New boiler energy money saving myths exposed

As I write this post, it is "Big Energy Saving Week" - promoted all over twitter (search for #besw), comparison websites, so called consumer groups (like which? consumerfocus energy, citizens advice, etc), in the media, at roadshows up and down the country.
Most claims are quoted using figures obtained from the Energy Saving Trust (EST).

You, yes you, "can get free energy saving advice that can save you money off your energy bills!"

In this post, I look at energy/money saving by replacing the boiler in your home.

The Energy Saving Trust are an "impartial" and "independant" reliable source of information on boilers
"Impartial" and "independant" are common claims bandied around these days, so you decide.
The Energy Saving Trust (EST) from April 2010 until early 2012 was funded jointly by taxpayers and by it's members, by way of "membership fees"
Today, the EST is now a "non profit organisation" which is funded jointly by taxpayers and the private sector by way of "donations".

So who are the members paying the energy saving trust donations?
Many of the same "members" that are now listed as making "donations"

Of the big 6 energy companies - Centrica (British Gas), EDF energy, E.on UK plc, RWE Npower plc, Scottish and Southern energy, Scottish power plc, all donate to the energy saving trust.
Of the big 6 energy companies, I have asked Npower, Eon and British Gas, how much money they paid in a calendar year to the energy saving trust in membership fees, all three admitted paying fees, but declined to tell me how much these "membership fees" were, deemed to be commercially sensitive information!
As the energy saving trust have updated their own wikipedia page, I have no reason to doubt that donations are being made to the EST by the big 6 energy companies.

Of the big boiler makers - Baxi heating UK Ltd and the Worcester Bosch group, also pay donations to the energy saving trust.
National grid transco plc also pay donations to the energy saving trust.
Back in 2008, British Gas, EDF and Scottish power directors sat on the board of the Energy Saving Trust.
Do you still consider the energy saving trust impartial or independant?

"Boilers account for around 60% of what you spend in a year on energy bills"

Sadly not, this is factually inaccurate.

(UPDATE: Since posting this in October 2012, the Energy Saving Trust have reduced this figure to "Around 55%" - Edit May 2013)

Angela Knight is the new head of energy trade body, Energy UK.

In one of her first articles she revealed that it was time for an honesty box to be opened with energy companies.
In the same article she stated, "the time is surely past for allegations, assertions and criticisms. We agree that people need to know that their energy costs are fair"
The head of Energy UK (representing energy companies of the UK) then said, "...already the actual cost of energy is half or less of a total household bill"

Now do the maths... If only 50% or less of your yearly bill is the energy that you use, then the running energy costs (because maintenence/insurance is a seperate cost from energy) of your boiler cannot be physically or mathematically "around 60% of what you spend in a year on energy bills" can it?

It can only be 60% of half of your yearly energy bill at the most.
This significantly reduces the initial claim of energy costs that the energy saving trust put forward as fact, before basing it's entire "save upto" projected money savings for an energy efficient device, such as replacing a boiler as we are discussing here.
I did ask the energy saving trust for their views, they declined to comment (in real life, they ignored my requests).

Replacing a G rated old boiler with an A rated condensing boiler, with a full set of heating controls, estimated savings (based on a gas heated, 3 bedroomed semi detached house) of £300 per year!
UPDATE: The Energy saving trust have now changed this figure to "£310 per year"

We now know (thanks to Energy UK's honesty) that only 50% of your yearly energy bill is to pay for energy used.

So at the very maximum (if the energy saving trust's savings figures are accurate), the saving could only be up to £150 a year.

How can fitting a new boiler give you energy bill savings, when 50% of that same bill is paying for transco costs and environmental policies made by the government of the day and enforced upon the energy companies?
The simple answer is, it can't.
The energy saving trust website goes further;

Replace a F rated boiler - save up to £200 (UPDATE: Now increased to "Up to £205")
Replace an E rated boiler - save up to £150 (UPDATE: Now increased to "Up to £155")
Replace a D rated boiler - save up to £105

These figures are at best 50% wrong, now that Energy UK tell us only 50% or less of your yearly energy bill pays for the energy you use.

A new A-rated boiler will use less energy than an older, lower rated boiler
Not true.
Not my words, but those of a British Gas engineer who, when visiting our home to pressure test our gas meter and pipework, told us directly, "A new boiler will use the same amount of gas as an old boiler"
A new boiler may well emit less Co2 than an old boiler, but in units of gas, they will use the same.
If your boiler has a hot water cylinder and heats hot water everytime your heating is on, as is the case (completely missed by the EST) in millions of council homes, then a new A-rated boiler will use MORE metered units of energy.

A new boiler is more efficient and saves money on hot water
For homes with a regular boiler, ie. those with a hot water tank, depending on the size of your family, the regular boiler is actually MORE efficient.
Not my words, but those of the energy saving trust!
"A regular boiler is actually more efficient than a combi at producing hot water in the first place..." & "...A large family using lots of hot water could be better off with a regular boiler"

It took a while for the energy saving trust to post this, I cannot recall it being included on the pre 2012 version of their website, it seems to have appeared since their website was updated, but I could be wrong.
According to the energy saving trust, a large family using lots of hot water will be better off with a regular boiler (in normal speak, this is an old back boiler with a hot water tank) - my family are not large, not even above the average 2.4 children size, yet we have found that it is more expensive - uses more metered units, with the new boiler than it was with our 30 odd year old back boiler and tank!

A new A-rated boiler uses less energy
When measured in units of energy used, our new boiler uses more energy.
With the old back boiler, hot water was used, the water was gravity fed from a tank, water was replaced in the tank via a mechanical device (ie, the float) which uses no energy.
With an A-rated boiler, water is pumped through the pipes all the time, using energy.
Water is heated as it goes through the boiler, using energy.
The new boiler continues to operate up to 2 minutes after the hot tap is turned off, using more energy.
The new boiler uses more water than the old boiler (energy saving trust promote saving water as well) when I run the hot tap, the water takes a minute or so to come through as hot. With our old boiler, only the water in the pipe was run through and cold. Even with shorter pipework from the new boiler to the kitchen sink tap, the wait for hot water is longer.

With an old back boiler, the amount of gas used can be controlled, similar to gas cooker ring.
Under the fire there is a control knob to reduce the amount of gas used.
With an A-rated boiler there is no such control. Regardless of use, regardless of climate, it uses the same amount of gas.
In summer, on our old boiler we used to turn down the setting for heating and hot water to 2, in winter we used to turn it back up to 6. Makes a mockery of all the new smart energy meters we are paying for through our energy bills, to gain control of our energy use, when we used to have control of the gas used with our old back boiler!

A new boiler will pay for itself over time
This is one of the main reasons for this post. This claim is false.

We have established that the energy saving trust's projected bill savings, even when maximum savings are made, are 50% out.
The energy saving trust have dropped their average lifespan of a boiler, from their website (I cannot find it - you try) which was quoted as being 12 years for an A-rated boiler.
If this 12 year lifespan is accurate, then at the maximum possible saving of £150 per year for changing a G rated boiler with an A rated boiler and the average cost of £2300 for the boiler itself (ours cost £2700 to buy and install) it would take over 15 years to pay for itself.

That's right, your boiler would be more than 3 years out of its normal lifespan before it covered it's own and installation costs!

Costs to maintain your new boiler?
I can find no mention of maintenance costs on the energy saving trust's website, nor are they mentioned by media, websites, etc, that promote fitting a new boiler quoting energy saving trust figures - British gas homecare cheapest plan is £9 per month, covering just your boiler and not your heating system, which is an extra £108 per year to pay out - cutting your "savings" even more.

£2300 to fit new boiler with a 12 year lifespan.
£150 maximum savings - boiler would take 15.3 years to pay for itself.
£150 maximum savings minus a basic maintenance policy to cover the boiler with british gas, reduces maximum savings to just £42 per year on energy bills.
(£150 - £108 for year long maintenance contract = £42 saving)
At £42 per year (maximum savings) a new boiler (£2300 to buy and install) would take a staggering 54 years to pay for itself!

This is why it was important to show how the energy saving trust is funded and by whom prior to looking at replacing your boiler.
For me, it shows the energy saving trust is nothing more than a marketing tool for the energy industry.

I can see no financial case for changing a working old G rated back boiler for a new A rated energy efficient boiler.

How do the energy saving trust get away with publishing figures that are clearly inaccurate?
It's not as if the advertising standards agency has anything to do with the energy saving trust, does it Sir Hayden Phillips, who is the "independent" reviewer of the adjudications of the Advertising Standards Authority and a trustee on the board of the energy saving trust!

Satellite system care - 0844 8000 405 - refunded!

Back in August 2012, I posted about an elderly neighbour of mine, whom was misled by Satellite system care, portraying that they were taking over from sky, for the repair and maintainence of sky equipment.
(You can read the full post here - )

After discussions with their "Sales" office, Satellite system care were adamant that they had not misled my neighbour in their cold call sales process, despite taking all her remaining money out of her account for the next two weeks.
A few more attempts were made to contact them directly, my neighbour received no reply.
My neighbour then became even more distraught, after promises made by her bank, Natwest, were not honoured and her promised visa chargeback was refused.
This, despite the facts that SSC were being investigated by the bank's own fraud department, they were selling insurance while not registered with the Financial services authority (FSA), their website had been removed from public view, no answer/reply on the phone lines, etc.
Several promises by Natwest later - things like a form will be sent out, but took four attempts over two weeks to get a simple form - finally we managed to get someone higher up to have a look at the case again.

As it stood my neighbour was getting nothing from satellite system care, nothing from natwest and was £175 out of pocket.

After more weeks of filling forms and sending emails and phone calls, unanswered questions on twitter, my neighbour came back to me saying she suddenly had extra money in her account, had I heard anything?
Today, it gives me great pleasure to tell you, that my neighbour has a huge smile on her mush.
Natwest staff informed her that Satellite system care have refunded her money in full!

Why this has happened or how, I have no idea.
Satellite system care said they would not refund.
Satellite system care said they only ever refunded by cheque and never straight back to a bank account.
Natwest have said they will not issue a visa chargeback.
Neither satellite system care or Natwest, have been in touch with my neighbour or myself for weeks.

Out of the blue, the money has been magically paid back.
Once again, if your receive cold calls, put the phone down on them. Save yourself a lot of trouble.
My elderly neighbour has had to learn this through an experience that really did upset her. Don't you be the same!

IDE to Sata, reusing your old hard drive

It's always difficult when your computer finally packs in or is not up to scratch and you give in to updating it. As I recently experienced, the world of the computer boffin/expert is one that can be the most infuriating.

In my new basic computer, I simply wanted to use my old hard drive, which was an IDE drive. IDE drives have the old 4 pin power plug. The new computer has SATA power plugs and plugs on the motherboard. The process should be relatively easy. A couple of quid for a power adaptor plug to convert from the SATA plug to fit the back of the IDE drive, no problem.

A few quid to convert the IDE drive to the SATA plug on the motherboard, should have been just as easy. The store fitted my old drive, connected the power and drive convertion plugs no problem. I turned on the new set up, eager to start transferring all my tunes and pictures of sprog2 in various guises. Eight hours later my new set up still could not find my old IDE hard drive.

"Buy an enclosure and turn your old hard drive into an external drive, plugging it in using a USB connection" was suggested as a possible solution. More expense and time as well.

The solution, was trial and error for about an hour.
* The jumper position - the tiny plug on the rear of the IDE drive, try it without, then in the "master" position, then "slave" position, then "master with slave present" position, then without.
Solution - mine was with the jumper in the "master with slave present" position.

* Powering the IDE to SATA adaptor coming out of the back of the IDE drive - the tiny white plug that slotted into the adaptor, only powers the adaptor and not both the adaptor and the IDE drive. Confusing the "expert" who fitted the drive for me, as it lit up the yellow light on the adaptor card plugged into the IDE drive.
Solution - was to power both the IDE drive AND the IDE to SATA adaptor card. Plugging in a power plug to the back of the IDE drive and the little white plug to the adaptor card itself,  lit up both yellow and red lights on the adaptor card.

* The IDE card itself - the IDE adaptor can fit both ways into the rear of the IDE drive upside down as well as the right way around!
Solution - I placed the adaptor card into the back of the IDE drive with both lights facing the underside, ie, the bottom of the card.

Each time I tried all the adaptor settings I had to turn the computer on and go into the bios (Holding down the delete button on start up) to check if the IDE drive was recognised on start up, each time it was not, I had to switch the computer off and move the jumper along one slot, then start up again. I changed the IDE adaptor card around each jumper setting as well, covering all possible settings.

When I came to the last but one possible set up (just my luck) it worked and recognised my old IDE drive.

This trial and error way worked for me, always read the instructions provided and ALWAYS earth yourself before moving equipment around inside your computer - safety first! - contact your equipment provider/manufacturer if known, before you start messing around. This prevents any damage being done and covers your back if you are following advice.
I had exhausted all avenues of "experts advice" before I went through this process, even having the IDE drive to SATA adaptor fitted by them. For the record they had not powered my IDE drive and fitted the adaptor card upside down!

Good luck, I know only too well how many needless hours have been wasted on computers, that could have been avoided if only the so called "experts" actually knew what they were doing.

Consultation on regulated industries unit - submit your views

The consultation on the proposed regulated industries unit (RIU) which will shape the future consumer landscape, needs your input.
You have only until the end of September 2012 to submit your opinion/views.

"Stakeholders" [read: businesses] are being consulted, isn't it time that the people of the UK were listened to?

Submit your views and read the proposals over at Consumer Focus

This is your chance to voice your concerns about issues you have with;

* hidden charges/fees
* Mobile phone price increases
* Bank charges
* Misleading supermarket sale prices
* Being held to ransom via your credit rating

The list is endless, it's time for you to speak out!

Frugal ways to win for less on ebay

Bidding and buying on ebay can be costly to your pocket, especially when, as is often the case, there is another "bidder" interested in the same item that you are after.
Now that you can shop and buy using a one off card payment, you don't need to use or have a paypal account to shop on ebay.

But there are ways to win and win on the cheap!

Here are my personal top tips to viewing and winning on ebay - getting value for money.

* NEVER use the "watch item" feature!
You see an item and click to "watch it"
This is then advertised across ebay under the "see what others are watching" section for the entire duration of the auction.
This is plastered all over your side bar and your "watched item" is promoted, not just through the ebay website but other ebay owned websites, increasing the number of views is not good, this will only lead to more bids, especially expensive if the item you are "watching" is quite hard to get hold of and collectable.

* When entering a search term, be vague!
There are many tools available to the more knowledgable ebay user whom buys and sells via the website, that help them see what search terms are popular and what are not.
The seller is aiming for the maximum exposure to attract the maximum bids, popular search terms can also work to increase the starting price, pushing up initial bids, which, as I will cover later in this post, do not help your pocket when buying.

For example, say you are looking for a collectable product. We will call it "Box A"
You enter "box A" and run a search.
Any sellers listing their "box A" check how popular that search term is.
You might return to ebay and run a search for "box A" a few times over a couple of weeks, this pushes up the number of results.
If "box A" becomes a popular search terms, anyone listing one might well start their auction off at £5.99 instead of 99p, this costs you more, both in the initial bid and the amount by which the bidding will increase, ie, a 99p start price would rise by 50p per bid, something with a higher starting price often rises by over a £1 per bid. Not very frugal!

Try searching for the manufacturer of "box A" - granted, you will have to work through the results, many of which won't interest you, but from there you can view the ones you find for "box A" without increasing search results and popularity.

* Don't forget spelling mistakes!
You would be amazed at the amount of times I have searched for something and I have spelt it wrong when I typed it in, only to find one or two listings for what I was looking for where the seller has spelt it wrong.
Ignore the "did you mean..." option on the results page.
As I write this post, there is an xbox 360 game listed under "lwgo" (the W is next to the E on the keyboard) instead of "lego" with no bids on it in the 24 hours it's been listed.
Keyboard mistakes are easy to make for sellers, which can be very frugal for buyers if they are spotted.

* Change your own "last viewed" list!
Your sidebar and cookies display what you have last viewed, by clearing cookies or simply viewing three other items completely different from the item that interests you, you can remove these results.
Think about it, if it has information that shows you the last three things you viewed, everytime you log into ebay, it can show all the other users what you viewed also, increasing clicks on the item you want, possibly generating more interest in it.
If you have three unrelated items listed there, no damage is done and viewing results for the item you want will be reduced.

You've found your item, what now?

Now you have two options;
- Using your vague search term, find it in the results and keep your eye on it (*NOTE this does not mean clicking on it!)
- Place a minimum bid on it then keep an eye on it via "my ebay" (*NOTE this does not mean clicking on it!) Do not bid any higher on the item!

I have noticed that if I bid the opening bid on an item then just keep an eye on it, without clicking on the listing, via "my ebay" - in essence, leaving it alone - more often than not, no other bids come in for it.
My other tactic is keeping an eye on it - again not clicking on the listing - via my vague search term results.
Either way, I then move to my "win it" next step.

These two methods also help cut down on the possibility of becoming a victim of "shill bidding"
"Shill bidding" is where the seller lists an item and works with another bidder or has another account set up and bids on their own item to increase the end sale price (Costing you more money in the process)
You can normally spot shill bidding taking place, but although you can complain to ebay and they will review it, it is very hard to prove, as the friend or other account normally has a different IP address logged so the two accounts cannot be linked by those investigating.
Telltale signs of "Shill bidding" include;
* An account bidding on the item with no previous feedback left or given
* An account making several bids but only on this particular item or only bidding on some items with this particular seller
* An account making many bids but only increasing the bid each time by small amounts, then once they have gone past your "maximum bid" they retract their last bid, so their bid falls just under yours, you may win the auction, but you pay the maximum amount for it!

[This has happened to me once before - 12 bids of small amounts placed on the item I had put a maximum bid on, then retracted the winning bid so the rival bidder went just under the maximum amount I bid. Despite a complaint, ebay found no evidence of shill bidding and expected me to pay for it, warning of damage to my feedback rating if I failed to pay for the item and suspension of my ebay account. Two weeks later the seller magically closed their account and vanished, with no negative feedback or account suspension for me]

* The "Win it" final step!
If you have placed a minimum bid on the item, then watched it via "my ebay" I'm hoping you have not bid any higher on the item.
If you haven't placed a bid on it, but kept an eye on it via your vague search result term, then in the last few minutes, now is the time to return to it and click on the item page.

Many times I have been gazumped by a bigger bid in the last 10 seconds of an auction.
There are websites you can join, where for a fee, you can list an ebay item and place your maximum bid, the website will then wait until the last 10 seconds of the auction, then automatically place bid increments until it either reaches the maximum or wins the auction by becoming the highest bid then stopping.
This leaves you no time at all to increase your bid and the item you've been keeping an eye on for the past 7 days has gone to someone else.
It is extremely annoying when you are beaten by 50p to an item, especially when you have placed the opening bid of £1 and no one else has bid on the item.

You can vastly improve your chances manually.
In the last few minutes of the auction there is a countdown clock shown on the item page.
With just 20 seconds to go, I type in my maximum bid.
The "confirm your bid" box appears, which I move so I can see the countdown clock, then I hovver my mouse icon over the confirm box and wait until 3-5 seconds before the end of the auction, then I click confirm.
Once entered, it is difficult for anyone using an auto increment website automated bidding process, to have their bids increment fast enough to outbid me.
Remember that the automated website is trying to outbid my original opening bid or the latest highest bid. In the few seconds it takes to beat that bid, I have submitted a new bid, unless the website is capable of checking for new bids in a split second, then it doesn't have time to react and I win the auction.
Alternately, if the automated website is placing only the minimum bid, as I've only watched it from my vague search term results and placed no bid and neither has anyone else, then before it can check for other bids, the auction is over and I've won it!
If no automated website is involved and no one else bids, regardless of my maximum bid, I get it for the opening bid amount... it doesn't happen very often but it does happen.

Sounds silly, but the amount of times I've been beaten by these websites after a week of bidding, watching items, etc, is too numerous to count.
Many times, by placing the opening bid then leaving the item alone, so to speak, nobody else comes in with another bid and I win the auction at the minimum price.

The trick is to avoid showing ebay what you are interested in.
Would you go to a real life auction house and declare to everyone what it is you will be bidding on?
The same applies to ebay, if you do not feed ebay information about what interests you, then you can save a packet and be very frugal indeed!
Ebay's target is to obtain as much information about what you are interested in and using target advertising, promote as many clicks/views of that item as possible, to obtain as much commission as possible for their business.

The easier you make their job, the more it will cost you, the buyer, from your pocket!

Thanks to Stelsters (Over at shameless plug of a totally FREE trivia/quiz website) for another money saving ebay tip.
When searching, try searching for national variants!

"luster/lustre, theater/theatre, and of course, the infamous U." - Thanks Stelsters hun.