HANDIHEAT – Top tips for winter

The ARC have been involved for the last two years in a European project, HANDIHEAT, with a number of partners from across Finland, Iceland, Republic of Ireland, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Our focus has been on the area of Fuel Poverty and it is an issue that will sadly become a harsh reality for more people this year because of the economic hardship that many will face because of COVID-19.

Whether you are still in employment and working from home, or have had your earnings drop as a result of furloughing, redundancy or reduced hours, you may now be facing the reality of spending a higher proportion of your income on heating your home. You are in fuel poverty if you spend more than 10% of your net income on heating your home. It is therefore likely that more people will meet this definition this winter. It is a fact that maintaining a temperature in your home of between 18°C and 21°C will contribute significantly to remaining healthy.
Whilst major renovation works are expensive and probably best not undertaken at this time of year there are many simple measures that we can all take to ensure that we try to improve our own energy efficiency performance.
• Look at your thermostat – a 1°C reduction will reduce those heating bills
• Always check your fuel bills and make sure you provide a meter reading – estimated bills are seldom in your favour
• Switch out unnecessary lights
• Close curtains and doors – this can significantly improve your thermal comfort.
• Only boil the water you need in the kettle – small things matter

If you or anyone in your household is vulnerable, make contact with your energy supplier (electricity and gas) and check if you are eligible to be on their Customer Care Register. This provides you with additional supports. Also, if relevant, you can register on the NIE Critical Care Register, if someone in your home is dependent on life-supporting electrical equipment.
Whilst these pointers can seem like ‘motherhood and apple pie’, they still hold true. It is important that you try to wisely use the funds you have available. This season, more than ever people need to maintain a healthy living environment in order to stay well.
Remember that there are agencies available to help you and you should seek help if you need it.
Some useful Numbers
Northern Ireland Energy – Freephone Number: 0800 111 44 55
Consumer Council : 028 9025 1600 – provide free, independent support and advice
National Energy Action NI: 028 90231120
Affordable Warmth Scheme/Boiler Replacement Scheme: 0300 303 1777
NISEP – full list of schemes from Utility Regulator website