As I write, the nation is on day two of social-isolation due to COVID-19. This means that there has been an enforced ‘lockdown’, with residents now being recommended to restrict outside movements to just unavoidable trips and one form of outside exercise a day.
This, of course, means that everyone is now home-working, home-schooling and generally entirely confined to our homes and gardens. This will lead to household energy usage increasing and more people struggling to pay their bills, a particular concern with the insecurity of some job roles in the current climate.
My position at PECT is to offer impartial energy advice to vulnerable households: to help people save on their energy bills, keep their homes warm so they stay healthy, and to cut carbon for the benefit of the environment.
Here are PECT’s top tips for saving energy during this period of social isolation:
- Prepayment meters – you can now top up many prepayment meters online or over the phone, but if you cannot and are unable to leave the house it is best to call your provider who will be able to advise. Specific information on each supplier can be found here.
- Switching – according to Money Saving Expert energy prices are at a three-year low. This means that now is a great time to switch supplier if you can and save money on rates. For the best deals, make sure to pay through direct debit and go for an online only tariff. You can switch to a 100% green energy tariff online at www,greenenergyswitch.co.uk.
- Reduce your thermostat by 1 degree – this can save on average £80 a year. Make sure you keep this within the recommended temperature range of 18-21 degrees to stay healthy. If you can, put on a jumper rather than just increasing the thermostat, and try to stay active in your home.
- Simple behavioural changes can save small amounts of money – for example turning lights off in rooms, only boiling the water you need, turning unused appliances off at the plug rather than leaving them on standby, using the washing machine at a low temperature, and avoiding using the tumble dryer.
- Conserve water – by spending a minute less in the shower, turning taps off when brushing teeth and shaving, or by using a washing-up bowl instead of washing-up in the sink. If your usage is high, it might be worth looking into reduced water rate tariffs through your supplier – for example Anglian Water has a ‘LITE’ offer for low income households.
- Priority Services Register – those who are vulnerable to the cold, the elderly or those who have an underlying health condition should apply for the Priority Service Register to get access to additional help in vulnerable situations such as unplanned power cuts.
- Signing up with UKPN will automatically sign you up for the register with your energy supplier, which means you will be offered additional services if you need them – these vary for each supplier, but can include the option of braille, large print letters or talking letters if you have lost or are losing your sight. UKPN can offer support if there is a power cut by giving you a priority number that you can call 24 hours a day, tailored support, and – in some extreme circumstances – will offer stays in hotels to keep you safe when power is down for a long time.
- You can also sign up with your water provider, for example Anglian Water, and they can provide bottled water if there’s a problem with your water or if there is works due on your water pipes. Anglian Water also offers a ‘knock and wait’ system if you require more time to get to the door, a password scheme to stop scammers, help with reading the water meter, and if you are struggling with your bills they will help you as much as they can.