Cold

Big Energy Saving Week: Households given fuel bill saving advice

Households across the United Kingdom are being encouraged to take steps to reduce their energy usage and save money on their fuel bills as part of a nationwide campaign.

Big Energy Saving Week (21st - 27th January), organised each year by Citizens Advice, aims to raise awareness of the simple steps we can all take to lower our energy bills through being more energy efficient.

OFTEC, which represents the oil heating industry, and the Federation of Petroleum Suppliers (FPS), the trade association for oil distributers, are official partners of Big Energy Saving Week and are encouraging oil households in the UK to think about their current energy consumption as well as offering money saving advice. 

Despite recent small increases in price, oil heated households in the UK continue to enjoy the cheapest fuel bills of all the main off-grid heating systems and are paying on average nearly £500 less than homes using LPG and over £800 less than those with electric storage heaters.

However, in the cold winter months, there are still ways households can reduce their spending costs even further, without having to turn down the heating.

As part of Big Energy Saving Week, OFTEC and FPS are urging households to consider:

  1. When was the last time I bled my radiator?

    • Bleeding your radiators will help to increase heating efficiency during cold weather.

  2. How old is my thermostat?

    • Many homes have a simple thermostat which sets one temperature for the whole house. Installing a more advanced system will enable you to set different temperatures for each room throughout the day and even control your heating remotely, saving money by only heating those you use.

  3. When was the last time I had my boiler serviced?

    • It is important that you service your boiler at least once a year, in particular during colder months and use an OFTEC (for oil and solid fuel) or GasSafe (for mains gas) registered technician. This will ensure it is working efficiently and help you avoid potential costly breakdowns.

  4. How much oil is left in the tank?

    • Make sure you check the level of oil in your tank on a regular basis as you may be using more in winter. We recommend that you plan in advance and tell your local FPS accredited heating oil supplier when you are running low; this will ensure you are prioritised by your supplier and that your tank is topped up in good time. If you are considering joining an oil buying group the FPS has a pros and cons guide which can be found at www.oilsave.org.uk

  5. Is my boiler the most efficient?

    • One out of three households still rely on an old, less efficient boiler. By purchasing a modern, condensing model you could potentially reduce your fuel bills by over 20%.

Malcolm Farrow, from OFTEC commented: "Households in the UK who use heating oil to keep warm have been making huge savings on their fuel bills over the past year due to the low price of oil. Despite recent increases, we expect this trend to continue throughout 2019.

"However, many households, particularly in more rural parts of the UK live in older homes which are often less energy efficient. Whilst not everybody can afford upgrading to the latest boiler technology, we hope that by encouraging consumers to think about their heating efficiency and take a few simple steps, they can enjoy further savings on their heating bills this winter."

FPS Technical Manager Tony Brown adds: "The cost of energy is a worry for many households and this week-long campaign points out all the many positive steps people can take to better manage their energy and reduce costs, as well as receive all the help they’re entitled to when it comes to grants and benefits such as Winter Fuel Allowance.

"Alongside general advice for consumers, such as comparing the prices of various energy suppliers and turning the thermostat down by just one degree to make a big 10 percent saving, there is a wealth of support specifically for the 1.5million UK off-grid energy users."

Households in England and Wales are urged to check on vulnerable neighbours and relatives following cold festive season

Following the cold festive period, households in England and Wales are being reminded to regularly visit vulnerable relatives, neighbours and friends to check they are keeping warm and well.

The warning comes after 50,100 excess winter deaths were recorded in England and Wales  during 2017/18*.

Those living in rural parts of England and Wales are more likely to struggle to keep warm during the winter season because their houses tend to be older and less well insulated, making them harder to heat effectively.

People living within these households are often at greater risk of developing health problems, such as respiratory conditions, which are made worse by cold temperatures. 

In response OFTEC, which represents the oil heating industry, is encouraging people to regularly check on older relatives and friends to ensure they are taking care of themselves over the colder months.

OFTEC has shared five top tips on things to look out for which could potentially save a life, as part of a free 'Keeping warm this winter’ guide. 

  1. Ensure main rooms are heated to at least 21C with other commonly used rooms kept to at least 18C

  2. Make sure the heating comes on at the correct time and radiators are turned off in unused rooms. You may also want to adjust the heating timers to match the weather conditions

  3. Check that nothing is blocking radiators as this reduces effectiveness

  4. If you use heating oil make sure there is plenty of oil in the tank. If it needs topping up, use a firm which is a member of the Federation of Petroleum Suppliers

  5. Check the boiler has recently been serviced by an OFTEC (for oil or solid fuel) or GasSafe (for mains gas) registered technician who has checked it is working correctly and efficiently. If it does breakdown over winter, visit www.oftec.org.uk to find the nearest local registered technician


Malcolm Farrow from OFTEC, commented: "This time of year can be a real struggle for many people, especially following the expensive festive period.  As a result, some households resort to turning down their heating in an effort to save money.

"However, this puts people at greater risk of developing health complications, especially if they are older and more vulnerable. This is reflected in the large number of excess winter deaths seen in England and Wales over recent years.

"With a high number of older and vulnerable people living in rural areas , it is more important than ever that we look out for our relatives, friends and neighbours to check they are keeping warm and their heating system is working correctly. This could be a regular visit or phone call to make sure they are ok."

More information and advice can be found at www.oftec.org and the 'Keeping warm this winter guide can be downloaded at http://bit.ly/KeepingWarmThisWinter. 



*Excess Winter Mortality Data, ONS November 2018

Safety Advice for Students Heading in to Rented Properties

Safety Advice for Students Heading in to Rented Properties

OFTEC has supplied some basic Gas and Oil safety guidelines to help protect students in their search for a rented property.

What is a Powerflush?

 

A Powerflush is a cleansing process which aims to remove deposits of sludge, rust and any other debris from your central heating system.

 

These contaminants, if left, can seriously affect the efficiency of a heating system and, in severe cases, a powerflush could be the only option available. Over time the water in your pipes, boiler and radiators deposits unwanted byproducts like rust. This rust (plus other dirt and debris) becomes an unpleasant, mud-like substance that professionals affectionately refer to as ‘sludge’.

Sludge in your heating system can cause to blockages and corrosion which will lead to both inefficiency and / or breakdown. In extreme cases it can be so damaging that a complete boiler replacement is needed.

When do you need a Powerflush?

If you carry out regular servicing and maintenance (professional servicing is recommended annually) then a preventative Powerflush should only be necessary every 5-6 years to clear debris and prevent significant blockages from taking hold.

However, this will vary depending on the system you have. For example, some boilers use copper heat exchangers rather than stainless steel which will corrode quicker.

IMPORTANT: If you are planning to replace your boiler it’s important that the engineer performs a Powerflush before the installation. Otherwise, you risk contaminating the new boiler with damaging sludge and debris that’s hanging around in the old pipework.

Get quote for a poweflush from Abbey Boilers here.

Signs you need a Powerflush

There are signs to look out for that suggest that all is not well in your central heating system.

  • Cold areas on radiators e.g. at the bottom
  • Excessive noise from the boiler or the heating system pump
  • Discoloured water when you bleed the radiators
  • Heating is slow to warm up
  • Cloudy tap water (limescale in system)
  • Some radiators struggle to heat up as well as others
  • Radiators cold but pipes are hot
  • Boiler regularly shuts down and needs restarting
  • No water escapes when you bleed a radiator
  • Noisy radiators and or / boiler
  • Small leaks in radiators.

If any of these problems sound familiar to you, it’s time to contact a professional engineer. While a Powerflush may be all that is required to get your heating back on track, unfortunately, it is not always that simple. A system may be so damaged that it is actually cheaper to replace rather than repair. If that’s the case you will need to consult with at least two professionals to make sure you’re getting the right solution at the best price.

What are the benefits of a Powerflush?

It’s not all doom and gloom; there are lots of positive reasons to get a Powerflush carried out too.

  • Radiators will heat up quicker
  • Radiators will get hotter
  • Quieter radiators / boiler
  • More energy efficient system = cheaper energy bills
  • Higher hot water temperatures
  • More reliable i.e. less chance of breakdown
  • Increase the life of your heating system.

How does a Powerflush work?

An engineer will connect a pump to your central heating system. If it’s a Combi it will be connected at the pump head but if it’s a system boiler it will be connected at the circulation pump. This pump will push special chemicals through the pipes, boiler and radiators.

This includes a chemical that will remove sludge and rust, a descaler to remove limescale and corrosion inhibitor to help prevent future rust from forming. The engineer will collect and dispose of any contaminated water, debris or particles that they remove from the system.

The engineer may also use special tools on the exterior of the radiator to dislodge stubborn blockages. They should be able to measure the temperature of your radiators before they have started work and then show you the improvement after the Powerflush.

The whole process can last anything from 6 – 10 hours depending on the number of radiators in your home, the age of the system and the severity of the sludge in the system. The engineer may find more problems than originally anticipated such as needing new parts to replace those that have been damaged beyond repair. Most Powerflush jobs can be completed in one day but some of the more severe cases may require longer.

A qualified engineer will be able to perform repairs, replacements and carry out a Powerflush.

Who should carry out a Powerflush?

Not all companies will perform a Powerflush to the same standard. There are a range of chemicals and equipment on the market and, as with all industries, there are providers with varying levels of expertise and attention to detail. Always check independent review sites and request customer recommendations. We recommend sourcing at least two quotes from professionals so you can compare costs.

Boiler Guide has a network of 5,000 reputable engineers across the UK and can provide you with up to 3 free of charge, no obligation, competitive quotes.

Can you perform a Powerflush without a professional?

Put simply, not really.

While there are Powerflushing kits for hire and instructional videos available on the internet, it’s a risky and complicated job. A professional will make a Powerflush look easy, clean and safe but the reality is it’s a job that has the potential to get very messy. Specialist chemicals and equipment should only be handled by those trained to do so.

It’s also possible that carrying out the work on your heating system by yourself may invalidate any manufacturer’s warranty you have. A professional engineer will provide you with a certificate to prove that the Powerflush has been carried out. This is crucial if you need to evidence to a manufacturer or insurance provider that you have had all work carried out by a professional. Get quotes.

Finally, if the work is completed incorrectly it could cause more damage than you had to begin with.

NOTE: Installing a magnetic filter will not deliver the same benefits as a Powerflush procedure, but it can protect a system (that is still working well) from future sludge blockages.

How much will a Powerflush cost?

There are lots of factors that will affect the price of a Powerflush such as size and complexity of the heating system, not to mention any incidental troubleshooting that crops up. A Powerflush can cost anything between £300 to £1000+ but will also vary from engineer to engineer. Sometimes there will be additional costs like extra descaler chemicals or replacing the TRVs.

It is important that your central heating system is as efficient as it can be at all times and, although a Powerflush can be an expensive process, it can also save a lot of money over time in reduced heating bills.

Is a Powerflush always the solution?

In some particularly severe cases you may find it is actually more cost effective to replace the system than carry out a Powerflush. A Powerflush will not fix broken parts. If a blockage has caused a part to break that will add time and cost to the job to get the system back to optimum performance. A professional will be able to advise you if this is the case.

Households could be missing out on significant fuel bill savings

Households could be missing out on significant fuel bill savings

Apr 4 2018 3:15 PM

With the warm weather hopefully on its way, households are being urged to ‘spring clean’ their heating system to avoid missing out on significant savings.

The recent ‘Beast from the East’ double storm emphasised the importance of keeping your heating system in tip top shape. Now the weather has started to settle down, it’s a good time to check everything is working efficiently to ensure you make the most of the savings on your fuel bills during the warmer months.

In response OFTEC, which represents the oil heating industry, has issued a spring cleaning checklist to help people cut energy costs over the warmer months:

  1. Adjust your heating timers. Check the heating is coming on at the correct time, especially if you changed the ‘On/Off’ times to heat your home for longer during the cold weather.
     
  2. Turn off individual radiators. Ensure you aren’t wasting money heating rooms you aren’t using. Also check the radiator temperatures in your main rooms if these were set higher during the cold weather.
     
  3. Make sure you have enough heating oil. You may have used more oil than usual during the prolonged cold snap. Check how much you have left and top up early to avoid any emergency deliveries. We recommend you use an FPS fuel supplier.
     
  4. Have your boiler serviced. The sub-zero temperatures this winter mean that your boiler and heating system will have been working very hard. Have the system checked over by a GasSafe (for mains gas) or OFTEC (for oil) registered technician who will ensure it is working correctly and to maximum efficiency. Abbey Boilers do LPG, Gas and Oil annual services


Malcolm Farrow from OFTEC, said: “During the unusually cold weather many households will have ramped up the use of their heating systems and made significant adjustments to the controls to keep warm, especially if they spent more time at home due to the snow.

“It’s easy to forget about these changes and you might not even notice issues such as your heating coming on whilst you are asleep or out of the house. However, this oversight could be costing you quite a bit of money which is why we are reminding households of the benefits of making a few quick checks as part of a usual spring clean. 

“Boilers should also be serviced annually by a registered GasSafe or OFTEC technician to ensure maximum efficiency and realise cost savings. This is more important than ever following the extreme cold spell we have recently seen, where many of our registered technicians were called out to fix broken down boilers that hadn’t received a recent service. Having your boiler checked by a professional can identify potential issues before they happen and help avoid facing the same difficulties next winter.”

For more information and advice, visit www.oilsave.org.uk.



Malcolm Farrow