More Energy Know How

By Sharon Smith, Community Energy Advisor

I met with A at Springwell Gardens community centre for a meeting that was arranged two weeks earlier.

A attends the Deaf Futures group that is held at Springwell each Friday and at an earlier session he had made colleagues aware he was struggling to understand his energy bills. A meeting was agreed, and a sign language interpreter was booked.

A was asked to take a picture of his electricity meter on the day the appointment was arranged and then again on the morning of the appointment and bring them with him along with his energy bills.

He lives in a 1-bedroom council bungalow in Thrybergh which he moved into in March 2022. As well as being deaf he has limited eyesight which makes using online sign language tools impossible and it’s impossible for him to contact his energy supplier as he struggles to use a phone. He does not have gas at the property and uses electricity for all heating, cooking, and hot water.

He had received a bill from British Gas for £366.84 and he believed this was wrong as it seemed very high. The bills he brought were looked at and placed in date order for him. He was struggling to understand why his bill was so high although he had paid all previous bills.

The readings he brought pictures of were 31151 (two weeks ago) and 31314 on the morning of our appointment – this equates to @ £30.00 per week usage including standing charges so his bill which was ‘estimated’ reflected this average usage for the billing quarter.

The bill which he thought was high was in fact ‘estimated’ however the estimate was lower than his actual usage – he had used quite a bit more electricity and had the meter been read (or when it is read at some point in the future) he will have used @ £300.00 more…

With the help of the sign language interpreter, Leanne we were able to explain this to A and also show him that his electricity bill from the same period last year was in fact over £500.00 however, as the government help scheme was still in place he received just over £200.00 towards this quarterly bill so it did appear on the face of it to be lower than this one.

We discussed his energy usage, and it appeared that he likes to spend a lot of time in the shower which is powered by electricity – he spends 10-15 minutes per day showering and has an electric oven and storage heaters. When asked if he knew how to turn down his thermostat on his heating system, he confirmed that he did.

A has been informed that when his meter is next read it will result in a large bill, so he is aware. He has been encouraged to pay this one as it is and then start to either put aside money in preparation for the upcoming large bill or pay weekly/fortnightly now towards it using an old bill which he can just take to the post office along with his cash.

He has been encouraged to turn down his heating thermostat a little and try to turn it off just a bit earlier, take a maximum of 4 minutes in the shower and consider buying an air fryer or slow cooker so that he is not using his oven every day.

Reducing his energy usage and paying a little towards the next large bill will hopefully help. He was given a hot water bottle to help him keep warm or use in his bed if he turns the heating off early. His bills were sorted into date order and placed in a plastic wallet for safe keeping.

He was very grateful that he received an explanation of the situation even though his bill will be much higher than what he has received he has the opportunity to reduce his usage before the next bill is due.