How to save money on your energy bills

5 min read

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Sarah Pennells

Consumer Finance Specialist

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With the rising energy price cap, higher inflation and higher prices at the petrol pumps, many households will really feel the pinch. But it’s energy bills that are worrying people the most.

A 'hot' topic

"I’ve been talking about this subject a lot lately with BBC1 Rip Off Britain, Channel 5 news and other media outlets. Our own research into the cost of living shows that bills and energy prices are particularly worrying for many people at the moment, with 92% of adults in the UK concerned about rises in the cost of energy bills, and three in ten (29%) extremely worried.

So, I wanted to take a closer look at how you could reduce your energy bills and make your money go a little further."

Rising energy bills

When energy bills are rising, the suggestion would normally be to switch to a cheaper deal with another supplier to save money. But with the price of energy rising so sharply, the standard tariff is likely to be the cheapest deal, because it’s protected by the energy price cap.

However the energy price cap, which sets a limit on the rates energy companies charge for gas and electricity, is itself rising sharply on April 1st. That means a typical household getting gas and electricity from the same supplier, and paying by direct debit, will pay £1,971 a year for energy (a rise of £693 from the previous level of £1,277). For customers on a prepayment meter, the rise is higher at £708, taking a typical bill to £2,017 from £1,309.

The energy price cap is currently reviewed twice a year, so may go up again on October 1st.

Sarah’s tip: Take a meter reading on March 31st so you won’t pay the higher energy rate on gas and electricity that you use before the price rise. Send it to your supplier straight away.

Help with energy bills

The government has promised help towards the costs of the rise in energy bills. All domestic (namely, not business) electricity customers in England, Scotland and Wales will get a £200 rebate off their energy bill in October. This rebate will have to be paid back over five years in £40 instalments, starting in 2023. In Northern Ireland, approximately 280,000 people on certain benefits will get a payment of £200, which does not have to be paid back.

In addition to the £200 rebate, the government is offering people who live in homes in council tax bands A-D £150 off their council tax bill. England, Scotland and Wales will all run this scheme along similar lines. You could receive the payment as early as April if you pay your council tax bill by direct debit.

Warm Home Discount

The Warm Home Discount is a separate scheme which provides a discount of £140 off your electricity bill for people who qualify. You don’t receive the money as a cash payment, but rather as money off your bill.

Sarah’s tip: There’s a list of suppliers offering the Warm Home Discount, and information about who needs to apply, on the Gov.uk website.

You can qualify for the Warm Home Discount if you’re on the guarantee element of Pension Credit (which means you must be over state pension age) or if you’re of working age, on a lower income and get certain benefits.  Most suppliers are signed up to the scheme but some companies only offer it to customers who are over state pension age. If your supplier was part of the Warm Home Discount scheme and they’ve gone bust, you will have to apply to the new supplier for the discount.

Latest figures show that there’s approximately £1.8 billion in Pension Credit that’s not been claimed. If you’re entitled to it, not only could it mean a higher weekly income, but it may mean you qualify for the £140 Warm Home Discount. 

Using less energy

If you can’t pay less for your energy, you may be able to use less by improving the energy efficiency of your home. It doesn’t have to be expensive; for example, you can buy foil-backed panels to put behind your radiator (or make your own with silver foil), so you heat the room and not the wall! If you don’t have 270 mm of loft insulation (approximately 10 inches) you could be losing heat, so it’s worth adding more insulation. More expensive options include fitting thermostats to radiators so you can control the heat in each room.

Grants and financial help

You may be able to get some financial help with your energy bills, but it is likely to depend on where you live, the type of property you live in (you own it, rent it etc) and your income. There’s a useful, Government backed, website called Simple Energy Advice, where you can type in your postcode, give some information about your home and your situation, and it will tell you what help might be available. The advice is all government endorsed.

If you’re struggling to pay your energy bills, contact your energy provider as they should reach an agreement with you about repaying any arrears.  Most energy companies have their own fund which may be able to help if you’re a customer and are in debt with your energy bills. If you need help with other debts, contact the company you owe money to or a debt advice charity. You can find out how to get free debt help on the MoneyHelper website.