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When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Heating your home

It’s important that your home is warm.  If your home isn’t warm enough you could end up getting sick and you might start to see damp appearing in your home.

Damp and mould 

Most mould in properties in Northern Ireland is caused by condensation.  Condensation can happen if your house isn’t kept warm enough or if the house isn’t ventilated properly.  This useful video guide from the National Landlords' Association shows how you can control damp and mould that is caused by condensation. 

The only way to avoid mould from condensation is to try to stop the condensation happening.  You can do this if you

  • avoid drying clothes indoors if possible
  • try to air out your house as much as possible
  • make sure that you have your fan on or your windows open any time there is steam caused by hot water

If you see mould in your home you should

  • clean walls and windows using a proper fungicidal wash
  • paint over with a fungicidal paint.

Ask the Environmental Health department of your local council to inspect if you think that the damp might be caused by a structural problem, rather than condensation. The council doesn't charge tenants for a fitness inspection. 

Help with heating your home

There are different schemes available in Northern Ireland which can help you make your home warmer and more efficient.  Some of these schemes are only available for homeowners and for people who rent their homes from private landlords.

Bryson Energy

Bryson Energy is the main charity that provides advice on energy and heating in Northern Ireland.  You can speak to an energy advice by calling 0800 1422 865.

Help for Housing Executive tenants

Housing Executive tenants can call Heatsmart on 0800 1422 865.  The advisers at Heatsmart can help you understand how to get the most out of your heating system.  Advisers can visit you at your home to show you the most efficient way to use your heating controls.

Firmus Energy provides the Toasty Homes and Toasty Homes Plus schemes.  These schemes can provide Housing Executive tenants who are on a low income with:

  • insultation
  • financial incentives for new gas heating systems
  • radiator panels and energy monitors.

You need to be on a low income, be living within the Firmus gas network and have an old inefficient heating system to be eligible for these schemes.  You’ll also need to have the Housing Executive’s permission to apply. 

Help for Housing Association tenants

Housing Association tenants who have a low income may be able to apply for the Efficient Electrical Heating scheme, run by SSE Airtricity or the Cosy Homes scheme, run by Power NI.

These schemes can help with

  • insulation
  • financial incentives for new heating systems
  • energy saving advice.

Bryson Energy can give you advice on these schemes and let you know how to make an application.  Call them on 0800 1422 865.  You’ll need to get your Housing Association’s permission before any work can be done.

Private tenants and homeowners

The main help for homeowners or people who rent from a private landlord is the Affordable Warmth Grant. This scheme aims to help people who are in fuel poverty.  Councils should contact properties in areas with high levels of fuel poverty to find out if they want to apply for the scheme.  If you haven't received a letter about the scheme, contact your council's Building Control department to find out if you can apply for help. 

If you’re a private tenant you’ll need to get your landlord’s permission before any work can be done in the property and your landlord will have to pay 50% of the cost of any Affordable Warmth improvements. 

If you’re not receiving income related benefits, you might be able to get help updating your heating system from:

  • Power NI’s Energy Saver Homes, Snug Plus or Free Insulation schemes
  • Firmus Energy’s Toasty Homes or Toasty Homes Plus scheme or

You’ll usually have to be on a low income to get help under these schemes.  The schemes run by private energy companies are announced in April each year and it’s not unusual for the funding to be used up by winter, so try to apply as quickly after April as possible.

Boiler replacement scheme

Some homeowners can get help from the Boiler Replacement Scheme.  This is a scheme which can help with the costs of

  • a new oil or gas boiler
  • switching heating from oil to gas or
  • switching to a wood pellet boiler.

You have to own your home to apply for this scheme.  You’ll also have to show that

  • your income is less than £40,000 and
  • your boiler is over 15 years old and is inefficient

The amount of money that you will get depends on your income.  If your household income is less than £20,000 the basic grant is £700.  This will increase to £1000 if you have to install controls as well as a boiler.

If you earn between £20,000 and £40,000 the boiler grant will be £400, rising to £500 if controls need to be installed.

You are free to choose your own installer.  Where the engineer is working with gas, s/he must be a registered Gas Safe engineer. If you are installing a new boiler, you must apply to your local council for Building Control approval. The Building Control fee will not be covered by the grant.

Call  0300 200 7874  to find out more about this grant or email the Housing Executive to let them know you’re interested in finding out more. This scheme will end on 31 March 2016.

    Safe temperature

    Maintaining a safe temperature in your home reduces the risk of illness.  Try to keep your main living area at a temperature between 18 and 21 degrees.  Make sure your bedroom is warm before you go to bed at night and set the timer on your heating system so your heat comes on before you get up in the morning.

    If you use an electric blanket or heater, make sure you follow the necessary safety measures and unplug these before you go to sleep.

    Some people switch off radiators in rooms that they don’t use.  You can do this, but remember to turn radiators back on in good time if you intend using the room.  Circulating warm air through your house and attic greatly reduces the risk of frozen and burst pipes, so don’t leave heat off permanently.