Thick Socks and Smart Meters

So many reasons for saving electricity – the planet and my bank account being the principal ones (and not necessarily in that order, if I’m being brutally honest). After my husband left, I needed to watch every penny. I also had an ongoing issue with my electricity supplier regarding my smart meter.

Saving money would have been easier with a smart meter I think. I could at least have seen which of my heaters costs me the most, or how much it really costs to have the gas fire on, etc, etc, etc, and made informed decisions accordingly.

I recently decided to switch suppliers – the smart meter saga was showing no sign of being resolved, I happened to be in M&S on my shopping trip, and Octopus Energy were touting for business. They reckoned they could save me £13 a month, which is not to be sniffed at. And they also reckoned they could set me up with a smart meter. We shall see.

So finally my final bill from edf has arrived – I’m under budget, so they’ll be repaying that by 9th December. I’m not going to rush out and spend my refund – it just means that when it’s really cold, I know I can turn the heating up, or keep it on for longer. It’s back-up. For when I want to turn the heating back up.

They also wanted £70 (£35 each for the gas and electric) to let me come out of the contract early. £70!! Seriously??

I rang them.

The nice man on the phone said that he would get my complaints handler to speak to me about it. Yes, I have my own complaints handler. That’s how long the smart meter business has been going on for. She rang me within the hour. Of course they wouldn’t charge me the £70 – I think she felt it was a small price to pay to see the back of me…

I was quietly chuffed about the amount of money I’d saved on my bills. I know we’re just coming into winter and the bills will go up – but I do at least have a bit of control over how much they go up.

Now that I’m working, and therefore out of the house for longer, I’m hoping that’ll be reflected in the bills. I organise the heating so that it comes on an hour before I get home from work, which takes the chill off before I get in without spending too much money heating an empty house. I’ve also moved the furniture around so that my chair is nearer to the fire – no point in having it on and then sitting at the other side of the room!!

I’m a fully paid-up member of the thick-socks-and-extra-jumper club. I also have a big black shawl that I wear that is so warm and cosy. I like to think it gives me a somewhat bohemian air.

During the day, even if I’m not at work, I don’t have the heating on – I’m saving that for when the weather turns really cold. But I have a fan heater that I use if I’m working in the office – it warms things up quite nicely, and I’m very quick to turn it down or even off once I’m warm enough.

Other stuff that I do to avoid paying for any more fuel than I need to – I always hang clothes around the radiator over night before putting them in the tumble dryer (or if the weather’s dry I’ll hang them outside, even in the winter – the smell of washing that’s frozen on the line is phenomenal). I rarely put the tumble dryer on for more than 25 minutes – and on the low heat setting – and then only if things have been hanging around for a day or so and still aren’t quite dry.

It goes without saying that I make sure the lights are off in rooms I’m not using.

I have a bad habit of watching the TV and fiddling on the laptop at the same time. I try to do one or the other. If the TV programme isn’t interesting enough for me to give it my full attention, then I switch it off. Well that’s the theory anyway. The times when I want to watch TV and the times when there are TV programmes on that I want to watch don’t seem to coincide at all, so I usually record stuff and watch it later – that way I’m not watching rubbish just for the sake of it.

I have the TV on at night while I’m falling asleep. I set the timer for an hour. I decided to try just setting it for 30 minutes (and thus saving half) – but it just doesn’t seem to be long enough – I notice that it’s gone quiet, and it wakes me up. I might have another go at that – some nights I can’t even remember what I watched, I fall asleep so quickly, so theoretically 30 minutes should do the trick.

I only put the amount of water I need into the kettle – no point in boiling more water than I need. And the same with cooking – cooking for one means smaller pans, which means using the smaller rings on the hob. And less water in the pan means less to heat, so it shouldn’t take so long to bring a pan of water to the boil. So that’s a plus.

Right – that’s the fuel bill under control.

On with the next job – the car insurance is due in January…

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14 Comments Add yours

  1. gosforthgirl says:

    Hi- I didn`t get on with smart meters mainly because when you change providers, the meter is redundant. I do read my meters every month which is a legacy from another company`s requests so I can see what my fuel consumption is like.

    Definitely advise ditching the fan heater in favour of an oil heater and also a Dreamland Intelliheat electric blanket is bliss. I hate being cold and this means I am toasty all night..

    This year I`ve managed to reduce my direct debit without feeling the pinch and also it was my first year for the Old age heating allowance. Yay!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sadly, the whole point of the sorrowful saga of the Smart Meter is that I was told I had a 2nd generation meter and therefore it should transfer across if I switched providers. I confirmed this with both the old provider (who should have known what sort of meter it was) and the new provider. Then it stopped working – and neither the old lot nor the new lot seemed able to either fix the glitch (if it was indeed a 2nd generation) or just provide me with a new meter (if it was 1st generation) or for an explanation as to why they couldn’t work out which generation it actually was. All mightily frustrating.

    Six years to go before I get any sort of allowance!! Make the most of it!
    xx

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  3. SisterStay says:

    Another great article. One company I would recommend though is Look After My Bills. They search for the best deal for you, based on your current usage and switch everything across at the end of your contract – so no nasty leaving fee suprises. They then continue to monitor it each time your contract comes to an end so you are always getting the best deal possible. They charge all suppliers the same fee and you, nothing. I think I read it was the first ever pitch to gain the support of every dragon on Dragon’s Den. Now we just need something similar for insurance!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I’ve heard of them. Once Octopus has sorted my smart meter (assuming they can), I’ll take a look at them.

      Like

  4. anglosvizzera says:

    We’re also very frugal with our heating – friends and relatives often have to ask if they can borrow slippers and jumpers, which we have available in quantity. Of course, we would put the heating on when we have visitors that don’t know us very well, but on a normal day I find the Marks and Spencer long-sleeved thermal vests a godsend. I have a drawer full of them and wear them underneath other jumpers in the winter and even have some long ‘janes’ for really cold weather, plus really cosy, padded, bootee slippers for the coldest days. (My husband has been known to resort to fingerless gloves as well…)

    When I was a student I was equally frugal, of course, out of necessity, although one flat I lived in was a Victorian ground floor place with only a couple of built in gas fires, an oil filled electric radiator that I had in my room and a small paraffin heater that we used to heat the bathroom before having a bath. One year the others had gone away for the Christmas holidays as well as the people upstairs. It had snowed really deeply and was perishing cold! My then boyfriend’s mother took pity on me and invited me to stay, although I had my cat with me – and she wasn’t a great animal lover – but he behaved himself, thankfully.

    Other student friends, mostly from warmer climes like Nigeria or Barbados, used to walk around their rented places in T-shirts with the heating turned up full. I guess they had the money to pay the bills…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The house I grew up in had no central heating. There were two open fires – the one in the ‘back room’ was lit all the time, the one in the ‘front room’ was only lit on high days and holidays. My parents had a strange two-bar electric fire built in to the wall in their bedroom, and when it was REALLY cold I would be allowed to get dressed in front of it. We moved when I was 10, to a house with central heating (downstairs only, plus one radiator on the landing) and a gas fire. We thought we were in heaven!!!

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      1. anglosvizzera says:

        Sounds much like the house I grew up in, typical 1930’s semi! It had a gas “geyser” in the bathroom to heat the water (no heating other than a paraffin heater that they used on bath days) which almost exploded when you turned it on – scared the hell out of me. I was talking to my older sister about the house the other week, as we moved when I was about 7 so my recollection of it was a bit vague. She tells me that our parents had a gas fire built into the wall, but I’m pretty sure it was one of those 2-bar electric heaters like you described. I’m sure there was no gas supply to the house, as the cooker was all electric. She did live in Switzerland for the first years of her life, so maybe she’s confusing it with where they lived before. She did say they had a solid fuel boiler in the corner of the kitchen to heat the water downstairs, but I’m not so sure…

        Anyway, like you, we moved when I was 7 into a house with central heating, powered by a solid-fuel boiler. We did have radiators in all the rooms until they converted the loft to make me a bedroom, which was unheated. Later on, my boyfriend lived in one of those “Airey” council houses made of reinforced concrete panels which was absolutely freezing in the winter. The water in the toilet in the bathroom used to freeze overnight. The only proper heating was a solid fuel fire in the living room which had a back boiler to heat the water, and a gas fire in the other reception room. One cold winter, the back boiler burst so there was no heat or hot water…it was one of those days of freezing fog. (As you can tell, I spent most of my late teens living at his house with his dad, as I was working in a garage nearby…in return for doing the cooking, proper Sunday lunch and all! I think his dad appreciated it 🙂 )

        Oh, don’t forget the wonderful fern-like patterns on the inside of the windows in the mornings – I really miss those! My kids have no idea what I’m talking about…

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Anglo – oh yes!! We lived on Shetland for a while – central heating thoughout, Raeburn in the kitchen, open fire in the living room and an extra convector heater in the baby’s bedroom – and we still got frost on the inside of the windows!!! Mind you, we were further north than the southern tip of Greenland…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. LittleDreams says:

    Really enjoyed reading all your stories of life before central heating, thanks ladies! In my lifetime, we have always had central heating but I must say, I definitely put on a jumper and even my dressing gown before turning the heating on! As a child, I always wanted a hot water bottle because my mum didn’t have one and was always bemused as to why I wanted one when the house was warm! I’ve got one now- even though my house is warm when it needs to be,xxx

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  7. It’s hard to imagine now!! I don’t remember ever being actually cold – but I do remember having a big stone hot water bottle down at the bottom of the bed to put my feet on (I still have it, but it’s just an ornament now – I don’t trust the seal!!). Oh and of course, these houses didn’t have double glazing either!! Tell the young of today, and they don’t believe you…

    Liked by 1 person

  8. anglosvizzera says:

    Isn’t it amazing what ‘the young of today’ expect when they buy a house? My first house was £18,000 back in 1979, had no heating whatsoever, no fitted kitchen and one of those useless radiant bathroom heaters on the wall. We managed to get a gas supply connected for nothing so we could use a gas cooker (free-standing), and had a gas fire installed in the living room and one bedroom. We decided that a washing machine would be useful, so I got one from the local paper for a fiver – a single tub thing with an electric mangle on top and a hose to fill it from the tap which doubled up as a drain hose when you reconnected it underneath. It worked well – I could start with the white washing at the highest temperature (on had 2 controls – a heat setting and a timer) and then take out those and work my way down through coloureds and synthetics. Then rinse the whole lot in the same way, and finally squeeze it all through the mangle. I admit that we did invest in a small free-standing spin drier once we found one in the paper which got almost all of the water out. Tumble driers were unheard of! That house is now worth several hundred thousand pounds, being in Guildford near the station – ideal commuter pad.

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  9. anglosvizzera says:

    *it, not ‘on’…

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  10. It is funny isn’t it. I moved into my first house in 1980 – we had a 2nd hand cooker, a 2nd hand fridge, no washing machine (used the coin-op until we could afford one), no landline (used the phone box), no TV, no freezer, no microwave, no tumble dryer, no dishwasher, no central heating. It’s no wonder our electric bills have gone up!!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. anglosvizzera says:

    Oh yes, second-hand everything and hand-me-down furniture which I kept for decades, and came with me when I met my second husband. I don’t think we had a phone in our first house…not sure that many people had tumble driers or dishwashers back then, but young people often seem horrified at having to ‘wash up’.

    My husband’s daughter and her husband, both in early/mid 20s and not earning vast amounts, spend a huge monthly payment for their mobile phones and internet package…I don’t know where people get the money from! They had a new kitchen fitted when they moved in too, whereas we just tarted ours up a few years ago and it’s perfectly fine (still no dishwasher).

    My mother was the same – she’d ‘make do’ with whatever was there and carted her freestanding gas cooker to each house when they moved. Before she died at 93, my sisters realised that she had a load of money in the bank that she hadn’t spent and persuaded her to have a bathroom refit with a decent shower instead of the trickle that the current one provided. Sadly she died before it happened, but I sort of know where she’s coming from!

    Liked by 1 person

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