Smart devices waste $80bn in energy

Leaving smartphones, tablets and other internet-enabled devices on costs consumers around the world $80billion (£46.6billion) a year. The International Energy Agency warned that the amount of wasted electricity would rise to $120 billion globally by the end of the decade with the proliferation of such devices connected to the internet.

The organisation criticised electronics manufacturers for making inefficient products. Even when devices are in standby mode they can use just as much electricity as when in use – accounting for about 16 per cent of all electricity consumed by British households. The energy agency said that switching off devices would save the same amount of electricity used by Canada and Finland combined by 2020.

Homeowners at risk after new research reveals that over one third have not had their boiler serviced in the last 12 months

Research undertaken with 2,000 people on behalf of the Gas Safety Trust found that over one third of homeowners have not had their boiler serviced in the last 12 months whilst only one quarter of renters knew whether their appliances had undergone a landlord’s safety check.

With the Department of Health estimating 40 deaths per year from carbon monoxide, the Gas Safety Trust say it is essential that people get their appliances checked on an annual basis by an appropriately qualified engineer (Gas Safe Register in the case of natural gas appliances).

And the summer is the best time to get a boiler serviced and safety checked as Roderick Pettigrew, Chief Executive of B&ES (who operate the Heating Helpline) points out, “Heating engineers are much less busy during the summer months, so not only is it a good time to call in a professional heating engineer you can normally expect to pay around 20% less for a boiler service. A regularly serviced boiler is not only far less prone to breakdown but it will also be much more efficient and with the very energy prices we incur in the UK, a well maintained boiler can deliver important energy savings.

“Of even more importance is the safety implications of a boiler that has not been regularly serviced, or at least checked by a qualified engineer for some time and far too many people in the UK still needlessly die every year from preventable carbon monoxide poisoning caused by defective domestic gas appliances and poorly ventilated systems.

“So why take chances? Get your boiler serviced now and take advantage of lower summer prices and heating engineers that are more readily available by getting your heating system serviced in the summer months.”

Landlords that flout gas safety laws will face the consequences

A landlord from north London has been given a suspended prison sentence, ordered to carry out 150 hours of community work and fined £5000 with additional costs of £9814 for endangering a family with young children after he authorised illegal gas work at a Luton home.

This landlord installed a new boiler at an address in Luton but did not use gas fitters registered with Gas Safe Register – as the law requires. When the tenants suspected that gas was leaking they wisely called the National Grid and visiting technicians immediately turned off the gas supply finding the installation to be dangerous.

Roderick Pettigrew, Chief Executive of B&ES, who operate the Heating Helpline, comments, “As this case demonstrates, the Courts can impose heavy fines and prison sentences on landlords that fail to ensure the safe condition of tenants’ gas appliances, but apart from the financial consequences of breaching gas safety legislation, landlords are putting tenants’ lives at risk – poorly maintained or defective gas appliances can leak potentially lethal quantities of carbon monoxide (CO) and around 40 people still needlessly die every year from CO poisoning and hundreds more are made seriously ill. Of course there is  temptation for landlords to use the ‘lowest quote’ from tradesmen and in most cases the outcome might be little worse than an unsatisfactory job but when it comes to any work that related to gas safety in a rental property, going for the cheapest quote from bogus gas installers can have potentially fatal consequences.”

B&ES  say that if you are living in rented accommodation your landlord must issue you with a copy of the gas safety certificate following the annual safety check by a Gas Safe Registered engineer and you should not hesitate to contact the Health & Safety Executive (0845 300 9923) if the landlord does not provide this.  The gas safety certificate must also be provided to tenants when moving in to a new property. Gas safety checks often pick up a range of problems, including faulty boilers, and are vital in stopping gas leaks, explosions and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Heating Helpline has a free leaflet on gas safety for landlords and tenant – you download a copy from this website (see home page) or get a printed copy sent to you calling 0800 810 8303.

30 million UK homes and businesses to have smart meters installed by 2020

Smart meters are the next generation of gas and electricity meters and they offer a range of benefits; for example they can tell you how much energy you are using through a digital display in your home. They can also communicate directly with your energy supplier meaning that no one will need to come and read your meter in future.

Between 2015 and 2020 the Government requires energy companies to install smart meters for all their customers. This means 30 million UK homes and businesses will have smart meters installed by 2020.

However many energy companies are already installing them now – why not ask your provider what plans they have to install in your area.

For more information visit: https://www.gov.uk/smart-meters-how-they-work

Keep clear of the cowboys – how to find reputable trades people for your 2014 home improvement projects…

Consumer confidence has risen to its highest level in more than three years, according to a new report from Lloyds Bank. With the return of consumer confidence homeowners that, understandably, have delayed undertaking more ambitious home improvements during the long recession will now be putting plans in place for extensions, new kitchens, bathrooms, boiler upgrades and perhaps renewable energy technologies. These might be sizeable investments and homeowners will want to steer well clear of the thousands of rogue traders and cowboy builders operating in the UK. Here’s some timely advice from Roderick Pettigrew, Chief Executive of B&ES, on how to find reputable companies for this work and the sensible steps to take to ensure everything goes smoothly.

-      For peace of mind we strongly recommend that homeowners only use the services of a Trustmark member. It’s the only trade competence scheme officially endorsed and backed by the Government. Trustmark was set up specifically to help homeowners and consumers locate local reputable trades-people to carry out quality improvements, repairs and maintenance work on their home or garden.

-      Obtain written and itemised quotes from at least three Trustmark members. Ask for a written quotation – not an estimate. A quote is legally binding but an estimate is not.

-      Getting quotes will give you a realistic guide to how much the work is likely to cost and it will also help you plan for the work and look at ways to raise money, if you need to.

-      Itemised quotes help you to compare what different traders charge for each part of the work. They will also help you to decide which part you can remove if the costs are higher than your budget allows.

-      Quotes should include V.A.T. If it is not mentioned, check whether it is included and write down the final amount you will be asked to pay.  Agree how payments will be made and discuss potential delays to the work including who is responsible for them and any cost related to delays. Don’t pay up front and a Trustmark member will not expect you to.

-      Have a regular dialogue with the contractor and raise any issues as they arise – don’t wait until the end of the work. Have a clear idea of when the final payment is due and remember that you are entitled to withhold a reasonable amount of money to ensure problems are put right.

 

For more information about the TrustMark scheme visit: www.trustmark.org.uk

Going away this winter? Beware of burst pipes

If you plan to be away from home at any time this winter that might coincide with a severe cold snap. And with energy prices at their record levels it will be tempting to save money and switch off the heating while the house is empty. But that might risk arriving back to find a flooded house or flat. Why not follow our advice – a sensible compromise between keeping bills down and avoiding a burst pipe.

  • Don’t be tempted to turn off your heating altogether – cold weather can wreak havoc on water pipes so it’s best to keep your heating on low – around 10º C / 50º F.
  • If you haven’t already got one, consider having a programmable thermostat fitted; these give you complete control over your heating and usually have a holiday setting. Better still is one of the latest generation of ‘smart’ heating controls that mean you can programme your heating via the internet from anywhere and anytime – this means you can also turn up your heating the day before you head home so you don’t return to a cold house.
  • Make sure all water pipes in the loft are insulated with preformed insulation.
  • Replace washers on dripping taps because if the taps freeze the pipe will become blocked.
  • If you’re leaving house keys with a friend or neighbour make sure they know where your inside stop valve is and check that it is working. They will need to get to it quickly if a pipe has burst.
  • Leave the loft door open to let the heat from downstairs circulate.
  • Insulate outside taps or turn them off at the stop tap or drain them before you go away.
  • Fix any dripping taps or overflows. A build-up of ice can cause a blockage.

 

10 tips for cutting energy use – and they all cost nothing

Faced with energy bills that seem to just keep going up and up here is the Heating Helpline’s top 10 tips for energy saving – all which cost nothing.

  • Turning your room thermostat down by just 1ºC could save over £100 a year and you will never notice the difference.
  • If you have an adjustable thermostat for your hot water you should set it to no hotter than 60°C (140°F). Any higher is a waste of energy and could scald; much lower and there may be a risk of harmful bacteria forming.
  • Turn down the radiators in any spare rooms; why pay for a warm space with nobody in it?
  • Keep your doors and windows closed when the heating is on and save £15 a year.
  • Use a microwave instead of your oven – they use less energy and take a fraction of the time.
  • Turn appliances off when you’ve finished using them – £1 billion worth of energy is wasted in the UK every year by appliances left on standby. Switching off the standby on gadgets and appliances could save you around £50 a year on your bills.
  • Turn down your heating when you’re going away for any length of time.
  • Washing machines use huge amounts of energy. Some machines have low energy programmes – if you reduce the wash temperature from 40°C to 30°C it can save 40% more energy.
  • Take care filling the kettle. If we only boiled the water needed we’d save enough power to light every streetlamp in the country.
  • Bleed your radiators at least once a year – when hot water can flow into every part of the radiator it is much more efficient.

NEW 24/7 CARBON MONOXIDE HELPLINE LAUNCHED

A new Carbon Monoxide Helpline has been launched by B&ES (the Building & Engineering Services Association) providing consumers with a Freephone Helpline number 0800 810 8464 that will operate 24/7, 363 days per year and a website with comprehensive information on the dangers of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning and how to keep out of harm’s way from this “silent killer”.

Commenting on the launch of the new service, Roderick Pettigrew, Chief Executive of B&ES, said, “Although there is a lot of information available to households about the dangers of CO poisoning, with some very good dedicated websites, until now consumers have not had access to one central Helpline that can answer all their questions about this potentially lethal gas and give them essential safety advice including what to do if any member of the household has been affected.

 “The clear message on the website and given out by our team of experts available by calling the Helpline is that there are important steps consumers can take to help avoid the potentially tragic consequences of CO poisoning.  We hope this new service will play a key role in reducing the number of CO poisoning incidents in the years ahead.”

 For more information visit: www.cohelpline.org

Gas Safety Week 16th – 22nd September 2013

Gas Safety Week is an annual safety week to raise awareness of the importance of gas safety and taking care of gas appliances. It is co-ordinated by Gas Safe Register.

To mark Gas Safety Week, Gas Safe Register has launched an interactive gas map. The map shows unsafe gas appliances that have been found in your area. Visit www.staygassafe.co.uk to check the gas dangers in your area. You can also set a reminder to get your gas appliances checked annually. Unsafe gas appliances could lead to a gas fire, explosion, leak or carbon monoxide poisoning.

New government incentive scheme will make regular payments to households that install renewable technologies

Householders could get paid hundreds of pounds a year for heat generated by solar thermal panels, biomass boilers and heat pumps.

The tariff levels have been set at 7.3p/kWh for air source heat pumps; 12.2p/kWh for biomass boilers; 18.8p/kWh for ground source heat pumps and at least 19.2 p/kWh for solar thermal.

Payments would be made via the new ‘domestic’ Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) that’s designed to encourage householders to install renewable heat technologies.

The scheme will be made available to homeowners, private and social landlords, third party owners of heating systems and people who build their own homes. Anyone who has installed a renewable heat technology since 15 July 2009 and meets the scheme eligibility criteria will be able to join the scheme.

Eligible technologies that qualify for payments under the RHI include air to water heat pumps; biomass only boilers and biomass pellet stoves with back boilers; ground and water source heat pumps; flat plate and evacuated tube solar thermal panels.

Payments will be made on a quarterly basis for seven years. The tariffs have been set at a level that reflects the expected cost of renewable heat generation over 20 years. In most cases, payments will be made based on estimated heat demand of the property.

Applicants will need to complete a Green Deal Assessment before submitting their application and must ensure they have met minimum loft (250mm) and cavity wall insulation requirements, where appropriate. All installations and installers must be MCS certified (or certified by an equivalent scheme). MCS certified installers are currently required to be members of the Renewable Energy Consumer Code, which is backed by the Trading Standards Institute.

Householders may be able to get help with the upfront costs of these renewable technologies under the Government’s Green Deal. The Green Deal lets people pay for energy efficiency improvements including renewable heating systems through savings on their energy bills and householders are able to take up Green Deal finance and claim the RHI payments. Money off vouchers are also available under the RHPP scheme. Householders who receive money under RHPP will have this amount deducted from any future RHI payments to avoid a double subsidy.

The RHI for householders will be administered by Ofgem. Application enquiries should be made to the Energy Saving Advice Service on 0300 123 1234.