FAMILIES on a new housing estate say they are struggling to pay the high heating bills which are a consequence of the energy meters in their homes.
Kim Green and Louise Wilbraham are just two of many on the Pembroke Park Estate, Eastcote, with Smart Meters installed last year by housing management company A2Dominion.
The meters – introduced for their eco-friendliness and cost effectiveness – work on a pay as you go basis. To use heating and hot water, the tenants must have enough credit in the meter.
The housing association homes in Pembroke Park are supplied from a communal boiler.
Tenants must use the meters, but freeholders and leaseholders on the estate pay their bills separately to energy suppliers.
Ms Wilbraham, 32, lives with her partner Stuart Dean and their three children in Coleridge Drive.
She said the Smart Meter charge is 7.16p per kilowatt hour (kWh) of energy used, but British Gas would charge 4.6p/kWh and EDF Energy would 3.5p.
She said: “We are paying double the amount for what is supposed to be an energy efficient new build.”
“We’ve been tied into these Smart Meters and we can’t do anything about it.”
However A2Dominion said the cost is not comparable to British Gas because Pembroke Park does not have a gas suppply so the system provides hot water and heating directly to homes.
Next-door neighbour Kim Green, 49, lives with her son Louis, 10. She said: “We have got it written in our contract that we can opt out in writing with 30 days’ notice.
“I told A2Dominion I wanted to opt out and their response was ‘If you opt out we will come and disconnect your gas pipes so you won’t get any heating or hot water.’
“Our bills are so high and we have to put up with it. They have taken away our freedom of choice.”
Ms Wilbraham’s eldest daughter, who she asks not to be named, suffers from bilateral frontal polymicrogyria, a brain condition that affects development.
When they arrived at the estate, Ms Wilbraham and Mr Dean thought they had moved into their dream house, which has been designed to cater for their daughter’s disability.
But the costs mean they can only put the heating on when the children are at home, and they believe that is damaging their daughter’s health. Ms Wilbraham paid £60 a week on their Smart Meter this winter.
She said: “We can’t survive another winter like the one we have just had. We feel like we are playing Russian Roulette with our daughter’s health.
“Her room is always freezing. It’s so expensive, but what are we paying for?”
A2Dominion’s group development director for programme and quality, Doreen Wright, told the Gazette: “We regret to hear that some of our residents have concerns about the communal heating system at Pembroke Park.
“In order to meet planning obligations for the use of green energy, Pembroke Park received approval from the local authority for the installation of a communal heating system.
“To better help our residents monitor their energy consumption, we fitted free Smart Meters which have been working successfully since their installation.
“As this is a new system, we have been working hard to provide clear information and guidance on how the Smart Meters work, including one-to-one sessions with residents to explain how to get the best out of their heating systems.
“However, if any resident would like to raise any individual queries with us, we encourage them to get in touch as soon as possible and we will be more than happy to help.”