With the temperature falling in recent weeks, there’s no denying that winter is definitely here. But the cold weather and dark nights don’t mean you have to wear an extra jumper around the house for fear of facing a massive energy bill.
There are a few things that I refuse to scrimp on – and heating my home is one of them. But this doesn’t mean I am foolish with my energy use – I have had loft and cavity wall insulation installed and I always make sure that I am on the cheapest energy tariff to account for my need to be warm and cosy during winter.
If you want to cut the cost of your gas and electricity bill, read on for my top tips. – and I promise you, you don’t need to freeze to save your pennies.
It doesn’t pay to be loyal
Shopping around and switching suppliers is one of the easiest ways to cut bills – yet the average consumer switches only once every 10 years. What’s more, energy companies usually change their prices twice a year, and what can be the best deal one year can prove less competitive the next. Think of it as you do your mortgage rate – once your fixed-rate deal comes to an end, you will be placed on a more more expensive deal unless you do something about it. Your energy bill is the same – apathy will cost you dearly.
Industry figures show the average annual dual fuel bill was just £522 in 2004 and by 2018 it was £1,137 – that’s an increase of 118%. So, if you haven’t switched, you are actually wasting your hard-earned cash unnecessarily.
For an accurate comparison you will need details of your current suppliers, the name of the tariff and details of how much energy you consume – in kilowatt hours (kWh) or as a monthly or quarterly spend.
Be nosey to save
This is one of those times where it pays to be nosey. Use Moneysupermarket.com’s Home Bills Health Checker’s tool which will help you identify what you should be paying for energy, broadband and home insurance by using postcode data to analyse what the other people in your neighbourhood are paying.
You can refine quotes by specifying how many rooms you have, the value of your contents and your age. The average saving using the Home Bill Checker is £650, so it’s definitely worth having a little look.
Use a cash back website
Register with a site such as quidco.com or Topcashback.co.uk and when you switch your energy provider, do it via the site, rather than directly. The concept behind these websites is simple: each will pay a cash reward when you visit one of their retail partners via the site. And the amount you can earn is better than you’d think. Currently at quidco.com, for instance, you can earn £35 for switching dual fuel through Moneysupermarket or £25 via uSwitch.
To find out more about how these websites work, have a look at an older post that I wrote about why I love cash back. Over the years, I have earned over £1,800.
Read the fine print
But before switching your tariff, check there is no cancellation fee. These are more common on fixed or online tariffs, and usually apply for a set period, but can be costly, sometimes £35 per fuel. Clear any outstanding bills with your existing provider, as you may not be able to switch if you are in arrears. Take a meter reading on the day of the switchover to ensure you are billed correctly.
Go online for a better deal
As with the majority of online retailers, the cheapest energy deal is invariably on the internet. Many providers offer discounts for buying online as their overheads are greatly reduced.
People don’t get paper bills in the post, and need to update their meter readings online, but it’s a small price to pay to save a few pennies if you ask me.
Set up an automatic payment plan
Paying by a fixed monthly direct debit based on the supplier’s estimate can cut your bill by 10%. This is because the energy companies feel more confident that you are gong to pay up, plus they earn interest on any over payments.
Remember your cooling-off period
Have you switched your tariff only to have a cheaper one launched just days later? Or perhaps you felt pressurised or put on the spot by a telesales agent? Not to worry, it is not too late to change your mind. All consumers who switch energy supplier are entitled to a 14-day cooling-off period during which they can switch back without incurring any charges.
BE SAVVY TO SAVE
If you want to cut your bills even further, it makes financial sense to reduce your consumption. But with the energy-saving market a booming industry, it can be difficult to know where to start – and what is actually worth doing. Here are a few options to consider.
Batten down the hatches
The most cost-effective way to save heat is to stop it escaping in the first place and the savings can soon add up – as much as £470 a year.
Cavity wall insulation typically costs up to £720 to install (including building work) but can save you between £70 and £250 per year, according to the Energy Savings Trust. While loft insulation costs up to £400 and can save between £120 and £220 a year.
Some of the big six providers are giving away free loft and cavity wall insulation – some with no restrictions on your income or the number of benefits.
To find out if you qualify telephone the Energy Saving Trust on 0300 123 1234 (England), 0800 512 012 (Wales) or 0808 808 22 82 (Scotland).
Take it easy on the temperature
This is the problem that it’s my own fault – working from home during the winter months means I get cold from sitting at my desk for hours, then jack the heat up only to have the house get too hot and me wracked with guilt for yet again, literally burning money unnecessarily.
Reducing room temperatures by just 1ºC can cut heating bills by around £75 a year, according to the Energy Saving Trust. Further add to your savings and don’t keep it on all day if you are not in.
Using a timer is best, because your thermostat is designed to turn your heating system on and off to keep your home at the temperature you set it.
Draught proof your property
Draught-proofing is one of the cheapest and most effective ways to save energy – and money – in any type of building.
Reducing the gaps around windows and doors could save you around £20 per year, according to the Energy Savings Trust. If you have an open chimney, draught-proofing your chimney when you’re not using it could save around £15 per year.
The loft hatch is another way that you are likely wasting heat, but the use of draught-proofing strips will help to prevent hot air escaping.
Think ahead to bag a bargain
When the sun is shining, winter is usually the last thing on our minds, but if you are thinking of making your home energy efficient, waiting until the middle of the summer is the time to do it.
This is a very seasonal market and the majority of households don’t think about installing measures such as loft and cavity wall insulation until the colder weather hits.
Similarly, heating engineers may also be less busy in the summer months and that could mean a cheaper quote on a replacement boiler or heating system.
So pop a reminder in your diary for the warmer months – while you are at it, why not squirrel away some extra cash in your savings to pay for the work?
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