Despite the UK rising out of the recession, the ongoing austerity measures and lack of growth in the economy means that many households across the country are still feeling the pain. And with darker nights now arriving and winter in full swing, concerns are inevitably rising about how to pay for the increased heating and electricity bills. The average amount spent every week in the UK on housing, power and fuel is £60.40. However, there are a wealth of benefits which can be claimed to carry out home improvements which, in turn, could actively help to reduce costs.
All energy companies have an obligation to meet certain environmental targets before they can raise utility rates, and to help them achieve this, certain grants are on offer. The most common of these relate to energy audits and insulation, with many companies offering free insulation for both lofts and cavity walls. Not only will this not cost eligible householders a penny, it could actually reduce their heating bills by as much as £200 per year.
But it isn’t just free insulation which is on offer. Another program which provides eco benefits, as well as helping out cash-strapped householders, is the Warm Front initiative. This provides a grant of up to £3,500 to make a home warmer by improving insulation and draught proofing or replacing a solid fuel heating system with a glass fronted fire. There are certain eligibility criteria which must be fulfilled, all of which can be found on the website at https://www.gov.uk/warm-front-scheme/eligibility.
There is also something known as the Green Deal. This either pays for or contributes to the cost of energy improvements which will reduce costs, as well as lessen the impact on the environment. Examples could include a new boiler or double glazing.
For customers who really want to enhance their eco-credentials, there is the Renewable Heat Premium Payment, which could be as much as £1,250 towards the installation of a heat pump, solar heating or a biomass boiler. In order to get the payment, customers must have the system installed and certified first and agree to have their energy use measured.
It is also possible to get some freebies to help with water use within the home, although the exact benefits on offer vary between providers. Unlike the free insulation available, you must generally be a customer of the company in question to qualify for the giveaway. Some of the things on offer include shower timers, water widgets, flush bags and energy saving shower heads. Anglian Water are offering their customers a free water check, sending an engineer out to see if any savings can be made by taking actions such as plugging leaks or using efficiency devices.
However, there are some other smaller steps you can take to reduce the amount you have to spend. For example, turning down your heating thermostat by just 1 degree can mean slicing a healthy 10% off your bill. Switching all electrical appliances off completely, rather than just leaving them on standby, could save you a further 6-10%. And getting double glazing installed means you will chop an entire third off your heating costs!
With unemployment currently standing at the highest rate since 1995, trying to save money and cut costs wherever possible is a major priority for many households. The above measures could help to shrink heating and energy costs by a considerable amount, helping to ease the pressure on overstretched budgets.
In some cases, simply freeing up some extra cash will not be sufficient to allow all monthly commitments to be met. In these cases, it is worth seriously considering obtaining professional debt advice. There are lots of different debt solutions which could be suitable; companies such as Baines and Ernst have teams of trained experts who can provide advice and assistance on everything from debt management plans to bankruptcy. With so many different grants and schemes available, there is a good chance that you could qualify for home improvements. There can be a little bit of a delay whilst paperwork is processed so it’s a good idea to apply sooner rather than later, to start reaping the benefits and cut your costs.
If you’re struggling financially, you could look at financial services such as a Debt Management Plan, which could help you repay debts at a more affordable rate so you can cope with the ever-increasing costs of heating your home. There are specialist financial solution companies, such as Baines & Ernst, who provide this type of service and supported this article.
Insulation photo from Shutterstock