Utility Bills and Affordable Warmth

Understanding your bills is important. If you have not lived independently before, or if your partner or spouse used to deal with them on your behalf, it can be a real worry. Take a look at the Money Matters website to see what your utility bills should look like, and how to go about paying them.

1. Compare

Are you getting the best deal for your energy bills? There are many price comparison sites around which can help you check that you are on the best tariff for your needs. Try a couple to check the deal they recommend is definitely best for you, as some comparison sites may not include all companies and tariffs.

Examples of comparison sites for gas and electricity include USwitch and Money Supermarket, but there are many more out there – just try putting ‘price comparison site’ into your search engine. These are usually straightforward to use – you will need to know which supplier you are with at the moment, how you pay your bills and approximately how much you spend.

However, do be aware that these sites often request a fee from the energy companies whose details they provide and may be less likely to list those who don’t pay up, so you might not necessarily be seeing all the deals available. Another option could be to check out Ebico – a not-for-profit energy company who don’t charge any extra for customers with low usage or who decide to pay by pre-payment meters. Their tariffs are available to everyone and could offer some savings, particularly if you have more bedroom ms in your property than people living there.

2. Be Energy Efficient

Not only is cutting down on your energy usage good for the environment, you could also cut your bills dramatically. Have a look at this site to see what you can do around your home to reduce your energy costs.

Some of these ideas (such as installing double glazing) require quite a large initial outlay, but will usually pay for themselves over a period of time because they will save you money in the long run. Others (like turning off appliances you are not using) are simpler ideas for day-to-day life. While the savings here might not be as dramatic, they all add up.

If you think you’d be interested in the greater savings offered by one of the more expensive, long-term energy saving ideas, such as cavity wall insulation or double glazing, you may be eligible for help funding it. Check out this for more info.

You can also make savings through buying new equipment such as a new fridge or freezer, which may be more energy efficient than your old one.

Our top tips for everyday energy saving are below, you can also find more at Energy Saving Trust 

• Make sure appliances are turned off at the wall when not in use, never just left on standby. Unplug phone chargers when you are not using them.

• Only boil the amount of water you need – although, if you have an electric kettle you must make sure you cover the elements.

• Use energy saving light bulbs wherever possible – the design of these has really improved and you can now get them to fit most light fixtures.

• Fix dripping taps as soon as you notice them to prevent water wastage.

• Try turning the thermostat down one degree – you probably won’t notice the difference but it can save you a significant amount over the year. Remember though, the temperature in your main living area should be at least 18-21°C (64-70°F) and in the rest of the house 16°C (61°F).

• If you have a timer make sure the heating and hot water are set to come on only when you need them – a good guide is to set it for 30 minutes before you get up in the morning and set it to switch off 30 minutes before you are due to leave.

• It’s a good idea to set the hot water cylinder thermostat to either 60 degrees Celsius or 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

• Try wearing an extra layer of clothes when the weather gets chilly rather than turning up the heating unnecessarily.

• Place draught excluders around all your doors to keep the house cosy.

• Try to avoid placing furniture in front of radiators.

• Place a sheet of foil behind the radiator to maximise its effectiveness by reflecting heat back into the room.

• Close curtains in the evenings and make sure they are tucked behind radiators this will help prevent heat loss.

• Always try to make up a full load of washing, this is more economical than doing two half loads.

• Make sure you close the door behind you if you go outside to smoke.

• Hang washing outside whenever the weather is fine rather than using a dryer.

• Keep fridge and freezer doors tight shut and only open them for the minimum time you need.

• Try to avoid positioning your fridge/freezer near to a radiator or other heat source.

• You can recycle food and garden waste to use as compost for your flowers.

• Try using your bike, walking or travelling by train whenever possible. You could even try giving up your car completely – there are now many schemes offering car-sharing, such as the Easy Car Club

3. Social Tariffs and Grants

If you meet certain criteria, energy suppliers may be able to offer you a social tariff – a special low cost rate designed to help vulnerable people with the cost of their energy bills. You can contact your energy supplier directly to find out more.

You might also be eligible for a grant to help with your energy costs. Check the Turn to Us website for advice, or see below for links to information about social tariffs from some of the main energy suppliers.

British Gas Warm Home Discount

EDF Energy personalised Support Service

E.ON Warm Assist

Npower Spreading Warmth

WaterSure

You could also look at our Trust Funds section for more advice on the sorts of help that may be available. Finally, you should check our Welfare Benefits section to see if there are any benefits you could claim towards the costs of paying your fuel bills.

4. Water Meters

Don’t forget your water bill – although you can’t change supplier, it may be worth your while having a water meter fitted, for some people this can make big savings. This is especially true for those who live alone, have a small family or live in a house with more bedrooms than people.

Contact your water company or look at United Utilities ‘all about water meters’ section to check whether this might be a good option for you.

5. Pay By Direct Debit

Many companies offer a discount for customers who pay by direct debit each month as it reduces their administration costs. If you are going to do this you will need to make sure that you have enough money in your account each month to cover the bill or you may have to pay a charge to your bank. You can usually set up a direct debit by contacting your energy supplier.

6. Benefits

If you are struggling with bills it might be worth looking into whether you are eligible for any benefits to help with the costs. If you have reached the qualifying age you may be able to apply for a Winter Fuel Payment, which can be between £125-400 depending on your situation. Directgov has more information.

Alternatively, you might be eligible for Cold Weather Payments, which are paid to people on certain benefits to help with their fuel bills during periods of very cold weather. More information on these can be found here.

7. Keeping Well

When facing up to high energy bills, it can be tempting to try to cut your usage dramatically in order to make bills affordable. It is certainly sensible to cut down on using energy you don’t need, for instance try putting on an extra layer when it’s cold before turning up the heating, switch lights off as you leave a room or only boil the amount of water you need. Remember, it’s really important to keep warm and look after yourself – particularly for older people, children and those with health problems.

Not heating your house sufficiently can lead to serious illness and even death. Advice about looking after yourself in the cold weather can be found here.