In the St Albans District, the energy we use in our home’s accounts for nearly half of our overall greenhouse emissions. By making your home more energy efficient you can help the environment and save money, so it doesn’t literally go through the roof. This page provides information on what you can do to reduce your energy consumption and lists sources of grants, funding and advice to help you.
You can also contact the Simple Energy Advice Line which is run by the Department of Business, Environment and Industrial Strategy by calling 0800 444202. The service provides impartial advice to help you reduce energy bills, identify financial support and find qualified local tradespeople.
What is the Council doing to help reduce energy use? Toggle accordion
The Council has been helping local households to reduce energy for many years. For many years we published a Home Energy Conservation Plan to set out our actions to reduce energy consumption across all homes in the district. These actions, along with our actions to reduce energy from our own estate, are being incorporated to our developing Sustainability Strategy and Net Zero Action Plan.
Tips for Saving Energy Toggle accordion
Here are some tips to help you reduce your greenhouse gas emissions, save money and feel warmer in your home. You can download our Energy Saving Leaflet here or collect a paper copy from the Council Offices.
Read your meter
Read your meter regularly to ensure your bills are accurate and up to date. If you are not sure how to read your meter there is help available here, or you can ask your supplier to do it for you. You should keep a record for yourself and send a copy to your energy supplier regularly.
Handheld Electricity Monitors
Residents of St. Albans District can borrow a smart meter for free three-week loan from any of the libraries. These allow you to monitor your real time energy use and are a great educational tool. Why not see which of your appliances are using the most energy? Or try switching everything off to find hidden energy use.
Energy suppliers have started installing smart meters for domestic energy users in the UK. Smart meters communicate data directly to energy suppliers, allowing suppliers to issue accurate bills, whilst removing the need for meter readings. Having accurate consumption data will also make switching supplier smoother and faster. More information about smart meters can be found here.
Keep the heat in
An uninsulated house will lose around 60% of its heat through the roof and walls. Insulation is a vital first step in making your home more energy efficient. There may be financial assistance to help you. Download our free Home Insulation Guide.
- Loft: By laying 27cm of insulation, the UK minimum standard, you can expect to save about £175 per year in energy.
- Solid walls: Before the 1920's most homes were built with solid walls. The only way to insulate these is by fitting insulation to the inside or outside of the wall. This is an expensive measure but there could be financial assistance to help you. Solid wall insulation could save around £450 per year in energy costs.
- Cavity walls: After the 1920's most homes were built with external cavity walls. This means there is an air gap between the inner and outer walls which can be filled. Cavity wall insulation could save you around £135 per year.
- Gaps: Draught-proofing your home is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to improve its energy efficiency, potentially saving £25-£50 per year in energy. Many gaps are simple to fix yourself with a tube of sealant bought from any DIY store.
- Floorboards: Insulating beneath the ground floorboards could save you around £60 a year in energy bills. Many newer homes have a ground floor made of solid concrete which may be insulated with a solid insulation board on top. Older homes are more likely to have suspended timber floors which can be insulated by laying mineral wool insulation beneath the floorboards. Care should be taken to ensure you don't block under-floor air bricks though as floorboards may rot without adequate ventilation.
- Windows and Doors: If you can't afford double glazing, you can invest in secondary glazing or thick, thermally lined curtains to keep the heat in. Don't let curtains hang in front of the radiators though otherwise the outside wall will benefit from the heat instead of the room. Use draught proofing strips around the frame, brush strips work better for sash windows. Gaps around doors can be sealed by fitting draught-proofing strips around the edges, brush on the bottom, and hinged draught excluders on the letter box. These are all relatively cheap from any DIY store and easy to fit.
- Fireplaces: If you don't use your fireplace, it is probably a source of unnecessary draughts. You can fit a cap over the chimney pot or buy an inflatable draught excluder to fit within the chimney, which can easily be removed if you decide to light a fire.
Finding an installer
The National Insulation Association (NIA) provides a list of registered manufacturers and installers. Try to choose a local installer as this supports the local economy and reduce congestion and emissions on the roads.
Take control of the heating
Older boilers are inefficient. By replacing an old boiler with a new, condensing boiler, you could lower your energy bills by up to £300 a year. You may be eligible to receive financial support to help you.
Room thermostats monitor warmth in specific rooms and adjust the boiler operations accordingly. Your room thermostats should be set to your lowest comfortable temperature, typically 18-21 ºC. You don't need to turn your thermostat up when it is colder outside as the house will still be heated to the same temperature(although it might take a bit longer to warm up on colder days). Programmable room thermostats allow you to set different temperatures for different times of the day.
Thermostatic radiator valves reduce the flow of water through the radiator. You can set each one to the level you want for the room, using less energy for a lower flow of water. If you have electric heating, visit the Energy Saving Trust website for information on how to get the best from your heating controls.
Temporary electric heaters are very expensive and inefficient to run but if you need temporary, instant heating then it's important to choose the most efficient version. Fan and halogen (glow) heaters heat the air in front of them quickly and are good for short blasts of heat. However, the room will quickly cool down once they are turned off. Oil-filled radiators and convection heaters heat the air more slowly but are better at heating the whole room and are best suited for rooms which are used for long periods.
Go LED: Replace all your lighting with LEDs and you could save around £30 per year. Although more expensive initially, they use far less energy and also last much longer so they will save you money in the long term.
It's easy to forget the connection between our water and energy use. By reducing the amount of hot water you use, say by shortening your showers or cutting down on baths, you will save money on your energy bills. Whilst water is a comparatively cheap commodity if you aren’t on a meter, you will still be using energy to heat it. Make sure you set your boiler controls so that you only heat the water when you need it and not when you don't.
If you have a hot water cylinder make sure it is fitted with a tank jacket. These cost around £15 but could save you £45 per year on your energy bill, or even more if you have electric water heating. It's also a good idea to insulate the hot water pipes connecting your heating system if they are not yet insulated.
Check the running costs of your appliances: Our homes are filled with more and more electrical items but most of us have no idea how much it costs to power them all. The Sust-it website allows you to check the running costs of thousands of electrical products. This is useful when you are shopping for a new appliance but also to help you understand how much your existing electrical products cost to run. Look out for products marked with the Energy Saving Trust recommended logo as these are the most energy efficient products on the market.
Avoid stand-by: UK households waste £227 million a year by leaving electrical appliances on standby. If you live in one of the 76% of households which leave electrical appliances on standby, you could save around £36 a year by turning them off at the plug when not in use. If you can't physically reach all your plug sockets to turn things off, it might be worth investing in remote control plug sockets, which can be ordered online for around £10 each (or cheaper when bought in sets).
Energy Efficiency Grants and Funding Toggle accordion
Below are a number of local schemes that provide financial support for householders wanting to improve the energy efficiency of their homes. The current schemes and sources of further information are outlined below.
Home Repairs Assistance Grant: The Council provides a Home Repairs Assistance Grant to enable elderly and disabled people to undertake small-scale work so that they can remain in their own home. The maximum grant available is £5,000 and this can go towards works to address serious disrepair such as defective boilers, replacement of rotten wood, roof and plumbing repairs, or rewiring. Please contact the Private Sector Housing team on 01727 819 355.
St Albans Warmer Homes: The St Albans Warmer Homes Scheme aims to make it easier for local householders that need it, to access funding to improve the energy efficiency of their home by using Energy Company Obligation (ECO) funding. Energy suppliers are legally obligated to provide support for people on certain benefits, with health conditions, young children or those in cold homes.
As a Council, our experience is that many households find it difficult to access ECO funding. We are working in partnership with YES Energy Solutions to make it easier for local households to get the help they need. This help could include:
- Loft and cavity wall insulation
- Boiler repairs or replacement heating systems
Your needs will be assessed as will any grants that may be available to you. In some cases, there may be only part-funding available and you will need to make a contribution.
Older People’s Trust: If you are over 60 and need help to stay warm in your home or manage your fuel bills, the Older People’s Trust may be able to help you. We recommend you contact St Albans Warmer Homes (above) for heating and insulation enquiries and contact Older People’s Trust directly for anything else.
Oil Bulk Buying Group: If you heat your home with oil you could save money by joining a bulk buying group. You can find out more by visiting the Community Development Agency for Hertfordshire (CDA Herts) website.
Getting help towards your energy bills Toggle accordion
Your household energy bill is made up of a number of elements. The largest proportion of your bill is made up of wholesale energy and supply costs, which are forecasted to increase in the future. You can minimise how much you pay for your energy by ensuring you are on the best tariff for your needs and if you meet certain criteria, you may be eligible to receive financial support from the Government or your energy supplier.
Get help to understand what benefits you may be entitled to: The benefits system is complex so it's a good idea to get some help to make sure you are the benefits you are entitled to. You may wish to make an appointment to speak to Citizens Advice St Albans.
Winter Fuel Payment: If you were born on or before 5th January 1953, you are eligible for the Winter Fuel Payment, to help towards your heating bills. This tax-free payment of between £100-£300 is usually paid between November and December. You can find out more by phoning the Department for Work & Pensions helpline, on 0845 915 1515 or emailing them here.
Cold Weather Payment: If you receive certain benefits, you are eligible to receive a Cold Weather Payment if the temperature in your area is recorded as, or forecast to be, 0oC or lower for 7 consecutive days between 1 November and 31 March. The payment is £25 for each 7 day period of cold weather. If you are eligible, you should be paid automatically. If you think are eligible but don't receive your payment, you should contact your pension centre or Job Centre Plus.
Warm Home Discount: You could be eligible for a one off discount on your electricity bills from your supplier, under the Government's Warm Home Discount (WHD). Most energy suppliers offer assistance to households on means-tested benefits or with children under the age of five. It’s worth checking with your supplier to see if you are eligible.
Priority Services Register (PSR): If you are a pensioner, have a disability or a long-term health condition, you can sign up to your energy supplier’s Priority Services Register to get extra help and support with your energy supply. Contact your energy supplier directly, to see if you are eligible. Benefits include:
- Protection from bogus callers through a password protection scheme
- Regular meter readings
- Special communication services for those with hearing and visual impairments
- Bill nominee scheme
- Advance notice of supply interruption (important if you rely on medical equipment or a stair lift)
- Priority services in an emergency
- Annual gas safety check
Switch your energy supplier Toggle accordion
Shopping around for the best deal can help save you money on your energy bills and switching tariff or energy supplier is easier than you may think. Don't forget to switch every 2 years.
Struggling to pay your bills? Toggle accordion
There are several sources of help you can turn to if you are having trouble paying your energy bills:
- Your energy supplier is obligated to help you find a manageable way to pay for your bills or any debt that has accrued. You should contact them in the first instance
- Citizens Advice consumer helpline can be contacted on 08454 04 05 06
- The Consumer Focus Fact-Sheet below advises what to do when it is difficult to pay your energy bill
Be aware of cold calling salesmen Toggle accordion
Have you been offered home energy efficiency improvements?
Please note that the Council will never visit your home unannounced so be aware of anyone cold calling your home stating they are offering insulation on behalf of the Council. Should we need to visit your home, we would always provide notice in advance and would provide legitimate identification.
If you are approached by a company offering you a grant for energy efficiency in your home, you should check their legitimacy before committing to any works. Always ask for their contact details and any relevant certifications (explained below) and don't be pressured into agreeing for works to be carried out if you aren't 100% sure. You can always call them to arrange an appointment once you've had a chance to check them out.
Checking Tradespersons Toggle accordion
The trades person responsible for the work should be part of an accreditation body that maintains industry standards. You may wish to check that they are registered with such an organisation. If you have had an energy efficiency measure installed and have a complaint about the installation, you can also contact one of these accreditation bodies to complain. These are some of the organisations involved with accrediting installers (although note that there are others out there):
- Gas Safe Register
- National Insulation Association
- Cavity Insulation Guarantee Agency
- Solid Wall Insulation Guarantee Agency
Reporting a problem: If you wish to report a problem with a trades man you can also contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 08454 04 05 06. They may be able to provide assistance and they can also refer matters to Trading Standards.