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How to manage your energy bills in lockdown

Written by: Emma Lunn
The Government’s “stay at home” messages means many households will be facing higher energy bills.

Households staying at home during lockdown for the past two months could be facing higher energy bills – especially if several people are working from home.

With more than 6 million workers on furlough and millions more claiming Universal Credit, many households will be working out how to juggle rising costs with a lower income.

Home energy-saving assistant Loop has five tips for managing your energy bills during lockdown and getting the most for your money.

Investigate overpayments

According to Ofgem, more than half of customers pay their energy bills by direct debit. But it’s important to remember that what you pay each month doesn’t necessarily reflect how much energy you use.

Steve Buckley, head of data science at Loop, says: “If you have access to an online account, it’s easy to log in and see if you’re owed a refund based on the energy you’ve actually used, or give your supplier a call to find out if you’ve overpaid. It’s important you regularly provide accurate meter readings to your supplier though – this will ensure your monthly bills are more representative of what you use and help you avoid any unwelcome surprises.”

Switch on to switching

Despite the growing awareness of the savings available to those who regularly switch, Ofgem found only a quarter of customers switched supplier in 2019 (24%), while 18% switched to a new tariff.

The regulator also found almost half (49%) of customers have never switched, or have only switched once.

“If you’ve been on the same deal for more than a year then it’s likely you’ve rolled over onto a pricey default plan, or standard variable tariff (SVT). Put simply, you could be paying hundreds more than you need to for the same product. It doesn’t matter if you rent or own your home either – anyone can switch their supplier,” says Buckley.

Ask your supplier for help

The Government has agreed a number of emergency measures with the UK energy industry to make sure people are protected during the pandemic. These include ensuring prepayment and pay-as-you go customers remain supplied with energy.

Energy companies have also agreed to support customers in financial distress.

Check your “phantom load”

While it’s inevitable that many families will see their bills rise as they spend more time at home, some could be wasting hundreds unknowingly on their household’s “phantom load”.

This is Loop’s term for the “always on” background energy use in your home. Analysis of Loop data found the average UK household could be wasting up to £140 unnecessarily through their phantom load, while in some households it was more than £450.

Some appliances need to be left on all the time (like a fridge or freezer) or kept on standby (like a smart speaker) but many appliances are left on that don’t need to be.

Make sure you keep your phantom load low by turning items off when they’re not in use, such as laptops and desktops you are using to work from home.

Swap and save

To mitigate the increase in energy your household is using, making some simple swaps could help you keep bills down.

“It might sound obvious, but making small changes like opting to dry clothes outside if you can rather than heading for the tumble dryer and only boiling the water you need in a kettle can all contribute to keeping your usage in check,” says Buckley.

Other simple actions like moving furniture away from radiators in the winter, switching to LED bulbs, and turning your thermostat down by just 1 degree could help you mitigate increased usage in other areas of your home.

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