Five easy ways to take control of your energy billsHow to cut energy costs this Energy Saving Week

24 October 2011

Energy prices are rising

Energy prices have rocketed - here's how to combat them

Today marks the start of Energy Saving Week, and the theme is all about taking back control of your gas and electricity bills. Here are five simple ways you can cut your bill costs before the winter months set in.

In the wake of recent and hefty energy price rises, and with the colder winter months approaching, now's the time to check how you can save cash on your heating bills. Here's five pointers to help you get started.

1. Find out which energy deal you're on

Ask your supplier which gas and electricity tariff you're currently on, or check for the name of your plan on a recent energy bill. You might not be on the best value tariff it offers, particularly if you're on a 'standard' tariff.

Online discount or variable-price tariffs generally offer the cheapest rates, but there's usually a cancellation fee if you switch before the end of your contract (generally 12 months). See our energy price rise Q&A to find out more about your tariff options.

2. Don't pay more than you need to

When your energy company puts up its prices, it can be easy to end up accidentally paying more than you should - as you could be charged too much for the period before the price rise comes into force if your supplier estimates your use. 

To avoid this, submit a gas and electricity meter reading to your energy company on the day the price change happens, so it has an accurate reading of how much energy you've used before and after the price change.

You should take and submit regular meter readings to your supplier to make sure you're only paying for the gas and electricity units you're actually using, rather than an estimated bill. Your energy bill will show whether it's based on actual or estimated usage. 

3. Is there a cheaper way to pay?

Monthly direct debit is on average £100 cheaper per year than paying by cash or cheque. Extra discounts are also often available on dual fuel tariffs, where you take both gas and electricity from the same supplier, or when you choose a tariff that you manage online.

4. If you're not getting a good deal, switch

Which? Switch is the independent, not-for-profit energy switching service from Which?, and lets you see which energy deals are currently available - and if you could save by moving to a different supplier or tariff. Switch online, or call its energy helpline (Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 6pm), where an advisor can help you look at your options.

Remember, if you choose to switch after your energy company increases its prices, you shouldn't have to pay a penalty or any exit fees for switching away from them, as the price change is effectively a change in the terms and conditions of your contract.

5. Get your home set for winter

Minimising the amount of gas and electricity you need to use is, of course, another way to keep your energy costs as low as possible. Here are a few ways you can get your home prepared:

  • Insulate your loft and cavity walls to reduce wasted heat - you could save more than £100 per year on your energy bills.
  • Stop heat escaping around draughty windows, door frames, pipes and loft hatches with draught excluders (which you can even make yourself) - saving around £25 a year.
  • Reach for a jumper rather than the thermostat - turning it down by 1 degree can shave 10% off your heating costs.

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