Your Money Matters: Expert on 'warmer homes' cash many don't know about
- Credit: Denise Bradley
Keeping on top of skyrocketing energy bills is one of the biggest challenges of the rising cost of living. But there is more help available than people realise, reports Stuart Anderson.
“The biggest hurdle,” says Dulcie Walsh, is that they think it’s too good to be true.”
Since taking the role of energy officer for North Norfolk District Council in early March, Ms Walsh has seen the extent of the challenge people are facing from rising energy bills.
But since the end of 2021 there has been a £3.85 million pool of cash councils in a group called the Norfolk Warm Homes Consortium can draw on to help people winterproof their homes.
But Ms Walsh, 24 and from North Walsham, said a lot of householders were still unaware of how they could benefit.
She said: “Coming into the summer months people are thinking about what’s happening right now, but we also want them to focus on preparing for next winter.”
The Norfolk Warm Homes scheme - the current focus of Ms Walsh’s work - means owner-occupiers and landlords of privately rented housing with an EPC rating of E,F,G can have insulation or air-source heat pumps installed.
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The scheme is open to households where the owner-occupier - or tenant if the home is leased - has a gross annual income of less than £30,000.
Ms Walsh said some homes would only be eligible for one measure - for example loft insulation - but others could also get wall cavity insulation and an air source heat pump installed - all of which could cost upwards of £25,000.
She said north Norfolk had a lot of older properties which were not very well insulated, and people might not know just what work could be done.
Ms Walsh said: “Many owner occupiers might think they might have to pay something back. But that isn’t the case, it’s a 100pc grant.
“In the case of landlords, we pay for 65pc of the work, and the landlord pays the other 35pc.
“Anyone who is finding themselves in a difficult position where they have to choose between heating and food should contact the local authority to see what’s available to them.
“People might not have been up to their loft for a few years and might not know if there is insulation there.
“Have a look or we can come and see if we can do it for you.”
The average British household on a standard tariff already faces an annual increase of £693 on last year - the figure rising from £1,277 to £1,971 per year.
And homes which pre-pay their energy face an even starker annual rise of £708 - from £1,309 to £2,017.
And this is before yet another expected increase in October, because the energy price cap is reviewed every six months.
Ms Walsh said the price rises were already having an effect on energy usage.
She said: “It has made people a lot more aware of what they are spending on heating - while they wouldn’t have thought about it so much a few years ago.
“With costs doubling within six months, the effect is noticeable. People are stopping themselves from putting on the heating because they realise it’s going on their bill now.”
Ms Walsh said that in a house without extra insulation, 25pc of heat is lost through the roof, 25pc through the windows and doors, and 15pc through the floor.
Air-source heat pumps take cold air from the outside and turn it into warm air.
The bulk of the equipment sits outside the home. The heat pumps cost less to run and maintain than boilers and they also have a longer lifespan.
Ms Walsh said the council was unable to change gas heating systems for the heat pumps because the cost saving was not as clear, so they were focusing on homes powered by oil or electric for that measure.
She said whether or not a house was in a conservation area could also affect the kind of energy saving measure a house could be eligible for, but it was always worth getting in touch with the council to check, and she could also help people fill out their applications, if anyone was unsure how to do so.
She said: “Another thing we’ve come across is that many people have a lot of stuff stored up in their loft.
"For example, the Christmas decorations may have been there for years and people might be worried about taking it out.
“But we may be able to sort something out or ask the contractor to do it.
“Our priority is making your home warm and preparing it for next winter, and we’ll do our best to try and do that.”
Contact Ms Walsh on email@example.com or 01263 513811, or visit norfolkwarmhomes.org.uk to find out more about the grants.
*This story is part of the North Norfolk News Your Money Matters campaign, where we are reporting on the cost of living, and looking for ways to ease the financial burden.
Home energy: Tips to save you money
Ms Walsh has complied this list of measures everybody can take to help reduce their energy bills.
- Install energy saving light bulbs. They last up to 10 times longer than traditional bulbs and use around 80pc less energy. This reduces energy costs and saves you up to £60 over the lifetime of the light bulb.
-You can save around £55 a year just by remembering to turn your appliances off standby mode.
-Draught proof your windows and doors. Unless your home is very new, you will lose some heat through draughts around doors and windows, gaps around the floor, or through the chimney.
-Turn your lights off when you’re not using them or when you leave a room. This will save you around £20 a year on your annual energy bills.
-You can save around £28 a year from your energy bill just by using your washing machine more carefully: Use your washing machine on a 30-degree cycle instead of higher temperatures. Reduce your washing machine use by one run per week for a year.
-Keeping your shower time to just four minutes could save a typical household £70 a year on their energy bills.
-Some of us might enjoy a long soak in the bath but swapping just one bath a week with a four minute shower could save you £12 a year on your energy bills.
-Kettles are one of the most used appliances in the kitchen. But many of us will admit that we at least occasionally boil the kettle with more water than we’re going to use.
-Avoid overfilling the kettle and save yourself £11 a year on your electricity bill.
-Only run your dishwasher when it is full to reduce the amount of water you use. Reducing your dishwasher use by one run per week for a year could save you £14.
-Effective insulation of your hot water cylinder is important: even if you have thin spray foam or a loose 25mm jacket, you can benefit from increasing the insulation to a British Standard Jacket 80mm thick, saving £35 a year in the process.