How to make your home greener all year round – from insulation to water freebies

THE Consumer Crew are here to solve your problems.

Mel Hunter will take on readers’ consumer issues, Jane Hamilton will give you the best advice for buying your dream home, and Judge Rinder will tackle your legal woes.

Jane Hamilton, property expert

It's the greenhouse effect

CLIMATE change is back in the news as the world marked Earth Day on Thursday.

But how can you make your home greener all year round?

Angela Terry from the climate change advice website, shares her tips to save the ­environment – and some cash.

1) INSULATE YOUR LOFT: Up to a quarter of the heat in your home can escape through the roof. Topping up loft insulation to a 27cm depth can save around £250 a year in bills.

2) DRAUGHT PROOF: Escaping heat costs money and adds to your carbon footprint. Use foam strips around doors, draught excluder brushes and a ­simple chimney balloon which inflates and sits in your chimney, protecting against bursts of cold air.

3) CHECK THE BOILER: If your boiler is getting on, a new, efficient model could save you £315 a year.

4) GREEN TARIFF: Check you are on the cheapest tariff possible for 100 per cent clean energy. Some suppliers will even pay you if you use electricity when there is too much wind and solar power on the grid.

5) WATER FREEBIES: Many suppliers will offer free water-saving gadgets, such as shower valves or cistern bags. See

6) IMPROVE YOUR EPC: Every home for sale in the UK has an energy performance certificate (EPC) that shows how energy-efficient your property is.

You are given a rating from A, the highest, to G, the lowest. Installing good insulation, double glazing and low-energy lighting will increase the EPC rating, adding to the value of your home.

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Losing money

OWNERS undervalue properties by an average of £46,300, according to research from Zoopla.

Almost half of homeowners are not aware of their property’s value.

Grainne Gilmore, head of research at ­Zoopla, revealed: “Many homeowners may be in for a nice surprise if they check the current value of their home.”

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Judge Rinder, legal expert

‘‘I ended the right for next door to use my septic tank, but new neighbour came and reconnected the drainage’’

Q) I LIVE in a semi-detached cottage and 40 years ago I arranged for my uncle living next door to have access to the septic tank on my property. When he died 20 years ago the property passed on to his niece and I allowed that use to continue.

Throughout that period I covered all the expenses for emptying and maintenance. She has now sold the property. Prior to sale I advised that the connection to the septic tank would cease. The drainage system  was disconnected and the estate agent advertised the property as such.

The new owner has now trespassed on my property and reconnected the drainage. I am in my mid-eighties and I cannot afford the legal challenge but would like to know what my rights are.  Can I now take steps to again disconnect the tank?

Richard, Pembrokeshire

A) Your new neighbour’s property was clearly advertised on the basis that use of the septic tank was not included. Unless your late uncle’s niece made some other representation to this neighbour (which I doubt), he is unlikely to have any legal right to use the tank now.

It seems to me your neighbour is either hoping you wouldn’t notice or, more likely, believes he is entitled to reconnect the drainage.

Rather than taking steps to disconnect the tank, you are better off attempting to compromise. Unless there is likely to be a serious detriment to you or your property, I would encourage you to share the tank.

Write to your neighbour amicably reminding him that although he does not have a legal right to the tank, you will let him continue to use it if he meets his share of the maintenance costs.

If he refuses, you will have a legal action against him for trespass but I doubt it will get that far. Compromise is the best and cheapest lawyer.

Q) AN elderly neighbour who we have a very good relationship with came round one night with a parcel for us that had been delivered to her house.

It was dark and raining and she was in her slippers. As she came through our gate she slipped and broke her ankle.

We have now received a letter from a no win, no fee solicitor asking for our insurance details. We have since found out it is the neighbour’s daughter pursuing this and she is as upset as we are about it.

We were advised by our insurance company not to give details and write a letter saying we do not accept liability as she entered uninvited.
We are worried sick as we are not covered for the solicitors’ costs in this case.

Chris, Oxon

A) I can understand why this is stressful but I wouldn’t be too worried about this letter. Your neighbour cannot bring a claim simply because she was injured. She would have to prove you failed to take reasonable care of the gate and the path she fell on.

Law firms like this sometimes bring claims in the hope your insurer will settle the dispute as it is often cheaper than litigation.

You might want to follow your insurer’s advice in this matter. However, I would also add to the note that you send to the solicitors that you are uninsured for all solicitors’ costs. This may deter them from proceeding.

Whatever happens I doubt that this matter will get very far – this was an accident and not your fault.

Car blimey

Q) LAST September we parked in a car park in town. My husband queued 20 minutes for the ticket machine and couldn’t get it to work, so we went elsewhere.

A few weeks later we got a £60 fine for parking without paying. Our appeal was rejected as they said the machine was working and we could have paid via our mobile. The fine has now been increased to £100. What can we do?

Lynne, Milton Keynes

You were perfectly entitled to use either of the payment options. It was up to the car park to ensure its facilities were operating and you could make payment within a reasonable time.

Take this to the parking appeal tribunal service. There should be information about this on the back of your payment reminder letter or you can find out how to do this online. It is straightforward and there are no legal costs.

Mel Hunter, reader's champion

Hol voucher no use to us

Q) OUR holiday with another couple was cut short by six nights in March 2020 due to Covid. Tui sent a voucher for £4,500 which we need to use by October.

My husband has leukaemia and doesn’t know if he can travel again – certainly not by October. Tui also says we have to travel with that other couple, which seems unfair. We want a refund instead.

Irene, Suffolk

A) It is normal practice for a voucher to be issued in the event of a holiday being cut short.

But I hoped Tui might be a bit more flexible here, allowing the voucher to be separated between you and your friends, for example, so the whole amount wouldn’t go to waste.

I am pleased to say the travel company went one better and issued a refund instead, recognising that it would be difficult for your husband to travel, even though vouchers have now been extended.

A Tui spokesperson said: “We’re really sorry to hear Irene and her husband had to cut their holiday short last year (and) that her husband is unwell.

“We can confirm the holiday vouchers that were issued for customers with curtailed holidays last year have been extended for 12 months, due to the ongoing uncertainty around travel.

“That said, as we understand they won’t be able to plan any future travel at the moment, we have issued a full refund.”

Q) WE bought a washing machine in November through Currys’ eBay shop but the machine broke down in February. An engineer confirmed the appliance could not be repaired and gave us a number to have it taken away.

But Currys said the number didn’t match its records. We tried several times and every time we got fobbed off.

When I sent a copy of our purchase order, Currys said the print was too small. I sent an enlarged version, which it also claimed wasn’t right.
We are both elderly, unwell and each contact has brought a lot of frustration.

In the meantime, I am trying to wash things in the sink.
We now want a refund so we can get a machine elsewhere.

Julie, Essex

A) You were given the right runaround here. Currys put you through a spin cycle of stress, leaving you hung out to dry.

The machine was deemed unfixable within six months of you buying it, so you should have automatically been given a replacement. Instead, you got weeks of stress and were left up to your elbows in dirty washing.

With me on the case, you got your money back. A Currys PC World spokesperson said: “We are very sorry to Mrs Briggs for any inconvenience caused.

“We’ve fallen short of our usual customer service standards and have apologised to her. We have collected her washing machine and processed a full refund.”

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