Energy Saving Trust: Impartial? Independent? Not so much.

Energy Saving Trust logoWe only have one outside wall but, at the moment, it’s damp. I’m investigating the different causes and suspect that we’ll need either new gutters or repointing and sealing of the wall itself (probably both). Since we only have one outside wall, I thought I might as well go the whole hog and get cavity wall insulation on it too at the same time – hopefully to prevent the condensation forming on the inside of the wall (where the cold moisture in the bricks meets the warm house) and to improve the general warmth of the house. (I thought about getting cavity wall insulation on the other sides of the house too but thought the neighbours might complain about me filling their living rooms with shredded fibre glass.)

Anyway, exploring the cavity wall insulation option, I ended up on the Energy Saving Trust‘s website. They’re a “a non-profit organisation, funded by government and the private sector” but I didn’t realise quite what the latter entailed until I gave them a call.

Call centre bunny: “Hello, blah blah blah, how can I help you?”
Me: “Hi, I’m interested in getting cavity wall insulation and I was wondering if you could give me some advice on local suppliers or installers, whatever they’re called”
Call centre bunny: “I just need to take some details. Name?… Postcode?… Address?… Day time phone number?… Not over 60?… Not on benefits?… Electric/gas suppliers?…” [typity type type]
Call centre bunny: “Ok, I have details of two of grants and offers that you could be eligible for. The first one is from [my power company]. They offer cavity wall insulation from £160. You just have to phone this number [blah] for more details and quote this reference [blah]. The other grant is for people suffering ill health as a result of the damp or cold.”
Me: “That doesn’t really apply – I’m fine and I’m not prepared to lick or inhale the mould just to get the money.”
Call centre bunny: “Ok, then you should call the [power company] for more details about that scheme.”

She then launched into the standard data protection “we’ll spam you but not let anyone else” schpeel and as usual, I said no. She then started to close the conversation so I repeated my first question.

Me: “So can you tell me about local fitters who could install cavity wall insulation for me?”
Call centre bunny: “Oh no, we can’t recommend anyone. We can only tell you about offers and grants that are available to you. Thank you for calling and giving us all your details, now please go away.” [slightly paraphrased]

I felt somewhat cheated. I already knew about the power company “offers” from the website and was hoping that talking to a human would be more productive. I now just feel like I phoned up so I could be advertised to. From what I’ve read elsewhere, the power company “offers” are not really offering any sort of bargain: it’s only an “offer” because they’ve called it an offer but that (and I guess some nice sponsorship money) allows the EST to advertise them to every caller. This sort of advertising preys on people that don’t want to (or can’t) take the risk to go with a local supplier and/or don’t have ways of exploring the other options themselves (much like door to door power company sales people – another grr) : you phone up “an independent company” that offer “expert and impartial advice and information” expecting to get just that, but instead just get advertised to. I guess I was just a bit gullible that I expected a (partially) government-funded Helpline to be helpful and not absolutely in the pocket of big business. Silly me. Now I just have to sit here enjoying the fact that some of my taxes paid for the call centre bunny to sell Powergen’s services to me. Woo.

1 Comment

  1. Jasper Bell

    20/4/2006 at 9:54 am

    Hi there, I work at EST and was interested to read your posting. With regard to grants for insulation and other energy saving measures we can only signpost what is out there in the market place and do not receive funding from the energy suppliers for this grant information service. There are also grants from non-profit organisations, government and local authorities and some offer considerable discounts. The grant providers (eg. Powergen, British Gas, Local authority) would organise the installation hence they are best placed to advise on who would do the work. Alternatively you could talk to the National Insulation Association ( or 01525 383313, I am sure they could help. I hope this helps and good luck!

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