Energy saving fight back - Washing clothes

Saving money on doing the laundry every week in theory, should be easy.

As part of our home's energy saving fightback [in which we look at everything we do from week to week] applying the simple process of breaking down each cost the savings appear before my very eyes.

Not a lot we can do about the washing machine, as frugal as I am, even I would not advocate dragging the family washing to a stream and beating it on rocks. Nor would I go with throwing clothes in the bath and walking on them, etc.
I can however, monitor how much electricity, in money, we are using.

Since I started this action against energy companies, our home has completed seven loads of washing. I'm informed by our electricity provider that each washing cycle uses up between 43p and 47p. Already that's more than £3 used in electric, but that can't be helped.
What I can have an effect upon is washing powder, conditioner, drying clothes, etc.

Can you believe that some people use conditioner in their washer, then take clothes out, put them into a tumble dryer and add more conditioner?
Why not just use conditioner when drying?
Washing powder is an easy one, catering packs from the cash & carry, contain much more powder than the supermarket branded/own brand boxes. *If you could only see, 7KG-8KG of powder in catering packs, that do the same "amount" of washes as supermarket boxes, which have less powder in them and claim to do the same number of washes!

Fabric conditioner is again an easy one to save on. A concentrated 5 litre tub of branded conditioner, for around £8 lasts well over a month.
Another habit I've gotten out of, is filling the conditioner compartment in the washer drawer. Simple trick: Buy a concentrated 1 litre bottle of branded conditioner - use it - wash bottle out and refill it from 5 litre catering size tub. Not only is it easier to use, but it's also saving me money because the lid capacity is 1 measure for a wash!
It doesn't fill the conditioner section in the washer tray as it doesn't need to.
How many times have you filled the tray up with conditioner instead of just using the lid of the bottle? We've all done it at some point.

Next savings come from drying.
Tumble dryers are wonderful things, especially in emergencies. With a little bit of planning ahead, they can become redundant.
Using in excess of 50p per load, already I have saved over £3.50 from my electricity.
Sounds petty I know, but consider this...
£3.50 per week saved is equal to £182.00 electricity per year!

Yes, we use two washing lines, but what about the winter months? What about when it's chucking it down?
Going back to my childhood helps. We have an old wooden framed wardrobe in the spare room, I hang the t-shirts in there, I can only wear one t-shirt at a time, etc.
A cheap clothes horse looks after the smaller stuff and two radiator hangers are more than enough for the socks etc.
Dry by the next day, costing not a penny piece. Using just the heat from the burner and air from the windows blowing through the house, I can dry all the clothes at a saving of 50p per load.
Even if I only save on 4 loads of drying per week, that would be £104.00 per year, in the family's pocket.
Little victories.....

How do you justify this - British Gas, Energy saving trust, DECC and OFGEM?

I'll keep it simple, so that staff from the aforementioned companies and state bodies can understand it.

  • We installed complete double glazing, including all our doors - we used more units of gas
  • We fitted cavity wall insulation - we used more units of gas
  • We fitted more loft insulation - we used more units of gas
  • We applied a double render to the exterior walls - we used more units of gas
  • We removed the gas fire - we used more units of gas
  • We removed a G rated (30 year old) back boiler heating system (without thermostatic controls) and fitted an A rated "energy efficient" boiler - we used more units of gas
  • We fitted thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) - we used more units of gas
  • We replaced all our old pipework - we used more units of gas
  • We had our meter, pipework, cooker and boiler checked by both an independant engineer and British gas' own engineer, finding no faults - we continued to use more units of gas
  • We had one adult less, living in the house for four months (less baths, cooking, heating, etc) - we used more units of gas
  • We installed and fired up a multi fuel burner, which has been used instead of central heating for the past 7 days - STILL we have used more units of gas!

For three years now, for the winter 6 months - October to March, our monthly costs for gas shoot up from £45 for the April - September period, to anything from £85 to £120 per calendar month. Here are some of the things we have been told, when questioning about why our usage increases;

  • "Just think how much more your energy bills would have been had you not fitted all those energy saving measures!"
  • "I don't know!"
  • "All you can do is wait until you get next year's gas statement"
  • "New boilers don't use any less gas than old boilers!"
  • "I don't have an answer for you!"
  • "Is your thermostat set at more than 30 degrees?"
  • "I'll just put you through to pre payment now" Phone goes dead
  • "I'll just put you through to pre payment now" Call is answered by another member of staff from the same department
  • "I'll get a senior manager to ring you back, they can go through things in more detail" No phone call came
  • "You have to be referred to our energy saving team for some energy saving advice!"
  • "It will even itself up when you get your statement next year"
  • "I don't know what else to say!"
  • "It's colder between October and March so takes more gas to heat up your water" After being told that September was actually a colder month, but used less units of gas, they retracted their opinion
  • "The gas supply to your boiler will be too high, read your instructions and turn the gas supply to it down!"

So come on British Gas, energy saving trust, DECC and OFGEM, what have you got to say for yourselves regarding your false claims of "energy saving," and the benefits of, and in our case, what has happened?

(You can have your say on twitter, email, comments on this post, etc.)

We now have confirmation back that the pre payment meter that was replaced, despite being told by previous engineer that there was no fault with it, was not faulty.

The fee/charge for having the meter tested was £33 and has been waived (How much have you been charged for a meter being tested?)

A "Deadlock letter" and complaint reference number have been issued at my second request and a complaint to the energy ombudsman will be made (for all the good it will do).
I have to say, I do not find British gas' questioning of what will be reported to the ombudsman very professional.
More effort should be made to establish how a household can use more units of gas despite extensive "energy saving" measures being put in place, at considerable cost to the household, and on the advice of and marketing by British gas.

In our experience, all the energy saving advice given has proven to be false when the units of gas used are presented in a statement.
"It is not our responsibility" is not an acceptable stand to take when British gas are charging record prices for supplying what is a basic human right into our homes.

The energy saving trust (which are not impartial as they have centrica/british gas staff sat on their board and receive funding from them) have absolutely no comment to make.
All they will say is "If you have a complaint or query, please send it via our form so it can be dealt with via proper channels."

They will not comment on the issues raised here, nor will they comment on record price rises by the energy companies in any public forum.
They won't condemn any of the energy companies that provide half their funding. I think this speaks volumes.
All we get from them are guest posts on so called impartial blogs and switching websites, nothing but marketing bumph.
So here we have an open invite for you, the energy saving trust.

Frugal ways will give you an open spot, here on this website, to voice your views/opinions (for free) on so called energy saving measures and how they have failed to save any units of gas in our example.
I would also welcome any comments you have to make about the conduct of British gas in this matter and what plans your marketing organisation for the energy industry have to call energy companies to account for the way in which they are ignoring customers up and down the land.
Simply email or message myself and your response will be published word for word here for all our visitors to read for themselves.

The energy saving fight back has started...

multi fuel burner
Saving on energy bills with a multi fuel burner

For the draining of household finances, there is no bigger burden [that I am aware of] than that of the energy companies.
The examples of mis-selling, mis representation and often blatant untruths are out there for all to see.
Is there any other industry in Britain today that has been fined more than energy companies for their failings?

Years of ineffectual "regulation" (use that term loosely) - a complete lack of reality or understanding of the financial damage that the energy companies are inflicting on the people from successive governments via the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) - an Energy Saving Trust (EST) body that publishes all over the media and internet about the so called saving money, energy saving features of everything from new boilers to lamp bulbs, which, on their own figures and percentages, a maximum "bill saving per year" will not cover the costs of having the energy saving measures put in.
The EST are funded by both the taxpayer and private sector companies [which conveniently provide not only the percentages for the "efficiency" of their goods, but also pay money to the EST!] to the tune of Millions of pounds a year.

For years now, my own home has been subjected to increases in prices, standing charges, lies, mis representations and, in the case of British gas and Eon, billing and statements that even their own staff have not the foggiest idea how to work out.

Well just two words for British gas and Eon * No not those two words! - NO MORE!

This winter, some of our friends and neighbours will have to decide something I didn't think could happen in my lifetime, they have to decide whether to heat or eat.
Back in March 2011, I decided that it was time to give our family something we have not had or needed for more than 20 years, a choice.
Unbeknown to myself, price rises would come soon after followed by an enormous price rise at the beginning of August.

In June 2011, I sourced us a 16KW log/peat/coal burner and had it delivered, where it has sat in the hallway until last Friday. The old back boiler ripped out, the brickwork repaired to a safe standard, rendering of sand, cement and lime has been applied, a metal shelf for the flue to sit in has been bent, cut and fitted, a stone hearth has been created out of a large stone flag and a huge piece of stone that took four people to lift into place. The area around the burner has been finished with two coats of sandtex and the flue pipe bought, sealed with fire cement and fitted.
The chimney has had a new pot put on and a cowl inserted to stop rainfall down the chimney.

Last Friday we fired it up for the first time, small fire at first to help the cast iron burner's paint to seal itself.
By Saturday we started cranking it up to see how warm we could get the house. WOW!
Sunday it was on since teatime as it was tonight. Our open plan front room is reaching 2 degrees higher that our gas central heating was when on full.
The chimney stack running up through our bedroom is heating it so much so, we have to sleep with a window open.
The heat from the burner is going through into the kitchen and up our open plan stairway, heating landing, bathroom and other bedrooms.

Now the beauty of it so far...

* Where you see a pile of newspapers to recycle, I see free fire lighters. Collected twice a week from family, at a cost to us of NIL.
* Where you see old white pallets, I hope to secure a regular supply of smashed up old pallets to use as kindling, at a cost to us of NIL.
* Where you see a tree chopped down where you may walk or pass on the way to work, I see, with a bit of application, 2-3 months energy to heat our home, at a cost to us of NIL!

For 7 small logs, I can heat our home for around 9 hours.
If there is a really cold spell this winter, as some of our neighbours found to their cost last winter, the breather pipes on their "energy efficient boilers" froze, leaving them without heating or hot water, we will not be effected too much as our burner is big enough to hold a large kettle and three large pans.
If there is a power cut, our boiler won't be able to fire up (most have electronic ignitions now instead of a pilot light) yet we can continue to have hot water and heat via our burner.

There is some initial outlay for the burner and fitting it, but nothing like the cheapest quote I got for "fitting" it, £650 was the cheapest fitting price, we have prepared the area where it is for around £240 (only because the old back boiler left such a mess after removal that it had to be bricked back up again) that is including materials.
There is also a bit of work in cutting the logs and driving out to get them, but I'd rather do a bit of work than pay way over the odds for heating/cooking etc.

Over the coming 6 months I will be monitoring the amount of gas we are using, as well as comparing what we are spending each month to what we have spent over the last 2 winters.
If comparison goes well, it is currently 4 days since we had to use the gas central heating, the burner should have paid for itself by February 2012.
Including the installation costs and a chain saw to chop up the logs, by September 2012, gas savings should have paid for those as well.

All this has been possible because the family have dug in and helped in some way, whether it's cutting logs, very heavy lifting, working long hours of overtime. Our neighbours have helped by giving up their time and advice.

I shall keep this post updated with falling gas use and real energy/money saving progress.
The message for British gas and Eon is simple, you have held our family to ransom for far too long... NO MORE!

Dad diary: Baby routines, british traditions and a pile of other stuff...

It has been quite a while since I posted my stuff, but I have been very very busy and nipping on to the site every other day to check that it is still here.

Baby routines?
Sprog2 is no longer a baby really, at just over two years old, she's growing in every way and pushing boundaries, etc.
I only wish I could remember the bloke's article, I read when just after sprog2 was born. I was sceptical in that here was a bloke telling newborn parents how they should manage their babies into their infant stages.
His theory was that it was a waste of time and energy to get babies into a routine, he claims that they will develop their own routines and slowly cotton on to what's what, by the age of around 3 years old.
This way they will accept the routine for stability and come to enjoy it.

I have to say, he was on the whole, absolutely spot on.
There have been numerous calls from all directions, mostly from the women in my world, to get sprog2 into a routine at a far younger age than my reading and theory advised me to do. I have for the most part, resisted and been mocked for doing so.

Baby sleeping routine is a shining example.
Since she went on the bottle, she has almost always slept in the afternoon for an hour or so, we haven't been quiet around her so noise doesn't wake her up.
At night, she plays and runs around, then a late change and wash between 9-10pm, then it's a cup of tea in a bottle and chilling out in her chair watching television until she nods off. Then I cover her up with a huge thermal blanket and there she stays until I go up to bed.
Very rarely does she wake up when I put her down in our cot, which is at the foot of our bed, deliberately facing away from us so we cannot be seen.

For months now it has been expressed to me that she should be in her own room and be sleeping in her own bed. I disagree. Obviously happy with her routine, I would prefer to let it ride until such time when her attitude towards bedtime changes on its own.
Last night I think one of the gear cogs in her swede clicked.
Waking up at 3am (I'd been out driving) in her chair about to go up to bed, she was wide awake. Oh no I thought, I'm going to be up for the rest of the night as she won't like going in her cot.
I explained that it was dark and that we were going to snuggle in, in bed. I placed her in her cot and asked her to lay down, which our wide awake little girl did no problem at all, laying there for about 30 minutes before nodding back off again.

To me this is a sign that her natural routine is now ready for going in a bed, in place of her cot in our room at first I think, before moving into her own room in a couple of months. I know from experience that all babies are different, some cry for England others are sedate and more composed (for want of a better word) time will tell, but I think that she is better suited to doing things in her own time. Famous last words and all that.

British traditions:
On the way home today, the radio tells me that the halloween industry is now worth more than £300 Million to businesses in the UK. After nipping to the supermarket for my bread for the week (buying six loaves and then freezing them means I never have to go there midweek and spend more than I want to) sprog2 and I had a quick look around the last two aisles, the sheer panic buying of joe public never fails to amaze me.
Rushing around, fighting over a child's witches hat. Banging bags of over priced sweet mixed bags into their trolleys like we used to throw hay bails around on the farm.

I am the first to uphold traditions that I was brought up with, sprog1 was always involved in halloween and bonfire night, but the sheer expense of the absolute pap that people buy, they need to stop and ask is it worth it?
Paying £9.99 for half baked costume, many of which are not even remotely scarey or in the spirit of halloween [no puns intended] that will last just as long as yesterday's newspapers or end up for sale on ebay for a buy it now price of £7, but will eventually be dropped to £3 after no one buys it, and the postage will cost more.

You've got an old sheet? Why not show your child some real worth and encourage tradition at the same time?
Halloween tradition won't be passed on to children who are shoved into a trolley or dragged around a supermarket on a Sunday afternoon, think about it, every halloween they'll think back to their childhood and dread taking the occasion for their own family.
What exactly has the trick or treat tradition got to do with giving money?
Some of the early door knockers costumes have been very poor.
Spend some time with your children making a costume, they will thank you for it plus it's cheaper. Even if you turn your child's face into a mush, think of the fun you'll have. Is this not the duty of a parent?

Ever tried ducking for apples?
Here's a crazy idea, if you knock on my door saying "trick or treat" I often say trick...... SO HAVE ONE READY!
Don't just stand there with your gob open, catching flies, put some effort in.
One final thing before my swede pops, for the past two years I've had people knocking on my door, whom I have never seen before let alone want to hand out sweets to. One woman has brought her toddler two years running, standing at the gate whilst her little angel walks down the path and knocks on a stranger's front door * which I sometimes dive out of wearing a mask and frighten kids as its halloween and they are fair game! What is that all about?

Other stuff:
Whilst you were sunning yourself back in July/August on some luxurious isle or after paying way over the odds for a caravan in Hebden Bridge, bad old me decided to spend the family's half holiday money on rendering and a wood/coal/peat burner. Well at long last, everything has been finished and it's finally in. More on the burner laters.
The culmination (ooooo a big word!) of all that meant a very busy summer holiday/early autumn period for me.

Will have the van out, pallet hunting next week ready for our bonfire, you can't miss it, it's in the front garden (read: drive) and fireworks will be going off in the street, whilst we have a few beers and enjoy baked potatoes, with cheese and butter on them * with the added bonus of friends and neighbours coming round to incinerate their burn bins - bags of bills and official stuff that needs getting rid of. I'm thinking of making some parkin and if we are really lucky, our neighbour Bel will do us one of her gorgeous broths.
As it stands, nothing is in place yet, hopefully by Thursday we will be almost there...

Finally, of this dad diary entry, a request.
If you are in to computing, please try to learn plain English!
Switching over from windows xp (which started suspiciously needing browser refreshing on popular websites) to windows 7 was hard work getting all the settings simlar to what they used to be. Would it be too difficult to develop an operating system that can save to a folder somewhere, the set up for folders, browser, etc, instead of leaving the end user starting from scratch?

DIY superstore staff are beyond help...

I get my fair share of stick for criticising store staff who are employed by high street companies.

I understand that they are, "just doing their job" but I believe it is fully warranted. After 17 years in the retail trade, if I was to treat customers in the same manner that is done today, I'd quite rightly deserve severe criticism at the very least. In some instances, the "customer service" I have received would warrant the sack - clear false information, misrepresentation at the point of sale, etc.

On occasion, one such type of store staff (for want of a better term) are those that represent their companies in the DIY sector of retail.
I loathe dealing with them, as their advice (using that term loosely) is often inaccurate, completely false, or down right dangerous!
Sales staff in stores are the face of the company to the customer. When combining potentially dangerous tools/chemicals, etc, with these people, I would surmise that it would be in the best interests of the company concerned to at least arm their staff with some basic product knowledge?

Take for instance the two (yes 2) B&Q staff that advised me that the reason why their 50,000 square foot warehouse no longer had any 15mm copper pipe fittings instock was because "they have stopped doing them!" - with an industry standard of 10mm, 15mm and 22mm copper pipe on sale at the very same store, and every home in the country having some form of 15mm pipework, I questioned the validity of their statement, which received a wide open-mouthed gawp, that could only be said to resemble catching flies.

However, there are occasions when I need to resort to visiting these DIY stores, Sundays, late evenings, bank holidays, etc.
This evening, I logged on to two DIY company websites, B&Q and Wickes.

My request was a simple one, specialist high temperature paint, for a fire surround.
On the B&Q website my search resulted in pages of fire doors?
On the Wickes website the results listed several types of wood screws?

Not to be defeated I rang Wickes order and reserve type of thing and spoke to a young man.
"I need high temperature paint, but for a fire surround, so therefore radiator enamel paint will not do!"
Five minutes of coldplay instrumental later, the young man returned on the line to advise that what I needed was "enamel radiator paint!"
"As I explained, radiator paint will not do as it will bubble, crack, peel and give off dangerous fumes, I need paint that will withstand temperatures upto at least 1200 degrees"
Another five minutes later, came the reply, "You need enamel radiator paint that does high temperatures, but it is not something any of our stores will do."
Thanks for nothing then...

Next up was a call to B&Q, which hardly inspires confidence at the best of times.
After ringing for 10 minutes finally I was transferred to the operator, only to have the phone picked up and put straight down again.
I called them back and had five minutes waiting on the line for the person to "find a member of staff"
That simple task was too much for them, so they took my number and said they would find a member of staff and ring me back.
Obviously, they are the only person working tonight, as one and a half hours later, I am still waiting a return call.
Utter rubbish service.

So the upshot of all of my dealings today with Wickes and B&Q, one didn't listen to the customer at all, then advised I purchased something that would have endangered life of everyone in the house, the other company, B&Q, [apologies for the bad language] simply could not be arsed to find a member of staff or ring me back when they had promised to.

Both DIY companies wasted over two hours of my time and a simple job of painting a fire surround has turned into a two day, over complicated process.
Evidence if ever there was for people shopping in local shops!

At the request of my better half, we decided to chance it and drive the 28 mile round trip to B&Q warehouse, enquiring in person as to the possibility of buying paint suitable for for coating the surround in which our multi fuel burner will sit.

I may as well have tried to plat sand!

On arrival, we made our way to the paint section, where the man on the desk had to ask another member of staff "do we do high temperature paint?"
* Please note: B&Q sell wood burning stoves, they also sell high temperature paints in an extensive paint area, all the omens for finding a product suitable and safe were looking good.
A lady appeared and took us to the temperature paint section.
"It's for painting a fire surround, so radiator paint will not do, also, we need brush on not spray please"

"We only do spray on paint"
"In all these paints you don't have a brush on tin of high temp paint?"
"I had someone phone in about this earlier..."
"I know, that was me, I was promised a call back but two hours later no one had the ability to pick up the phone and ring me back as promised!"
"The lady on the front desk passed it on to someone else, who came and asked me. I told them to ring you back...."
* Please note: It is of no concern to me what-so-ever the inner workings or reasoning behind why I was left waiting hours for a call back. I took my time and expense to call your business, if you cannot be bothered to pick up the phone [or train your staff to do so] then you are not deserving of any custom.

No apology was forthcoming, [clearly my time and money are not valuable enough to B&Q staff]  the lady continued,
"How far away from the fire is the wall you want to paint?"
I should have asked her if she was HETAS qualified to sign off an open/multi fuel fire fitting but I am not that quick these days.
"The only other thing I could recommend would be exterior paint, which we sell as a brush on?"
"But that would be no good would it" I added sarcastically, "as it is designed for outdoor use and is not high temperature paint is it?"
No reply...
"Using a non high temperature paint instead would give off fumes when it heated up and I'm not into gassing my family..."

With this I walked off, muttering about how rubbish B&Q were and yet again, I'd driven 28 miles round trip to find that their huge warehouse didn't have a basic item instock.
One consolation though, sprog2 has a habit of repeating certain words I say, right on cue, as a couple walked past, she shouted "Rubbish!"