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How to halve your energy bills

60% of British households pay “significantly more” for their energy than they have to. Find out how you can pay less in 2018 | ClearScore

13 December 2018Andre Spiteri 4 min read

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1. Switch and save

Switching tariffs can usher in some pretty big 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 of the price increases are for customers on the 'standard variable rate', which is the rate that an energy company charges after any introductory rates end. Most cheap energy deals only last for a fixed period. When they expire (usually after one or two years) you’re often automatically switched to the standard variable tariff, which is your supplier’s default tariff. Typically this will be much more expensive. So by switching to a different supplier, you can make the most of their cheaper introductory rates.

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.

If you did want to stick to the same provider, then it's worth calling them up and asking if they have any better deals available. If they know that you are thinking of switching, they may offer you a better rate.

If you're on a fixed rate tariff:

Even if you’re not on the standard variable tariff, it could be worth shopping around so you're ready to switch when your current rate ends. You'll most likely have to pay an exit fee if you switch whilst you're still on your fixed-rate tariff unless you are within the last 49 days of your tariff. During this period you're allowed to switch supplier without penalty.

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 far 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. But they are also the providers who have all announced significant price hikes in recent months.

There are many independent energy suppliers operating in the UK who may be able to offer you a cheaper deal. It’s worth looking at a few independent energy suppliers to what’s on offer. With over 60 suppliers on the market, using a price comparison website simplifies this process massively.

Whichever tariff you opt for, bear in mind that you might be credit checked. If you have a lower credit score the tariff you're offered may vary.

2. Avoid dual fuel tariffs

How you switch can also make a difference to your bills.

Energy suppliers used to offer discounted rates on dual fuel tariffs — that is, when you buy both your gas and electricity from them. But alongside the price hikes, each of the Big Six suppliers has removed the incentive to get a dual tariff.

And on research conducted by Which? they also found that getting gas and electricity from different suppliers was £21 a year cheaper than the cheapest dual fuel deal.

3. Keep the cold out

The next step to beating the energy price hikes is to bring your usage down. 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.

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.

Key highlights

  1. energy firms have all announced significant price hikes, switching suppliers or tariffs is still the most effective way to save on your energy bills.
  2. Your new supplier handles the switch and you won’t ever lose your energy supply.
  3. about free insulation under the ECO scheme. You don’t necessarily have to be on benefits — or even a customer — to take advantage.
  4. Small changes around the home and adjustments to how you use appliances can also make a difference.

Andre Spiteri Image

Written by Andre Spiteri

Financial Writer

Andre is a former lawyer turned award-winning finance writer.