How to cut your energy bills
If you haven’t moved suppliers in the past few years you could save money on your bills. Despite energy companies promising to “simplify” tariffs, there are often significant differences between standard tariffs and best-buy rates. There are a number of websites – such as Moneysupermarket.com, uSwitch.com and energyhelpline.com – that help you find the best deal. Alternatively uSwitch offers a postal search service for those who aren’t so internet-savvy, while Energyhelpline offers a telephone service.
Find a better way to pay
Even if you don’t want to switch provider – although it should involve minimal hassle these days – you may be able cut costs with your current provider. Simply switching to an online tariff (where you update meter readings over the internet) and paying by direct debit rather than quarterly bills can cut costs significantly.
Keep an eye on usage
Those paying by direct debit should ensure that they are not building up a surplus. Monitor estimated usage and bills, and actual readings. You have the right to have surpluses repaid immediately. Remember that, if you have been underpaying, your supplier can backdate bills, but only for up to 12 months.
Pay less for working from home
You may not qualify for “business” rates but those who work from home on a regular basis can claim the energy they use as a business expense, which can be offset against your tax bill. For example, if you used a small room at home as an office, which represents 5pc of the floor area of the house, and your electricity bill for heating and lighting was £300, you could claim £15, or 5pc of the total. Contact HM Revenue & Customs for more information.
If you are looking to switch suppliers, try using a cashback site such as Quidco or TopCashBack, where you may be able to earn up to £45 on top of any savings made by switching supplier. You will need to register with either site before cashback can be paid.
Find free insulation
Loft insulation can save you £120 a year but you may need an upfront payment of £300 to install it. However, many energy companies offer free loft or cavity wall insulation, or grants to help with other energy-saving measures. These are typically (although not exclusively) targeted at those on low incomes or a pension. Contact your gas or electricity supplier for more information. The Energy Saving Trust said simple measures such as fitting curtains across doors, blocking draughts and insulating windows could make an impact on heating bills.
Alternatively, consider the new Green Deal. Here, there is no upfront cost for energy efficiency measures; instead, you take out a loan and the repayments are taken from your electricity bill. The savings you make on your heating costs should cancel out the loan repayments.
Get a fixed rate
These deals promise fixed costs per unit until a date specified, so you are protected from unexpected price rises. Often you pay slightly more than the best variable rates for this peace of mind. The best deals tend to be taken off the market quickly, so get your skates on if you see the right deal.
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