Mouldy walls? Leaky radiators? Paper bills and a draughty house? Star reporter Rachael Clegg’s home was given the once-over by a conservationist, who showed that fixing even minor issues can be a massive money-saver when it comes to energy bills
YOU’LL never look at your pipes in the same way again.
At least, not after South Yorkshire Energy Centre’s experts have inspected them.
Leaky radiators are just one of the dozens of minor problems that - if fixed - could save households tens, if not hundreds, of pounds a year in energy bills.
An energy-saving team based at the South Yorkshire Energy Centre at Heeley City Farm in Sheffield provides a new service, sending staff out to domestic properties to inspect radiators, check on windows and walls, look at doors, boiler and electricity meters, and tell householders how they could be saving money.
And today, it’s my turn. Energy conservationist Gareth Burt rolls up on his pushbike, armed with a huge backpack.
His work starts as soon as he walks through the front door, measuring the thickness of the wall and asking all manner of technical questions.
“When was the house built? Is it draughty here? Is this cavity-insulated?” He explains: “The thickness of the walls of your house makes a huge difference to heat conservation and cavity wall insulation really helps.”
He inspects the electricity meter - quite an antique, apparently - and the electrical wiring.
“Dodgy electrics can cost money too,” he says ominously. “And you can save a lot of money if you use energy-saving lightbulbs.”
Turning electrical goods off stand-by is also a huge money saver. Dishwashers, left on, consume 70 per cent of the electricity required to do a full cycle, and digital TV receivers use almost as much energy on stand-by as they do when they’re being used.
If lights were turned off when not in use Britons would save a whopping £55 million in electricity bills in one year.
It’s easy to switch off dishwashers and buy energy-saving lightbulbs, but re-lining walls with cavity insulation - especially for people living in privately-rented properties - is out of the question.
But there are much cheaper ways to keep the heat in, according to Gareth.
“Lots of houses have a draught, which makes a room feel much colder and allows the heat to escape, so putting draught protection on doors is a really cheap way of keeping the heat in,” he says.
By making visits like these, the Heeley City Farm team have already saved some Sheffielders hundreds of pounds.
“There was one case recently where we used an energy monitor to find out why bills were higher than they should have been. We switched absolutely everything off but the monitor was still showing something was using power. It turned out to be a lamp with a damaged cable which was shorting out. So it’s important to look for damage to plugs and cables. Don’t use any appliances if you’re worried about them.”
The team visits up to two houses a week and have spotted several extreme cases of poor insulation, damp and energy loss.
“We went to one house and there was an exposed wall covered in condensation and mould. The wallpaper had completely peeled off and the entire wall was blue and green with mould. The stench was enough to make the nose recoil.” Gareth laughs.Rising energy costs mean families are having to cut their use of gas and electricity more and more.
“We’ve had a lot more calls in the past year, since energy prices have really started to rise,” says Gareth. “And since all the cuts to public services and public sector jobs, we’re getting a lot more people who are keen to cut their costs. It’s really good to know we are able to help.”
Even switching provider can potentially save a family hundreds of pounds.
“There was one lady who wasn’t happy with her utility suppliers - she thought she was spending too much money on electricity and gas and hadn’t checked her tariff for a long time,” Gareth said. “We looked into it online and straightaway saved her £160. Even something as simple as giving up paper bills can save you money. And it all adds up.”
The team certainly practise what they preach. The South Yorkshire Energy Centre’s HQ is entirely powered by renewable energy and, according to Gareth, “runs really well - we have solar panels and a wind turbine”.
But solar panels cost about £10,000 to install and for wind turbines a house must have a good wind resource. So for now, switching the dishwasher off stand-by is a step in the right direction.
top money-saving energy tips
TURN off all appliances. Leaving appliances on stand-by puts an average of £200 a year on household energy bills.
DISHWASHERS left on at the end of their cycle consume 70 per cent of the power required during a full running cycle.
LEFT on lights costs £55m in bills nationally a year.
SWITCHING from paper bills to online invoices can save money. Most utility suppliers offer deals for customers who use online billing.
MULTI-package providers such as Utility Warehouse offer deals on electricity, gas, landline and internet packages. The company also provides a ‘cashback card’ to which customers can transfer money to use at a variety of shops such as Debenhams, Sainsburys and Comet. Each month five per cent of the total spend is deducted from the utility bill.
PLAYING around with the timer for your heating can save money too, by making sure it’s not left on unnecessarily.
DRAUGHT proofing keeps warmth in for longer.
LEAKY radiators mean they are not delivering heat as effectively as they could. Getting them sorted could save heat and therefore money.