Eileen Chapman was determined to go green and make savings with a revamped home heating system.
But the stunned pensioner went red with rage instead after she discovered, to her astonishment, that she couldn’t afford to run it.
Last September she had the ancient, inefficient electric radiators removed from her Southsea two bed bungalow, and four new technologically advanced energy saving panel heaters installed in their place.
The energy saving firm that recommended the German-made high tech heaters claimed they would give her precise control over heating her home, keeping the 72-year-old warm and cosy for her remaining years.
The upgrade set Eileen back £6,800 but the recently widowed former nurse reckoned the savings would more than pay for them over the next few years.
Although the old radiators had stood the test of time they stood out like a sore thumb, so Eileen was delighted when her unobtrusive new-look heaters were finally installed.
‘They were modern-looking and so slimline as compared with the old inefficient heaters,’ she said, ‘and were complementary to the new décor.
‘The sensitive controls meant I could have the heating on at just the right temperature in the lounge and bedroom, not fully on all the time when I didn’t need it.
‘But when I went to get some sheets out of the airing cupboard I got the shock of my life. I discovered the meter was whizzing around like nobody’s business, even when I turned the heaters down.
‘When I checked what they were using, it was more than three times the daily electricity consumption the entire original set-up had used.
‘I phoned the electricity company, Scottish Power, and told them there was no way my new heaters could be costing more to run then the old ones.
‘They arranged to send an engineer out to check the meter, but he couldn’t find anything wrong with it.
‘I spoke to my son Nathan about it, and he worked out the system was costing me around £110 a month to run, which over a year worked out at more than my entire previous annual usage.
‘Instead of saving me money, my electricity costs had more than doubled.
‘I just couldn’t put up with that so I’d no alternative but to switch the system off and make do with a portable gas heater, just at the time when the coldest time of the year was looming.’
Eileen gave the firm who supplied her new energy saving radiators a call. They told her it wasn’t possible for the heaters to be running up such large bills and to get back onto her energy provider, Scottish Power.
Eileen was furious that she was becoming the victim of classic buck passing, so she enlisted the help of her son to try to get it sorted.
Nathan rang the energy giant’s customer services to find out why Eileen’s bills had doubled, but ended up hanging on the line for more than half an hour before getting cut off.
When he finally got through and explained the situation to an advisor, he was told they’d give Eileen a ring the following day after they’d had time to consult with another member of their customer service team.
Eileen waited two weeks but the promised return call didn’t materialise. Frustrated and furious, she spent hours on the phone trying to get the mystery sorted.
When she finally got through, she admits to losing her cool when asked to repeat every last detail of her complaint over again.
They suggested she got Nathan to take a picture of the meter for five consecutive days and email them over so they could review the matter.
But a couple of weeks later she received a whopping quarterly bill for £540, and promptly hit the roof.
Not knowing where to turn next, she contacted Streetwise and it wasn’t long before we got to the bottom of the preposterous runaway bill quandary.
In the meantime, a Scottish Power official turned up to re-examine Eileen’s meter.
After checking the technical information supplied with her new heaters, he quickly came to the conclusion a meter upgrading was necessary because of an incompatibility problem.
The following week a new meter was installed and Eileen was over the moon when she received a £260 refund.
As Scottish Power spokesperson said: ‘We were very sorry that Mrs Chapman’s complaint was not resolved sooner.
‘It was unfortunate that when she had the new heaters installed she wasn’t made aware of their incompatibility with the original electricity meter.
‘We promptly arranged to change it and in recognition of the delay in re-examining the customer’s meter, and to ensure she’s not been disadvantaged, we’ve refunded the difference between the old and new meter standard rates. As a gesture of goodwill, we’ve also added £50 by way of compensation.’
Eileen said: ‘I can’t thank Streetwise enough for getting my complaint sorted so quickly after I was getting nowhere fast. I can finally take advantage of my energy saving heaters.
‘Once you got onto the problem, Scottish Power pulled out all the stops to get it fixed.’