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Is an electric car right for you? Buying new or second-hand, home charging and the practicalities of EV ownership

There’s a lot of hype around electric cars at the moment, possibly due, in part, to the realisation that diesel cars aren’t a cheap, clean option anymore. We were advised to buy them to reduce CO2 emissions and encouraged by the low fuel bills. The dash for diesel has certainly driven down motoring costs, unfortunately, at the expense of air quality – especially in urban areas.

So, after being persuaded to ‘go diesel’, is it now the time to consider going electric? – what are the options? And is it really a practical solution for you and your life style?

Things to consider if you’re thinking of choosing an electric car.

How much do electric cars cost to buy?

Buying an electric vehicle isn’t cheap at the moment – even with the UK government giving away subsidies to vehicle manufacturers, the purchase price is still much higher than conventional internal combustion engine cars. This is mainly due to the extra Research and Development going into the evolution of electric vehicles, and the expense of lithium-ion batteries.

Long-term, battery prices are dropping fast and the mass adoption of EV’s (Electric Vehicles) will drive down costs year-on-year. New technologies such as solid-state lithium-ion batteries, which the VW Group are pinning their hopes on after ‘Diesel-gate’, will make electric cars even more viable. The car industry is making considerable investment in alternative fuelled vehicles and are looking to shift as many EV’s as possible. Both the Government and manufacturers are offering many incentives to switch to cleaner low emission electric vehicles, now could be the ideal time to consider a greener way to drive?

Leasing an electric car

If you’re worried about technology and resale values it may be worthwhile looking at leasing, or a personal contract hire for an EV, rather than outright purchase. For the business owner, company car driver or fleet manager the EV route could be a real winner. The benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax rates for these vehicles is much lower, especially for pure electric cars. Plug-in-hybrids are less generous than they were, however still much better than a conventional car. The capital allowances for companies purchasing low emissions vehicles is still very generous, as is the cost of installing electric vehicle charging points at places of work.

Second-hand value of electric cars

The first Nissan Leafs appeared in the UK in 2011, this means there are plenty of used cars appearing in the second-hand market. As with all used cars the price will be driven by the mileage and overall condition of vehicles. Many second hand electric cars in the market will have come from leasing companies – who stipulate the servicing intervals – hopefully they will have been checked regularly. Other electric cars on the market will either have been owned by ‘Early adopters’ or those interested in minimising their carbon footprint, so, potentially they will have been driven around fairly sedately – eking out the maximum range per charge!

Electric Car Reviews

Battery longevity; reports from manufacturers, such as Nissan, are claiming that battery life is standing up well. Overtime batteries will start to degrade and this decreases their available range. If you are considering buying a second hand Nissan Leaf it’s worth looking at the battery capacity bars when fully charged. Most manufacturers offer long five to eight year warranties, making buying a two or three-year-old electric car a fairly safe bet. If you’re really concerned about battery life, buying something like a Renault Zoe with a battery that is hired could be a better option. Renault rent their batteries and you pay on a monthly fee basis, worked out by your annual mileage. Should the battery fail, or drop below 75% of its original capacity during your ownership, they will replace it. Although this sounds good, it’s worth noting that the savings you make on EV ownership are somewhat mitigated by the battery rental charges. And it is not just Renault that offer battery rental schemes, some Nissan Leafs in the second-hand market also have rented batteries.

Mechanically EV’s should have less issues than conventional cars, as there are far less moving parts in an electric motor – when did you last have to service the motor in your vacuum cleaner? That said, you’ll still need to keep your brakes, tyres and running gear in order, and manufacturers still seem to stipulate servicing regimes based on internal combustion engines, even though there’s no engine oil, plugs or filters to be consumed. It’s important to keep your servicing up to date and within warranty conditions, just in case something does go wrong. If you’re buying a second-hand electric car, always check that it has been serviced properly by a main dealer and at the right time. Until EV’s become more mainstream, taking an electric vehicle to your local garage isn’t really an option

It’s a good idea to be aware of any electrical or software issues that could be a problem as EV’s age. Do your homework on EV forums, such as SpeakEV, so that you are aware of any potential known problems and fixes. There’s an enthusiastic EV driving community and tapping into this knowledge is well worth it if you’re considering the second-hand EV route.

Electric cars practicalities – have you got off-road parking?

To get the full financial benefits of electric car ownership charging at home is a must. So, there’s one key point to consider before you read any further – do you have off-street parking? If not, you’re probably better off with a non-plugin hybrid car. Why? Trailing electric cable across the pavement is a ‘no no’; not only is it a trip hazard, it’s very easy to damage the cable which could end in a nasty accident. Unfortunately, as of half the UK car owners don’t have off-street parking, until an alternative means of charging is devised, pure EV vehicles aren’t an option for them.

Charging electric cars at home – what do you need?

Okay, you’ve got off street parking! Next hoop – have you got a suitable space to locate a charging point? And does your existing household wiring, consumer unit (fuse box) have the capacity to add an extra 32-amp or 16-amp circuit? Time to find a suitably qualified electrician, hopefully they should give you the answers and advise on the maximum output charger you could install.

What do EV charger points costs to install?

At the moment, there are grants to install chargers, currently they cost around £500 with the government grant, dependent on the suitability of your current wiring. How far your charge point is from the consumer unit could affect the installation costs too. Talking to your local electric car dealer would be a good place to start to get a feel for the costs, and potential incentives to install a charger.

Another thing to consider is where you store the cable when not charging. Putting the cable back in and out of the car every time you charge it is a real pain, they are difficult to coil, get dirty and wet in winter and then take up space in the boot. I’ve found the best solution is to have a second cable permanently connected to the charging point, with the cable which came with vehicle – which isn’t usually long enough anyway, stored in car, for those occasional ‘away from home’ charges.

How long does it take to charge an electric car?

Most EV owners tend to charge at home overnight, a 220/240 volt 16-amp charging point will take approximately 6/8 hours flat to full, and a 32-amp charging point can charge an in around 3½/5 hours –Be warned – some electric cars are not capable of being charged up quickly! So make sure you check. Charging from a standard 13-amp is an option if you’ve an outside socket, but this will extend the charging time to 8 to 12+ hours. Charging times can be much longer if you’ve a car with a large capacity battery.

Remember to plug it in – getting into the electric driving habits!

Forgetting to plug in your car can be a real pain, especially if your car has a range of less than 100 miles, which most do. It’s amazing how relatively short journeys clock-up, inevitably you’ll get the call to pick up someone, or need to pop to the shops. Only to find that you haven’t plugged in the car and it’s only got 10 miles left and going to take hours to charge up! Getting into the habit of plugging in your EV is a must – if you’re constantly forgetting to charge your mobile phone, then an EV may not be the best choice for you. If you’re good at remembering to charge your phone then it is really easy to get into the habit a charging a car, and a lot less hassle than having to fill up with fuel at the garage.

What are the running costs of electric cars compared to conventional petrol or diesel vehicles?

Now this is where electric vehicles win hands down, if they are charged at home. You could be looking at as little as 4p to 5p a mile to do all your A to B short trip motoring. Start charging at night on an off-peak Economy 7 tariff and you’d half that again. This makes even the most fuel-efficient diesel look an expensive option. If you’re lucky enough to have solar PV panels fitted at home, you’d be effectively driving around for free during the summer months when charging during daylight hours.

Electric vehicles running costs

Going beyond your battery range, fast charging network and ‘range anxiety’

‘Range anxiety’, yes it does exist and it’s not very pleasant. The thought of getting stranded at a motorway service station because the chargers are out of action isn’t very appealing, or waiting long periods for a rapid charging point to become available – there’s only so many coffees you can drink while waiting for your car to charge!

The recently introduced fee for using rapid chargers doesn’t make much financial sense, when compared to fossil fuels. However, if you’re a customer of the energy suppliers providing the fast chargers they allow free charging (within limits) for their customers. New players moving into the charging network should help drive competition and hopefully reduce costs in the future.

Hyundai Ioniq running costs – MPG

I expect there’s plenty of Tesla drivers who’d say range anxiety is not a problem – that’s because a Tesla has got that extra bit of range, compared to say a first-generation Leaf or Zoe – and they are doing trips where they can guarantee charge points at each end.

My experience is that reasonably priced electric vehicles make excellent second cars, or urban run arounds. Regular long trips in pure electric cars can be a little stressful at the moment, this will improve as the EV charging network matures and the capacity of batteries improves.

Plug-in Petrol Hybrids running costs

If long trips are the norm and you’re a one car household, I’d certainly recommend a Plugin Hybrid (PHEV) rather than a pure electric – unless you’ve deep pockets and can afford a Tesla!

Plugin Hybrids combine the best of both worlds, short run journeys and commutes in battery mode, then conventional fuels for longer journeys.

Electric Vehicle – tax breaks, grab them while you can

This is a no brainer at the moment… vehicle tax is Zero on pure electrics, 100% capital allowances for company vehicles, no fuel duty on electricity and only 5% vat. Very low Benefit in kind (BIK) rates for company car drivers. I can’t imagine these incentives will last forever, so now might be the time to give it some serious thought.

Electric car maintenance

The other advantage of an EV is that they have far less moving parts than an internal combustion engine, and in most cases, they don’t even have gearboxes. All this means is less servicing is needed, no dirty engine oil to dispose of. Hopefully over time the price of EV servicing should drop as more specialist garages appear and the longevity of electric motors is factored into servicing schedules.

The price of replacement and higher capacity batteries is dropping fast. Suddenly a 10-year-old EV could have twice its range by simply replacing its battery cells. This should make replacing batteries that have reached their end of life more economical.

Electric Car Reviews

Are electric cars better for the environment?

The marketing talk from the manufacturers plays on the words zero emissions. Okay, this is true when the EV is moving, not so true when your charging! Unless you’re charging from a totally green energy supplier or from a renewable source. The standard UK electricity generation (fuel mix) has become a lot cleaner in recent years, with CO2 emissions falling year on year. Even so, the UK electricity generation isn’t carbon free by any means – charging any electric car will have an environmental impact – it just won’t be coming directly from the tail pipe!

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The major benefit of EV’s, especially if you live in an urban area is air quality. Diesel vehicles are making our towns and cities increasingly unpleasant and unhealthy places to live, with ever growing level’s Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) and particulates pollution. Action is urgently needed to reduce these pollutants and EV adoption in these areas could have considerable impact in reducing emissions and improving the air quality, whilst reducing CO2 emissions.

The future is smart – using your electric car as a power station, smart charging, grids and demand reduction.

Electricity generation and the distribution grid is about to go through a complete revolution. Ever cheaper renewable energy generation technology, such as solar PV and wind, are making localised power generation more economic. The unpredictable nature of renewable generation makes finding ways to store this energy a priority.

The ‘internet of things’ should lead to the development of smart electricity grids that can respond to energy demands, helping to smooth out spikes. Technologies that could remotely control devices to reduce demand e.g. by switching connected refrigeration units off for short periods, or stopping your electric car charging whilst demand is peaking, should become common place in the coming years.

EV’s could have a massive impact on the efficiency of the grid, as potentially they could be used as mass energy storage units, which enables you to sell back power to the grid when demand is high. Then charging when energy is cheap or there’s an over capacity in renewable generation. Say you’ve solar PV panels on your house which has fully charged your electric car, you could then sell some of that energy back to the grid during the evening when energy is needed.

The car industry is already investing in solutions for the reuse of batteries that have reached their end of life capacity for EV applications. These batteries can have a considerable second life as home energy units capable of storing a significant amount of energy. Renault Energy Services are working on the development of smart charging, vehicle to grid interaction and second-life batteries applications. UK-based Connected Energy have installed two quick-charge stations based on E-STOR energy storage technology on highways in Belgium and Germany, using second life EV batteries.

It’s an exciting time for EV drivers, manufacturers, the energy industry and potentially good news for the environment.

And then there’s autonomous vehicles, self-driving cars and the like – that’s a whole new topic!

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Ultra-wide curved monitor screens – Pros and Cons – Philips 349X7F review

More and more super-wide, oops ultra-widescreens are appearing in the market. We’ve just spent a few weeks with the Philips 349X7F 34” curved monitor. This screen certainly has a lot of presence – it’s huge! Even the delivery box seemed to be supersized; you’ll need some serious desk real estate to accommodate this beast. Getting it out of the box even turned out to be a two-person job, not because of the weight it’s just so staggeringly wide!

Once unpacked the first thing that struck me about the Philips 349X7 monitor was that it had a separate power supply, and a pretty hefty one at that! Anyone who has to organise their own desk space knows that having a power supply the size of a house brick on your desk is pretty annoying. Saying that the monitor setup was very simple.

Connectivity – monitor inputs and ergonomics

The 349X7F is certainly well equipped in terms of inputs; it comes supplied with a headphone jack, audio input, display port input, HDMI 2 input, HDMI input, USB upstream, USB fast charger and a USB downstream port. However, there’s nothing in terms of cable management loops, or holes in the stand to keep the cables tidy! The stand has plenty of adjustment, making it very easy to get the screen in the most comfortable working position.

The on-off switch at the back is easy to get at. This switch also acts as a toggle for navigating around the setup menus, and this is reasonably intuitive, much better than my own Philips 32” BDM3270 screen which has touch sensitive buttons.

Curved ultra screens are they any good – what are the benefits?

Are curved screens just marketing hype or a real plus? Having spent some time with this screen I’d definitely recommend it. The immersive effect of the curved screen is pleasing especially when the screen is of this size.  Ultra-wide screens are a much better alternative to a two-screen monitor setup, which I’ve been working with for many years.

Curved super-wide monitors are much more of a convincing proposition than curved televisions, as you are much closer to the screen; they fill your field of vision. So if you’re a gamer looking for the full immersive experience then a curved screen could be for you.

The only caveat I’d add to the curved screen debate is that the distortion effect of the screen can be a little annoying. If you’re a designer working with layout, CAD or design software, especially if you’re using guides and grids with lots horizontal lines, having these lines appearing bent is  slightly disconcerting. If this is your primary use, a standard ultra-wide flat screen could be a much better option for you.

In terms of productivity gains in using 21:9 screens, I’d certainly recommend going for an ultra-wide screen. If your work involves switching between lots of applications with multiple windows, having these all up on the screen at once is a real bonus. Plus, if you’re already using a two-screen setup, not having the screens butted together makes for a much cleaner looking desktop and workspace.

Screen brightness, clarity and resolution

This Philips panel was certainly bright and colour was vibrant and didn’t appear to have any colour rendition issues. The resolution is 3440 x 1440 with a Pixel Density: 109.68 PPI, Response time (typical): 4 ms (Gray to Gray)* Brightness: 300 cd/m2 and contrast ratio (typical): 3,000:1. Overall we were very impressed with the image reproduction.

One thing to consider if you’re looking to buy one of these monitors is to check if your computer/laptop has the power to drive the screen.

Ultra-wide monitors energy consumption

This certainly isn’t the most energy efficient monitor we’ve seen, with an annual consumption of 114 kWh per year (use our energy calculator to see what this costs) 78 watts, that’s only C rated. Saying that, if you are replacing a two-screen setup with a single ultra-wide monitor you may well be reducing your energy usage long-term.

Use our energy efficiency tables for monitors to see which are the best products within a given size and price range.

How to find the best energy saving washing machines, tumble dryers, fridges and electricals – whatever your budget

Wash dryers water usage sust-it

There seems to be no getting away from it that the most energy efficient washing machines, tumble dryers and refrigeration products tend to be expensive. Premium brands such as Miele, LG, Panasonic, Siemens, Liebherr and AEG certainly top our efficiency tables. Saying that, there are some great midrange and budget appliances and electricals out there. However, finding these isn’t that easy, as energy labels don’t highlight the real costs of running appliances. That’s where Sust-it’s Green Plug Score can help you find the best energy saving appliances, whatever your budget.

Most Efficient Washing Machines

What is our Green Plug score?

  

To help you find the most energy efficient products we’ve introduced a new ‘Green Plug Score’ percentage. This compares ALL products within our database giving them a score out of 100. The best products available in the marketplace score 100%, and the worst score a measly 1% – it’s these low scoring, energy hungry electricals that are best avoided!

  • 100% – This is the most efficient in the marketplace
  • 50% – Average energy usage performance
  • 25% – Poor inefficient products

How to find energy efficient products on a tight budget?

Sust-it ranks products by their ultimate energy efficiency, based on their published energy labels, or manufacturer’s specification figures. This highlights most efficient products in any chosen category regardless of price. By using the select menus you can filter options down further e.g. by brand, or capacity if you’re looking at washing machines. These filters then rank products showing you the most efficient by a particular brand or it’s capacity.

Sort by ‘Purchase Price’ or ‘Total Cost of Ownership’

Our select filters also allow you to select products by Purchase Price and Total Cost of Ownership. Now, this is where our ‘Green Plug Score’ helps you find that there are well-priced and efficient products on the market. Affordable doesn’t always mean you have to compromise on energy efficiency. Often there is a reasonably priced fridge, freezer, washing machine or tumble dryer that won’t cost the earth to run. Simply choose the Sort by: Purchase Price filter and products will be ranked by purchase price, cheapest first. You can still use the other filters to drill down further, making it easy if you have a preference for a certain brand, or capacity of fridge, washing machine, tumble dryer, even TV’s and computers.

What is ‘Total Cost of Ownership’?

This is the ‘cost of purchase’ and the ‘lifetime running costs’ (average amount of electricity and water [if applicable] consumed by the product at current values, excluding any consumables, repairs or maintenance) added together. Based on the average life expectancy of any given product, e.g. an Undercounter Fridges is 15.5 years*.

Judging products by ‘total cost of ownership’ can get a little tricky, why? Because it tends to favour very cheap products over the more expensive, and potentially longer lasting higher quality products. Our advice would be to take a look at manufacturer’s warranty information; this gives you a good indication of the life expectancy of their products.

When should you replace old freezers, fridges, washing machines and dishwashers?

Running a twenty-year-old fridge might seem like you are being thrifty and green; I’d think again! Fridges and freezers are running 24 hours a day, and energy efficiency has improved vastly over recent years. We’ve developed a simple to use tool to help you see the potential savings for chest freezers, fridges, washing machines and dishwashers.

When should you replace old appliances?

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Getting a good deals on freezers, fridges, washing machines, tumble dryers and dishwashers – cash back, best buys and revues?

Keeping an eye on retailers discount code offers can be a good way of saving money –Sust-it keeps an update list of discount codes and offers. Combining these with manufacturer’s promotional deals, extended warranties and cash-back offers, could dramatically bring down the cost of ownership.

Discount Code Offers

* Life expectancy source UK Gov (defra) 2009

How to buy an efficient washing machine tips, repair or new?

Panic! My washing machines has packed in, I’ve got a house full of dirty washing and water everywhere! This isn’t the best time to start researching the web for best models and deals, is it?

Should I get my washing machine repaired or replace it? And how do I find a local, trustworthy engineer when my local appliance store closed down years ago?

Quick fixes for Washing Machines

If you can’t find the manual, first thing to do is search the make and model number of your current machine (usually found in tiny print on the inside of the washing machine door!) for known faults. There’s loads of information on the web, and you may, ‘fingers crossed’ find that’s it is a simple fix, such as a blocked outlet pipe or filters. If you can’t check in the manual look online. Most modern machines have a filter that you can check for loose coins, bra wires, old tissues, fluff and stuff that finds its way through the machine. Please, please remember to unplug it before you do anything, water and electricity don’t mix!

Repair or Replace my washing machine

Once you’ve eliminated the simple fixes, have a think about the age of your current washing machine and whether it’s a well- known premium brand, or more of a budget machine. If yours is a cheap and cheerful model and its over 4 to 5 years old it may well be reaching the end of its life – not good news – but, as they say – “you do get what you pay for”. The more premium-badged models should have a longer life and therefore be worth getting fixed. Most of the well-known brands have a customer helpline; this would be my first point of contact to try and get an engineer out to see if it’s worth fixing. They should be able to advise you on their local retailer and repair network too, if they don’t have their own guys. They usually have a minimum call-out charge but it might be worth it.

Another thing to bare-in-mind is the age of your machine. Energy efficiency has improved dramatically in recent years, so could be a false economy to repair an energy guzzling old machine. To help with this we’ve developed an online tool to see what savings can be made.

When should you replace old appliances?

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Washing machines are easily recyclable and many online retailers will take your old machine away for a small fee. Well worth checking out – before you buy. Some local councils will pickup old appliances for recycling too. If not, taking them to your local recycling centre is the only option, which okay if you’ve muscle power and access to a van!

What does it cost to get out a washing machine engineer?

It’s not cheap! I recently went through this process after our machine gave-up. The callout fee was not far shy of £100 and we had to wait 5 days for him to turn up. Then it took about 10 minutes for him to say it was worn-out and had a damaged drum. This was a ten-year-old premium German model. They did offer a reasonable discount if we bought a replacement machine from them if we presented the callout bill at their shop. Previously we’ve used an independent engineer who charged a £60 callout fee to fix our dishwasher; unfortunately I’d lost his number!

How to choose a washing machine? Drum size and features

A key decision is what size of drum to go for, having a large drum machine can have a real impact on your energy usage. If you’re a family household using the washing machine regularly, we’d advise going for a larger drummed machine 7kg to 12kg. You will need to make sure you fill the machine up each time; otherwise the benefits will diminish if you just wash a t-shirt. They are also very useful for larger loads such as washing duvets. I think we damaged our previous machine by washing too many heavy loads.

Higher spin speed is handy too, as this will reduce the drying time and save energy if your have to use a tumble dryer. Best to check the recommendation of clothing manufacturer when washing, as high spin speeds can damage more delicate fabrics.

Energy efficiency – using our database of products will show you the most energy efficient models available. If budgets are tight you can list by purchase price rather than ultimate efficiency. Our running cost calculations also include the water cost, which can add up if you’re on a water meter.

Most Efficient Washing Machines

Warranties and guarantees – these are a great indication of the manufactures life expectancy. Most machines will a have a one-year warranty, with many offering 3, 5, 8 and even 10 year warranties as the top of the market.

Smart appliances are starting to appear with ever increasing features. Okay it maybe handy to be able to control your machine from you mobile, however if you’ve forgotten to fill it up that’s not much good. Doing your washing when tariffs are cheaper, say at night, maybe beneficial if you’re on Economy 7. However, all these features will add to the purchase price and you may never use them. One area that smart appliances will be developing is the ability to remotely self diagnose faults. This could be a great feature that would prevent any downtime of your appliances in the future.

Appliances – Offers, deals, cash back, best buys and revues

Getting a good deal can be as time consuming as researching what machine to get. Do I support my local shops, or go straight online?

There’s no getting away from the fact that buying appliances online has become far easier in recent years. With many retailers offering timed slots, text messages updating you where your delivery driver is. And the delivery times have reduced dramatically too. Saying that, there’s no reason that your local appliance shop may well be able to match some deals, and give you peace on mind should there be any issues.

Discounts & Voucher Codes

It’s well worth keeping an eye on online retailers discounts code offers – we keep an update list of these. Combining these with manufacturer’s promotions, extended warranties and cash-back deals, could dramatically bring down the cost of your new machine It does require more effort but is well worth it.

Owners and user reviews can be very persuasive reading, and confusing at times. The real issues with these reviews are that the purchaser is only comparing his/her purchase with their previous machine. They haven’t gone out and bought ten washing machines and then chosen the one that performs best. ‘Yes’ their new washing machine maybe miles better than there old one, purely due to the ever-increasing improvement in technology and manufacturing. Expert reviews are probably a better indication of what’s a best to buy, even though they can only test a very small amount of the products that are in the shops.

Independent customer reviews of retailer’s delivery and after sales service seem to be a good way of judging retailers general customer service – as your getting a broad cross section of views on the same thing.

I hope this information has been useful – good luck with your search!

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Switching energy supplier? Should we choose the greenest? cheapest? or friendliest?

Earn £300 for a few minutes work. It sounds too good to be true doesn’t it? But that’s the average amount you could save by switching your gas and electricity supplier. And yet two thirds of people are on standard expensive tariffs!*

Does Sust-it compare the whole energy market?

Yes we do, you can compare the whole market whether we get a commission or not! Sust-it’s energy comparisons show all the best deals, all of the time! Unlike many energy comparison websites we don’t default searches to include only commission paying tariffs.

Compare ALL UK gas and electricity suppliers

Always lookout when comparing energy prices for checkboxes saying ‘tariffs we can help you with today’ or similar wording. As these sites aren’t necessary showing you the best deals straightaway.

Should I always go for the cheapest energy supplier ?

Let’s face it energy is boring! Does a British Gas kilowatt look any different to OVO’s or Ecotricity? No; they all come down the same wire or pipe. Okay, one maybe greener, other suppliers may have great smart meters, or have friendly customer service that answer their phones quickly, or even be better if you’re an electric car driver.

british-gas-smart_meter

A lot of new players have moved into the energy market in recent years. Many of these are offering super cheap tariffs to gain customers, which maybe good for providing competition to market. However, do these organisations have the resources and technology to manage all their potential new customers? Unfortunately many don’t – our advice is to have good look at their website, does it look professional?; Do they publish a phone number? And are their contact details and company information clearly displayed? If not it could be worth going with brand you trust most and pay a little more. Even the big players are offering cheap tariffs to attract new customers.

Common reasons people give for not switching to a better supplier

I got a great deal a year or two ago… energy companies are experts at sucking you in with a great deal. But prices change all the time. That deal, that seemed good value at the time, may no longer be particularly competitive. Or it could have ended, in which case you’ve probably been quietly moved on to a much more expensive standard rate. If you haven’t changed your supplier in the last few months, you’re most likely losing money every day you don’t switch.

It’s not worth it – I’ll only save a few pounds

Now, it does depend on the rate you’re currently on, but switching can save you hundreds of pounds a year. According to Ofgem the average standard variable tariff is around £300 more expensive than the cheapest available deal, typically a fixed-term tariff. Some can save a lot more. We shop around for car insurance – we need to do the same with energy.

I don’t want to pay a penalty for switching my energy supplier

Some fixed rate deals come with an exit fee if you switch within a set period. However, people don’t always realise when that period comes to an end, so you may well find you can now switch without a penalty. Even if you do have to pay an exit fee, it may well be a lot less than you could save by switching. An exit fee tends to be around £30, a tenth of what you could save over a year if you switch.

I buy renewable green energy

It’s good to help reduce our dependency on fossils fuels but going green shouldn’t mean you can’t save money too. There are several 100% green energy suppliers now, including Bulb, Ecotricity, Good Energy and Green Star Energy, not to mention lots of green tariffs. Which one is best for you depends on where you live and how much energy you use, whether your drive an electric car maybe a factor. We like to promote green energy suppliers, and our price comparison tool can help you to find the best one for you.

My current supplier gives me energy saving advice

That’s great, and so they should. We’d love to see more forward thinking suppliers actively helping their customers to save money. However, it’s not exactly in their best interest for you to use less energy. All gas and electricity suppliers will have to at least provide customers with a smart meter by 2020 at the latest. If you want to check whether the supplier you’re thinking of moving to is likely to give you a new smart meter, just check the Smart Energy GB website.

Tumble Dryers running costs

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Isn’t it more important to cut down on the energy I use in the first place?

Definitely! We all need to do our bit to cut our energy use and our carbon footprints. It needn’t be an either/or situation though. Why not switch your supplier and use the money you’re saving each month to make energy efficient changes to your home, such as replacing your old halogen light bulbs for more efficient bulbs?

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I’ve always been with British Gas/Scottish Power or another well-known name

The ‘big six’, namley British Gas, EDF Energy, Eon, Npower, SSE and Scottish Power, do still dominate the market. However, they’re often not the cheapest, and they’re not always the best for customer service either. Last year Which? conducted a large survey of energy customers, asking them to rate their supplier on customer service, complaints handling, value for money and so on. The big six all ranked near the bottom. Scottish Power, for example, achieved a customer score of just 44%. Renewable energy supplier Good Energy, on the other hand, ranked close to the top, with 81%. People are fed up of the big six, and are moving away in their droves. British Gas lost 220,000 customers in just the first three months of this year.

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Switching energy supplier is too much hassle

It has got easier, and is no more difficult than shopping around for car/home insurance. You don’t need to be a maths genius, and create your own spreadsheets either. My 80 year old mother is an expert at finding the best deal! And I’ve seen students using their phones to switch. Really you don’t need to do much at all; type in a few details to check the best offer for you, and provide your old and new supplier with a meter reading. It shouldn’t take you more than 10 mins, tops. Our switching service does everything for you. You don’t even need to tell your old supplier you’re switching.

Check how much you could save by switching.

Click or Phone 0800 920 2989 | Monday to Thursday 9am – 8pm | Friday 9am – 6pm

*66% of UK consumers are on standard variable tariffs, Ofgem Retail Energy Market Report 2016

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Is your tumble dryer safe? Fire risk recall safety checker, brands, model numbers

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Do you own a Hotpoint, Indesit, Creda, Swan or Proline tumble dryer? Be warned they could catch fire! Government data reveals that between 2012 and 2014 there were 2,190 tumble dryer fires. Recent cases include block of flats in Shepherd’s Bush, where it’s thought a faulty Indesit tumble dryer – a brand name of Whirlpool – caused this fire. Luckily none of residents were injured as the fire was spotted quickly allowing the residents to escape. Had the tumble dryer been on at night this could have been a major disaster.

Other tragic cases have included brands such as Beko; in February 2016 a faulty Beko tumble caused a house fire killing a mother of two, Mishell Moloney (49) from Rubery, near Birmingham. The coroner ruled that a defective model of tumble dryer caused a house fire, which led to her death. This type of Beko tumble dryer has also been blamed for twenty other fires, the Birmingham Coroner’s Court heard. This tragic case highlights that there are real dangers from faulty, or even poorly designed dryers.

What the problem with Whirlpool, Hotpoint, Indesit, Creda, Swan and Proline tumble dryers?

I’ve experience firsthand what’s wrong with these machines, thankfully not through it catching fire! As we used to own one of these faulty Hotpoint dryers, long since replaced with a more efficient condensing tumble dryer. The main drive belt on the model we owned had an annoying habit of breaking. Fixing this involved taking the back off the machine (always unplug the machine first) and replacing the belt. I must admit I was somewhat surprised at how basic and flimsy the whole design of the dryers was – you get what you pay for I guess. What was more worrying was the build-up of dust and fabric fibres within the machine, right next to the unprotected heating elements. At the time I thought this was a real fire hazard and always vacuumed out the fibres, just in case. These had built up even though we’d regularly cleaned out the lint filter, which is recommended by manufacturers. At times there was a burning or singed smell from the dryer. These fibres are cited as causing the fire issues with these tumble dryers.

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My view would be that these machines were poorly designed in the first place, or manufactured to unrealistic unit costs parameters, which has ultimately backfired for the brands reputation. No pun intended as this is a serious issue, with three fires a day caused by faulty tumble dryers according to the Local Government Association (LGA) the body which represents 48 fire and rescue services in England and Wales. The LGA also recommend that owners don’t use their machines whilst they are out or leave them on over night. The regular removal of fluff and fibres is a must, and owners should take care not to cover any vents.

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Where can I check that my Tumble Dryer is safe?

There are thought to be over 4.3m potentially faulty Whirlpool tumble dryers in the UK. Whirlpool are asking everyone who owns a Hotpoint, Indesit, Creda, Swan or Proline dryers manufactured between 2004 and 2015 to check if their dryer is affected. If your machine is affected you can register for a free modification. Please follow this link for Safety Notice recall notice checking: Hotpoint, Indesit or Creda brands and for Swan click here. Or call their free-phone helpline on 0800 151 0905 for the UK or 1800 804320 for Ireland.

If you are worried about your Beko tumble dryer follow this link.

What about other electrical product recalls? How can I check these?

The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 has certainly hit the headlines with its batteries catching fire. Unfortunately not all safety issues gather the same media interest as this, which makes finding out what products are potentially dangerous somewhat difficult, especially if you haven’t registered your product warranty.

We’d strongly recommend that you register your product purchases with the manufacturers, mainly for safety repairs and recalls. AMDEA (The Association of manufacturers of Domestic Appliances) run the website ‘Register My Appliance’  This is a great place to register, you can add details of older appliances too.

There is a very useful database of recalled products maintained by Electrical Safety First, simply enter your product information in their website.

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Smart homes, appliances, heating controls – will they reduce your energy bills?

Do you remember watching The Jetsons (Or am I showing my age now?) In The Jetsons’ a futuristic world of robotic maids and flying cars, smart technology is taken for granted.

Perhaps we’re now just a step away from that world. We might not have flying cars yet, but driverless cars are on the horizon and we already have robotic vacuum cleaners and are starting to be able to control our home appliances with just a swipe or tap on our smart phones. The ‘internet of things’ is evolving rapidly, allowing us to control and synchronise our tech and use it much more efficiently.

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Smart appliances bring lots of advantages when it comes to making our lives easier. We can now control our heating and many of our appliances remotely. Whether it’s turning the heating while we’re getting dressed – that’s if you can find your phone – or switching the washing machine on when we’re out so the noise doesn’t interrupt our evening TV viewing. We can wirelessly stream music around our homes, dim the lights without getting up and even check up on our pets while we’re at work. Smart kits can also help with safety, from turning a plug switch off remotely when we’ve left the iron on, to controlling the lights when we’re away to deter burglars.

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Can smart technology help us to save energy and money?

In some cases, yes. We can set appliances to run when electricity is cheaper, or when the sun is shining if we have solar panels. Smart Home thermostats and heating controls, such as Nest and Hive, can make sure our homes are kept at the perfect temperature. They also enable us to switch the heating on or off remotely, so that it’s warm when we get home, but rooms aren’t being heated when we’re not using them.

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Smart technology can tell you if your boiler isn’t working efficiently and self-diagnose faults. It probably won’t be long before your boiler is booking itself a service and adding a note to your calendar for you!

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Electric car owners can now download apps to their phone to monitor their car’s performance and battery power, and let them know where there nearest charge point is. Pre-heat your car on frosty morning and make sure it only charges-up on cheap off-peak electricity.

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And it’s not just good for consumers. Smart grids and data collection are helping energy companies and appliance manufacturers to diagnose faults and develop more efficient products and solutions.

So do you need this tech to reduce your energy bills?

Not necessarily! If you’re a technophobe or have simply better things to do, why bother! Okay, turning your washing machine on when you’re out might be convenient occasionally, but it won’t save you energy. Upgrading old appliances to more energy efficient ones certainly will! See our ‘When should you replace old appliances?’ page. It’s certainly easier to save energy heating your home using a smart thermostat, but just turning the maximum temperature down on your current one, and being a bit more organised, can save you electricity and energy.

Switching to an Electric Car will defiantly reduce your vehicle day-to-day running costs. And if you’re charging it with a renewable green tariff, will reduce your emissions and make city air more breathable too.

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Whether you go for a ‘smart’ appliance or a regular one, the key is to buy the most energy efficient one you can afford, and use it smartly.

Ready to upgrade? Click on the Appliances or Motoring tab to check the running costs of the top rated appliances and cars available in the UK.

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Green Deal failure – what a waste of energy and money!

So Green Deal, the Government’s big attempt to get households to cut their emissions, has ended up costing us £17,000 for each home that signed up. And worse still the reduction in CO2 is negligible. No surprise there. Well-intentioned maybe, but misguided and to me the maths just didn’t add up.

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Green Deal ran from 2013 to mid-2015, at a cost of £240 million. The idea was that people could get a loan to pay for energy efficiency improvements to their home, such as ground source heat pumps, double glazing, photovoltaics or improved insulation. These loans would then be paid back through their electricity bill, with the promise that they would never pay back more than they were saving. So, for example, if cavity wall insulation was set to save a householder £200 in a year, that would be the most they’d pay towards the loan that year.

As regular readers will know, I’ve had issues with the Green Deal since the start. It always seemed like an initiative that was doomed to fail. Don’t get me wrong, some of the thinking behind it made sense. Enabling people to spread the cost of energy efficient and renewable solutions over time is a great idea. Early birds were even offered a cashback ‘sweetener’ of up to £1000.

However, Green Deal didn’t cover lighting or appliances. The running costs of electricals, such as fridges, freezers, washing machines etc, accounts for around 20% of a home’s energy bill. There are big CO2 savings to be made by switching to more energy efficient models. When money is tight, however, it can be difficult to justify replacing an old washing machine or fridge freezer with a more efficient one, even if it could save money in the long run. Offering people the chance of a Green Deal loan spread over a few years could really have helped people to upgrade.

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Lightbulbs could also have been included. Replacing all the old halogen bulbs in someone’s home with LED ones wouldn’t cost that much, and a scheme whereby you could be sent the bulbs and pay for them over a few years out of your electricity bills, could have proved very popular.

And that cashback offer would have made more sense if the government had used the £1000 to offer homeowners additional ways to make their homes more energy efficient. They could have been offered a choice of free loft insulation, double glazing for two windows, or scrappage scheme for old white goods with vouchers to spend on super energy efficient appliances and lightbulbs, for example.

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There was also no real encouragement for people to make any changes to the way they run their homes. There’s little point in installing loft insulation if you then leave the heating on when you go out for the day, or constantly have the thermostat set higher than it needs to be.

One of my main gripes is that Green Deal didn’t do enough to help those in fuel poverty. Instead it focused on people who could afford to borrow the money needed to improve their home.

It just wasn’t sexy enough, I mean, who wants to take out a 25 year loan for something as dull as loft insulation? And the loans were attached to homes, rather than the owners. While that sounds good in principle, imagine telling a potential seller, “Yep the double-glazing is four years old, but you’ll need to pay for it through your electricity bills for the next 21 years.

In all, the scheme wasn’t fully thought out and there was little real incentive for people to bother taking it up. (In the end, only 14,000 homes benefited.) The National Audit Office (NAO) report criticised the Government for failing to test the Green Deal sufficiently with householders, before it launched. Yet they knew that even when loft insulation was installed free uptake was low. Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said: ‘The Department [of Energy and Climate Change] now needs to be more realistic about consumers’ and suppliers’ motivations when designing schemes in future to ensure it achieves it aims.’

Perhaps that is why they are taking so long to come up with a replacement scheme. Meanwhile – we all Twitter whilst the planet burns! Do you agree, or are you one of the 14,000 homeowners who benefited? Leave a comment below, or Tweet me @Sust-it.

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