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How to cut your energy bills this winter

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Written by:
29/10/2013
It's that time of year when energy suppliers hike their prices, but taking simple steps can help lessen the blow on your finances.

Following the recent bout of energy price hikes, some as high as 10.4%, MPs on the Energy and Climate Change Committee have decided to haul in the ‘Big 6’ energy suppliers to explain themselves.

Whether this will translate into cheaper energy bills, however, is far from conclusive.

Over the past few weeks four of the ‘Big 6’ energy supplier have hiked up their duel fuel prices: SSE (by 8.2%), British Gas (by 9.2%), Scottish Power (by 8.6%) and npower by a whopping (by 10.4%).

Even smaller companies such as Co-op Energy (by 4.5%) have increased their prices with more set to follow.

These financial blows come at a time when increasing numbers of households are falling into the fuel poverty bracket (when a household spends 10% or more of its income just to stay warm).

It may seem all doom and gloom, but there are ways to lessen the blow of rising energy prices.

Follow these tips to stay warm at a small discount:

Shop around

It is now more important than ever to shop around for cheap deals, especially as the difference between the highest energy tariff and the lowest can be up to as much as £250+ a year.

Many fuel companies now operate dual fuel schemes which can save you money if you buy both gas and electricity from that supplier. Use a reliable energy comparison site, like uSwitch.com or energyhelpline.com to find the cheapest deals.

Expert advice in the current energy market is to get a fixed-price deal as it is unlikely that energy prices will decrease any time soon. Again, check comparison sites for the best fixed-tariff deals in the current market.

Direct debit

Most energy suppliers offer a discount to customers who pay their bills by direct debit, standing order, a fixed payment budget scheme or a flexible payments scheme. Check with your supplier to see if you could save money by moving to a different method.

Always remember to check the terms of any payment scheme your supplier offers to understand any conditions or restrictions it might place on you.

Use a monitor

Energy monitors can help you understand how much energy you are using. They can also help you see where you could use less. Ask your energy provider about them as some of them offer their customers free monitors, like British Gas. If not, one can be bought relatively cheaply online, go here to compare.

Use more energy-efficient products

Replacing all the light bulbs in your house with energy-saving bulbs can lead to savings on your bills. If you’re replacing an appliance like a television or washing machine, be sure to look out for the energy rating. Appliances with better ratings will use less energy, helping you reduce your bills.

Remember you can also save money by using your appliances more efficiently. For example, don’t boil a full kettle if you only need enough hot water for a cup of tea.

Remember to turn appliances off

Leaving appliances like televisions and DVD players on standby means they use electricity, even when you’re not using them. Save money by turning your appliances off completely when they’re not in use.

Turn down your thermostat

Reducing your room temperatures by just one degree can cut your heating bills by as much as 10%. Put on a jumper rather than turning up the heating where possible. You can save even more by turning down the radiators in rooms you don’t use very often.

 

Ensure your home is well insulated and draught-proofed

Half of the heat lost from your home each year escapes through its walls and roof, on average.

Insulating your walls, roof and floor can give you significant savings on heating bills, as well as reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Even the very simply step of closing your curtains in the evening can help prevent heat escaping through the windows. Get an external cover for your letter box, this will also prevent heat escaping.

Help the elderly

We live in an age where we rely on the internet to find the cheapest deals as well as to receive our monthly bills, for which suppliers tend to offer the cheapest and best deals.

Unfortunately this often means that increasing numbers of low income and the elderly are left out of benefitting from the better deals, either due to being offline or not knowing that these deals do exits.

If you know someone who can benefit from this knowledge, let them know that they have options which will make the burden of increasing prices easier to bear.

Winter Fuel Payment

You could get between £100 and £300 tax-free to help pay your heating bills if you were born on or before 5 January 1952. This is known as a ‘Winter Fuel Payment’.

Most payments are made automatically between November and December. You should get your money by Christmas.

You usually get a Winter Fuel Payment automatically if you get the State Pension or another social security benefit (not Housing Benefit, Council Tax Reduction or Child Benefit). If you qualify but don’t get paid automatically, you’ll need to make a claim

Low income

You may be entitled to get help with your energy bills if you get certain benefits. This is called the Cold Weather Payment. Thousands of low income families across the country fail to make use of this grant which can go a long way to help with rising energy bills.

You may get Cold Weather Payments if you’re getting:
• Pension Credit
• Income Support
• income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
• income-related Employment and Support Allowance
• Universal Credit

Double up

Fitting double glazing can reduce heat-loss through windows by 50% and cut heating bills by between £80 and £100 a year. Households should opt for windows with the Energy Saving Recommended logo.

Service your boiler

Regularly servicing your boiler will ensure it is working efficiently and protect you against an unforeseen pricey emergency repair job.

 

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