Friday, 29 July 2011

Energy Savings (Guest Article from Trading Standards)

Trading Standards – a spotlight on energy

We all want to do our bit to save energy around the home - to be ‘green’ and to save money. However, at Cambridgeshire County Council’s Trading Standards Service we have seen an increase in queries from residents about ‘cold callers’ selling energy saving schemes, particularly loft insulation and solar energy, so below we offer some advice to help you.

Solar Energy
Before you start it’s worth taking a look at the information provided by the Energy Saving Trust on www.energysavingtrust.org.uk or speaking to an advisor on 0800 512012.

For supplier/installer information, the Microgeneration Certification Scheme can provide a list of members online or by calling 0207 0901082. Membership is not compulsory, but you will need to use a member if you plan to use the Feed-in Tariff scheme (a government-backed initiative paying you for the electricity you generate).

Obtain three quotes to ensure the price and projected savings are competitive and realistic. Arrange a technical survey, rather than a sales visit, so the quote is accurate, and ensure all quotes are in writing, detailing what’s included. Once you’ve chosen your installer read the contract carefully and ensure their claims about savings and maintenance costs are included before signing so that you have evidence of what you were told.

Remember! If you sign an agreement at home for solar energy, you should be given 7 days to cancel. If you need advice on this, ring Consumer Direct on 0845 4040506.

Loft and cavity insulation
When it comes to insulation, the Energy Saving Trust can provide information on grants and offers that can help you cover the cost of it. They can also provide a list of installers. It is advisable to use a member of the National Insulation Association, the Cavity Insulation Guarantee Agency or the British Board of Agreement, ideally who has signed up to a professional code of practice and provides a 25 year guarantee.

Reducing your energy bills
Start by checking with your current gas and electricity supplier that you are on their best rate. Then compare the prices of other suppliers in case you can get it cheaper – switching supplier could save you around £237 a year if you haven’t changed before. You can compare prices on Consumer Focus’s weekly pricing factsheets at www.consumerfocus.org.uk or by contacting Consumer Direct on 0845 4040506 for a paper copy. Also, most suppliers offer cheaper tariffs for ‘vulnerable’ customers, so it is worth enquiring about these ‘social tariffs’ if you are over 60, are on means tested benefits or are on low income. In addition, your District Council could offer you advice on how to reduce the amount of energy you use in your home by offering a home visit, or you can get tips by calling the Energy Saving Trust.



Support if you are struggling to pay your energy bills
If you are struggling to keep on top of energy bills, seek help from your local Citizens Advice Bureau, either in person or on the phone on 08444 111 444.

Finally, if you feel that you have been mis-sold any product or service – energy or otherwise - or have any other kind of consumer issue, contact our partner Consumer Direct for advice.