Housing associations are the most trusted source of advice for residents wanting to cut their energy use, according to a study undertaken by Sustainable Homes for the Department of Energy & Climate Change. The survey revealed that housing associations who manage property are in the best position to offer help, followed by energy charities. Friends and family came in only in third place, whilst local builders, plumbers and electricians were near the bottom. And energy companies and the government confounded expectations, with around a third saying they would trust these to provide impartial advice – despite polls earlier this year showing that ‘the big six’ are held in lower regard than bankers.
The survey was conducted as part of the National Energy Study, looking at energy use within the home. It confirmed that many people continue to struggle to make sense of bills, with 75% saying they had difficulty understanding them.
Andrew Eagles, managing director of Sustainable Homes, who conducted the study, said: “These results drive home the point that in the battle against rising bills we need to get better at giving people the tools they need to manage them well. This means more than investing in insulation and other improvements – though we absolutely need to do that too. Housing associations are in a great position to help: not only are they based in the communities they serve, people are more willing to take their advice at face value.”
Most participants in the National Energy Study felt that they were generally good at saving energy in the home, citing measures such as switching lights off and filling only just enough water in the kettle. But by far the biggest ‘wins’ are to be made with heating (accounting for nearly two-thirds of energy use); a common misconception, for example, is that turning the thermostat higher than the required temperature heats a house more quickly.
Lord Matthew Taylor, Chair of the National Housing Federation, commented: “As this report makes clear, there are often simple, immediate measures that can cut bills without going cold, often at no cost. Residents want to know how to save energy, and also how their use compares with others, and these findings have particular implications for our sector.”
Other findings included:
· People want feedback on their energy use. Eighty-two percent said that they would want their energy suppliers to provide them with regular feedback on their performance relative to others and that this feedback would encourage them to make energy savings.
· Stand-by mode is still used by many. Only 30% turned their household appliances off all the time.
· Heating controls cause confusion with over one third reporting difficulty understanding them. This signals a clear need to de-mystify the single biggest use of energy in the home.
· Low income households are hit by a ‘double-whammy’ of not only being more likely to have difficulties affording their bills but also likely to be using more energy owing to being at home more than other groups. But income levels are not always a good guide to how well people are able to manage their bills.