Tis the season to be jolly’… and warm in front of a roaring fireplace, but not if the energy giants keep raising prices on the sly. With the likes of E.On, British Gas and SSE freezing their standard tariffs for the coming winter months recently, don’t set off the party poppers and celebrate too soon. The reality is that it’s simply a gimmick before more big price increases next year.
Amid mounting political pressure on energy suppliers to treat loyal customers more fairly, the 'Big Six' energy companies have met over fuel poverty, but will they actually take heed and do much more than simply freezing their prices, particularly as they currently supply energy to nearly nine out of ten households in the UK? How likely is it that they will “make a material difference for all consumers” that Lawrence Slade, the head of Energy UK has promised?
We sincerely hope so when according to National Energy Action and their Warm Homes Campaign, the problem of fuel poverty will not be solved in the lifetime of a child born today on current rates of progress to meet the Government's target to end fuel poverty by 2030. Just as stark are the facts that more than two million households in the UK every winter are affected by fuel-poverty, 46 per cent of people cut back on heating to save money rising to 55 per cent for older people and a third of working families are struggling to pay their energy bills with half planning to cut their use to afford them.
No wonder Energy Secretary Greg Clark vented his fury on the ‘Big Six’ energy chiefs as many energy companies are passing on higher wholesale costs to customers by pushing up annual gas and electricity bills. In November, he warned them in no uncertain terms that it was time to deliver for hard-up Brits and demanded suppliers draw up an action plan to “change their behaviour” in showdown talks triggered by revelations that suppliers are overcharging families and making six times the profit they admit to publicly!
Although a weirdly mild December so far, the coldest months are ahead of us and one of the main concerns is how to keep warm without breaking the bank on extortionate energy bills. There are ways to help keep your heating costs as low as comfortably possible, which we hope will help you stay warm this winter.
Get your settings right on your boiler and thermostat as turning your heating down by one degree could save you as much as £60 per year. Turn radiators off in rooms that aren’t regularly used, and bleed radiators to increase efficiency. If you can afford to spend a few pounds, buy some radiator panels, these metallic reflectors bounce heat back from behind radiators into the centre of the room and are easy to install. If you can afford a little more, then special thermal curtains and blinds that have a layer of insulating fabric could reduce heat loss by as much as 51% when you consider that windows and doors are two of the biggest sources of heat loss from your home.
To save more money, think about your electricity too. You can save around £30 a year just by remembering to turn your appliances off standby mode and nearly £50 a year just by using your kitchen appliances more carefully, like using a bowl to wash up rather than a running tap. Despite the dark nights, remember to turn your lights off when you’re not using them. If you switch a light off for just a few seconds you will save more energy than it takes for the light to start up again, regardless of the type of light. This will save you around £13 on your annual energy bills.
Importantly, check your credit balance regularly as energy customers can often be hundreds of pounds in credit at this time of the year, so if you’ve run up a big balance ask for some if it back and lower your direct debits.
Probably the easiest way to save money is to switch to a cheaper provider, but millions of households across the UK have never switched. By switching providers, you could save as much as £400 a year by checking Ofgem accredited energy price comparison sites and Citizens Advice tariffs. But, if you’re tempted by the promise of low prices by switching to an unknown gas and electricity supplier, in the light of the collapse of GB Energy, do your research and make sure you understand the risks and stay clear of those that take payments in advance.
If you are concerned that you could be going into debt with your supplier, you should contact them as soon as possible to understand the help that is available.