol until all the red bars are lit up and then pressing down on it for a further 12 seconds. One of the bars will now start flashing. This setting determines the maximum amount of electricity the storage heater will draw when the off-peak supply is active.

After 20 seconds of flashing, the off-peak storage control is set and the display will then return to it's on-peak control setting - don't forget to turn this down from 10 bars or your on-peak radiator will be at it's highest setting!

DuoHeat Heater Buttons.png

The reason the DuoHeat is such an efficient system is because it has an 'intelligent temperature compensation system'. This means it automatically adjusts the amount of stored electricity the off-peak unit will take depending on the temperature of the room. So if the room is very warm when the off-peak supply becomes active at night, then the storage unit will draw less electricity because it will assume that less energy is needed to keep the room at a constant warm temperature throughout the next day.

If the room is very cold when the off-peak supply becomes active, then the storage unit will draw the full amount of electricity that it has been programmed to take under the 'flashing bar' off-peak setting.

Child lock

To activate the child lock, simultaneously press the + and - buttons for a period of 3 second. The LED beside the key symbol will illuminate while the child lock is in operation. To deactivate the child lock press the + and - buttons simultaneously again for 3 second and the buttons will become active again.

Need further help?

If you need any further help with your heating system, please contact your caretaker or call the call centre on 0330 355 1000.

Very important notice

Do not leave the on-peak setting on full all day as this will mean that you will use far too much on-peak electricity, and you will not get the full benefit of the cheap off-peak electricity during the night.

Room heaters can be used to heat small spaces and can be portable or fixed to a wall. Most of them run on gas or electricity.

Room heaters are convenient appliances that can provide focused and localised heat. They are particularly useful in a room with people that are elderly, ill or have limited mobility, but they can be expensive as they consume a lot of gas/electricity when used to heat up a space quickly.

We wouldn't recommend using room heaters in place of central heating - ideally they should only be used to provide a secondary or supplementary source of heat. When using room heaters, you need to consider the space you want to heat so you can use the right type of heater. You'll also need to carefully control the temperature and length of time you have it on for.

If you are on a mains gas supply, central heating is the best way to heat your home but if you do need to use electricity then night storage heaters are best on an Economy 7 tariff.

Electric room heaters

Types of electric room heaters include:

  • Radiant bar fires
  • Warm air heaters
  • Fan heaters
  • Oil-filled radiators

Radiant Bar Heater.JPG 

Radiant bar heater

Halogen Heater.jpg

Halogen heater

Fan Heater.jpg

Fan heater

Oil Filled Radiator.jpg

Oil-filled radiator

All of these are expensive to run and should not be used as a main heat source.

All electric room heaters are considered to be 100% efficient (which means they turn all the electrical energy provided into heat) but the costs vary. Oil-filled radiators are the cheapest to run, with bar fires being the most expensive to run. When using an electric room heater, we would suggest the following:

  • Use it only when necessary
  • Use a timer if it has one, or buy a timeswitch for the plug
  • Make sure the thermostat isn't on too high if your heater has one
  • If you are on an Economy 7 tariff, try to avoid using an electric heater during peak hours - it would be better to use a storage heater to charge during off-peak hours

Running costs for electric room heaters:

Type of heater Average cost to run per hour
Radiant bar fire 36.5p
Halogen heater 36.5p
Convector heater 24.2p
Fan heater 24.2p
Oil-filled radiator 12.2p

Gas room heaters

Types of gas room heaters include:

  • Traditional gas fires
  • Convector heaters
  • Open gas fires
  • Bottled-gas heaters

You do not need a flue (chimney) to use bottled-gas heaters, convector heaters or paraffin stoves but they do produce a lot of water vapour, which can create condensation and lead to problems with damp and mould if the room is not well ventilated.

Running costs for gas room heaters (please note these costs vary depending on changing gas prices):

Type of heater Average cost per hour (mains gas) Average cost per hour (LPG)
Radiant gas fire (on full) 34.7p 53.4p
Radiant gas fire (on low) 6.9p 10.7p
Gas convector heater 20.8p 32.0p
Open gas fire 55.6p 85.4p

With a prepayment meter you have to pay for your gas and electricity upfront. They work a bit like a pay as you go mobile phone - you have to top up with credit to get your gas and electricity. You can top up at PayPoint or Payzone shops, or The Post Office.

Pros or prepayment meters

  • Helping customers to manage their debt and energy usage

  • Preventing large, unexpected bills
  • See when you're spending your money and what costs more to power

Cons of prepayment meters

  • Costs for your gas and electricity will be higher as the best energy deals on the market usually include managing your account online or paying by direct debit

  • They can also be inconvenient because you have to go out to 'top up' keys and smartcards
  • You could be left without gas or electricity if you have not topped up your key card

Why do energy suppliers install prepayment meters?

Prepayment energy meters are usually installed into homes that have slipped into debt with their energy supplier. If you have inherited a prepayment meter from a previous occupier, try calling your energy company to see if they will remove it for you.

Top tips

  1. Avoid emergency credit - there's no extra fee for using emergency credit but when activated your daily standing charge (the set daily amount you're charged for being connected) will not be paid. This means that when you next top up, the meter will recover the emergency credit and the build-up of standing charges in one go.
  2. Friendly emergency credit - if your emergency credit runs out, your meter may automatically keep you supplied with 'friendly emergency credit' during evenings and weekends. You have to pay this back (plus the emergency credit used) when you next top up.
  3. Always cover agreed debt repayments - even if you aren't using energy you need to top up so you don't build up debt. You can find out the total amount of debt you owe by pressing the blue button until you see Screen S. Screen T tells you the weekly debt recovery rate your supplier is applying. If it's too much, try asking them to renegotiate.
  4. Going away? Top up! - if you're going away, leave enough credit to cover the daily standing charge and to power appliances such as your fridge and freezer. Otherwise your credit may run out, switching off appliances whilst you're away.
  5. Moved house? Tell your supplier - if your new home has a prepayment meter, notify the supplier immediately. Avoid using the old tenant's top up card - you don't want to pay their debt!
  6. Beware doorstep sellers - there's been a recent scam involving doorstep sellers offering fraudulent top up cards. We have heard about cards, normally sold in £50 denominations for the price of £25, that don't work at all.
  7. Are prepayment meters for you? - if you can't get out to top up your meter and don't have family or friends that can help, ask your supplier to install a standard credit meter. You pay on receipt of a bill or via direct debit. Elderly, disabled or single parents with children under 5 can often get this done for free.

Understanding your prepayment meter

The most common type of prepayment electric meter is the ACE9000 KBD key meter. Below you can find an explanation of the different screens that are displayed when you press the blue button on this meter:

  • A - value of credit in meter (value of emergency credit remaining if followed by solid E)
  • B - minimum value of credit you're required to purchase to take your meter out of emergency credit and back into normal credit
  • C - date (only shown on 2 rate meters)
  • D - time (only shown on 2 rate meters)
  • E - total value of credit accepted (since meter installed or last reset)
  • F - total weekly fixed charge (standing charge and debt recovery rate if applicable)
  • G - total number of units recorded (since meter installed)
  • H - number of on-peak units used (since meter installed or last reset)
  • I - pence per unit for on-peak
  • J - number of off-peak units used (since meter installed or last reset)
  • K - pence per unit for off-peak
  • R - emergency credit value
  • S - total debt value remaining on meter
  • T - weekly debt recovery rate

Smart Meters

For more information about smart meters and whether you are eligible for one, please contact your supplier.

There are ways to cut your energy bills and save yourself some money. Read our top tips below:

  • Keep the over door shut as much as you can - you lose 25% of the heat every time you open it.
  • Try drying your clean clothes on the washing line if the weather is good, rather than turning the tumble drier on.
  • Don't use foil over the racks in your oven as food actually cooks faster when there is a free flow of air.
  • Remember to turn off electrical items, such as your TV, overnight rather than leaving them on standby, and don't leave your phone charging all night - it only needs 3 hours.
  • Defrost your freezer regularly to keep it running efficiently.
  • Encourage little ones to switch off electric toys and lights when they're not in use.
  • Draughts make the house feel cold, so fitting draught excluders to the front foor, letter box and keyhole will keep the house warmer, as will closing the curtains at dusk.
  • Only fill the kettle with as much water as you need to boil (but make sure the metal element in the base is covered).
  • When buying new electrical items such as TVs, washing machines or dishwashers, look for the Energy Saving Trust 'recommended' logo. And remember that bigger televisions use more energy.
  • Turn down the dimmer switch to reduce the amount of energy being used to light up a room.
  • Only put the washing on when you have a full load worth of clothing to put in - two half loads use more energy and water than one full load.
  • Switch all the lights off overnight when you go to bed. If you need to leave one on, use a low-wattage night light to save energy.
  • Try turning the heating down by 1 degree. You probably won't notice the change in temperature but it will make a big difference to your bill!
  • Make sure your fridge has good air circulation behind it to keep it running efficiently, but don't place it next to a cooker or radiator.
  • Consider using a laptop rather than a desktop PC - laptops use around 85% less energy.

Central heating is designed to keep your house warm from a single point of heat - usually your boiler. Boilers can use a variety of fuels, including solid fuel, oil, liquid petrolium gas (LPG) or natural gas to heat water. The heated water is carried through your home in pipes and heat is passed into the room, usually through radiators.

It's worth knowing how to use your central heating controls, so you can heat your home more efficiently and therefore reduce your energy bills.

Timer or programmer

You can control when your heating and hot water comes on or goes off using a timer or programmer. This means you can easily use your central heating to fit around when you need it - if you're not in or you're asleep in bed, you don't need to have the heating on.

It's best to set your heating to turn on half an hour before you arrive home or need to get up in the morning, and to switch off half an hour before you no longer need it. The average home takes around 30 minutes to heat up when you turn your heating on, and takes 30 minutes to cool down again when you turn it off.

If you get up at 7:30am and leave for work at 8:30am, and arrive home again at 6pm, it would work best for you to programme your central heating to come on at 7am and turn off at 8am, and then turn on again in the afternoon at 5:30pm. It's best to set the heating to turn off half an hour before you go to bed in the evening.

Some programmers also have the option to set different on and off times at the weekend.

Homes with good insulation tend to warm up faster and cool down slower, which means you can set the heating to come on later and go off earlier - this saves energy and money. You can see what works best for your home by altering the programmer.

Hot water time settings alter depending on the type of boiler you have:

  • Combi boilers only heat up water when you turn on the hot tap so you don't need to programme them
  • Hot water tanks need to be heated up every now and then throughout the day

The size and how well insulated your water tank is, and how much water your family uses, will determine how many times you need to heat it. You could try an hour in the morning and another hour in the evening. If you don't run out of hot water in that time then you've got enough.

If your hot water tank has a thermostat, we recommend setting it to around 60ᵒC as this is hot enough to kill harmful bacteria but not too hot that could waste energy. If 60ᵒC is too hot for you, a mixer tap could help.

Setting meanings

  • 'Auto' or 'Twice' - the heating goes on and off during the day at the time you programme
  • '24hrs' or 'On' - the heating is on at all times
  • 'Off' - the heating is off at all times
  • 'All day' or 'Once' - the heating switches on at the first 'on' programmed time and stays on until the last 'off' programmed time
  • 'Boost' or '+1hr' - the heating switches on for an hour to boost heat
  • 'Advance' - the programmer moves to the next 'on' or 'off' setting in the daily cycle

Top tip

Try turning your room thermostat down by 1ᵒC - you'll barely feel a difference but it could save you up to £55 a year on your heating bills!

Room thermostat

Room thermostats are commonly found in hallways or sitting rooms and they monitor the temperature in the house. They send a signal to the boiler when the house is warm enough, telling it to switch off.

They are usually set to between 18ᵒC and 21ᵒC as this is a comfortable temperature range for the majority of people. Older people or those with health problems may need to keep their home warmer than 21ᵒC.

Some modern heating controls allow you to set different temperatures for different times of day, by combining the timer and thermostat.

Thermostatic radiator valves

Radiator Valve.jpg

Thermostatic radiator valves are designed to allow you to control the temperature of a room by changing the flow of water through the radiator. For example, if you spend most of your time during the day downstairs, you could set the valves to medium or high on the downstairs radiators but leave them on low upstairs. 

It isn't a great idea to turn off radiators completely for weeks or more, as if the room becomes very cold it can lead to damp and mould problems. Instead, we'd recommend you set the radiators to low using the valves, and close your doors to keep heat in the warm rooms.

Smart controls

It's now possible to control your heating system with apps, using smartphones and tablets. These apps allow you to turn your heating or hot water on or off, and change the temperature from a distance via the internet.

It can be helpful to control your heating whilst you're out, as you can save money by rescheduling your heating programme. An example would be if you faced a delay in getting home, you could use an app to programme the heating to come on later so you're not wasting energy when you can't benefit from the heat.

There are also apps that use GPS technology to automatically increase the heating as they sense you getting closer to your home, or decrease it when you're leaving. Family members and housemates can be included on the app, so it can monitor who arrives home first and who leaves last. Some apps can even control the heating depending on the weather forecast, so if the weather is due to be warm it will reduce the temperature setting.

There are a number of apps offering smart heating controls: