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Having a warm home is good for our health, wellbeing and gives us a comfortable place to relax. Efficient energy and heat use can mean you can make the most of what you do use in the home, to make every second or unit of energy and heat, count.
These actions are also good for the planet by reducing your carbon footprint. The Committee on Climate Change has reported that 40% of UK emissions come from households. More than 50% of that is down to heating and electricity. We all need to heat our homes in winter and use electricity but there are ways you can make your energy use and heating more efficient and perhaps save money too.
Why is having a warm home important?
Cold homes can be very bad for your health. If you struggle to pay your heating bills, or you are trying to do your bit for the planet by using less, but your home is cold and damp, your health and the health of your family may suffer.
Problems linked to living in a cold home include high blood pressure, common colds, flu, heart attacks and even in some cases, pneumonia. As well as poor health, cold-related illness can lead to absence from work, social isolation, stress and sleep deprivation. Those with existing health conditions are especially vulnerable to the cold. This includes physical conditions, such as diabetes, circulatory problems and arthritis; and mental illnesses, such as depression, chronic stress and anxiety.
Respiratory conditions, like asthma, can also be made worse by the cold, even more so if there are damp and mould issues in living areas. This is often the case in under-heated, poorly ventilated homes. People with certain disabilities, children and the elderly also fall into higher risk categories.
Having a warm home can also keep your home in general good condition. Damp and cold can cause issues in houses, which can become deep-rooted and effect its condition long-term.
Why is using heat and energy more efficiently a good thing for me?
It is good for your health, wellbeing, your finances and the planet. Taking action to improve efficiency in the home is less about cutting back as it is about investing in things that can help make better use of what you do use, make your home feel better and save you money too.
How can I make a difference to the condition of my home right now?
Reducing chances of mould appearing is a good step. Some damp is caused by condensation which can lead to mould growth that appears as a cluster of little black dots. Condensation happens when moist air comes into contact with a colder surface like a wall. It also occurs in places the air is still, like the corners of rooms, behind furniture or inside wardrobes.
- Keeping lids on saucepans when cooking and using your extractor fan.
- Drying clothes in the fresh air if possible, not on the radiator. Did you know, there is no minimum temperature for drying clothes outside, as long as the air is dry
- Ensuring your tumble dryer vents to the outside.
- Avoiding paraffin heaters or flue-less bottled gas heaters – these produce a lot of moisture.
- Let moist air out and fresh air in by opening windows for a few minutes each day.
- When you’re cooking or having a bath, keep the kitchen or bathroom door shut and open the window to let the steam out. You could try and reduce your bath or shower times so that steam has less time to form.
- Let fresh air circulate around furniture to avoid mould forming. Make sure there is a gap between furniture and walls and give wardrobes and cupboards an airing by leaving the doors open sometimes.
Keeping your home warm
Very cold rooms are more likely to get damp and mouldy. Insulate and draught-proof your home by identifying areas where you can feel cold air getting in. Loft insulation, cavity wall insulation (if your house has cavity walls) and draught-proofing on windows and doors are also good places to start.
If you are a tenant, please ask for advice from your landlord before making any changes in the home. It might be that your landlord is interested in making the home more efficient and will provide assistance.
Where can I find out more?
There are lots of tips you can try and a number of schemes available which you may be eligible for. Learn more and find out if there is a scheme right for you and make sure your home is energy-efficient but also comfortable for you and your family.
Government schemes that can help with the cost of certain home efficiency improvements: https://www.gov.uk/improve-energy-efficiency (Opens in a new window)
Struggling to Pay Bills?
Winter Fuel Payment
You could get between £100 and £300 tax-free to help pay your heating bills if you were born on or before 5 October 1954. You will get your Winter Fuel Payment automatically (you do not need to claim) if you’re eligible (Opens in a new window) and either:
- get the State Pension
- get another social security benefit (not Housing Benefit, Council Tax Reduction, Child Benefit or Universal Credit)
If you do not get either of these, or if you live abroad, you may need to make a claim (Opens in a new window). If you’ve got a Winter Fuel Payment before, you do not need to claim again unless you’ve deferred your State Pension or moved abroad.
The deadline for you to make a claim for winter 2020 to 2021 is 31 March 2021.
Visit the GOV.UK website (Opens in a new window) to download an application form
Call 0845 915 1515
Cold Weather Payments
Cold Weather Payments are one-off payments to help you pay for extra heating costs when it’s very cold. You’ll get a payment each time the temperature drops below a specific temperature for a set period of time.
You’ll only be eligible if you already get:
- Pension Credit
- Income Support
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Universal Credit
Find out more about Cold Weather Payments (Opens in a new window)
Warm Home Discount Scheme
You might be able to get £140 off your electricity bill under the Warm Home Discount Scheme if you’re either getting the guarantee credit part of Pension Credit or on a low income. Check with your supplier to see if they offer the Warm Home Discount - not all suppliers are part of the scheme.
If you've applied for the Warm Home Discount but you switch supplier before you get the payment, you have to apply again with your new supplier. Your new supplier might have different rules about who gets the discount. This doesn’t affect you if you get the discount automatically, without having to apply.
Find out more about the Warm Home Discount Scheme (Opens in a new window)
Grants to help pay off your energy debts
If you’re in debt to your energy supplier, you might be able to get a grant from a charitable trust to help pay it off. British Gas Energy Trust offer grants and schemes that are open to anyone - you don't have to be a customer. Visit their website to find out more (Opens in a new window).
There are also companies who offer grants specifically for their customers:
When you apply for a grant, you'll have to provide detailed information about your financial situation in your application. It could take a while to complete, and it might be worth getting help from a friend or family member. You can also talk to an adviser (Opens in a new window) for help filling in forms.
Charitable trusts like you to show that you have received debt advice (Opens in a new window) before you apply. Debt advice can help you manage your debts and increase your chances of making a successful application.
You might be able to get extra help and support from your energy supplier (Opens in a new window) by signing up to the Priority Services Register. You can sign up if you're a pensioner, disabled or sick, or if your energy network considers you 'vulnerable'.
They would be able to help you with things like:
- reading your energy meter
- moving your energy meter free of charge
- getting your bills sent or copied to someone else, e.g. a carer
- help with bills and budgeting
If you're trying to cut your spending, or are having problems with your outgoings, you could get help with bills (Opens in a new window). You could also use this budgeting tool (Opens in a new window) to see exactly where your money goes each month.
Nottingham Energy Partnership offer support with gas, electricity or water bills, as well as other support options. To find out more visit: https://nottenergy.com/news/emergency-food-vouchers/ (Opens in a new window)