Get help with winter bills and energy saving improvements

The Minehead Energy Saving Centre gives free, impartial guidance on how to save money and energy. Its voluntary staff can also provide up to date information about the financial help available.

At the Centre, visitors can see examples of products that can be used for energy efficiency and can borrow energy monitors showing where energy is being used and how much. The Centre’s aim is to make sure people have the latest information about how to make their homes warmer and cheaper to run. If wished, people can ask for an advisor to visit them at home.

Schemes to help people pay for improvements, such as better heating and insulation, frequently change and this winter some long-running initiatives are ending.

The new Green Deal which the Government has just launched will enable some people to carry on getting simple insulation and heating systems done free of charge. The scheme also allows for some new measures, such as solid wall insulation, secondary glazing and wood stoves. There is a long list of things that can be done either under the affordable warmth scheme, which is free for low income and vulnerable households, or through Green Deal loans and grants. The Centre’s staff can explain how it works and help with applications.

An assessment of the property is the first step in the Green Deal process. This is free but applications must be made immediately because these must be done by mid-March.

Surviving winter grants are available for people over 60 having trouble paying bills. Contact Lorna Scott of Forum 21 on 01984 634242 for information.

There are other schemes to help with high bills which are ending soon. For example, people on pension credit and means-tested benefits can apply for free loft and cavity wall insulation only up to the end of March.

Ridgeway Care and Repair offer free draught-proofing, secondary glazing film and basic insulation to people who fit their criteria, for example, those on a low income or have on-going medical conditions. This will continue until 13 March. Ring 01823 692909.

A new scheme local councils have set up with Wessex Home Improvement Loans provides interest free loans to home owners of up to £500 to purchase oil repayable over six months. Phone 01823 461099 for more information. Many villages are covered by community oil-buying schemes which offer lower prices and the Centre can advise on how to contact them.

The Minehead Energy Saving Centre is located in the Co-op car park and is open on Thursdays from 10am to 2pm and on Saturdays from 10am to 1pm. Or phone 01643 821768 and ask for Hester.