Home Energy

Energy bills are rising year on year. You could save energy, save money and keep warm and well if you check - switch - get smartinsulate - connect and access help to do this.

You could make even bigger long-term savings if you generate your own energy.

Why not see what we are doing as a council on home energy issues and find out about energy supply problems and emergencies?

Keep warm and well

Cold homes have a significant impact on people’s health. One of the best ways of keeping yourself well during winter is to stay warm.

Check

Contact your energy supplier to check you are on the best tariff and payment method for your circumstances, or if they can offer you any discounts to cut your bills.

Check that you are not missing out on any benefits, tax credits or help you may be entitled to, including the following energy- related support:

Cold Weather Payment [external link] 

  • You may get a cold weather payment if you’re getting certain benefits
  • Payments are made when your local temperature is either recorded as, or forecast to be, an average of zero degrees Celsius or below over 7 consecutive days
  • If you’re eligible you should be paid automatically. Tell your pension centre [external link] or Job Centre Plus office [external link] if you think you should have received a payment but haven’t. 

Priority Services Register

  • You may be eligible to sign up to your energy supplier’s Priority Services Register,  which offers extra free services to people who are of pensionable age, are registered disabled, have a hearing or visual impairment, or have long-term ill-health
  • Each energy supplier has its own Priority Services Register. If you get your gas and electricity from different suppliers, you’ll need to register with each one. If you  switch energy supplier, you will also need to register with your new supplier
  • For more information and detailed eligibility criteria contact your energy supplier

Warm Home Discount [external link] 

  • You could get a Warm Home Discount on your electricity bill if you are a pensioner on low income and if your supplier is part of the scheme
  • If you are not a Pensioner but are on a low income and have a disability, or long-term illness or children, you may be able to apply directly to your energy supplier for help, however each energy supplier has their own rules about who can get this help
  • You can also qualify for the discount if you use a pre-pay or pay-as-you-go electricity meter. Your electricity supplier can tell you how you’ll get the discount if you’re eligible. 
  • For more information and detailed eligibility criteria call 0845 6039439 (Monday – Friday, 8am – 6pm)

Winter Fuel Payment [external link] 

  • You could get a Winter Fuel Payment to help pay your heating bills if someone in  your household is of State Pension age during the qualifying week (which always  begins on the third Monday in September) or is on certain benefits
  • You usually get the Payment automatically from the organisation that pays your benefits. If you’ve not had the payment before or there is a change in circumstances you’ll need to contact the Winter Fuel Payment Centre 
  • For information and detailed eligibility criteria call the Winter Fuel Payment Centre on 08459 151515 (Monday – Friday,  8am – 6pm)

National Concessionary Fuel Scheme [external link]

  • You could get free solid fuel or a cash allowance for fuel if you’re an ex-employee of the National Coal Board (NCB) or British Coal Corporation (BCC)
  • Widows and widowers of ex-employees may also qualify
  • For more information and detailed eligibility criteria call the National Concessionary Fuel Office (NCFO) on 0845 759 0529 (Monday – Friday, 9am – 4pm)

If you are struggling to pay your energy bills or are in debt or in immediate need you may be eligible for the following support:

Fuel Direct [external link]

  • If you’re having difficulties managing your money and are on certain benefits, benefits payments can be used to help pay your fuel bills
  • Payment for current use of energy and debt is taken directly out of benefits by the  Department for Work and Pensions and given straight to your supplier. If you use  more than the amount deducted from your benefits, your debt will increase and so  will future payments.
  • Tell your pension centre [external link] or Job Centre Plus office [external link] if you want to apply

Social Fund

  • You could get funding towards paying your energy bills through the Social Fund if you are in immediate crisis or need, or require support to remain in the community/ move back into the community after a period in supported or unsettled accommodation
  • The Social Fund is a discretionary fund operated by Darlington Borough Council
  • For more information and detailed eligibility criteria call 01325 388514 or call in to Customer Services at the Town Hall

Darlington Borough Council’s Revenues and Benefits Section, Darlington Citizens Advice Bureau, Age UK Darlington HE-AT project, Darlington Credit Union as well as other local and national organisations can also provide you with further help and support. For more information visit the help section below.

Switch

You may be able to get your energy cheaper elsewhere. Shopping around for your energy supplier could save you as much as £200 a year if you have never switched before.

Join Darlington’s Big Community Switch for FREE and with no obligation to switch. 

If you decide to use a price comparison site to switch energy tariff or supplier, Ofgem, the energy regulator, has created a handy guide that will help you to go energy shopping [external link]

Speak to your landlord, Council Housing or Housing Association if you live in rented accommodation, as tenancy arrangements might affect your situation. Ofgem has a guide on your energy rights as a tenant [external link]

If you can, switch to monthly direct debit, where you pay a fixed estimate every month, to save up to 6% a year (MoneySavingExpert.com, 2013). Darlington Credit Union [external link] can help you set up an account to manage this.

If you use Oil or LPG for heating or cooking, join your local Community Oil and LPG buying scheme. Also covering the Darlington area, Durham Community Action’s Oil and LPG scheme could help you save money on your fuel bills. For more information call 01388 742 048

Details of other Community Oil buying schemes across the country are available from the Citizens Advice Bureau

If you decide you want to shop around for Oil or LPG yourself, get information on local suppliers from the national Trade Associations. FPS and OFTEC provide an Oil supplier search UKLPG provides a LPG supplier search

Get Smart

You could save money on energy by having a smart meter installed.

Between now and 2020 every home and microbusiness in Great Britain will be offered a new smart meter, installed by their energy supplier at no additional cost.

Smart meters are an upgrade to existing gas and electricity meters and are a great tool to help manage household energy bills.

Smart meters will allow you to see the gas and electricity you are buying, in real-time and in pounds and pence. Meter readings will also be sent automatically to your energy supplier, so bills will always be accurate.

This accurate information will also make it easier to compare gas and electricity tariffs and find the best deal in the market for you.

For anyone with a pre-payment meter the experience will be completely transformed. New ways to top up will be introduced such as over the phone or online and there will be no need to physically access the meter to top it up. You will also be able to switch between paying for energy by pre-payment or by direct debit without getting a new meter installed. 

Some energy suppliers are already installing smart meters, so get in touch with your energy supplier using the phone number on your bill to see when they will be available to you.    

Smart Energy GB provides more information on smart meters [external link].

Insulate

The average home in the UK wastes an estimated £280 a year, simply by not being energy efficient. (Energy Saving Trust, 2013).

The Energy Saving Trust provides FREE top tips on making your home more energy efficient [external link].

Warm Up North can help you save money on energy by making your home more energy efficient. Discounted insulation, boilers and other energy efficiency measures are available for eligible people in eligible property.

Speak to your landlord, Council Housing or Housing Association if you live in rented accommodation, as making energy efficiency improvements may require their permission.

Insulation and heating improvements should comply with building regulations and may require planning permission in some cases [external link]

If you live in a historic/traditional building, a listed building or in a conservation area, please check with our conservation officer before carrying out any energy efficiency improvements to your home.

Connect

Homes that are not connected to the mains gas network and use electricity, Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG), oil or other solid fuel for heating, generally pay more than those using mains gas.

Gas is one of the most cost effective ways to heat your home and water. It can help you lower your heating bills, it is clean and efficient and offers heating systems which are easy to control. It can also help the environment by reducing carbon emissions (CO2).

  • If you would like the benefits of gas and would like to get connected to the gas network, Community Energy Solutions (CES), in partnership with Northern Gas Networks, can arrange a FREE or reduced cost standard connection for qualifying households.
  • You could qualify if you are aged 70 or over, or you or your partner are in receipt of certain benefits, or you spend 10% or more of your annual income on heating your home or you live in a designated area
  • For more information and detailed eligibility criteria visit Community Energy Solutions website [external link] or call 0113 237 2720

If you are unable to connect to the mains gas network or prefer to burn solid fuel, check whether you are in a smoke control area, and if you are, that you are using authorised fuels or using exempt appliances, e.g. burners or stoves. If you are not, you could be fined for breaking the rules.

For more information see our section on Smoke Control Areas or contact our Environmental Health Team on 01325 388799

Generate

If you have made your home as energy efficient as you can, and want to go further and make longer term savings and even earn money, you could invest in generating your own low carbon or renewable energy. With Government financial incentives available, it’s never been a better time to install.

To decide which technologies are right for you, you need to consider your home’s location:

  • Solar PV and Solar Thermal – the way your roof faces
  • Solar Thermal, heat pumps and wood-fuelled – space inside and outside
  • Wind turbines – average wind speed
  • Hydroelectricity – whether you have a stream or river running past

You will also need to consider whether you want to generate heat, electricity or both:

  • Electricity –  Solar Panels (PV), wind turbines, hydroelectricity
  • Heat – Wood-fuelled heating, solar thermal (water heating), air source heat pumps, ground source heat pumps
  • Electricity and Heat – Micro CHP (Combined Heat and Power)

As well as cutting your energy costs, you could earn money through government incentives including the Feed-in Tariff (FIT) [external link] (for electricity) and the Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) [external link] (for heat).

The Energy Saving Trust [external link] provides advice on different renewable technologies and which may be right for you. For more information call the Energy Saving Advice Service on 0300 123 1234 (Monday – Friday, 9am – 8pm; Saturday 10am – 2pm).

Warm Up North provides some renewable measures through the Green Deal.

The Sadberge Renewable Energy Project [external link] set up a group purchase scheme for Sadberge households to install Solar PV.

Speak to your landlord, Council Housing or Housing Association if you live in rented accommodation, as making renewable energy improvements may require their permission.

Installation of low carbon/ renewable technologies should comply with building regulations and may require planning permission in some cases.

If you live in a historic/ traditional building, a listed building or in a conservation area, please check with our conservation officer before carrying out any energy efficiency improvements to your home.

Help

What we are doing

The Home Energy Conservation Act requires Local Authorities to publish a report by 31 March 2015 setting out the energy conservation measures that the authority considers practicable, cost effective and likely to result in significant improvement in the energy efficiency of residential accommodation in its area.

HECA further report [pdf document]

Energy supply problems and emergencies

Gas

If you smell gas/ fumes or your gas supply has gone off unexpectedly you should immediately call the National Gas Emergency number: Freephone 0800 111 999 (this is an out of hours emergency line). Minicom/Textphone for deaf or hard of hearing 0800 371787. They will deal with any report of a gas escape, free of charge.

You can also check Northern Gas Network’s log of current major gas loss incidents to see if there is an existing issue in your area [external link]

More information if you smell gas [external link]

Electricity

If you have an unexpected power cut call Northern Powergrid’s Northeast emergency number: Freephone 0800 66 88 77 (or from a mobile 0330 123 0877) (this is an out of hours emergency line). Textphone for deaf or hard of hearing 0800 169 1136. They will deal with any report of a power cut, free of charge.

You can also check Northern Powergrid’s postcode search tool to see if there is a known problem in your area [external link]

More information about powercuts [external link]

Carbon monoxide

Carbon monoxide is a colourless, tasteless, odourless gas, which can call cause sudden illness and death. Carbon monoxide is produced when carbon containing fuels (such as gas, oil and solid fuels) burn without enough oxygen.

To find out more visit our Carbon Monoxide webpage.

If you are a council house tenant

If you are a council house tenant, report any further work advised to the emergency repairs service: 01325 388542