Each week former trading standards officer Richard Thomson answers your questions.
Q I’ve read that a voltage optimising device installed in my home would save about 17 per cent on electricity. I cannot find anyone who has one of these gadgets, which cost around £300. Would it really save me money on my bills, or is it just a smoke and mirrors job?
A I’ve been unable to find any independent source to verify the claims made for any of these devices.
In view of the advertising hype about the savings on your electricity bills, I suspect your conclusion about smoke and mirrors is about right.
I’ll tell you why they are, in my view, a complete waste of money.
Voltage optimisers work by reducing the supply voltage to your domestic appliances and lighting.
Most home electricals are designed to work between a voltage range of 216 to 253 volts.
I suspect the majority of your domestic electricity usage is associated with heating loads such as washing machines, immersion heaters, ovens, showers etc.
In that case optimising the voltage will make negligible difference to your energy consumption as it still takes the same amount of energy to heat the load to the desired temperature.
Reducing the voltage applied to heater elements means they will have to be switched on for longer to transfer the same amount of energy.
True, your lighting consumption will be reduced, but your lamps will give off less light.
In that case, if you’re prepared to live with dimmer lighting it’ll be far cheaper to simply swap your light bulbs for lower wattage ones or fit dimmer switches.
Equally, equipment such as TVs and computers have switch-mode power supplies, so if the voltage is lower all that happens is they automatically draw more current to compensate.
Like all these energy- saving products, if they sound too good to be true they usually are.
Q You kindly answered an e-mail I had sent you in your column about a defective watch I bought from Danbury Mint. You said they were within their rights not to reimburse me a £55 repair charge. I had the watch repaired locally without first consulting them, but there have been developments. To save their reputation, can you confirm the outcome please?
A I’m more than happy to confirm you sent Danbury Mint a cutting of my reply asking them if they would stretch a point and consider meeting you half-way with the repair cost.
The firm did far better than that.
They sent you a cheque to cover the £55 and expressed the view they did not deserve the bad press.
I agree with them, and applaud their generous response.
Q My boiler started playing up recently and a British Gas engineer said it needed a new pump. The boiler is about ten years old and the engineer told me the part was not available. The boiler would need replacing. I checked with the manufacturer who said they had spare pumps for my boiler. Is this a con?
A Well to be charitable it could just have been a genuine mistake. You did exactly the right thing, stalled the engineer, and checked out the spare parts situation for yourself.
Your astuteness has saved you a lot of money.
You wanted other readers to be warned. Consider it done.
Richard Thomson is a former trading standards officer with many years experience. If you have a question, e-mail him at email@example.com and wherever possible he will try to provide practical assistance. Unfortunately he cannot guarantee to respond to every letter or e-mail. Richard Thomson welcomes letters from readers on consumer issues. Replies are intended to give general help or advice, not a complete statement of law.