Consumer champion Which? has revealed the results of its annual satisfaction survey, and small gas and electricity firms have trumped the Big Six!

After surveying 8,000 energy customers, 30 companies (covering more than 90 per cent of that market in England, Scotland and Wales) have been ranking according to customer satisfaction. The Big Six (British Gas, EDF Energy, Eon, Npower, Scottish Power and SSE) all sit in the bottom third of the table whilst smaller, newer suppliers occupy both the top and bottom positions, showing that a company’s size is no guarantee of its performance.

Five small suppliers topped the rankings, with only tiny margins separating the top five companies: first-placed Octopus Energy, Robin Hood Energy and So Energy in joint second place, and Ebico and Tonik Energy in joint fourth position. All of these firms were rated the full five stars for value for money. Plus among them are the only firms to get top marks for bill accuracy, bill clarity and online customer service.

Octopus, which supplies more than 400,000 homes, was rated as good or excellent value for money by nine in 10 customers and 96 per cent of its customers gave it the same rating for online customer service.

So Energy was rated good or excellent value for money by an impressive 93 per cent of its customers – the highest proportion of any firm included. Plus its customers were most likely to rate the accuracy of its bills good or excellent compared with any other firm included.

Two of the top five – Robin Hood Energy and Ebico – are not-for-profit, while So Energy and Tonik Energy sell only tariffs backed by 100 per cent renewable electricity.

Check out a full list of the top 10:

1. Octopus Energy
2. Robin Hood Energy
3. So Energy
4. Ebico
5. Tonic Energy
6. Ovo Energy
7. Utility Warehouse
8. Bristol Energy
9. Bulb Energy
10. Ecotricity

The Big Six ranked as follows: SSE(22), EDF/Eon(23), British Gas(26), Npower/Scottish Power(27). Which? found less than one in five (18 per cent) Big Six customers are very satisfied with their supplier, compared with a third (33 per cent) of customers with medium and small suppliers.

For the full results, including how customers rank their energy supplier’s customer service, value for money, bills, complaints handling and more, go to: www.which.co.uk/energy-table

For all your energy-related needs, contact the team at AACooper on 01689 485007 or info@aacooper.co.uk.

Who does the dishes, takes out the rubbish or hoovers under the table after the kids have had couscous for dinner? One could easily assume that these are the types of spousal arguments that might top a ‘most frequent’ list. But, no. New research identifies ‘the ideal home temperature’ as the hot debate most likely to aggravate the gender divide in families.

The right time to turn on the heating is another heated conversation that happens in homes around the UK.

According to research sponsored by Corgi HomePlan, one in three couples admit to regular rows over the ideal house temperature. The study reveals that men set the thermostat too low, and women simply turn it up again (in secret, with great stealth).

Now, men, before you get right on in there and turn that thermostat back down; science suggests that the reason women are turning the heat up, is because they genuinely are more sensitive to the cold. A 2015 study by Dutch scientists revealed that women are comfortable at a temperature 2.5C warmer than men, typically between 24-25C. The average house has the heating set to 20C (according to Corgi HomePlan) which is a rather hefty 4.5C cooler than a woman’s ideal temperature.

Perhaps it’s time for a compromise? – In light of the fact that 37 per cent of British households leave the heating on between four and six hours a day (so sayeth the research)…maybe less in August!

What do you say?

For all your energy-related needs, contact the team at AACooper on 01689 485007 or info@aacooper.co.uk.

Sources: Theguardian.com – “Why women secretly turn up the heating”; Dailymail.co.uk – Heated rows! Third of couples admit arguing over the ideal temperature in their home

Have you ever compared your gas/electricity bill with that of friends or family members – and wondered why you pay so much more or, if you’re lucky, a whole lot less? It could be that your tariff is simply more costly, or conversely – really reasonable. The size of your property and the number of people in it are also factors to consider. And then, of course, how you use your appliances – whether you turn your light off when you leave a room or whether you’re happy to leave the light on.

In an article by Ovoenergy.com, household electricity use in the UK is an average of 3,940kWh per home. This is about 20 per cent higher than the global average for electrified homes of 3,370kWh. But when compared to other OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries, electricity use in the UK isn’t that high – averaging closer to the European average of 3,600kWh. This is generally because UK homes are quite small, heating is primarily done with gas, and air conditioning is not widespread. American homes average 12,300kWh each year, in Canada it’s 11,000kWh, and in Australia it’s 7,000kWh.

To know where your home sits on the scale of average, have a look at the following stats (listed in ascending order):

Mid Terrace – 2,779 kWh
Flat – 2,829 kWh
End Terrace – 3,442 kWh
Semi Detached – 3,847 kWh
Bungalow – 3,866 kWh
Detached House – 4,153 kWh

(This data excludes electricity from space heating – which is more common in detached properties naturally – so it doesn’t distort our view of the data.)

You’ll be unsurprised to know that the peak load occurs between 6-7pm when cooking, lighting and audiovisual demands are all ramped up. And, bearing in mind that it’s winter and we’re all sure to be cranking the heat at some point, you’ll be pleased to learn that cold appliances (basically refrigeration) top the list of uses, followed by lighting, consumer electronics, cooking and wet appliances (washing mostly). Check out the average end use of electricity in UK homes/year (in ascending order):

Computing – 240 kWh
Water heating – 280 kWh
Other – 528 kWh
Wet appliances – 536 kWh
Cooking – 544 kWh
Consumer Electronics – 567 kWh
Lighting – 607 kWh
Cold appliances – 638 kWh

These averages may help you gauge where you are with your own electricity use, and help you decide whether you need to turn off the lights or change provider!

For all your energy-related needs, contact the team at AACooper on 01689 485007 or info@aacooper.co.uk.

Source: Ovoenergy.com – “How much electricity does a home use”

Great Britain has reduced its carbon production faster than any other industrialised nation (woop!) and the UK’s emissions are below the goal (instituted by the Climate Change Act) for carbon budget 2, and 40 per cent below the 1990 levels. This is great but there is still loads more work required in order to reach the long-term goal of continuing to decrease emissions of the 6 greenhouse gas emissions regulated by the Kyoto accords, to 80 per cent of 1990 levels.

Currently, fifty per cent of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the UK come from domestic heating and cooking, and from transport. That’s a lot, and is also why the Energy and Utilities Alliance (EUA) is urging the government to work collaboratively with industry (those in the know) to green Great Britain by greening the gas grid – according to a recent report by HPM Magazine.

Mike Foster, CEO of EUA and also author of ‘The Future of Fuel’ report, which takes an in-depth look at how the UK can successfully decarbonise heat and hot water generation without radically changing the way 85 per cent of households heat their homes, said:

“Numerous studies have shown that switching to electricity is a more expensive option for the UK and it will struggle to meet demand in a cold snap.

Low carbon gas in our homes will be the cheapest, most secure, and most flexible source of energy we can deploy. The fact that it meets our international obligations too, should be something we welcome.”

Whilst this is all very good to know, you and I, as homeowners, don’t have much control over making changes to the national gas grid but there are things that we can do. Being green doesn’t require us to spend lots of money on fancy gadgets; in fact, an environmentally-responsible home can save you money (as well as the earth!). Check out these ideas that will turn your home into something more eco-friendly:

  • Use Compact Fluorescent Light (FFL) bulbs – saves 66 per cent energy.
  • Unplug your TV when it’s not in use (and any other device, for that matter).
  • Open your blinds/curtains to let the sun warm your house during the day – saves 10 per cent energy.
  • Use rugs on wooden floors – saves 4-6 per cent energy.
  • Turn down your thermostat by 1degree Celsius – saves up to £60/year.
  • Use your microwave– 50 per cent less energy is used by a microwave than conventional oven.
  • Energy-efficient cookware (glass, silicone, ceramic) can reduce cooking temperatures (and thus energy use).
  • Keep the oven closed when in use – opening the door causes the temperature to dropp, requiring more energy to heat up.
  • Smart dishwashing – don’t pre-rinse, run a full load and air-dry dishes.
  • Improve the air quality in your house with indoor plants.
  • Don’t leave the water running whilst brushing your teeth.
  • Turn taps off properly – 182 litres of water is lost per week from leaking taps.
  • Buy recycled toilet paper.
  • Use the shower more often than the bath – showers can use as little as 14 per cent of the water used during a bath.
  • Wash clothes at 30 degrees Celsius – this uses around 40 per cent less electricity than washing at higher temperatures.
  • Hang-dry your clothes instead of using a dryer – 2-3kg of carbon emissions are produced for every hour a dryer is used.
  • Install a low-flow shower head – this can save a family of four 160,000 litres of water/year.
  • Install a low-flow toilet.
  • Compost kitchen scraps – reduces the amount of household waste in landfills.
  • Insulate your windows – this will keep you cool in summer and warm in winter.

For more handy ways to ‘eco-friendly’ your house, read “50 Cost-Efficient Ways To Make Your Home More Eco-Friendly” and for all your energy-related needs, contact the team at AACooper on 01689 485007 or info@aacooper.co.uk.

Sources: hpmmag.com – “New report outlines sustainable roadmap for UK mains gas”, Britishgas.co.uk – “Green GB week is coming, are you ready?”

Drain blockages are entirely common and also, usually, entirely disgusting; no matter where it’s coming from, leaking water smells rank. From clumps of hair, fish filter tablets (but really) and small dolly shoes (parents will understand) to stranger things like false teeth and even clothing, there are some obvious no-nos when it comes to putting things down the plughole, take a look:

  • Baby Wipes – it’s so tempting to just flush a baby wipe (especially when potty training!) but don’t do it! They stick together and clog up drains in no time.
  • Hair – this is a tough one because hair easily travels down the plughole when bathing or showering. Usually it can be pulled back up the plughole if you notice a blockage…but not always! To try and prevent hair clumps in your drain, brush your hair before your bath/shower or invest in a ‘hair catcher,’ which could save you time, money and effort.
  • Fat – we all remember “fatberg,” right? That 15-tonne brick of fat found in the sewer below London. Well…enough said; don’t let fat float down the plughole.
  • Toys – there’s something about a plughole that is irresistible to children; they simply can’t resist sending gidgets and gadgets sailing down (clearly ‘IT’ is a thing of generations past). Even if little ones don’t it on purpose, the chances of a broken bath toy or other random paraphernalia taking an unplanned trip down the plughole are pretty high.
  • Coffee – If you use ground coffee rather than instant, make sure you get all of your grounds into the bin using a spoon or kitchen roll to help because over time coffee grounds can build up in drains, especially in the corners of piping.
  • Food Scraps – the odd piece of pasta here and there can do more damage than you might think. The thing about a lot of our foods is that they’re quite porous – especially carbs, like pasta and rice. They will soak up a lot of water and can easily expand to clog a drainage pipe.
  • Cotton Buds – Are meant for bins, not drains. It’s as simple as that.
  • …Fax Machines – No really! Scottish Water recently retrieved a fax machine from the sewers beneath the streets of Scotland. (Also – who’s using a fax machine?)

Usually a clogged drain is an accumulation of all of the above…things that have slipped down unintentionally. If you’re concerned about a blocked drain in your bathtub or damaged radiator pipes, call your local plumber; he/she may suggest a drainage contractor if the problem is serious, in which case, ask for references to ensure you hire the perfect person for the job.

For all your plumbing needs, contact the team at AACooper on 01689 485007 or info@aacooper.co.uk.

Sources: Blockbusters.co.uk – Top 10 Things That Will Block Your Drains; Draindepot.co.uk – “Gutterly odd: the weirdest things found down drains”

You’re refurbishing your bathroom…or perhaps just fixing something after years of wear and tear – do you roll on down to your local high street for some spanking new fixtures and furniture? Not likely. These days, point of call for all things plumbing is the internet – but this is no surprise, right?

From the comfort of your couch you can shop around for the perfect product at the perfect price. And there are stats to prove it: according to new research from AMA Research, online sales of plumbing products in the UK is set to increase by 43 per cent by the year 2022. In 2017 alone, the UK internet plumbing market is estimated to have increased by 17 per cent in value terms.

The company found that the internet is the fastest growing channel of the overall UK plumbing and heating products market and has experienced strong growth levels in the last 5-7 years.

Shower controls and bathroom taps represent the largest sector of the internet plumbing market with a share of around 23 per cent, followed by bathroom furniture and accessories, baths and sanitary ware, heating products such as boilers and standard radiators and shower enclosures, screens, trays and wetroom products. Towel warmers and decorative radiators account for a much smaller share of the total market. Own-label products sold on the internet are also performing particularly well.

A clear indication of the power of online shopping is the rate at which High Street stores are closing these days. In the pluming industry in particular, not only is the range of products growing but technology is improving and advancing – making the internet market more competitive. And of course, the convenience of delivery/collection options – it’s an obvious selling point.

The good news is that the stronger the demand for plumbing products online, the better the prices as retailers compete for market share – as good an incentive as any to keep shopping!

For all your energy-related needs, contact the team at AACooper on 01689 485007 or info@aacooper.co.uk.

Source: HPVmag.co.uk – “Online plumbing product sales set to rise by over 40% by 2022”

Keeping cool in sweltering heat might be as simple as turning on the air conditioning but it’s worth remembering that cranking up the AC to arctic temperatures is going to eat into your electricity bill. Also, we live in England – put your hand up if you have air con in your house…hmmm, not many of you (go figure). That said, our great British summers can be truly hot and it’s awful trying so sleep or relax in the furnace of a boiling house. The good news is that there are things that you can do to keep your home cool (before switching on the air con if you have it):

  • Shut windows and pull down the blinds/close the curtains first thing in the morning before it starts to get hotter outside. Open them for ventilation when it is getting cooler during the evening but only if the temperature outside is cooler than inside.
  • Turn off electronics. Computers, TVs and other electronics generate heat when sitting idle or even when turned off , so unplug devices at the wall when not in use.
  • Don’t run appliances (like dishwashers or washing machines) during the day; save these activities for the night.
  • Turn a hot water bottle into an ice pack by filling it with water and putting it in the freezer.
  • Cotton and linen sheets are breathable so cooler to sleep on/in.
  • Turn the lights off – light bulbs (even if they’re environmentally friendly) give off heat, so switch them off (who needs ‘em in summer anyway, when the days are lovely and long).
  • Hanging a wet sheet in front of an open window will help bring down the room’s temperature.
  • Have shade in your garden; in the form of trees and shrubs or perhaps a shady swing, garden umbrella or porch cover.
  • If you’re having a shower to rid yourself of sticky, sweat-soaked skin; keep it on cool because steam hangs about and makes a room hotter.
  • Fans use much less energy than AC – just remember to turn the fan off when you exit the room, as its effect is pointless if you’re not there to feel it.

For all your energy-related needs, contact the team at AACooper on 01689 485007 or info@aacooper.co.uk.

Sources: Mirror.co.uk – “Ways to keep your home and room cool in a heatwave so you can relax and fall asleep easily”; 1millionwomen.com – “How To Keep Your House Cool During A Heatwave”

According to new research by consumer association Which?, 75 per cent of home owners trust central heating engineers. This is great news! Especially considering the fact that the survey revealed that four in 10 (38 per cent) of respondents do not trust builders and roofers when employing them for the first time, making these trades the least trusted for domestic building work and repairs.

The rankings from the Which? Trusted Traders survey revealed that Electricians are the most trusted of the traders, clocking 80 per cent of the vote, with central heating engineers a close second (75 per cent), followed by plumbers (73 per cent).

When asked about their biggest worries when hiring a tradesperson, home owners listed their top concern as the tradesperson not turning up at the agreed time, which was cited by 62 per cent of respondents. Poor workmanship was cited as a foremost concern by 55 per cent of home owners and 46 per cent voiced concern about being ripped off.

So, here’s the question: although we do trust our electricians and plumbers mostly, how can we be secure in the fact that we’ll get the best service possible? Which? has some good ideas about how to hire the best boiler engineer for the job you need done:

  • Check that the heating engineer is listed in the Gas Safe Register and also check what type of gas-related work he/she are qualified to undertake before hiring.
  • Get at least three quotes – heating engineers should be able to tell you about the price for a call-out. Be aware though, that additional costs depend on the nature of the problem and any parts required. You might also be charged for travel and parking costs.
  • Good central heating engineers will usually want to see your system before they give you a quote for anything other than a simple job.
  • The best boiler engineers explain what they’ll check, repair or install before they start working and show you what they’ve done afterwards.

And one final tip: keep the paperwork your boiler engineer gives you – you might need this in the event of any future problems, plus most boilers will have a warranty of at least 12 months.
For all your energy-related needs, contact the team at AACooper on 01689 485007 or info@aacooper.co.uk.

Sources: hvpmag.co.uk – “75% of consumers trust central heating engineers, according to Which?”; Trustedtraders.which.co.uk – “How to hire: boiler engineers”

Do you know who supplies your energy? According to a new survey commissioned by Bulb Energy, more than a quarter of households do not know if they are on the most expensive standard variable tariffs (SVTs) for gas and electricity and around one in 20 do not know who supplies their energy.

Most surprising about these stats is that this figure rises to 53 per cent in the 18 to 24-year-old age group – supposedly the most ‘tech savvy’ demographic. But there is a mitigating reason for this lack of savvy: 18 to 24-year-olds are likely renting rather than owning property and thus easily fall trap to the mistaken belief they’re unable to switch, or inheriting prepayment meters at properties that often carry restrictions on switching.

The research also suggests that 44 per cent of households are confused over whether they have switched away from SVT tariffs.

The point: chances are that many of us are paying too much for gas and electricity; complicated tariffs and hard-to-understand bills the primary culprits. Whilst it’s a relief to know that we are not alone in being overcharged, it’s also important that we do something about it. Know who your supplier is and change supplier f you feel you are paying too much. Outside of giving your provider a call to find out what’s what, price comparison sites are a good place to start your journey to a fair energy tariff.

For all your energy-related needs, contact the team at AACooper on 01689 485007 or info@aacooper.co.uk.

One of the trendiest bathroom design features so far this year is the ‘Push-Button’ shower, which, as the name suggests, allows complete shower controllability at the mere push of button. Yes, really! In fact, a new 2018 report on the UK shower market from MTW Research has found that the digital showers market continues to gain share in spite of the prospect of Brexit, which has, reportedly, had an effect on the UK shower market in general; dampening performance.

The high pressure digital shower market does, however, represent the fastest paced growth sector in 2018. The concealed mixing valve sector is outperforming the general showers market with double digit growth forecast to 2022, complementing the trend toward frameless shower enclosures, low profile trays and the wet room market – all features that would complement a super-swank push button shower in your newly revamped ultra-mod bathroom, right?

This cutting edge technology that enables the functionality of Push-Button showers, enables you to precisely control the flow of the water as well as the temperature, with start/stop activation and on/off flow controls. Depending on the brand or model (single, twin or triple valve) of your shower, you’ll be able to direct water flow from dedicated outlets such as overhead shower, body jets and the hand-held shower.

Again, depending on brand and valve, the shower valves work from as low as 1-bar water pressure and concealed installation maximises space for small or compact bathrooms – perfect for small, inner-city apartments. Shower settings can also be controlled from your smartphone and valves are designed for thermostatic control and safety, performance and durability.

If you’re thinking about a bathroom revamp this year, AACooper will be able to assist with all your plumbing needs. For any questions or information, contact the team on 01689 485007 or info@aacooper.co.uk.

Source: hpmmag.co.uk – “SHOWERING ‘AT THE PUSH OF A BUTTON’”; SHOWER MARKET SHUNS BREXIT BLIP IN 2018