Are your gas and electricity bills causing you to worry? Is your home suffering from draughty hallways or heating that’s difficult to control? If these things sound familiar, then you need a visit from our Energy Team!
Our trained, friendly advisors can:
- Visit you in your home
- Attend a group or drop in
- Come along to community events
- Give training sessions and workshops
We help with:
- Lowering bills and checking for benefits or grants that you are entitled to
- Preventing draughts, damp and mould
- Switching energy supplier to save you money
- Tips to control your heating
- Energy efficiency advice & changes to your home
- Getting emergency gas or electric credit if you run out
- Talking to your supplier if you find it difficult
- Access to Priority Services Registers for further help you may be entitled to
- Fuel debt
- Referrals to support and advice services so you get all the help you need.
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Here’s how we have been helping Plymouth residents:
Mr K from Plympton contacted us directly after he saw an information postcard for our Fuel Debt service. An Advisor guided him to the Home Energy Team as although he didn’t have fuel debt but he did need help. Mr K was struggling to create an account with his new supplier after moving into his property in the way that he would like – by post. His main worry was that he might receive a large bill for the months that he was unable to pay due to the lack of an account. After many letters sent by recorded delivery, he asked PEC to see what we could do. We arranged a free home energy visit to find out more.
On arriving at Mr K’s home, we could see how anxious he was about his situation and how infuriating he was finding it. We asked Mr K for permission to act as his advocate and contact the energy company for him to resolve the issues. Over the next week, we set up an account in his name and gave up to date meter readings to the company so that he would be able to clear his balance.
Once Mr K had paid, we helped him switch suppliers as he no longer had trust in their customer services. He saved £61 pa on a new, lower tariff. As Mr K is a pensioner, we made sure that his new supplier offered the Warm Home Discount (WHD) scheme – which gives a payment of £140 toward electricity bills. We helped him apply and he was successful.
In total, the Energy Team saved Mr K £201 pa and is now working with him to send through the meter readings until he feels confident and knowledgeable enough to manage his new supplier himself.
Mr and Mrs S were struggling to pay back an electricity debt of over £2,500 that they did not believe to be correct. They were borrowing money from family members and continued to pay around £150 a month for their electricity, despite heating the home with gas.
A grant to clear the debt through Charis (who administer a charitable fund on behalf of energy suppliers) had been refused. PEC’s Home Energy Team went to visit to see if more could be done.
The Energy Team acted as advocates – urging that the case and evidence to support it be reassessed by the supplier. The debt was found to have occurred as the result of a historic meter failure that hadn’t been discovered by the supplier for 3 years. When the debt was disputed by the couple, the supplier enforced installation of a prepayment meter.
Mrs S has multiple disabilities and agoraphobia, making it impossible for her to leave the home to top up a pre-payment meter. Its installation left her vulnerable to electricity outages and overly-reliant on her extended family. It soon became apparent that the installation had been in direct contradiction to the suppliers’ code of practice. Mrs S’s mental health had also deteriorated – reporting anxiety and stress directly due to the debt. She was frequently in tears when we met and described her situation as hopeless.
Over a period of 5 months, the team worked with the family to create reports detailing the couple’s energy usage, appliance ratings, meter readings and circumstances. These reports were presented to the supplier to allow them to reassess the fairness of the debt. In September 2015, that debt was removed in full.
We continue to work with the family as they learn to control their energy use. We have given the family with an energy monitor to see which appliances are energy hungry and we will continue to support them as they change back to a credit meter (without charge by the supplier) and learn to manage direct debit payments.
Mrs S said ‘You came along and took all the stress away. No-one would listen to us. I don’t know how we would have managed without you…we wouldn’t have managed without you’
Mr T is a 72 year old gentleman who lives on his own in a terraced house. He suffered with several chest infections last winter and was worried about being able to afford to heat his home this winter.
He originally contacted us about the British Gas boiler scheme, however because he didn’t have an existing boiler, he did not qualify. We offered to go on a home visit to see if we could improve his comfort and save him some money.
When we arrived we sat down to talk to Mr T about his bills. We discovered that he had no heating system in the property at all and was relying on two small, oil filled electric radiators. We were able to establish that he was terrified of large electric bills and told us when it was cold he would draw the curtains and put on extra jumpers. He also told us that rather than using his electric cooker he would use a gas camping stove to cook his meals.
On checking his meters we discovered that he was on an economy 7 tariff. We explained the tariff to Mr T and gave him energy saving advice to take advantage of it. We then looked through his energy bill with him. During the visit we called his supplier and successfully applied for Warm Home Discount then explained that he would get £140 towards his winter electric bill and he almost wept with joy.
Following the visit we produced a report for Mr T detailing the effects of a lack of heating on the condition of the home and the potential health impacts for anyone living there. He passed this on to his landlady who then agreed to install gas central heating in the property.
We received a wonderful letter of thanks after the visit.
Mrs D contacted Plymouth Energy Community after an event we held at her local OAP Square Club. We gave a small talk to a group of 30+ pensioners about the many ways that we could help with fuel bills and comfort. She asked for help when we mentioned the Warm Home Discount (WHD) which is a payment of £140 towards electricity bills. Mrs D wasn’t sure whether or not she got WHD and if not, whether or not we could help her apply. We arranged the home visit whilst at the event.
On arrival, we made the call to her energy company to ask whether she was entitled to the WHD. It turned out that she was already getting the payment as she was in receipt of the guaranteed element of pension credit – she just was never made aware of this. Whilst we were there, we had a look at her bills to see how much energy she was using, how much she was spending and if there was a better deal on the market for her. We noticed that she was not on the best tariff available to her and found that she could save £299 pa by switching to a different company. She also had her gas and electric supplied by different companies so she also received a duel fuel discount on top of her savings. Mrs D was also an exceptionally high gas user when you consider her circumstances. She lived alone in a big 3 bed terrace house in which she only heats the rooms she uses. We asked about what she cooked as she had a gas oven and she said that she cooked one jacket potato every day for four hours in the oven as she believed that would be cheaper than the microwave. We spent the time she needed with Mrs D to explain energy use and the ways to use appliances efficiently.
To make the switch go ahead as smoothly as possible, we made follow up visit where we collected and gave meter readings to her new supplier in order to make sure she was going to be billed for the correct amount and answer any questions that she had.
The switch went through on 13 October 2015 and she was thrilled with her savings of £25 per month and all of the other energy saving advice she had received. We are still there for her if she has worries or questions.
Ms T was referred to us from a charity that helps young people to live independently (Wiser Wonga). She was struggling with very high fuel bills, on a prepayment meter and with 2 children under 3.
We arranged a home visit to see how we could help. The home is a third floor flat, owned by a housing authority, on an exposed ridge, heated solely by electricity and having no curtains in the living areas. Ms T wants to be rehoused as the stairs make life very difficult for her and her children. Because of this, she was not intending to change how she is living – as she sees it as a temporary situation.
The Energy Team quickly came to realise that on moving in, the housing authority had set her storage heaters incorrectly and told her not to move the dials, partly causing the high usage. She was afraid to change them and so, to control the cost, she had stopped heating the flat. This resulted in her children experiencing health impacts such as bronchitis.
The team spent time showing Ms T how to use the heaters and left a drawing of the dials with notes and prompts that she could follow each evening. We explained the importance of warmth for health and asked that she tried, just for a few nights, to set them following the prompts. She is now doing this and the rooms are heated.
We also found that the immersion heater was left on for 24 hours a day, as advised by the housing authority. Ms T would not open the cupboard as she was afraid of the tank – there had been a breakdown of the heater, recently repaired. We called the housing authority and arranged an engineer to come out, explaining our concerns for both safety and their tenant’s ongoing cost. They are attending this week. We are also sourcing curtains (through a call for donations), so that she can keep out the cold in living areas.
We will continue to work with Ms T as she learns to control her energy use. We will give her an energy monitor to enable her to see which appliances are on and causing high usage so that she will, with support, choose to control them.