How to reduce your usage and get help with your energy bills
Wherever you are in the UK, energy costs are going up. There are two main reasons for the rise, with the first being a shortage of energy supply, meaning the price per unit has increased.
Secondly, the energy price cap is being lifted. This is a limit set by the government that restricts how much suppliers can charge for electricity and gas. By raising the limit, energy suppliers will be able to charge more, and around 22 million customers will see a rise in their bills this spring.
Putin’s invasion of Ukraine may cause further pressures on supply, although this is an ongoing situation that is changing rapidly.
The energy crisis means price rises are unfortunately inevitable. To help, we’ve pulled together some tips for running your home more efficiently, as well as some pointers for making the most of the help that’s available.
Am I protected if I’m on a fixed rate tariff?
A fixed rate tariff locks you into a price per unit of energy for a certain amount of time, usually 12 or 18 months. It means you’re protected from price spikes but you won’t benefit if energy prices come down – although that isn’t likely in the short term anyway. The key thing to remember is that a fixed rate doesn’t mean your bills are fixed – you’re still charged for the amount of energy you use. So living efficiently is still just as important as if you’re on a variable tariff.
If you’re on a variable tariff , your energy supplier can charge you more or less per unit, depending on the wholesale prices of the market, although you may be protected by the energy price cap.
For fixed rate customers, when your current contract ends, you may be moved onto your supplier’s variable tariff.
Think smart – use your smart meter wisely
If you already have a smart meter installed, you may be making the most of the insights it provides to keep your energy bills to a minimum. However, you’re not alone if your meter is tucked away in a drawer gathering dust.
Smart meters show you how much electricity you’re using in real time, how much gas your home is using by the half hour – and, crucially, how much it all costs.
By installing your meter somewhere you can see it, you can keep an eye on your usage and see the difference it makes when you get into energy-efficient habits of turning off lights and appliances when they’re not needed. It’s an effective way to motivate children to get into those habits, that are also money-savers, too.
Haven’t switched to a smart meter yet? By tracking the exact amount of energy you’re using, smart meters mean your energy bills are accurate and based on actual use, rather than the old system of estimated use. And because they reduce the supplier’s costs by taking out the need for meter readings and billing queries, you may be offered a cheaper tariff by having one. You can find out more about smart meters and how to get one at smartenergygb.org.
Claim the help you’re entitled to
A warm home is a basic right, and there is help available if you’re struggling to meet the costs as bills rise.
If you’re on benefits or receive a State Pension, there are various schemes you could claim additional help through, with some of them paid out automatically for people who are eligible.
The Warm Home Discount Scheme and the Winter Fuel Payment scheme provide one-off payments during the winter months. There is also the Cold Weather Payment which becomes available when the temperature drops below freezing for more than a week.
Some energy suppliers offer grants to customers who have been unable to pay their bills and gone into debt. You will need to complete an application and provide lots of details about your finances as part of the process. There are local energy grants available in some areas too, which may include fuel vouchers for topping up prepayment meters.
You can find out about all these schemes and get help with your applications from the Citizens Advice Bureau. The Centre for Sustainable Energy is another good source of advice about local schemes and energy initiatives.
Creating a budget or making adjustments
Increasing energy costs are likely to shift the balance of your household’s outgoings. If you don’t already have a budget that lists your essential costs against income, it can be helpful to create one so that you can clearly see how your finances are matching up each month. Or where you might be able to cut back if there’s a shortfall.
You can use an online tool to create one, or make a simple one yourself on paper.
Everyday tips to reduce your energy use
As the UK’s energy costs rise, every energy-saving action counts. Together, they can make a significant impact on your bills over the course of a month or a year.
- A one degree difference – turning your heating down very slightly will keep your costs lower and you probably won’t notice the change in temperature.
- Do a draught check – draughts coming in and heat escaping out is an instant waste of energy and money. If you’ve got any gaps around windows or doors, there are affordable ways to block them with simple DIY products. And if you’ve got a breezy letterbox, it may be time to replace it with one that has a brush pile to stop the wind blowing through.
- Defrost your freezer – an iced up freezer uses a lot more energy than a freshly defrosted one. Regular defrosting will save you money.
- Cook smarter – batch cooking saves energy and time, making it a winning way to feed your family.
- Wash cooler – cold machine washes use less energy than hotter settings, and unless your clothes are particularly dirty, will provide more than enough power to get your laundry fresh and clean.
At Great Western Credit Union, we’re always looking for ways to help our members save money and stay on top of their finances. If you have any clever ways of keeping your energy bills down, let us know and we can share them.