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Things you can do in summer to reduce winter energy bills

Tips you can follow now to save on energy in the colder months
Couple calculating energy bill costs with calculator

Recent energy price predictions suggest that our bills could see another sharp increase in October. It's a worrying prospect - especially as we use more energy in winter.

The price cap affects energy customers on variable (also know as standard or default) tariffs. That's currently many UK households, for whom competitive fixed deals just haven't been available in recent months. 

Predictions in early July suggest that rates for these customers could increase by as much as 65% in October. 

If you're considering moving from a variable onto a fixed tariff, head to our advice on whether it's time to fix an energy deal.

Because central heating makes up a big part of most people's energy bills, household energy usage tends to be lower in the summer months. But with bigger bills expected to come this winter, it's still worth thinking ahead - despite the current heatwave. We've had a look at actions you can take now to help lower your payments over the winter. 

For some people, it's just not feasible to make more changes to your household energy use. If that's you, and you feel concerned about your bills, you can find out what help is available in our guide to what to do if you're struggling to pay your energy bills

But for those who do feel able to make your home more energy efficient - read on for our tips. Some are suited to those on tight budgets or in rental properties; others are only really applicable to homeowners and those with money to spend. See what suits you and your circumstances below.  

Ease the squeeze on your household bills with our latest cost of living advice and tips

1. Draught-proof your property

Person draught proofing a window

Making sure you've not got draughts blowing through your home is a relatively easy way to make it feel more cosy on winter evenings. If you've got curtains, drawing them as soon as it gets dark on winter nights will help keep the heat in. 

But other draught-proofing measures can be more permanent - and something you can do at any time of year. If you're a tenant, you might find you can improve some of these things yourself, or request that your landlord do so. Just make sure you get permission to make any permanent changes in advance. 

Key areas that may benefit from draught-proofing are gaps and uncovered openings, such as:

  • Windows
  • Doors, keyholes and letterboxes
  • Chimneys and fireplaces
  • Floorboards and skirting boards
  • Loft hatches
  • Pipe work
  • Cracks in walls
  • Gaps surrounding electricity fittings on walls and ceilings. 

You can find dedicated equipment to block draughts from these areas at DIY stores, or come up with your own makeshift versions. Find out more, with information on costs and what you can do if you're renting, in our guide to how to draughtproof your home.

2. Add insulation

Insulation helps keep your home feeling cosy and reduces your energy payments – a win for your home and pocket.

A quarter of heat in an uninsulated home is lost through the roof, according to estimates by the Energy Savings Trust. Therefore, topping up insulation in your roof from 120mm to at least 270mm will help keep your bills in check.

Loft insulation also tends to be more straightforward than floor or wall insulation, as it doesn't require any structural work to your home. So we'd suggest you start there if you have a loft space.

While you might not want to spend a heatwave weekend up in a hot loft, it's something you can schedule in to do over summer that will certainly make savings in winter.

How much you can save with different types of insulation depends on the size and type of your home, and how energy efficient it is, but these are the typical annual savings available: 

  • Loft insulation (270mm): £135-£250  
  • Floor insulation: £30-£75 
  • Cavity wall insulation: £85-£280

Read more about insulating your home in our guides to the different types of insulation, including how much they're likely to cost.

It's also worth finding out whether you qualify for help with the costs. Free loft and cavity wall insulation, or grants towards it, are available from some energy suppliers under the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme. This is a government initiative designed to help cut carbon emissions and reduce fuel poverty by requiring suppliers to support customers in cutting their heating costs by fitting energy-saving measures including insulation.

3. Consider fixing an energy tariff

Cheap energy deals are a thing of the past, but you still might find you're better off in the long run to fix a tariff now, before the October price hikes. 

If you're currently on a variable tariff, any fixed tariffs you see will be higher than what you're currently paying. However, you might find that they are more appealing when you factor in a predicted 65% price rise.

It's worth making sure you understand:

  • Your household’s energy usage in kWh - this will be on your energy statements;
  • Your current tariff details - ie. the rates you pay for gas, electricity and any standing charges;
  • How much these are likely to change in October, if you're on a variable tariff.

This should help you determine whether a fix is a good idea. Find out more about whether it's a good time to fix a deal.

Getting a fixed energy deal gives you the security of a set price for each unit of energy you use. You can take a look at what's available in the energy market in your area using our impartial service Which? Switch. 

Please bear in mind that this (and any other comparison service) won't factor in the predicted rise in variable tariff rates - so you'll need to take any projected annual figures for a variable tariff with a large pinch of salt. It's worth estimating this yourself by calculating what it would be if it increased by 65%.

Use Which? To Switch Energy Provider

Compare and switch gas and electricity deals with confidence

Find the right energy tariff for you
A lightbulb and gas flame promote Which's energy switching service

4. Don't forgo a boiler service

boiler service

Getting your boiler serviced annually will help keep a handle on your energy bills - and could even save your life. If you're a tenant, your landlord is legally required to make sure your boiler is serviced every year. So if they haven't, you're within your rights to make sure they do so.

Which? found around four in 10 of the 8,001 members of the public we surveyed who bought a new boiler in the six years to May and June 2021 didn’t get theirs serviced each year. Not doing so increases the risk of your boiler developing a dangerous fault, such as a carbon monoxide leak.

Getting a service done will be significantly cheaper than paying for repairs on a broken boiler. Our survey revealed only a third of boiler owners who get an annual service have had to repair theirs, but this rose to around half for those who only service their boiler every one to five years. Even though regular servicing doesn’t guarantee your boiler won’t break, the odds are in your favour if you get yours routinely checked. 

It's also a good opportunity to make sure it's running at its most efficient. Small changes to the flow rate of your boiler can make a big difference to your bills, so make sure your boiler engineer checks this for you.

Read more: why you should get your boiler serviced

Help with replacing your boiler (if it's time)

If your boiler is more than a decade old it could be lacking in energy efficiency, and you’ll therefore be forking out more than you need to for your energy payments.

Old boilers can cost more to run than new ones – but as buying a new one and having it installed can cost up to £4,000, replacing a boiler isn't always cost-effective. 

However, if yours is on its last legs and it's time for a new one, you might find that a replacement makes a big difference to your bills. The important things to consider are:

  • The size of boiler you need
  • Whether your heating system needs anything doing to it while you're installing a new boiler
  • Which brand will be most reliable

You can find more information about the types available and what to look out for in our guide to how to buy the best boiler.

5. Install solar panels

It's worth saying with this one - it's definitely not for everybody. Solar panels are an expensive investment, and only appropriate for certain types of home.

However, if you do have the means, or are able to get help from a grant or local scheme, solar panels could pay off in the long run. The Energy Savings Trust estimates that having them fitted will typically set you back an average £6,500. But they last a long time, and the energy savings can be considerable, so they are likely to pay for themselves over time. 

How much energy you generate will depend on where you are in the country due to differing sunlight hours. If you live in London, you could save around £505 a year, as well as 750kg of CO2 emissions. 

Solar panels will typically be on your property for around 25 years. They are the most common domestic renewable energy source in the UK.

The most cost-effective way to get solar panels fitted is to pay upfront and in full if you can. But if you don't have the funds to do so, you could consider a loan or remortgaging your property. Remember you’ll have to pay interest on any money you borrow, and your loan repayments could exceed the returns you make from the solar panels, so do your calculations carefully. 

Entering into a 'Free solar panels and solar buyback' or 'rent-a-roof' scheme is another option, but we do advise caution here. Head to our guide to free solar panels and solar buyback to find out more about solar schemes, funding, and what you need to know before committing to anything.

How long does it take to make savings with solar panels?

The time it will take for your panels to pay for themselves, and whether you can make money from them depends on: 

  • Their cost 
  • How much of the electricity they generate that you’re able to use 
  • Whether (and how much) you’re paid for any electricity exported.

A pricey system will need to be balanced with how much money you can save by using the renewable electricity it generates (rather than buying power from your energy supplier), as well as how much you can earn from selling any excess back to the grid.

Read more about how solar panels work and what it’s like to get solar panels installed.

Help paying your energy bills

Around six in 10 (59%) of households had to make an adjustment to cover essential spending between March and April 2022, and 7.3% have missed a loan, credit card, rent, mortgage or household bill, according to our Consumer Insight Tracker. Energy bills were the most commonly reported type of missed payment (at 2.2%).

If you are struggling, don't suffer in silence. The first step you can take to get help with paying your energy bills is contacting your supplier. It must work with you to agree a payment plan you can afford. Options vary between providers, but you can ask for a review of your payments and debt repayments, a bill reduction, a payment break, more time to pay or access to hardship funds. 

There is a selection of government help available that is designed to make your energy bills more affordable too. These include:   

  • Winter Fuel Payment - An annual tax-free lump sum towards winter energy costs for those aged 66 or over.  
  • Warm Home Discount - £140 (increasing to £150 in October 2022 in England and Wales) off your bill if you get the guarantee element of Pension Credit. A broader group is eligible too, but the criteria varies between energy firms. 
  • Cold Weather Payment - Gives extra help with energy bills when temperatures are below zero, if you get qualifying benefits.
  • Find out if you qualify for other benefits to help you keep up with bills and household expenses on the Gov.uk website.

In addition, the government announced £15bn worth of support for rising energy bills earlier this year, which includes a £400 grant for every UK household, which will be paid as a credit onto your energy bill in October.  

Read more: 10 ways to reduce your energy bills