• Posted by Steve Playle Tuesday Dec 12, 2017

Keeping warm this winter

Home Matters – advice, problem solving and insight

A feature with Steve Playle, TrustMark’s Trading Standards expert.

Keeping warm this winter


We have just had a real blast of winter with sub zero temperatures and plenty of snow right across the UK.  Keeping your home warm and comfortable is really important but is particularly difficult for those in around 2.5 million fuel poor households.  A fuel poor household is defined as one that needs to spend more than 10% of its income on all fuel use and to heat its home to an adequate standard of warmth.  In England, this is defined as 21°C in the living room and 18°C in other occupied rooms.  The current definition of fuel poverty states that it is driven by three key factors - energy efficiency of the home, energy costs and household income.

Making sure that your home is energy efficient is something that we all need to be aware of.  How timely then that last weekend I had a knock on my door from someone offering to install free cavity wall insulation under what they called the “Government energy scheme.”  It was unfortunate for the representative, however, that I am a Trading Standards Officer with a keen interest in anything to do with energy.  Due to my job, I never ever deal with cold callers on my doorstep.  I see all too often the problems that commission hungry sales reps cause to consumers so I resolved many years ago to decline anything and everything on my own doorstep.  I explained this to the rep that had knocked and I clearly stated; “I’m sorry but I don’t deal with cold callers.”  This rep wasn’t taking no for an answer and he wanted to find out the reason for my reticence.  Rather than say what I did for a living, I repeated myself five times but still he wouldn’t go away.  He then came out with the outrageous statement: “If you don’t have cavity wall insulation fitted, you will be taxed by the Government.”  I couldn’t resist finding out exactly what he meant and he proceeded to give me his interpretation of the Kyoto protocol and then something about the “Earth energy summit” and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  In the end, I managed to send him on his way but not before I nearly asked him point blank to leave.  Ignoring such a request to leave is an unfair commercial practice and a criminal offence under Trading Standards legislation.  It is worth remembering.

I was left with a business leaflet which I took a few minutes to read after the rep had gone.  It was littered with typos and appalling grammar and was not a great advert for this particular business.  Worse still, it claimed that the business was a certified energy assessor.  After checking with the named certification body, I discovered that this claim was, in fact, false.   

I stick by my decision not to deal with this particular cold caller and, besides, I already have cavity wall insulation installed.  However, it is worth knowing that all energy suppliers have an obligation to deliver energy efficient measures to householders via the Energy Companies Obligation or ECO.  ECO was introduced in Great Britain at the beginning of 2013 and replaces two previous energy efficiency programmes, the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (CERT) and the Community Energy Saving Programme (CESP).  There are lots of opportunities for customers to access energy efficiency improvements via the ECO and it is worth thinking about.  To find out more, contact your energy supplier rather than waiting for someone to knock on your door.  However, if you live in particularly exposed areas where rain is driven onto your external walls, cavity wall insulation is probably not going to be right for you. 

At the same time, check that you aren’t on a standard variable rate energy tariff. Getting onto the cheapest tariffs could save you hundreds of pounds every year and make it a little easier to keep warm this winter.