Winter warmers - Hot tips for a happy, heated home

07/01/15 How to keep your heating up and your bills down this winter

The Fireplace Rs 2

Winter weather can put a heavy strain on your home heating systems. We were reminded of this earlier in the week by Greg, who contacted the www.resolver.co.uk team with a story of central heating woe. He’s been left literally in the cold over his boiler repair policy and the time it has taken to resolve his issue.

With this in mind, I thought it would be a good opportunity to talk through some winter-warming tips – how to keep your home warm, what you can do to improve energy efficiency and what to do if there is a problem with your heating.Saving moneyIf your house is cold or you are worrying about high heating bills, you may be considering some energy efficiency improvements to your home. These are your options:

  • Loft insulation: this is one of the best ways of saving energy, you are recommended to have 270mm of loft insulation
  • Cavity wall insulation: this, along with loft the insulation, the best way to save energy use and therefore money.
  • Solid wall insulation: there are two types of walls, cavity (a gap in the middle) or solid wall, which has no cavity. For solid wall properties you can add insulation to the internal or external walls to insulate your property. This is expensive and can be disruptive, but it will make significant savings for you.
  • Boiler replacement: if you replace your boiler, you can increase its efficiency. Boilers are graded on an ‘A’ to ‘G’ rating, with ‘A’ being the most energy efficient. Going from the worst to best can save you more than 20 per cent on your gas bill. 
  • Solar: you can install solar hot water, where you make your own hot water, but you do need a hot water tank for this. Alternatively, you can create your electricity with photovoltaic panels. If you do take this route, you may even be able to plug your solar power generator into the national grid, where any extra power you generate could even provide you with a small income. 
  • Windows: unless you have single-glazed metal windows, replacing your windows will not actually save you an enormous amount of money. This means that if you have secondary double glazing, wood-framed single glazing, or old-style metal-framed double glazing, it’s not worth replacing them with uPVC double glazing for energy reasons alone. If you are being sold windows based on the energy savings, beware!

Green Deal

You may have heard of the Green Deal. This is a Government scheme to help you pay for energy efficiency improvements. The Green Deal is designed to allow you to take a loan against your home and to repay it based on the savings to your energy bill following any improvements made.

The Government will often also give incentives towards the cost of the energy efficiency improvements. If there is an issue with the Green Deal, you have strong consumer protection. Firstly, any energy assessment is covered by consumer regulations, which means you have 14 days in which to cancel any agreements. This is also true if you purchase a boiler or make other energy efficiency improvements in your home.

If you have taken a Green Deal plan and there is an issue, you need to raise the issue with the company first of all. One of the frequent issues is not achieving the savings that were promised. If this is the case, it could be because you have turned up the heating or had it on for longer than is actually necessary in your newly more efficient home. This is called the rebound effect and is often a cause for not making the savings that are expected.

If your issue is not dealt with by the company and you are still dissatisfied you can take your case to the Green Deal Ombudsman. They are entitled to award you up to £25,000 compensation. If you accept the Ombudsman’s decision then it is binding on the company. If you are not satisfied you can take alternative actions such as taking the provider to court. 

Boiler repair policies

There are a number of firms that offer boiler protection plans. Before you take any insurance policy check your home insurance to ensure that you are not already covered. 

Next, choose what cover you want. Is it boiler only, boiler with central heating cover or home emergency cover? Home emergency will cover more than the boiler and can include aspects such as drains or water.

Beware if you take out a policy that you may not have the ability to make an immediate claim.

The really important part to understand is if you have an insurance policy or a service agreement. The better of the two is an insurance policy. If you have an issue, you have the right to take your complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service. If you cannot resolve your issue after eight weeks, you can take your complaint to the Financial Ombudsman. They are there to assess your complaint to ensure it has been dealt with fairly and reasonably. If not, they have the right to help you resolve your issue and to provide a solution that is compulsory for your service provider to follow.

If you have a service agreement, you have no protection if something goes wrong. You cannot claim money back if the company goes bust so ensure if you are taking boiler protection ensure it is a boiler insurance policy. For Greg, sadly he has a boiler protection policy and so when they took an unreasonable time to fix his issue he did not have the protection of the ombudsman.

This week’s news

Train fares capped

Time for the annual rise in train fares. But while price increases are generally bad news, fares rose just 2.5% after the Government capped increases at the rate of inflation from July 2014. This is actually the lowest increase for five years, and overall average train ticket prices rose by 2.2%.

The Government has also stopped train operators from increasing some fares at 2% more than inflation.

Payday loan changes

This week sees changes to the way payday loan companies can lend money. Rates are now capped at 0.8% of the loan per day, while if you take out a loan you will never pay back more then double the amount. In addition, the default fee is limited to £15 and is only payable once. The Financial Conduct Authority believes this will help protect consumers and to ensure they have access to cost-effective short-term loans.

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