What to do when your energy bill goes up

What to do when your energy bill goes up

Was it good timing or good luck? I wrote a blog, my first for Tepilo, last month and said that we would be kidding ourselves if we thought that fuel prices would not go up. Then, within days of that blog being published, the utility company Scottish and Southern announced a whopping 9.4% hike in fuel prices effective from the first of December - by Hillary Grayson, National Energy Services

At the time of writing this I am not aware of any of the other energy companies following, but I predict that they will. Scottish and Southern will not be alone, especially since they cited as the reason for this price rise (the first for 2 years and affecting some 3.6 million customers – including me, I might add) the rising wholesale gas prices, which have gone up 25 per cent since March this year.

So what am I going to do about it?

Well one thing I am not going to do is to spend time and ‘personal energy’ switching to another gas and electricity provider. Many money management web sites may be urging me to do this, and in the very short term there may be some financial gain, but what is the point if the others are going to follow? Having said that, there is one alternative supplier that I may consider. http://www.goodenergy.co.uk/ supplies 100% renewable energy. This is something that I have considered in the past, but the money I was saving with Scottish and Southern, and the fact that I had signed up to their green tariff (which I understand to be mostly related to hydro –electric power) made Good Energy look rather unattractive. However, I will look be looking into them again.

So what else can I do?

Fundamentally, I need to look at my family’s energy consumption and see if there are any savings to be made there.

This is where the Energy Performance Certificate can help. If you are selling your house through Tepilo or by any other means you must, by law, have a valid EPC. Get it out and have a look at it! If you have recently bought a house you will also have an EPC. Get that out as well! If you have not yet commissioned an EPC go to nesltd.co.uk to find an energy assessor near you.

I know I said this in my last blog, but I believe it is worth saying it again. There is information in the EPC which can help you save money. On page 4 it gives the home owner information on energy saving measures suitable for that property broken down into ‘lower cost’ and ‘higher cost’, with an indication of the possible financial savings that can be achieved. (A lower cost measure is defined as one that will normally cost less than £500). There is also a generic section on things that you can do today (turn down the room thermostat for instance).

Ok, so if you have put your house on Tepilo you intend to sell or rent and may well question the logic on spending any effort or money in a property you do not intent to live in for much longer. However, from bitter past experience, I know that houses take time to sell. Even if you find a buyer tomorrow the conveyancing process could take weeks, if not months. In the meantime, the clocks have gone back and winter draws in.

If the last two winters are anything to go by, there will be snow and ice. You will have to heat and light the house so it makes sense to consider doing what you can to make yourself comfortable and save yourself some money. Loft insulation is not difficult and what better time if you are sorting out the contents of the loft because you are moving.

By undertaking any recommendation in the EPC your actions will, of course, make it out of date. But you do not need to commission another one. You can simply evidence to a buyer the improvement measures you have carried out (keep receipts and invoices etc.)

I don’t have an EPC – I am not selling and have not recently bought. But I know enough about energy efficiency to know how to implement the basic measures. My house though is a bit more of a challenge. I don’t have a loft to insulate (my mid Victorian house was built with a room in the roof), I don’t have cavity walls (cavity walls did not really become the standard form of construction until the 20th Century), and I don’t have a hot water tank to lag (my hot water is provided by a combination boiler). I do have double glazing – though not sympathetic to the style of construction.

My first improvement must be to insulate the walls and to improve the insulation in the room in the roof but a simple trip to Homebase or B & Q is not going to give me the help or materials I need, and sometimes I curse the fact that I don’t have a nice simple 1930’s semi to improve!

While most reference to insulating walls will talk about cavity walls, it is possible to insulate a solid wall building. Where it gets confusing is how to go about doing this. First of all there is the seemingly simple choice between internal and external insulation. External seems preferable if I am not to lose any floor area but then how do I deal with the detailing where the wall joins the roof? Then there is the question of what sort of material to use. There is everything from foam backed plasterboards to insulation made from sheeps wool – each with their own advantages and disadvantages. What there is not is a one stop shop for impartial information of the various merits or otherwise of each product.

Maybe there will soon be clear answers. A recent refurbishment on the Building Research Establishment (BRE) site near Watford has taken a Victorian building and applied a number of different technologies which will be monitored over time. If you are interested there is more information here rethinkinghousingrefurbishment.co.uk.

But this does not help me with my immediate problem and unfortunately I have no immediate answers, but when I do I will happily share it with everyone.

Meanwhile, has anyone got a cure for penetrating damp? The tanking on the lower ground floor has blown!


With thanks to Hilary Grayson, National Energy Services - follow Hilary on twitter @HilaryNES