Keeping warm this winter

Older woman adjusting thermostat  A Connect magazine article

From Issue 7 published September 2016

In these colder months we often end up cranking up the heating. Without the right heating controls, you could be wasting not just energy, but also money.

Rica, a research charity working with older and disabled people, found the best options for blind and partially sighted people when it comes to adjusting your heating.
Chris Lofthouse and Eric Harris from Rica shared some ways you can save energy and money.

Adjusting radiator valvePicking the right product for you

“When we looked at certain products – thermostats, programmable thermostats and valves on radiators – we found that the products aren’t always great for blind and partially sighted people.
Look for features that make products easier to use, like tactile elements, high contrast, large print with easy to use displays and features. Which controls work for you will of course depend on your level of sight.”

Controlling your heating

“For control interfaces – screens or control panels – contrast is important. You need to be aware of buttons and features and where they are.
Where you have a tactile input, you need something to tell you what you’ve done. You have to know what the buttons are telling you, so things like clickable buttons that talk back to you in a tactile way are really important.
Buttons or dials with a tactile output are good too, because they mean when you’re pressing a button or turning a dial, you know where you are adjusting them to.
Adjusting thermostat on smart phone appSmart devices are also becoming more accessible. Using a specially designed smart thermostat, you can control your home temperature using an app on your device, even when you’re not at home.”

Helpful schemes 

“By law, energy companies have to provide services for people with a disability, but you need to ask for them.
Make sure you’re on the Priority Services Register. This means if you have a disability, are blind and partially sighted or are an older person, your energy provider gives you a priority service.
So if you get cut off or have any problems, you will be first in the queue. This is a free service which your energy provider legally must provide, but you have to ask for it.
You can also agree a password system. This means anybody who visits your home from your energy provider knows the password, which is useful as a security precaution if you can’t read an ID badge.
Finally, always ask for your bills and information in an accessible format, whether that’s braille, large print or otherwise.
Energy providers must provide documents in a format you can read. This will help you check your bills are accurate.”

Get the guide

It’s also available in audio or braille from Thomas Pocklington Trust. Phone 020 8996 1937 or email [email protected]
For impartial energy saving advice, contact the Energy Saving Advice Service from the Energy Saving Trust or visit Rica for more tips
If you’re in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, call 0300 123 1234. In Scotland, call Home Energy Scotland on Freephone 0808 808 2282.
RNIB also offer advice on benefits that could help you keep warm this winter. Visit the benefits and support page or call the Helpline 0303 123 9999.