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Ask an Expert: Fuel poverty and energy efficiency - November 2012

Every month, through our Ask an Expert feature, Turn2us users are given the chance to ask a panel of experts their specific questions about issues relating to benefits, grants and managing money.

Fuel poverty and energy efficiency

This month we asked for your questions about fuel poverty and energy efficiency.

The official definition of fuel poverty is where a household has to spend more than 10% of its income on fuel to maintain an adequate level of warmth. There are currently an estimated 4.75 million households in fuel poverty in the UK.

Here are the answers to a selection of the questions we received:

Our experts


Jimmy PughJimmy Pugh

Project Development Co-ordinator

National Energy Action (NEA) (link opens in a new window) 



Foundations website (link opens in a new window)Shaun Robinson

Head of Development

Foundations - national body for home improvement agency and handyperson services (link opens in a new window)



Acting on Fuel Poverty campaign

Acting on Fuel Poverty

Turn2us has launched its second annual Acting on Fuel Poverty campaign to highlight the varying levels of fuel poverty across the UK through our interactive map.

Visit the Fuel Poverty microsite


 

No access to gas

  • Many old mining communities are left with NO gas mains, and rely on oil central heating (installed via Home Energy Efficiency Scheme (HEES). It's very expensive. What tips do you have for theses guys, and what discounts are available?

Jimmy PughJimmy Pugh: Unfortunately there are no direct discounts available for users of heating oil. The cost of purchasing heating oil as an individual is very expensive. One way of reducing the cost is to check if there is an “oil cub” in operation locally. Citizens Advice have information on joining or establishing a local oil club (link opens in a new window). You may also wish to contact the Home Heat Helpline (link opens in a new window) or Energy Saving Trust (link opens in a new window) who can provide additional information ways to improve your energy efficiency and reduce fuel costs.

You might also want to consider whether you qualify for help under the Warm Home Discount Scheme (link opens in a new window) which is a discount of £130 on your electricity bill. The discount may be available to people who are:

  • 80 or over and getting the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit, or  
  • Under 80 and getting the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit only (you won’t qualify if you also get Saving Credit).

Some electricity suppliers also offer the discount to vulnerable people (e.g. those on a low income). Each supplier has their own rules about who else can get the discount. There is a list of suppliers who operate their own scheme on the Gov.UK website (link opens in a new window).

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Solid fuel

  • Where an unemployed gentleman living in rental accommodation (private landlord) only has a wood burner for heat and hot water and his only income is Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), is there any help available for wood or coal? 

Jimmy PughJimmy Pugh: There is no specific help available towards the cost of wood or coal for heating, but the gentleman may be able to apply for other help. He should contact the Home Heat Helpline (link opens in a new window) which will check what he might qualify for. He may be able to apply for a £130 discount on his electricity bill under the Warm Home Discount Scheme (link opens in a new window). He should contact his electricity supplier to check their eligibility criteria. He may qualify for the discount if his supplier accepts that he is a 'vulnerable person'.  

If he can't get support from any of these sources, he may want to consider applying for a charitable grant to help with the cost of fuel. There are a number of charitable funds which may be able to help him out financially, depending on his background, circumstances and needs. You can use the Turn2us Grants Search database to look for suitable charitable funds.

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Insulation in block of flats

  • I live in a maisonette block of flats built from concrete ..solid walls.. most houses have the facility for free loft or wall cavity insulation. What is available to me grant wise or free to keep my flat warm or insulation to reduce my energy bills as it is very difficult to keep warm...I am 59 yrs old and on a very low income. Could I qualify for any kind of interior insulation?

Jimmy PughJimmy Pugh: To answer your question properly, we would need to know more about your housing status. There are different sorts of help available to owner occupiers, private tenants and to tenants of registered social landlords (such as housing associations).  

You can call the Home Heat Helpline (link opens in a new window) who will discuss your circumstances and will be able to identify any grants available for help with interior insulation measures.

 

Foundations website (link opens in a new window)Shaun Robinson: Depending on your circumstances, you may be eligible for help under the new Green Deal (link opens in a new window) and Energy Company Obligation (link opens in a new window) schemes which come into force from January 2013. The Energy Saving Trust helpline (link opens in a new window) can tell you what support may be available.

If you are a tenant, the landlord must agree to any works being done and they may have to pay for some or all of the works required.

If you are an owner occupier, then grant aid help may be available if you are on a qualifying benefit. The Energy Saving Trust helpline (link opens in a new window) will be able to advise you. If you cannot get a grant, you may be able to get a loan towards the work from the Green Deal (link opens in a new window). Any loan from the Green Deal would be paid off through your future electricity bills - but the Green Deal rules are designed to ensure that the amount you repay will always be less than the amount you will have saved as a a result of the work done.

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Help for pensioners

  • I am due to retire this November. It seems I do not qualify for this year's Winter Fuel Payment. How am I going to pay this year's winter fuel bills as I will only have my state pension and Pension Credit? Is there any help I could get to pay this year's fuel bills?

Jimmy PughJimmy Pugh: Because you only qualify for your State Retirement Pension from November, you have missed out on the Winter Fuel Payment for this year. Only people who reached State Retirement Pension Age by 23 September 2012 will receive the payment in 2012.

However, once you become entitled to your State Retirement Pension and/or Pension Credit you should contact your electricity supplier to see if you qualify for the Warm Home Discount Scheme (link opens in a new window) rebate of £130 through the your electricity supplier's 'broader group' criteria. Gov.UK has a list of electricity suppliers who operate their own scheme (link opens in a new window).

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Broken boiler

  • Do you know of any assistance available for a single parent who is a home owner and in receipt of Income Support. She has a two year old child and is seven months pregnant. Her boiler has broken down and she cannot afford to have it repaired. Are there any other grants available apart from Warm Front? 

Foundations website (link opens in a new window)Shaun Robinson: She should contact her local Home Improvement Agency (link opens in a new window) who can advise about grants and support available locally. If problems with heating the home are causing health problems for anyone in the family, an adviser from the Home Improvement Agency could apply for a grant for the family from the Health Through Warmth scheme, which helps vulnerable people whose health may be adversely affected by cold living conditions. 

If she cannot get support from any of these sources, she may want to consider applying for a charitable grant to help with the cost of repairing or replacing the boiler. There are a number of charitable funds which may be able to help her out financially, depending on her background, circumstances and needs. You can use the Turn2us Grants Search database to look for suitable charitable funds.

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Storage heaters

  • I rent my home and it has night storage heaters. They come on at off peak times which is fine but when I am at work the house is being heated and when I come home they have often gone cool. Also in the evenings the house seems to have cooled down and I am using a small convector heater. Is there any way I can a) make the heaters more efficient for my needs and b) keep any costs as low as possible?

Foundations website (link opens in a new window)Shaun Robinson: You need to investigate if your home is adequately insulated and draught proofed. Storage heaters can be expensive if you need to top up with extra peak time rate electric heating.

You could ask if your landlord would upgrade to gas central heating.

You can also do a free home energy check at the Energy Saving Trust website (link opens in a new window).  

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Further information

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