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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Energy awareness saves money and the planet

This feature is about 8 years old

​Erin Masters, volunteer adviser with community project Stay Warm, saves low income households money by teaching them how to be energy efficient

We’ve just received funding from the Scottish Government to do energy saving audits on people’s homes, mostly those from low income backgrounds living in areas of multiple deprivation.

The thinking behind the Stay Warm project is we can save people money by teaching them energy efficiency. To some this might sound like common sense but to many they don’t know where the vulnerable areas of their homes are or which appliances use most energy.

I’m a volunteer advisor for the project. I used to work for Scottish Power and have a background in finance. You need to know numbers quitter well; at lot of it is about tallying up figures, creating budgets and developing money saving energy plans for households.

Despite some families subsisting on very low incomes, they still throw hundreds away on their energy usage. We estimate 40% energy use is needless. Heating on timers is one of the biggest issues. Many don’t know how to use them – it means the heating comes on when they’re out, when they’re sleeping. Some don’t ever turn it down – its stays at a constant high. I’ve seen many homes where the dial is permanently off the scale.

Being at home all day is another cause of high bills. I tell those who can: turn it off and get out the house. Saving three days of daytime energy is a big, big saving for a low income family.

Appliances are more complex. We install meters to show which use up most energy. Irons and kettles are two that people don’t realise use up a lot of energy. Hair straighteners too: these are often left on and are just wasteful.

Of course many homes are just build with poor insulation meaning the heat does not get retained. The 1970s and 80s saw a brief emphasis on energy saving projects by local authorities. But many ran out of cash and whole areas lost out.

There’s still money available to make homes energy efficient but this funding can be hard to access. I help households apply where available though this can be very time consuming.

Next winter we’re planning on delivering talks in schools, teaching young people the importance of energy planning. It’s angled around environmental benefits: children aren’t really worried about usage but they are connected to the environmental issues.

After a year we go revisit households were originally audited and see how they are doing. On average these homes save at least 25% on their fuel and energy bills – but it’s often more. That can be a huge saving to a low income family.

One of the biggest changes we are seeing is that many families are in work but still struggle with bills. Low pay is a real issue. It means people are exposed to greater ill health through compromising on essentials – such as heating.

There’s great satisfaction knowing you are able to save people money – especially those who need it most. Most people don’t have to compromise much on the way they live. Reasonable adjustments to your lifestyle can lead to big savings. And it has the bonus of cutting our carbon footprint.



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