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Tuesday, 23 September 2014

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Mum and children 'forced to share room to keep warm'

A mother and her children say they have been forced to share a bedroom to keep warm.

Stacey Cowan photo
Stacey Cowan with sons Damien, front and Bradley outside their home

Stacey Cowan and her two sons have slept in the same room in their Longtown home because of problems with a new solar heating system.

It was installed last year by Riverside, which owns the property, and was hailed as being a system that would help the residents save on their heating bills.

A total of 175 homes received this upgrade, carried out by Warmer Energy Services, then known as Warmer Heating. It is powered by electricity – Longtown has no mains gas supply – and solar panels have also been fitted to the properties.

“It was going to save us all this money but all it has done is cost us money,” said Stacey, 31, of Lochinvar Close.

Before the new system was installed, Stacey heated her home with coal, which she described as “absolutely perfect”.

She used to buy coal as she needed it, which cost her around £14 per bag. On average, she bought two bags a week. Now though, she says the bill for heating is usually around £55 per week. In addition, she has also found it to be an unreliable system and says she has suffered frequent breakdowns. According to Stacey, these have been for prolonged periods because Riverside’s staff cannot fix the equipment, which is under warranty.

Repairs must be carried out by Warmer’s engineers.

Stacey says the lack of heating leaves her home extremely cold, which has a big impact on her and her two sons, aged eight and nine.

“When the heating is off they do (feel the effects) because we all share a bedroom.”

Susan Burge, 55, of Dukeswood Road, is also unhappy.

She also used to heat her home with coal, buying two or three bags each week. But since the new system was installed, she says her heating bill has jumped to £55 per week.

She no longer works due to health issues and says a huge amount of her income now goes on power.

Susan said: “Three years ago, when I finished working, I was on £67 per week. If this system had been in then there is no way I would have been able to run it.”

She is also angry that money raised from generating power through solar panels was going to Riverside as the owner of the homes rather than individual tenants.

Another man who says he is affected is window clearner Jimmy Robb, 41, who lives on Moor Road.

Previously, his home was heated with storage heaters.

“This time last year my heating bill was around £30 a week,” he said. “My last quarterly bill was for £460..”

A spokeswoman for Riverside said that the company was committed to investing in green technology to cut the company’s carbon emissions and reduce tenants’ power bills.

Kim Doran, Riverside assistant director of asset management and investment, said: “We are aware of five recorded complaints about the new heating systems installed in Longtown and are alarmed these customers are experiencing increased electricity costs.

“Other customers with these systems are reporting reduced electricity costs.”

She added that Warmer Heating had visited the homes of tenants having problems, explained how the system works and shown how to use it efficiently.

They have also provided advice on electricity tariffs.

She also said: “Warmer Energy Services are keen to resolve our tenants’ issues and has agreed to install monitor systems.”

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