How to keep a warm home and save money on energy bills in Brighton & Hove

It's a shocking fact that despite being the fifth richest country in the world, there are 3.5 million UK residents who cannot afford their heat and power costs.

In Brighton and Hove, it's a challenge that BHESCo works hard to improve. However, with energy costs expected to stay high for many years, we know that the crisis will get worse before it gets better.

Read on to find out what help and support is available for residents of Brighton & Hove.

Why are energy bills going up?

Over the last few years an energy crisis has affected every home and business across the UK. 

The covid pandemic and the war in Ukraine have disrupted global supply chains and caused a massive spike in energy prices. 

The instability of the energy market has caused 28 energy companies to go out of business, impacting over 2 million customers and adding to the cost of everybody’s energy bills. 

When will energy bills come down?

The good news is that the wholesale costs of energy are already starting to come down. 

However, this will not be passed on to domestic energy customers for many months. 

Estimates from energy experts Cornwall Insights predict that energy prices for customers will come down from Summer 2023. However, whilst prices are expected to fall below the record highs experienced during winter 2022-23, they will likely still be double what they were before the pandemic. 

The UK energy crisis and what customers can do

BHESCo’s advice to households is to focus on reducing energy costs by installing energy saving measures in the home and being frugal with heating where possible.

Installing simple, affordable energy saving measures will help to make your home more thermally efficient, keeping in the heat which comes from your radiators, and preventing warm air from escaping. Not only will this lead to a warmer and more comfortable home, it will reduce the amount of money you spend on energy bills, because you will not need to use so much.

Some simple energy saving measures you may wish to consider include:

Switching tariff or supplier

Should you choose a fixed tariff?

Before the UK energy crisis, it was always a good idea to choose a fixed energy tariff that would secure your prices for 12 months or more. Fixed tariffs were typically cheaper than variable tariffs, and you could be sure that you would be saving money compared to staying on a variable tariff. 

Nowadays, it is not so simple. 

For people on a variable tariff prices will fall 17% from 1st July 2023 and they are predicted to fall again by 7% in October, before rising by 1% in January. 

For this reason, it is best to wait until October before considering choosing a fixed rate tariff. 

Should you switch your energy supplier?

In past years there have always been savings to be gained by comparing your energy tariff against others on offer and switching to one that is cheaper. This could be either with another energy company, or simply to another tariff within your existing supplier.

However, due to the unprecedented rise in wholesale gas costs, every energy company in the UK has set its prices as high as they are allowed to under the energy price cap.  

All of the energy companies currently have their variable tariff set as high as they can go under the energy price cap, so there is no difference in cost between suppliers. 

Due to the expected continued market volatility, it is generally advised that customers stay with their current supplier for the immediate future, at least until October 2023. 

Do you need help with your energy bills?

If you are struggling to afford to pay your gas and electric bills this winter then please get in touch with BHECo’s energy advisors as soon as possible.

There are many ways that we can provide support, such as finding you a cheaper tariff, helping you apply for the Warm Home Discount, or installing free energy saving measures in your home.

Send us your details using the form below and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

What help is available for people in Brighton & Hove?

Warm Home Discount

The Warm Home Discount scheme is a government initiative to help people who may be struggling to pay their energy bills. This initiative could get you up to £150 off your electricity bill, or £150 of vouchers if you have a Pay As You Go meter. 

Eligibility is based on your financial circumstances and the energy rating of your home. Government-held data is used to identify low-income and high-energy-cost households. Data is matched on benefits and Tax Credit receipt, which is held by DWP, property characteristics, provided by the Valuation Office Agency (VOA

To qualify your home must be considered 

  • You get the Guarantee Credit element of the Pension Credit.
  • Your are on a low income and meet your energy company’s criteria.
Eligible customers will be automatically registered for the scheme this year and you do not need to apply, as was the case previously.

The Fuel Bank Foundation

The Fuel Bank Foundation is an organisation that provides emergency fuel vouchers for people who can’t afford to top up their prepayment gas and/or electricity meters. 

Since it was launched in 2015, Fuel Bank Foundation has helped more than half a million people and provided £6.7m worth of fuel vouchers to support vulnerable families and individuals. 

The Fuel Bank can be found in selected foodbanks and other agencies across the UK and can provide approximately two weeks’ worth of fuel to clients who use a prepayment meter.

BHESCo is registered partner of the Fuel Bank Foundation and can make referrals on behalf of clients who are at risk of running out of electric or gas. 

Brighton Lions Club - Project Wenceslas

The Brighton Lions Club is a local organisation that supports Project Wenceslas; a campaign to alleviate fuel poverty within Brighton and Hove. 

Donations are made to the Brighton Lions Club and then are distributed to vulnerable people within the local area through requests made by agencies such as Citizens Advice, Age UK and BHESCo.

Brighton & Hove City Council Local Discretionary Fund

Brighton & Hove City Council offer a Local Discretionary Fund for those who are struggling to make ends meet. This fund will not provide cash, but will provide you vouchers. The Local Discretionary Fund can be used to help with:

  • Buying food and groceries
  • Paying for gas and electricity if you pay for it by key card or meter
  • Essential home items such as: beds, cookers or fridges
  • Other support you could need

To be eligible for this Fund you must:

  • Live in Brighton & Hove
  • Be eligible for benefits or tax credits or Council Tax reduction
  • Meet one of the following criteria:
    • you are leaving a place of care, prison or temporary supported housing and need help establishing a home
    • without the items you apply for, you would not be able to remain living independently without the need of formal care
    • you have a need that has come as a result of an emergency or disaster and you or a family member will be at risk if this need is not met
    • you need help to pay for essentials you can’t live without this winter

To apply for this fund, please go to the following website and fill in their application: https://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/benefits/help-and-support/get-emergency-help-food-energy-bills-and-other-essentials

If you would like further information or have any questions, please contact the Discretionary Help and Advice team:

  • by phone on 01273 293 117, option 1
  • email at LDSF@brighton-hove.gov.uk

Energy Debt

Energy arrears are a ‘priority debt’ which means you need to pay them before debts like credit cards because they could have more serious consequences (disconnection from energy supply).

Non-priority debts include for example payday loans, water bills, unsecured bank loans, credit card debts. There are less serious consequences if you can’t pay these debts, however, you could still face legal action if you don’t deal with them.

If you’re struggling to afford your gas and electricity bills, contact your supplier to discuss ways to pay what you owe them. If you pay for your energy after you use it, for example by monthly direct debit or quarterly bill, you could agree on a payment plan with your supplier and pay off your debts in instalments.

You’ll pay fixed amounts over a set period of time, meaning you’ll pay what you can afford. The payment plan will cover what you owe plus an amount for your current use. If you can’t afford to top up your meter you can get temporary credit. Your supplier might add the temporary credit to your meter automatically, but if they don’t, you should ask for it as soon as you can. You’ll pay back a bit of the debt each time you top up your meter.

Anyone in the Brighton and Hove area who is struggling to manage their finances is welcome to contact BHESCo for advice and support. We can help to identify available financial support to help you pay off some or all of your debt. Different funding pots come and go throughout the year and we cannot guarantee that we will be able to help you at any given time. 

Priority Services Register

The Priority Services Register (PSR) is a free service provided by suppliers and network operators designed to give vulnerable customers access to the services they need. The list of services and benefits is quite long and varies by energy supplier. It could include anything from meter reading services at appropriate intervals to free gas safety checks, meter relocations, and assistance with billing (large-format or Braille bills). Individuals on the Priority Services Register can also expect advanced notices of interruptions to their service, and priority attention during a power cut.

There are no clear-cut definitions regarding who qualifies. You’ll normally be able to get priority services if your energy companies class you as ‘vulnerable’.

You could be classed as vulnerable if you are disabled or have a long-term health condition, are recovering from an injury, have mental health problems, have children under 5 or are pregnant, have reached your State Pension age.

Each energy supplier and/or network operator is responsible for maintaining its own Priority Services Register, subject to the definitions of vulnerability. No proof of your disability, impairment, or age is required, allowing more people to access PSR benefits.

You need to contact your energy supplier to get on the Priority Services Register since each energy supplier and network operator maintains its own register. 

Free Home Energy Surveys

Through a partnership with Brighton and Hove City Council, BHESCo offers free energy improvement surveys to people on a low income or who have a family member who is vulnerable to the cold.

We can visit your home and install energy saving measures for free such as low-energy lights, draught excluders, and secondary glazing.

Since the the service was launched in 2016, BHESCo’s Energy Saving Service has visited over 2,000 properties

Making energy efficiency improvements to your home

Making energy efficiency improvements to your home is the most effective way of reducing energy costs in the long-term.

It is important for private renters to be aware that there are Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards in place, which make it unlawful for a landlord to rent any property which has an Energy Performance Certificate rating (an EPC) of F or G.

You can read more about this here – https://bhesco.co.uk/blog/minimum-energy-efficiency-standards-mees.

Brighton and Hove Council Housing Energy Efficiency Plan

Brighton and Hove City Council are working towards becoming carbon neutral by 2030 which includes making council home more energy efficient which will in turn reduce the cost of energy bills. 

This has included the fitting of over 400 solar panel systems within council homes resulting in a reduction in carbon emissions from homes. Moreover, Brighton and Hove City Council have pushed for the replacement of old inefficient gas boilers in favour of more energy efficient equivalents.

The Warm Safe Home Grant

Funding is available to people on low incomes who wish to improve the energy efficiency of their homes. This can be a grant of up to £20,000 and can be used to fund electrical and gas safety checks including repairs, boiler repairs/replacements and loft and cavity wall insulations. These measures will all help drive the cost of energy bills down. 

Applications for this funding is managed through the Disabled Facilities Grants process, to find out more information about the Warm, Safe Home grant please contact the Disabled Facilities Grant team by emailing disabledfacilitiesgrant@brighton-hove.gov.uk or calling 01273 294366.

Great British Insulation Scheme

The Great British Insulation scheme will launch in Summer 2023 and is designed to support low-income earners with making energy improvements to their home. 

The Great British Insulation scheme is a £1 billion grant targeted at homes with a low energy efficiency rating and in lower Council Tax band areas.

The scheme will run from Summer 2023 until 2026 and will make up to £1,500 of grant funding available to qualifying households. The money will be offered as a grant and not a loan and does therefore not need to be paid back. 

To be eligible for the scheme you must:

  • Be living in a home with an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of D or below.
  • Be living in a home that falls within Council Tax bands A-D in England or A-E in Scotland and Wales.

Those who are eligible may receive a single insulation measure and a contribution may be required towards installation costs.

ECO4

ECO4 is an energy efficiency grant fund that is aimed at low-income homes. 

The scheme began in April 2022 and will run until March 2026.

Eligible households can apply for energy efficiency funding directly from their energy supplier.

ECO4 funding is available for several measures including:

1.Cavity Wall Insulation,

2. Gas Boiler Replacement/Upgrade,

3. First Time Gas Connection,

4. Heating Controls upgrade,

5. Loft/Room-in-Roof Insulation,

6. Solid Wall Insulation, External Insulation among others.

7. Electric storage heating

ECO4 is available to: Homeowners or Private Tenants, Individuals who get income-related benefits, Properties with inefficient electric heating.

You can check their eligibility and connect with your energy company, local authority or installers in your area at https://energysavinggenie.co.uk/apply-for-grants/

Warmer Homes Scheme

The Warmer Homes scheme provides a range of fully-funded energy- improvements for households including insulation, heating controls, air source heat pumps and solar panels.

The Warmer Homes Scheme is available to households across England who can meet the following criteria:

– Households should have a combined annual income of no more than £30,000, or have a total annual income of £20,000 or less after housing costs (mortgage/rent) 

– Homes to be improved should be currently rated as EPC D, E, F or G

There is a 100% subsidy for owner-occupiers (up to £10,000 if on gas heating, £25,000 is heated by electric/ oil/ LPG)

There is a two third subsidy available for social and private landlords (up to £5,000) – landlords need to find an additional 1/3 of the cost.

The programme is administered through Local Authorities and/ or companies like Agility Eco or other partners such as local community energy groups.

Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS)

The government will provide grants to encourage property owners to install low carbon heating systems such as heat pumps, through the Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS). These grants will help property owners overcome the upfront cost of low carbon heating technologies.

You can get one grant per property. Grants are available for:

  • £7,500 towards an air source heat pump
  • £7,500 towards a ground source heat pump (including water source heat pumps and those on shared ground loops)
  • £5,000 towards a biomass boiler

The scheme is open to domestic and small non-domestic properties in England and Wales. It will run from 2022 to 2025.

More – https://www.gov.uk/guidance/check-if-you-may-be-eligible-for-the-boiler-upgrade-scheme-from-april-2022

Low cost 'soft' measures

The UK has some of the least energy-efficient housing in Europe, meaning it can be very difficult for some families to keep their homes warm as heat escapes very easily due to the house itself not being energy efficient.

This is due to the fact most of the housing within the UK dates back to the 1990s or earlier when regulations on energy efficiency did not exist. To combat this, there are a range of ‘soft measures’ you can adopt to make your home more energy efficient which means you won’t need to use your heating as much.

For example, the use of draught excluders can cut your energy bills by 2%, which can amount to around £30 on average every year. Draught-proofing your chimney could also reduce your energy bills by 1.5%. Moreover, you can further insulate your windows with insulating film that will further aid in making your home more energy efficient.

Read our blog ‘Six quick and easy ways to save energy and stay warm this winter‘.

6 ways to save energy in your home brighton and hove - draught excluder strips
Adding simple low-cost energy saving measures to your property can make your home warmer and cheaper to heat

LEAP Programme

LEAP is a free service which aims to help people keep warm and consequently reduce their energy bills. LEAP operates through referrals made by food banks, Citizens Advice, health clinics, housing officers or local contact authorities who can refer anyone who is in fuel poverty. 

Once a referral has been made, an energy advisor from LEAP will contact you to discuss your situation and offer you tailored advice to your needs. This may result in an additional referral to a relevant organisation or a follow-up home visit.

BHESCo Energy Survey

A further option available to you would be to book an energy survey with BHESCo. We believe that home owners should maximise the energy efficiency of their own homes before investing in any renewable energy solutions. Through an energy survey our Energy Saving Team will conduct an on-site analysis in order to provide a through and detailed examination of the heating and powering of your property. Following on from this, a detailed report will be created recommending the most cost-effective solutions

This report will also measure and compare the reduction in demand we would expect installing different types of energy saving measures and other green energy solutions would result in.

To book an energy survey, please visit our dedicated webpage:

What can you do to cut down on your energy use?

The options available for reducing energy costs will differ from property to property, but here are a few ideas that might help you to reduce your ongoing energy bills:

Smart Meters

Smart meters are by far the most contentious issues within our talks about how to save money on energy bills while keeping a warm home.

The rollout of smart meters is considered to be a key pillar in the UK’s transition to a ‘Distributed Energy Network’, but there are actually both pros and cons regarding the use of these instruments.

Smart meters send a customer’s meter readings automatically to their energy supplier, meaning you never need to give a meter reading manually again. This will bring an end to the widespread practice of estimated billing and will ensure that energy customers are only billed for what they have actually used. Customers will also be given an ‘In Home Display’ which presents real time data on the cost of their energy. This can help to encourage a better understanding of energy saving behaviours.

help with energy bills brighton hove sussex bhesco
An In Home Display (IHD). Image: Smart Energy GB

The rollout of smart meters is considered to be a key pillar in the UK’s transition to a ‘Distributed Energy Network’, but there are actually both pros and cons regarding the use of these instruments.

Smart meters send a customer’s meter readings automatically to their energy supplier, meaning you never need to give a meter reading manually again. This will bring an end to the widespread practice of estimated billing and will ensure that energy customers are only billed for what they have actually used. Customers will also be given an ‘In Home Display’ which presents real time data on the cost of their energy. This can help to encourage a better understanding of energy saving behaviours.

Case Study - Sharif

BHESCo met Sharif at the Brighton Unemployment Centre where he explained his concerns about a recent energy bill which he was unable to pay. Having only recently arrived in the UK, his English was limited and understanding his bill was difficult.

To overcome the communication barrier, BHESCo enagaged the services of an Arabic translator. We arranged for Sharif’s bill to be paid by the Brighton Lions Club’s ‘Project Wenceslas’, which is a fund available to help pensioners and benefits recipients who are in fuel debt.

BHESCo also helped Sharif to switch to a cheaper supplier which would save him £350 over the year compared to his current tariff. We arranged to get a smart meter fitted, which means that Sharif does not have to give meter readings in the future and will always get an accurate bill.

Finally, BHESCo registered Sharif for the Priority Services Register for the reason of ‘non-English speaking’ which will help in future communications with his supplier.

BHESCo recognised with 'Heat Hero' award for fuel poverty work

In 2019, BHESCo were named as ‘Heat Heroes’ by the fuel poverty charity National Energy Action and were presented with an award at a ceremony held in the Houses of Parliament.

BHESCO-and-Caroline