Could you be entitled to £120 heating discount?

Heating discountsFinally, after years of enduring heating bills that bring us out in a cold sweat, there's some good news, 2 million people are set to get a discount on their bills which will be worth at least £120 this year.

But why, and are you entitled to the discount?
Warm Home Discount scheme
It's part of the Warm Home Discount scheme, which forces energy companies to massively increase the amount they offer in discounts to those in particular need. They will have to pay out rebates of £1.1 billion over the next four years, which is roughly three times the amount they pay at the moment.

Rebates will only be made to the most vulnerable households - including those on very low incomes, disabled people, and the long term sick.

The plan is being brought in because energy bills have reached crisis point. There's every chance that there will be a national scandal soon as the numbers forced to turn the heating off increase, and the numbers of deaths linked to the cold start to rise.

The Energy Secretary, Chris Huhne, said: "The Warm Home Discount will give the most vulnerable pensioners practical help to manage rising energy bills through an annual rebate. Energy companies will be required by law to provide this support."

Of course, at the same time, the coalition government has slashed £100 off the far more generous Winter Fuel Allowance. This provided a lifeline for many older people, who will be struggling with massive bills and yet will be judged to be too well off to be helped out by this scheme. Given that there is an estimated 3 million people living in fuel poverty - which means they spend more than 10% of their income on the cost of fuel, the fact that 2 million will be helped by this scheme just means that 1 million are going to be very cold indeed.

Save energy
Many people are already doing everything they can in order to reduce the energy they use. However, there may be more you can save. British Gas suggests we all consider a number of steps including:
  • Cut the use of lights: With plenty more daylight in the mornings and evenings at this time of year, make the most of it switching off unnecessary lights around the home. Replacing old light bulbs with energy efficient ones is an easy Energy Spring Clean quick win - they last up to 10 times longer than ordinary bulbs, saving around £40 over the lifetime of the bulb.
  • Look for energy efficiency when you upgrade appliances: All electrical appliances carry a European Energy Label that rates its energy efficiency. A++ graded appliances are the most energy efficient and 'G' graded are the least. Make sure you opt for A++ appliances to help you save electricity and lower your bills.
  • Consider major projects: Installing loft insulation could save you around £145 on your energy bill and cavity wall insulation could save you around £110 each year. For a limited period British Gas are offering to install free loft or cavity wall insulation for all energy customers. Your boiler is one of the biggest sources of wasted energy and money in the home - having an inefficient boiler could be wasting up to 25% of your spend on heating bills – that's up to £225 a year.
  • Get a standby saver: This could help you to save up to £30 a year by automatically switching off connected electrical appliances. You can use one of these with a TV, digital box and other similar appliances or with a PC and accessories such as a printer and monitor.
So what do you think? Is this new scheme a better way of targeting help for the most needy, or a small step that will do little to overcome the betrayal of 1 million people who will get less help with their bills? Let us know in the comments.
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