Dear Chris, I am getting really worried about the size of my energy bills.
I know energy companies have been putting up prices left, right and centre and Iím scared I wonít be able to afford to heat my house this winter.
How can I save money on my energy bills?
Harriet Underwood, via email, Thursday 27 November, 2008
Thank you for your email. Following the recent energy price rises, many people are finding themselves in your situation, faced with increased gas and electricity prices and worried about their winter bills.
There are however simple actions you can take to cut your energy costs. Here are my five top tips for saving money on your energy bills:
This is a relatively easy and effective way to save money on your energy bills, as suppliers are keen to offer discounts to customers who pay by Direct Debit.
They claim that this is because direct debit payments are cheaper to process than other payment methods like cash and cheques, but the main advantage for the energy supplier is that their payment is guaranteed.
Ofgem has recently critised energy suppliers for awarding bigger discounts to direct debit customers as those who are unable to pay by direct debit are penalised.
According to the BBC, the average annual bill for households on prepayment meters was £118 higher than those who pay by direct debit following the latest round of price increases. Those who pay by cash or cheque each quarter - standard credit - pay about £80 a year more than those on direct debit.
While these discounts may not be around forever, they are still a good way to save money now.
Signing up to paperless billing is a great way to cut the cost of your bills, providing you have access to the internet.
Paperless billing means you will not receive paper bills, instead you will manage your account online. As an online only customer, youíll take your own meter readings and enter them online; youíll receive an e-bill and be able to access and amend your account, see direct debit payment details and pay your bill, if youíre not a direct debit customer online.
By managing your account yourself it saves suppliers money on admin costs such as postage and paper as well as technicians deployed to read the meter - savings which are passed on to you.
Paperless billing also means youíll eliminate the risk of over-paying on estimated bills, and itís good for the environment too!
If you have never switched energy supplier before you are likely to save plenty of cash and even if you have switched recently it is still good practise to compare gas and electricity prices to ensure you are on the cheapest tariff. In fact, you could save up to £276 by using our energy comparison service.
For the best savings, you should ensure you take both your gas and electricity with one supplier, thus benefiting from dual fuel discounts.
If you are concerned about further price increases in the future, you may want to protect yourself by choosing a fixed price energy tariff. Fixed price tariffs will guarantee that the price you pay for energy will not increase for a fixed period of time, normally one to three years.
Itís important to shop around before making a decision and remember that the price you will pay for gas and electricity depends on where you live.
Once you have found the cheapest provider, switching is easy. All you have to do is fill in some personal details.
It usually takes between four and six weeks for your switch to take place and after you sign up youíll receive a letter from your new supplier notifying you when the switch will happen. Your old supplier will send you your final bill and after that youíll only receive bills from your new energy supplier.
Changes you make to your home and to your behaviour can have a dramatic effect on your energy consumption and thus on the size of your bills.
Here are some effective energy saving measures to start with:
If you are struggling with the rising costs of energy and are worried about being able to afford your bills, itís definitely worth finding out whether you are eligible for any heating grants.
The UK Government funds schemes providing up to £2,700 (or £4,000 if oil central heating is recommended) to vulnerable households in order to improve their heating, insulation and energy efficiency. In England this scheme in known as Warm Front (www.warmfront.co.uk).
You should check the Warm Front website for full details of eligibility criteria, however in general to qualify for a Warm Front grant householders must fit into one of the following categories:
If you are eligible, a grant can provide a package of heating and insulation improvements, including gas, electric or oil central heating (with a combination boiler, up to five radiators and all valves and pipework), as well as energy efficiency advice.
If you have an energy query please email firstname.lastname@example.org