12 degrees, but too much debt to turn the heating on

... and other stories from the Bristol TEA project

13 May 2014

Throughout 2014, CSE’s Home Energy Team is offering a special council funded support service for Bristol City Council tenants. We call it ‘Bristol TEA’: Bristol Tenants’ Energy Advice.

Tenants who call our advice line get bespoke advice. We can offer home visits to people who need a hand understanding how to use their heating system, are having issues with their energy bills, or who are struggling in other ways to keep warm at home.

We’re nearing half way through the year, and there’s been a huge demand from people baffled by their heating systems, battling damp, or in serious debt to their energy suppliers. By the end of April, Bristol TEA had helped over 300 tenants. Below are just a few of their stories.

"Can you help me with the heating?"

Mrs C and Mrs H had both had new gas boilers put in by Bristol City Council but didn't understand how to use their new controls, so they were unable to get the heating on when they needed it. Through a home visit, we showed them how to use the controls, how to set the thermostat and how to set the heating to come on and off. They are now able to use the controls confidently.

Miss Y was spending a lot of money on her electric prepayment meter. She didn't know how to use the night storage heaters or the hot water cylinder. It turned out that the hot water was on boost all the time (using the expensive daytime rate) and her storage heaters were not set up properly. We explained her day/night electricity tariff and how to use the heaters and hot water. The amount she spends on her prepayment meter has greatly reduced and the flat is now warm!

"How can I deal with this debt?"

Miss D was referred to us by Bristol City Council, as it was very cold in her home (12°C) and she had a nine year old daughter. It was so cold because she simply couldn’t afford to turn the heating on - she had a fuel debt of £2,000 and had been making repayments of £15 per week. We called through to her energy supplier and lowered her repayments to £3.60 per week, meaning that she could afford to turn the heating on more. We made a referral to apply to a trust fund to clear her fuel debt. On a home visit, we also showed Miss D how to use her heating controls and advised on simple measures like draught-proofing which will help to make her home warmer.

Mr L was having problems because he had changed his name, so the name on his energy bill was different to the one on his benefit letter. We helped him register his change of name with the energy supplier so he could claim the £135 Warm Home Discount. He had fuel debt of over £600 - we spoke to his energy supplier and arranged an affordable repayment plan over a year.

"Why do we get so much mould in here?"

Mr and Mrs S contacted us because it felt cold and draughty in their home, they were experiencing problems with damp and mould and had high electricity bills. There was mould growth in the living room, bathroom and kitchen. The problem had come about because they were unable to adequately ventilate their home; as a result the air felt damp, which was especially worrying since they had a newborn baby. We explained the heating system controls and how to reduce condensation. We then checked their electricity meter and it was charging Economy 7 rates (expensive during the day, and meant for electric night storage heating) even though the property had gas heating. We contacted Eon who altered the account and then sent them a refund, and registered them for the Warm Home Discount. We then contacted Bristol City Council who fitted extractor fans in the kitchen and bathroom to improve the ventilation and fitted draught-proofing around the front and back doors so they felt warmer in their home.

Our Home Energy Team comes across problems like these every day, where in many cases a simple lack of knowledge about using the heating properly can spiral into serious financial difficulties. So it’s great to be running the Bristol TEA project, which allows us to tackle more cases in detail and make a bigger difference across Bristol.

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