Mary Quinn, from the tiny village of South Alloa, on the edge of the Falkirk Council area, says she is overjoyed that after months of constant stress and worry she will at last be able to stop relying on family, friends and food banks to feed her family.
The new air source pump has replaced an electric heating system installed in hundreds of Falkirk Council properties ten years ago, leaving tenants locked into paying prices that have surged over the past three years.
After a massive price hike last October, Mary found she was having to pay Scottish Power as much as £50 a day to ensure that her house had heating and hot water.
From the first day of the new system, Mary saw massive difference – now she says £20 of credit is lasting around four days.
The constant need to feed the meter left Mary, who has a brain aneurysm, feeling at breaking point.
That all changed two weeks ago when her house was one of the first in the Falkirk Council area to get the new air source heat pumps installed.
A council spokesperson said: “We are installing Air Source Heat Pumps (ASHP) which work by transferring heat absorbed from the outside air to an indoor space making them a more energy efficient way to heat homes.”
In Mary’s case – though not in all homes – the work involved removing flooring to replace radiators and redecorating every room in the house – but it was a price well worth paying, says Mary, who is absolutely delighted with the new system.
The old Thermaflow boiler – despite costing £35-£50 a day – struggled to heat enough water to give everyone a bath and the house was often freezing in the winter.
Now, says Mary, the house is warm and the water is so hot she had to add cold water to the bath for the first time in years.
“I know a lot of people aren’t sure about this heating system – but I think it’s the best thing ever!” she said.
As April saw prices rise once more for all households, Mary knows that she could never have kept up with any more price rises and she will be forever grateful for the support from family and friends that got her through.
She is also grateful to the Falkirk’s Forgotten Villages campaign – led by Claire Brown and Fiona Gordon – that kept the issue highlighted and let her know that she wasn’t alone.
But it will take a long time before the financial impact is no longer felt. Mary is still in rent arrears and she has had her wages arrested to collect Council Tax.
“I was brought up not to get into debt and I don’t have any catalogues or anything like that – but I just couldn’t keep up with my rent while literally every penny I earned was going to feed the meter,” she said.
“It was just so horrible – I am working and my sons are now working but we were living in poverty, eating rice and pasta and not much else.
“We were literally working just to feed the meter – I don’t know what I’d have done without my big brother and my family, they have been so supportive.”
She would now like some answers as to why her energy costs were so high and the Ombudsman is now looking into her case.
A spokesperson for Scottish Power said: “Our community liaison manager visited Mrs Quinn last week to discuss the final steps required with her account.
“While we’re unable to install a smart meter in the property, a single rate meter will be installed and our engineer is booked to complete this job next Friday. We’re pleased the new heating system is having a positive impact on Mrs Quinn’s bills and we’ve also rebilled her account to ensure it is accurate and there’s no additional costs to pay.”
A Falkirk Council spokesperson said: “Phase one of our heating replacement programme is now underway (South Alloa, Torwood, Standburn and Blackness) with heating installation complete in South Alloa and Torwood. We hope to complete phase one by summer 2022 before moving on to Phase 2 of the programme in Limerigg.”