Homeowners in the North West of England may find themselves paying higher home insurance premiums in the future as scientists working for a drilling company admitted that that their gas exploration activities probably caused the two minor earthquakes that hit the region earlier this year.
Geological risks associated with fracking
Workers for the Cuadrilla Resources Company have stopped their controversial method of extracting resources from the ground, known as fracking, until more tests have been carried out. The process which involves the injection of water and chemicals into layers of rock under high pressure is done to produce quantities of Shale Gas. The procedure is known to cause minor problems in the geological structure of the immediate area but companies believe the profits generated from the mining, warrants the small risk to the local area. Already France has banned the technique and protesters who say fracking is dangerous and contaminates drinking water as well as destabilising the ground staged protests in London at a mining conference and on Merseyside earlier this week.
Mining set off dozens of tremors
Earlier this year two small earthquakes hit the Fylde region, one measuring 2.3 on the Richter scale and another smaller one measuring 1.5. Although experts assert that quakes of this magnitude do not cause structural damage,several residents in the Fylde area did claim on their home contents insurance policies for damage to glassware, pottery etc. Many householders said they felt the shocks in their homes. The scientists also revealed that the mining triggered off up to 50 very small tremors as well as the two quakes. The scientists said that unusual geological conditions at the well base probably caused the problem and other wells in the area may not trigger off the same effect.
Costs homeowners can do without
Home insurance providers are certain to factor in the possibility of earthquakes in the region if the drilling continues and although the increases in premiums may be small the fact is that they could have an effect on incomes, at a time when financial pressure is coming to bear on most homeowners.
In what should prove to be great news for homeowners across the UK, British Telecom (BT) has announced that it plans to bring forward the date when the majority of homes in the country have access to super fast broadband.
Online shopping experience will improve
The plan to bring forward access to fast broadband will help households across the country in many ways, not least for those looking to save money and time. Super fast broadband will enable consumers to shop online more comfortably and should make doing a weekend shop at an online supermarket so much easier. At the moment many people don’t take up this service simply because the pages take so long to load, hence making the process frustrating and time consuming. This particularly applies to those in rural areas who would benefit most from online shopping.
Money saving opportunities
Of course money as well as time can also be saved by those who look to buy services and products online. A quote for home contents insurance for instance using a home insurance comparison site can save customers hundreds of pounds and holidays booked via online companies usually come in a little cheaper than the agents on the High Street.
Job creation for skilled workforce
The latest plan by BT will involve hiring over 500 more engineers between now and 2014 to work on homes in every corner of the country to ensure the Government target of 90% of the homes in the UK have access to super fast broadband by 2015 is not only met but is brought forward. £300 million of investment will be pumped into the project to give the initiative momentum, and BT hope this proactive move will also help them secure contracts in front of its main competitor Virgin Media.
UK will become a world leader
The long term plan of the Government is to make the UK Europe’s leading country in super fast broadband. The present culture secretary Jeremy Hunt believes this will not only help businesses but also give Britons a leading edge in media opportunities in a similar way to South Korean citizens in the Far East. The cutting edge in technology moves on apace, it is warming to think that UK citizens may be in the vanguard of the revolution from the comfort of their own homes.
With the cost of solar panels dropping by almost 60% in the last three years, sustainable energy in the guise of solar photovoltaic panels are now becoming an affordable option for homeowners and householders in the UK.
Buying an option for the comfortably well off
There are two distinct ways properties can benefit from solar heating. The first option is to pay for the system yourself and benefit from the Feed in Tariff (FIT) set by the Government, which on a 3 WP system should return around £1200 a year, including the money saved on electricity bills, the FIT and the small amount of energy sold back to the grid. Such a system will cost around £11,000 to buy and so should only be considered by those with comfortable savings. Experts reckon the solar panels will have paid back the investment in around 8 years and from then on the owners will be making a profit. The FIT rate is expected to be cut next year so many companies are advising consumers to get them fitted now.
Get a system free
The second way to get solar panels fitted to your roof is by allowing a company to fit them free of charge! This may sound too good to be true, but the fact of the matter is, many companies are prepared to do this. The homeowner benefits from the electricity generated by the panels in the day time while the company take the money generated by the FIT. Industry experts say this will give most homes a saving of between £3-£4 a week. Not a lot but it would certainly pay for most home insurance policies. The company are basically renting the homeowners roof to generate the profit from the FIT.
Factors to consider
There are several important factors to bear in mind before you go ahead with such a project. First of all you need to ensure your roof is suitable for the installation. South and south west facing pitched roofs are the most appropriate for solar panels, whereas north facing roofs are not worth considering. The roof must be clear of overhanging trees and anything else that can cast shadows, and it must also be strong enough to take the frame and the panels. Your home insurance provider must be informed about the project although most will sanction the scheme, and if your home is listed then you will probably need planning permission.
Ensure you get more than one quote and make sure the companies who offer their services are covered by the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS). Only companies belonging to the MCS can qualify for the FIT. Also ask to see their membership of the Real Energy Assurance Limited (REAL) assurance scheme. This will ensure any deposit you pay will be safe.
The value of a good home insurance policy has once again been demonstrated over the last 24 hours as flash floods and torrential rain have blighted many areas of the UK and Ireland.
More to come
Homeowners have found that their household premiums of just a few pounds a week will have saved them thousands of pounds after floodwaters entered their homes. It would seem that others in the east of the country, who don’t have home contents insurance, still have the chance to get covered but only just, as weather forecasters predict floods in the North and South East over the coming days.
Homes flooded for a second time
Yesterday it was Cornwall, Wales and Ireland that bore the brunt of the rain, and in some cases homes that had just been renovated after similar disruption last year were once more under water. In Mevagissey, Cornwall, the Ship Inn and adjacent properties in Chapel Street were flooded in similar circumstances to last year with residents distraught that their painstaking work over the last 12 months had been in vain; fortunately the floodwater was not as bad as last November although several homes were damaged. Floodwaters caused problems in Par, Camelford, and Liskeard and over the border in and around Exeter and Torquay.
Pembrokeshire on flood alert
In Wales two inches of rain fell in Milford Haven and many homeowners protected their valuable possessions by placing sandbags around their homes. Most of the damage in Wales was restricted to roads and cars but households across the principality have been on flood alert as rivers in Pembrokeshire threaten to burst their banks if the rain forecast by meteorologists proves to be correct.
Ulster suffers worst from deluge
Northern Ireland suffered most in the UK yesterday with many properties in County Tyrone being flooded. In Beragh, residents were trapped in their homes with swirling floodwaters at their feet, in all, sixteen homes suffered from flood damage and a brand new civic hall was ruined. In Strabane a electricity substation was at one time in danger of flooding threatening to leave thousands of people without power but emergency services managed to keep the waters out. Many roads were closed due to the rising waters and once again weather people are forecasting more.
In times when many households are suffering financial hardship and family budgets are closely scrutinised to see what savings can be made, the unpredictability of our climate illustrates the need for good insurance.
As the UK prepares for winter, experts are warning that extreme cold spells will push up the already worrying numbers of Britons dying from the cold weather.
With the nation in the grip of economic downturn the last thing the country needs is a bad winter to rival the last two. Homeowners are already struggling to pay for items such as household insurance, luxury food items and non essential motoring. If heating requirements shoot up because of a cold snap, experts are warning the choice between buying food or fuel may well cost some people their lives.
Winter weather brings on illness
Figures obtained from the Office of National Statistics suggest that already 27,000 more people die in winter than at any other time in the UK, the majority of which die due to the cold temperatures. It is not a case of people dying from hypothermia it is a case of people typically with heart and lung problems having their illnesses brought on by the cold weather. Worryingly, research is now suggesting that at least 10% of the extra winter deaths happen in homes where the inhabitants are in fuel poverty (a home that spends 10% or more of its income on heating). It seems many people really do have to make a choice between eating or heating.
UK figures worse than Scandinavia
The figures are far worse than those of Sweden, Norway and Finland, countries that all suffer from more severe winters than the UK. Experts are warning the Government that if the austere financial conditions are combined with freezing weather conditions many more households will have to make agonising choices about the quality of their lives. Home contents insurance, hot water and three square meals a day will be luxuries indeed for thousands of homes.
Help is at hand but some will miss out
Charities are concerned about the problem as well, with many demanding that the Government do more. However, the Government will point out they have already introduced the Warm Homes Discount which should knock about £4 a week off winter heating bills and of course millions receive the winter fuel payments. Energy companies are already giving discounted or free insulation to many impoverished households and the “green deal” initiative should offer even better levels of insulation for many in the coming years. Unfortunately there are always people who somehow miss out on the safety net provided by Governments and charities and for those the coming months will prove to be a challenging time.
On the day when the UK Government is expected to announce inflation has hit record heights, an influential group of financiers has said the economic situation in the country has deteriorated over the last three months and drastic action is needed to redress the balance.
Rate more than double the target
The continuing spiral of increased costs affecting fuel, food, heating and home insurance quotes will be reflected in today’s latest inflation figures. Experts expect the figure to be around 5.2%, well over the Bank of England’s target of 2% and one of the main reasons why growth in the economy is coming to a grinding halt. The Governor of the Bank of England (BoE) will once more have to write to the Chancellor telling him where we went wrong!
Experts fear trouble ahead
It is against this worrying backdrop that the Ernst and Young ITEM club, a collective of economic and financial experts warn the Government that the British economy is at a “dangerous junction”. The financial experts have slashed their expectations of growth in the UK economy drastically from their prediction in the summer and now expect the home economy to grow by less than 1% in 2011 and by only 1.5% in 2012.
Easing policy wrong
The ITEM club went on to say that the BoE’s Quantitative easing programme is misguided and that the £75 billion pumped into the money supply will not do anything for exports and business investment, the two factors they believe will pull the economy round. The Euro Zone crisis is of course having its effect on the UK but the club have offered advice to Chancellor George Osborne in the shape of a few policies of their own.
Chancellor urged to help housing market
They suggest another cut in stamp duty will get homeowners thinking about purchasing new household insurance on a new property which in turn will help the building industry. They urge the BoE to instigate a further cut in interest rates to 0.25%, this they think will convince even more homeowners that they can afford to move, and in any case will give consumers more disposable income they can go out and spend. They also suggest the Chancellor cuts National Insurance rates for under 21’s in a bid to stop the unemployment rate hitting three million in the months to come.
At a time when clarity in costing and pricing is becoming all important to the UK’s beleaguered homeowners, the tactics of Britain’s largest energy companies are being called into question.
Consumer experts catch companies out
There is little doubt that the cost of energy, fuel, household insurance and food is responsible for a big slice of the inflation cake that is currently rising on the back burner of the UK economy. While financiers and politicians warn of a double dip recession households throughout the country are taking the advice of experts and trying to find the best deals available to them, unfortunately according to consumer champion Which, when it comes to asking energy companies the best deal you cannot trust their answer.
Many prefer to use the phone
Of course many millions of people use computers and the internet to find out how they can cut their bills, the use of home insurance comparison sites and energy comparison sites such as Uswitch are now commonplace. However, not everyone is comfortable using such sites, and many prefer using the phone to find the best deal. This is exactly the method employed by Which investigators and the results were disturbing to say the least.
Poor response from providers
Researchers from Which called each of the six major energy companies over the space of 7 days. They asked for the cheapest deal according to their circumstances and noted the results. Southern Electric only managed to correctly guide the callers to the cheapest in 25% of the calls and fared worst of all the providers; however, they were not alone in giving poor service. EDF only came up with the cheapest deal for the consumer in 5 of the calls and Scottish Power failed to tell 75% of the researchers that they charged a £51 exit fee for those changing suppliers.
Why so many tariffs?
The secret research led a spokesman for Southern Electric to say there was a case for their call centre staff to be given more training but said there was little difference in the tariffs suggested to the one that was actually cheapest. Amazingly, Which believe that the leading 6 energy suppliers have over a thousand different tariffs available and the real question is; are the tariffs in place to give more choice to the customer or to confuse them?
At a time when homeowners across the UK are faced with rises in homeowners insurance premiums based on post code information collated by insurance providers, the latest statistics for August 2011 on the Governments internet crime maps make very interesting reading.
Scenes of mayhem
Of course, August 2011 was the month when many of the UK’s major cities fell victim to looters and rioters in their thousands. Graphic television newsreel showed hundreds of rioters stealing, breaking windows, setting fire to vehicles and assaulting innocent people in dozens of different locations. A quick perusal of the crime figures for the areas concerned on the Government website does not quite reflect the scenes of mayhem reported on news bulletins every night for a week, and in fact, some residents in the areas affected may even consider asking their home insurance providers to consider lowering their premiums as crime rates actually fell.
Crime rates drop at riot epicentres
Take St Anne’s Square in Manchester for example. Television cameras captured images of youths looting, setting fire to cars and pelting the police with rocks and stones at the height of the riots, yet according to the crime map for August the square enjoyed its lowest level of crime in four months! The Bullring in Birmingham was the setting where mobs in their hundreds sent horrified shoppers fleeing for cover as they set about wrecking the centre. In all police made over 100 arrests before calm was restored, but once again according to the Government website incidents in August were considerably down on those for July. Similar figures can be found at riot torn areas in London, Bristol, Liverpool and Croydon and one wonders how the police.co.uk website can report such low levels of criminal activity.
It’s all in the figures
Apparently it is all in the interpretation of statistics! According to a police spokesman the Home Office guidelines would deem a couple of dozen looters ransacking one store as just one crime! The judges who sat up all night handing down sentences to those caught may view it differently, as would the terrified bystanders caught up in the events. However, the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, Peter Fahy, says it is silly of us to judge the impact of the riots by the number of individual crimes that took place, I wonder if insurance actuaries take the same view.
While most homeowners realise the value of a good home insurance policy, it is doubtful that many know how much the premiums of a policy depend on the geographical situation their home is in.
Riot torn London and Channel Island haven come out best
According to a recent report by a well known home insurance comparison site the difference in an identical policy from one area of the UK to another is staggering. In many cases the differences in prices are also very hard to understand. For example the report, which uses post codes to glean the information, compares 2011 prices with those in 2010. The three post codes that have benefited most by seeing a decrease in policy premiums are; JE, the post code for the Channel Island of Jersey, London SE, a post code in South East London, and London EC, a post code in East London. Not much difference there!
From top to bottom in a few miles
One can understand that perhaps a small island in the middle of the English Channel will have a small crime rate, an older, wealthy population and a comparatively temperate climate, although it did have its fair share of snow last winter. So it’s not a surprise to see it at the top of the list. That is of course until you look at the post code at the other end of the list, the one that has seen the biggest increase in premiums over the last 12 months. Believe it or not the post code at the bottom of the list is GY, the post code for Jersey’s nearest island neighbour Guernsey!
While residents of Jersey have seen an average decrease in the cost of their household insurance by 12%, those across the water in Guernsey have seen theirs rise by an incredible 32%. Talk about a post code lottery! To further confuse the issue two other island communities, Kirkwall in Orkney and Lerwick further north in Shetland fare badly as well. It may well be that Kirkwall and Lerwick do tend to suffer from more inclement weather but one cannot imagine either being a crime hotspot.
There seems little householders can do in areas where premiums are high, except for grin and bear it or of course move house. However, it does seem insurance providers could do more to justify their pricing.
It is not always the first thing that comes to mind when you are planning a special occasion in your home, but home owner insurance is absolutely vital sometimes, especially when it comes to planning events with special lighting requirements.
Candles have been around for thousands of years and although high tech lighting solutions are in abundance the flickering light from a naked flame still attracts many of us and candles are used for all kinds of special evenings. Candles come in all shapes, sizes and colours, and some are scented. They will dramatically affect the atmosphere of the room so it is very important that you choose the right candles for the occasion.
Choose food-grade paraffin wax which is the best quality for your important dinner occasions. Soy wax is another quality ingredient which is natural and environmentally friendly. It is best to choose white candles as strong colours may affect people’s appetite. Tall candles create a formal atmosphere while short candles create a warm, homey feel. Candle holders also play an important part. Candelabra will be good for a dramatic look. Flower shaped holders will make the room look extremely romantic and beautiful. If you are on a tight budget place lots of plain tea lights around the room which will definitely make the room feel dreamy and otherworldly.
It is again important to choose candles made from high grade wax with essential oils for your utmost relaxation and well-being. Choose jar candles which are more fragrant than the normal pillar candles. They are produced with high quality essential oil so are too soft to stand without support, hence they come in jars. Some jar candles have odour neutralising effect which may be good if you want to freshen the room. Place your scented candles in the bedroom, bathroom or living room. Scented candles in the entrance and hallways might pleasantly surprise your guests.
Parties, Celebrations and Christmas
Go for shapes and colours rather than quality to create a fun and festive atmosphere for the night. Choose your favourite colour and shape and place them anywhere you fancy. Small teacup candles might look cute and fun. If children are to be invited to the occasion then safety and a good home insurance quote must be considered, and in these circumstances battery operated candles should be the favoured option.