Saturday, 16 May 2009

Have you Reached Boiling Point? Our Guide to the Perfect Boiler

1

Boilers are vital to any home: they keep rooms warm, water hot and inhabitants happy.

But not all boilers are born equal. By switching to a new, high efficiency condensing boiler, you could cut your carbon footprint by nearly two tonnes and save as much as £275 a year* on utilities bills.

With our guide to the perfect boiler, your home will be warm, and your wallet full, in no time!

What’s your boiler type?

A boiler’s lifespan is usually 15 years, with some far more energy-efficient than others.

Find out how old and energy-efficient yours is by logging onto www.boilers.org.uk and typing in the boiler’s name and model number.

You can also determine what kind of boiler you have by looking at the flue (the pipe that carries the boiler’s exhaust outside the house) and what comes out of it:

• If the flue is made of plastic and releases steam when the boiler is on, you probably have a condensing boiler.

• If the flue is made out of metal and you can’t see any steam, your boiler is probably of the non-condensing variety.

Condensing boilers

Condensing boilers are the golden egg of modern home-heating systems. They’re easy to fit and tend to be highly efficient, with A-rated condensing boilers racking at least 90% efficiency ratings, compared to older boilers, which can convert just 60% of their fuel into heat*.

Because A-rated condensing boilers use a third less fuel than older boilers, they cut your heating bills and CO2 emissions by a third* - great for your savings and the planet!

And that’s why, by law, all new central heating boilers fitted in the UK must now be condensing boilers.

The 3 types of condensing boilers

Condensing boilers work for both oil and gas-heated homes and come in three varieties: regular, system and combination (combi).

1. Regular condensing boilers heat hot water and then store it in a hot water cylinder. They’re best suited for homes with family-sized central heating systems.

2. System condensing boilers are for similar-sized homes, but their heating and hot water components are already built in. Installation is quicker and easier.

3. Combination (combi) boilers combine instant hot water heating with central heating in one boiler, taking water directly from the mains. There’s no need for a hot water cylinder and by only heating up as much hot water as you need, you’ll save on costs. They suit small homes with good mains pressure.

The best boiler for you

The type and size of your new boiler will depend on many factors such as the size of your home, how well insulated it is, and the kind of fuel you use. If you’re unsure which to go for, ask a qualified installer, such as a CORGI or Competent Persons Scheme technician.

Under control

Most of us waste oodles of energy keeping our homes too hot. Correct heating controls could save up to 17% of your heating bill on your existing boiler, or up to 40% if you buy a new one*.

Keep your room thermostats set to between 18°C and 21°C and your hot water cylinder thermostat to 60°C (140F). And by lowering your room thermostats by just 1°C you could save yourself £40 a year*!

Top tip: Make sure your boiler’s working properly. Get it serviced every year to ensure it heats your home the way it should.

* All statistics are taken from the Energy Saving Trust.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Now that all of the ‘big six’ energy companies have cut their prices, here are six reasons why right now could be a great time to switch.

1

nPower’s recent energy rate cut – 7.5% for electricity customers – means that all the major UK suppliers have dropped their prices since the start of 2009. So if you’re with nPower, British Gas, EDF, E.ON, ScottishPower, or Scottish & Southern then your bills could be about to drop – but only if you’re on the right tariff.

Finding a cheaper tariff is easy these days with the energy comparison sites. Enter a few details into simple online forms and you’ll see all your local energy options appear onscreen within seconds. And if like most energy customers you haven’t switched in a while, there’s a very good chance you can slash your energy bills by even more than the announced cuts.

For many, the chance to save up to £252* on their gas and electricity bill is all the reason they need to switch energy provider, but just in case one reason’s not enough, here are…

…The Big 6 Reasons to Switch Right Now

1. Save up to £252*
nPower, British Gas, EDF, E.ON, ScottishPower and Scottish & Southern have announced rate cuts, but some have cut more than others. Therefore, even if you're with one of these providers you could save even more by switching.

2. Lower your standards
If you're on a standard tariff then you're almost certainly paying too much. Don't believe us? Then compare energy prices right now to see what you could be paying.

3. Get online!
You could further increase savings by signing up to an online tariff. Posting bills and waiting for cheques to clear costs energy providers time and money, and they're willing to offer discounts if you agree to paperless billing and paying by direct debit.

4. Colder weather = more savings
Summer is still a way off, and as people use more energy during the colder months, switching to a cheaper tariff now means you'll save even more.

5. FREE smart meter
If you switch to a First:Utility tariff, they’ll install a smart meter for free. Ofgem want to have a smart meter in every household by 2020, so here’s your chance to beat the deadline by a dozen years. Plus, monitoring your energy consumption more closely means you could save as much as 15%** off future bills.

So now you’ve read our big six reasons to switch energy supplier, you’ll probably want to get straight to it, in which case, just follow the link below to see how much you could save.

*Customers who switched gas and electricity (dual fuel) between 1st January 2008 and 31st

December 2008 saved on average £252.37.
**Estimate by statutory body Consumer Focus.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

A Guide to Generating Domestic Renewable Energy

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Understanding and harnessing the power of nature in your own home

If you want to go green and save money on your electricity bill, why not start generating power yourself. With this simple guide can we show you how to become a green energy generator as well as a consumer.

What is renewable energy?

Renewable power harnesses inexhaustible natural resources – such as energy from the sun, wind, core heat and water – instead of exhaustible ‘conventional energy’ resources such as coal, oil and natural gas.

For several years consumers have been able to buy green energy from the power companies, but these days it’s possible to start generating the green stuff yourself – and you could even receive help with the costs.

So with a little investment and a little know-how, you could turn your fossil fuel-dependent home into a green-energy palace.

SOLAR POWER

Solar power uses the energy of the sun to create electricity or to heat water for your home.

How do solar panels work?

The sun’s energy is trapped by solar panels that use special photoelectric cells to convert light energy into electricity.

Solar panels don’t need strong sunlight to function, just regular daylight will do. However, long hours of strong sunlight will obviously generate more power than a grey winter’s day.

The beauty of solar panels is that the power they generate can be used straight away or linked back into the power grid – so if you happen to produce more than you need, you can sell it back to an energy provider.

What’s involved?

Solar panels can be installed on roofs and conservatories – basically anywhere that can hold some weight and attract light. They can range from grey solar tiles (that resemble roof tiles) to transparent cells that can be fitted on conservatories.

What’s the cost?

The cost you pay depends on whether you opt for solar tiles or panels. Solar tiles have a higher price tag than conventional panels, but you can expect to pay around £5,000 to £8,000 per kilowatt (kW) yield, with most homes requiring 1.5 to 3kW.

WIND TURBINES

Today’s modern wind turbines can be found on rooftops or as part of large windfarms around the world.

The world’s biggest proposed windfarm, the London Array, is set for development just 20 km off the coast of Kent and Essex. It will consist of 341 turbines and create 1,000 megawatts of energy – enough to power one-third of London homes and save millions of tonnes of CO2 every year when it opens in 2010.

How do wind turbines work?

When wind moves the blades of a wind turbine, an internal rotor spins, and electricity is generated. The faster the blades turn the more electricity is produced, which is why wind turbines are best located on a mast or tower, ideally on a hill with clear exposure to the wind.

What’s involved?

Wind turbines are suited to homes with an annual average wind speed of 6 metres per second or more, and where there is no obstruction from nearby buildings, trees or hills to block the wind.

What’s the cost?

Depending on whether you install it on a mast or a roof, you can expect to pay anything between £1,500 to £20,000 for a turbine, mast, inverters, battery storage (if required) and installation – depending on the size and system.

However, the turbine should last over 20 years, requiring checks every so often and battery changes every six to 10 years.

Any surplus electricity produced by the turbine can be sold to an electricity company and fed into the national grid.

Is there funding available?

Domestic renewable energy isn’t cheap, and returns aren’t necessarily that fast, but you can apply for Government funding to help pay your way to a greener home.

To qualify for a grant, you’ll first need to get planning approval from the council. Your home must also be have at least 270mm of loft installation (or cavity wall insulation), low-energy light bulbs throughout, and basic controls for your heating system including room thermostat and programmer or timer.

The amount of funding varies on technology, with up to £2,500 for any one property available for up to three different green technologies. All you have to do is contact the Low Carbon Buildings Programme to apply for an online grant or contact the Energy Saving Trust to find out more.

There are also other ways to apply for funding. One is through Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs), or other green energy certificates, which entitle you to money for generating energy. Your local council or Regional Development Agency may also have monies you can access.

Failing that, some banks offer green loans to help you make eco-friendly changes to your home, such as installing microgeneration projects.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

A guide on how to deal with a gas leak in your home

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If horror stories of gas explosions leave you tossing and turning in your bed, fear not. There are ways to keep your home safe from gas leaks - and it doesn’t involve cooking over an open fire!

As household boilers, gas fires, most central heating systems and many ovens are fuelled by gas, leaks do sometimes occur. So just in case your home does suffer a gas leak, follow these safety guidelines on what to do if you smell something whiffy…

1. Use your nose

Your nose is your personal gas alarm. Domestic gas doesn’t actually have a smell, energy providers add it to the supply to enable you to sniff a gas leak out straight away. So always be aware of the smell of gas.

Got a blocked nose? Lost your sense of smell? You’ll still be able to tell if there’s a gas leak in your home. Physical symptoms can include: dizziness, fatigue, nausea, headaches and irregular breathing. So, if you find this happening to you when you’re inside but not out, you could have a gas leak.

2. Don’t be a bright spark

Don’t operate any electrical switches or create any flames, this includes flicking on a light switch and making sure you’ve turned off the cooker – and don’t even think about lighting a cigarette indoors!

3. Ventilate the property

Open windows and external door immediately to allow the gas to dissipate as quickly as possible.

4. Turn off gas at the meter

Not sure where the meter is? Then make it a priority to find out. Call your gas supplier if you need help locating it.

5. Call for professional help

Don’t attempt to sort the problem out yourself. Call for suitably qualified help immediately. Phone the National Gas Emergency Service on 0800 111 999.

6. Evacuate if necessary

If you have an unventilated basement or cellar that has a strong smell of gas, evacuate everyone from the building immediately. If the smell is overpowering in other areas of your home, you may also want to wait for help outside – but only after implementing the preceding safety measures.

7. Tell the neighbours

Let your neighbours know if you think they may be affected by the leak – it’s better to be safe than sorry!

8. Wait for the all clear

If you’ve evacuated the premises, don’t let anyone (apart from the person sent to repair the leak, of course) back into the property. Wait to be given the all clear before going back inside.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Five Top Tips to Spring Clean Your Finances

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Each month we hand over hundreds of pounds to gas and electricity providers, phone companies, mobile operators and broadband networks without checking whether we are getting value for money on these services. Here’s our guide to saving money on five of your regular monthly outgoings.

1. Save money on Gas & Electricity

The price of utilities rocketed sky-high last year, and many of us saw our bills go through the roof, but it's been a very different story in 2009, as all the “big six” suppliers have cut their prices. While this is good news for energy customers, you can’t afford to sit back, as now is the time to act.

If you’ve never switched gas and electricity supplier, you are likely to make the biggest savings, but even if it’s been a while since you last switched, there may be a better deal out there for you. And with savings of up to £252* up for grabs, what are you waiting for? It’s time to check out the best buy tables to find the best tariff for your usage.

Top tips
• Move to an online tariff and pay by direct debit
• Consider switching to a dual fuel plan
• Check your energy bills and do your own meter readings to make sure they’re correct
• Get more energy efficient by fitting a new boiler or energy-saving light-bulbs

2. Save money on Broadband

Broadband prices have fallen dramatically in the past few years, so if you signed up to your provider more than a year ago, you may well be paying over the odds. Shop around to compare download speeds and download limits – especially if you play a lot of online games or download large music or video files – and make sure you know the full details of the contract before signing on the dotted line.

3. Save money on Home Phone

The recent increase in BT line rental charges has put pounds on the annual cost, so act now to check you’re not paying over the odds for your home phone. With a myriad of firms to choose from, it can be tricky finding your way through the maze of tariffs, call rates and connection charges to identify the best deal, but invest a bit of time and effort in shopping around and you could soon knock pounds off your bill.

4. Save money on TV, Broadband & Phone Bundles

Many telephone and internet providers now offer several services “bundled” together at a discount price, and some even include digital television. Check out these bundle deals as they can often offer the best value for money – though read the small print to make sure you’re aware of hidden charges before signing up.

5. Save money on Mobile Phones

Mobile phone costs can take a hefty chunk out of your monthly budget, so take a look at old bills and if you regularly exceed your monthly allowance, switch to a better package with your current provider. At the end of your contract, don’t just stick with the same tariff - click onto the best buy tables to find out if there’s a better deal available elsewhere.

ends

* Customers who switched gas and electricity (dual fuel) with Confused.com between 1st January 2008 and 31st December 2008 saved on average £252.37.

Monday, 11 May 2009

5 Top Tips to Save you Money when you Work from Home

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How to pinch pennies on your gas and electricity when the office is the room next door

There’s nothing like rolling straight out of bed and into the office. And when ‘the office’ is actually just a bedroom away, it’s easy to get to work in your favourite dressing gown with a cup of tea in hand.

While working from home has its obvious advantages, there are disadvantages too: any house that doubles as an office can end up costing you more than you bargained for. That’s if you want to stay warm anyway!

So how can you save on your gas and electricity bills while working from home?

1. Get a tax break

If you regularly work from home, you’re entitled to tax breaks that can help you recoup some of the costs incurred by having your home double as an office.

A guideline rate, set up by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), allows employees a £3 per week payment for gas and electricity costs.

This rate is only a guideline and doesn’t require you to keep tabs on additional expenditure. If your costs are more than £3 a week, you’re entitled to ask for more. For more info, take a look at the HMRC website.

2. Change your energy provider

You could save up to £252* just by changing your gas and electricity provider, so it’s worth taking a look at what suppliers are in your area. Remember, some of the best deals can be found over the internet, so compare gas and electricity online.

3. Look into Economy 7

Economy 7 is an electricity tariff that uses cheaper overnight electricity to heat your boiler and charge up storage heaters. They are then used to heat your home and provide hot running water during the day when energy is more expensive.

All UK energy companies have off-peak hours during which time their electricity is cheaper to use. The exact hours vary but an Economy 7 tariff will run for a seven-hour period (hence the name) sometime between midnight and 8.00am.

Economy 7 is a savings solution for people that are home during the day (home workers, pensioners etc.), and who therefore need daytime hot water and heating. The main drawback is that the stored energy will slowly run out as the day rolls on, and could all be gone before nightfall. If this happens, you’ll have to tap into expensive, peak time energy if you want your heat/hot water back – until the Economy 7 hours kick in again.

4. Turn your thermos down

Try not to heat up the house like it’s Bermuda. The Energy Saving Trust’s website reports that turning your thermostat down by just 1° C could save you 10% on your heating bills. If this leaves you cold, try putting a jumper on – a much cheaper option.

5. Follow the light

The beauty of a laptop is that you can move it around where the light is – sunlight, that is! Following the sun’s movements throughout your house will keep your household lighting bills down and give you a bit of exercise. That way you’ll help your savings and earn those chocolate biscuits with your cuppa!

For more tips on cutting the cost of your gas and electricity, read our guide, reduce energy use and fuel bills.

*Customers who switched gas and electricity (dual fuel) with Confused.com between 1st January 2008 and 31st December 2008 saved on average £252.37.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Have you Reached Boiling Point? Confused.com’s Guide to the Perfect Boiler

0

- Save money and energy with a boiler that’s right for your home -

Boilers are vital to any home: they keep rooms warm, water hot and inhabitants happy.

But not all boilers are born equal. By switching to a new, high efficiency condensing boiler, you could cut your carbon footprint by nearly two tonnes and save as much as £275 a year* on utilities bills.

With Confused.com’s guide to the perfect boiler, your home will be warm, and your wallet full, in no time!

What’s your boiler type?

A boiler’s lifespan is usually 15 years, with some far more energy-efficient than others.

Find out how old and energy-efficient yours is by logging onto www.boilers.org.uk and typing in the boiler’s name and model number.

You can also determine what kind of boiler you have by looking at the flue (the pipe that carries the boiler’s exhaust outside the house) and what comes out of it:

• If the flue is made of plastic and releases steam when the boiler is on, you probably have a condensing boiler.

• If the flue is made out of metal and you can’t see any steam, your boiler is probably of the non-condensing variety.

Condensing boilers

Condensing boilers are the golden egg of modern home-heating systems. They’re easy to fit and tend to be highly efficient, with A-rated condensing boilers racking at least 90% efficiency ratings, compared to older boilers, which can convert just 60% of their fuel into heat*.

Because A-rated condensing boilers use a third less fuel than older boilers, they cut your heating bills and CO2 emissions by a third* - great for your savings and the planet!

And that’s why, by law, all new central heating boilers fitted in the UK must now be condensing boilers.

The 3 types of condensing boilers

Condensing boilers work for both oil and gas-heated homes and come in three varieties: regular, system and combination (combi).

1. Regular condensing boilers heat hot water and then store it in a hot water cylinder. They’re best suited for homes with family-sized central heating systems.

2. System condensing boilers are for similar-sized homes, but their heating and hot water components are already built in. Installation is quicker and easier.

3. Combination (combi) boilers combine instant hot water heating with central heating in one boiler, taking water directly from the mains. There’s no need for a hot water cylinder and by only heating up as much hot water as you need, you’ll save on costs. They suit small homes with good mains pressure.

The best boiler for you

The type and size of your new boiler will depend on many factors such as the size of your home, how well insulated it is, and the kind of fuel you use. If you’re unsure which to go for, ask a qualified installer, such as a CORGI or Competent Persons Scheme technician.

Under control

Most of us waste oodles of energy keeping our homes too hot. Correct heating controls could save up to 17% of your heating bill on your existing boiler, or up to 40% if you buy a new one*.

Keep your room thermostats set to between 18°C and 21°C and your hot water cylinder thermostat to 60°C (140F). And by lowering your room thermostats by just 1°C you could save yourself £40 a year*!

Top tip: Make sure your boiler’s working properly. Get it serviced every year to ensure it heats your home the way it should.

To save even more money, compare gas and electricity deals with Confused.com.

* All statistics are taken from the Energy Saving Trust.