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How to find the best energy efficiency information and advice for your home

Posted by Linn Rafferty on 29 January 2010 at 9:24 am

Making your home as energy efficient as possible makes sense for many reasons. Whether it's keeping warm, reducing bills or reducing carbon pollution emitted. YouGen is a first resource for many householders, but it's worth looking at where else you can go for help and advice on energy efficiency too.

Generally, what is available falls into two categories: information and advice.  There are plenty of free information sources, but not much on offer if what you are looking for is a home visit from an energy adviser.  In this article I will quickly review some of the options in these categories, and will look in more depth at some paid-for services in a future article.

Information

  • internet research / manufacturer / supplier / installer. These are easy to contact, but you need to know what improvements you are considering before you can get any information via these routes.  There is always some doubt about the accuracy of information gained via these routes, too.
  • The Energy Saving Trust (EST) is a good source of trustworthy information, but again, you need to have an idea of what improvements to consider. If you don't have any idea where to start, you can do an online Home Energy Check, where you input some information about your home and get a customised report making suggestions for improvements you could make.
  • Energy supplier – their websites contain some useful energy saving tips, and most also offer an online energy check similar to the EST. Again, some people are doubtful of the accuracy of information provided by their energy supplier, and there is always the suspicion that they intend to sell products rather than give impartial information. The results of the online energy check are likely to differ, depending which website you use!   All energy suppliers, except the very smallest, are obliged to provide energy efficiency advice over the telephone, and to subsidise energy efficiency improvements via the Carbon Energy Reduction Target (CERT) scheme.  Usually, this means basic improvements like cavity wall and loft insulation, but some suppliers participate in local schemes offering more choice.
  • ESTACs – these are the EST advice centres, which are located all around the country.  Calling them on 0800 512 012 will connect you with the one local to you.
  • Supermarket / DIY / retailer – the DIY sheds are becoming better sources of advice than in the past, alongside their earlier role as good value suppliers of insulation.  Their DIY insulation materials are now even cheaper, as a result of the CERT funding from energy suppliers, mentioned above. The price reduction is big enough for Ofgem (who oversee the CERT scheme) to introduce monitoring, in order to prevent professional insulation installers from buying these low cost supplies!  Doing this would result in double counting of insulation  measures being installed in CERT, reducing the money available for real measures, so it is not allowed. You may be surprised to learn that your local supermarket or retailer is now in the business of selling you insulation alongside their other offers.  Some, like the Co-op, have always been known for their efforts in energy efficiency, but others, M&S for instance, are more recent converts.

Home Visit / Advice

Home visits for the purpose of providing energy advice are rare. A few possible sources are listed below, but they are not all available all over the country:

  • Local council schemes – contact your local authority and ask to speak to the energy conservation team.
  • London only – Green Homes Concierge (available now) and EST Home Action Plan (a pilot which ran last year, and may be repeated).
  • Warm Front -  a government scheme that provides a home survey followed by free installation of some specific improvements if you receive qualifying benefits, or a benefit health check and energy advice if you don't.
  • Organisations that have signed up to the Code of Practice for Domestic Energy Advice. The Code website allows you to search for providers, but note that the members can sign up to the Code in different categories, only one of which covers home visits.
  • A professional energy adviser. These are rare at the moment, but some ESTACs do offer home visits.
  • A professional DEA – much less rare, and often with plenty of time available due to the slump in the housing market.

I will look at the pros and cons of obtaining help and advice from these providers in a future blog post. 

About the author: @linniR is a consultant, a freelance writer and a Domestic Energy Assessor accredited with the NHER scheme, and she enjoys all three.  She tweets regularly on issues relating to energy efficiency and renewables and provides consultancy, especially in relation to training needs.

If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.

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Comments

1 comments - read them below or add one

Barry Nutley

Barry Nutley from Viridis Energie ConsultantsComment left on: 2 February 2010 at 4:52 pm

Great post Linn..

Personally, I always have a bit of an issue with "free" advice, be it from a website, or indeed any other source. Invariably, the "free" advice is given by someone who wants to sell something after it?!

Take IFA's (I'm not knocking them, I know very many good ones!), they give "free" advice, but they make money on selling an "investment". True, they have access to many different companies, but each of those companies offer different comission rates, and often have "specials" going on ?

Back to energy- How many websites can you find with "information" on "typical" savings to be made. These are often inflated, and don't represent the "typical" punter?

Even Government backed schemes and bodies offering free advice don't always get their figures right, and I often wonder where they "learnt" their trade. On several occasions I have visited clients interested in renewables in some way shape or form, who have had a visit from said people, and they've shown me  a report which shows some ludicrous suggestions on money savings. One that springs to mind was the 100ltr water butt that would save this company hundreds of £s a year and pay for itself within a couple of months!

I could go on with examples, but that would bore you!!!

My advice- If you really want good advice, then you may have to pay for it!!

 

 

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