60% of British households pay “significantly more” for their energy than they have to. But it doesn't have to be this way. Find out how you can pay less in 2018.
You’ve switched your light bulbs for LEDs, put the heating on a schedule and you turn off your appliances as soon as you’re done. But, despite your efforts, your energy bill is still more expensive than you’d like.
While these changes can work together to bring your costs down (and help the environment while you're at it) they're never going to make a world of difference. But don't worry we have good news. Here's 4 ways that will actually help you to cut your energy bills.
1. Switch and save
This one's a biggie and it's where you'll make the most significant savings.
A lot of people are put off by switching because they think it’s a hassle, or that they’ll have to spend some time without power while the switch takes place. But this isn’t how switching works. Your new supplier will handle everything, and there’s no interruption of service.
If you're on a standard tariff:
Most cheap energy deals only last for a fixed period. When they expire (usually after one or two years) you’re automatically switched to the standard variable tariff, which is your supplier’s default tariff.
According to Ofgem, the British energy regulator, being on the ‘standard variable’ tariff is one of the main reasons people pay too much for their energy. In fact, it can be as much as £109 a year more expensive than your supplier’s cheapest deal.
We take into account your area and your recent usage, meaning you can compare prices on plans that suit you. Once you've picked a plan, your new supplier will ask for a meter reading close to the switching date, and your old supplier will send a final bill when the switch is done.
And that's it. See if you could save here.
If you're on a fixed rate tariff:
Even if you’re not on the standard variable tariff, it could be worth shopping around. The Energy Helpline reckons switching supplier could save you as much as £537 a year. However, you'll most likely have to pay an exit fee.
If you’re on a prepayment meter:
If you're on a pre-paid tariff (where you 'top-up' your meter using tokens, a pre-pay card or a key) you could have a lot to gain from switching. Prepaid tariffs are usually more expensive than credit tariffs. There’s also less choice. So, if you have a prepaid meter, it’s worth seeing if you could switch to a standard meter. This will open up a whole new world of money-saving opportunities.
Which supplier should you switch to?
When it comes to switching, you're most probably going to opt for the cheapest. But if the offered rates are quite similar, you could check how they rate for things like sustainability or customer satisfaction.
The “big 6” energy suppliers in the UK — British Gas, EDF, E.ON, Npower, Scottish Power and SSE — are perhaps the most obvious choices. These all allow you to switch for free and provide energy to the majority of the country.
However, there are also a few independent energy suppliers operating in the UK who may be able to offer you a cheaper deal. It’s worth calling a few independent energy suppliers to see how much they’d charge you. But bear in mind you may have to pay a fee to switch to one of these tariffs.
Whichever tariff you opt for, bear in mind that you might be credit checked. If you have a lower credit score the rate you're offered may vary.
2. Consider a dual fuel tariff.
How you switch can also make a difference to your bills.
Energy suppliers usually offer discounted rates on dual fuel tariffs — that is, when you buy both your gas and electricity from them. However, you may be able to save more if you buy gas and electricity from different suppliers.
In research conducted in 2015, Which? found that getting gas and electricity from different suppliers was £21 a year cheaper than the cheapest dual fuel deal.
Paying by fixed monthly direct debit
Giving regular meter readings
3. Keep the cold out
If your home feels cold even though you keep the heating on quite high, there might be an issue with the insulation. Good insulation keeps your house warmer, which means you won’t have to turn up the heating as much or keep it on for so long.
You may be able to get free or subsidised insulation through the government’s Energy Company Obligation (ECO) initiative. Whether you’re eligible will depend on one or more of the following:
Where you live
How much you could save by installing insulation
Whether you’re taking certain government benefits
Which? has a handy list of ECO participants, what they offer and who’s eligible here.
You don’t need to be a customer to speak to a supplier about an ECO grant. However, the scheme is only open up to September 2018, so it’s best to look into it as soon as possible.
4. Run your home more efficiently
At the end of the day, how much you pay is largely determined by what rate you're on. But even if you decide to switch, or even as a quick fix, you can still lower your energy bills (to a lesser extent), by making small changes around the house:
Use heavy curtains and draught-blocking strips to keep the cold out. The trick is to draught-proof not just the obvious spaces like gaps around windows or under doors, but also areas such as keyholes and cracks around pipework and switches.
Put reflectors behind your radiators to reflect back heat you’d otherwise lose through the walls.
Load your washing machine to full capacity and use a lower temperature, such as 40ºC or even 30ºC.
Avoid putting clothes to dry on the radiator, as this makes the boiler work harder. Always hang clothes on a line or clothes horse, and air-dry whenever possible.