HOUSEHOLDS can cut their energy bills by hundreds of pounds in seven simple ways.
From switching tariffs and reducing your usage to getting help, we explain all you need to know.
It comes as regulator Ofgem today said it’ll increase the maximum price suppliers can charge for energy by £96, from £1,042 to £1,138 a year.
Households on prepayment meters will also see bills rise by £87, to £1,156 from April 1, unless they switch metres, which can be expensive.
Ofgem sets the price cap twice a year to limit how much customers on standard variable tariffs are charged, depending on wholesale prices.
Below we round up ways to cut your energy bills.
1. Switch to a cheaper tariff – £150 a year
If you haven’t changed energy supplier in a while, you could be on a standard variable tariff.
This is an energy company’s default rate that is usually more expensive than new deals on the market.
You’ll need to have a recent bill to hand, which will include all of the details you need, such as the name of your tariff and your recent spending.
Then simply put in the info, select a new tariff/supplier and wait for up to three weeks for the switch to complete.
Households can save an average of £150 a year by switching to a fixed-rate tariff, according to Ofgem.
2. Claim back energy costs – Up to £6 a week
Some employers may reimburse you for the additional expenses of working from home, such as higher energy bills or you can instead claim tax back.
You can claim up to £6 a week by completing a P87 form to get tax relief from HMRC.
This will reduce your tax bill rather than giving you money back.
The amount of money you get off depends on your tax rate.
For example, if you pay the 20% basic tax rate and claim tax relief on £6 a week, you would get £1.20 per week in tax relief.
While for people who pay tax at the higher rate of 40%, £2.40 per week can be claimed.
Additional rate tax payers who pay 45% can claim £2.70 a week.
To check if you’re eligible and to use the online tool, you can visit the page on the Gov.uk website.
3. Change your habits – £100s a year
It may sound obvious, but another important step to save money on bills once you’re on the cheapest tariff is to use less energy.
Below we round up a few simple tricks:
- Turning down your thermostat by just one degree could save you £75 a year, according to the Energy Saving Trust.
- Spending one minute less in the shower each day could save you £8 a year, per person in your household.
- Swapping old bulbs for energy-efficient LED ones will save you around £40 a year.
- Filling the kettle with the amount of water you need could save around £6 a year.
- Switching off appliances rather than leaving them on standby could save around £35 annually.
- Turning off unused lights around the house can cut your bill by around £13 a year.
- If you’re guilty of leaving your phone to charge all night, you could be wasting around £33 worth of energy a year.
4. Draught proof your home – £25 a year
When it’s winter, it’s even more important to keep your heating indoors by making sure your home is draught-free.
Draught-proofing around windows and doors can save you around £25 a year, according to Energy Saving Trust.
Or if you have an open chimney, draught-proofing it when you’re not using it could save around £19 a year.
Of course, you face an initial cost to pay for the draught-proofing products, but you’ll save money over the longer term.
Draught-proofing products are sold by DIY stores, which remain open during lockdown.
What to do if you can’t pay your bills
FALLING behind on your energy bills can be extremely stressful.
If you’re struggling to pay what you owe, contact your supplier as soon as possible.
Your provider has to help you come up with a solution, and you should be able to negotiate a deal that works for you both.
One option is to agree a payment plan where you pay off your debts in affordable instalments.
You may be able to pay off your debts directly from your benefits through the Fuel Direct Scheme.
A fixed amount will automatically be taken to cover what you owe plus your usage.
To be eligible, you must be getting one of the following benefits:
- Income-based jobseeker’s allowance
- Income support
- income-related employment and support allowance
- Pension credit
- Universal Credit (but only if you’re not working)
If you cannot come to an agreement with your supplier, they may try to force you to get a prepayment meter installed.
In very rare cases, where you refuse to negotiate, your supplier might threaten you with disconnection.
Get help with your bills
There are a wide range of government schemes to help hard-up Brits with energy bills.
Below we explain who’s eligible, how much you can get and how to apply.
5. Cold weather payments – up to £25 a week
Households could be entitled to £25 a week if the temperature drops below zero in your area between November 1 and March 31, to help you pay for the increased energy costs.
The temperature will have to stay that low for seven consecutive days before the cold weather payment is handed out.
The payment has already been triggered in more than 450 postcodes this winter - find out which ones here.
You must already be getting certain benefits to qualify, including pension credit, income support, jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance, and Universal Credit.
Also keep in mind you won’t qualify if you are in a care home or subject to immigration control.
Eligible people don’t need to apply for the extra payment – it’s paid automatically into your bank or building society account within 14 days of the cold spell ending.
6. Winter fuel payments – up to £300
Pensioners can receive annual one-off winter fuel payments from the government of between £100 and £300.
To qualify for the payout, you’ll need to have been born before April 5 1954 – the date changes every year.
You must also have lived in the UK for at least one day during the “qualifying week”. This year, it fell between September 21 and 27, 2020.
The money is tax-free and won’t affect any other benefits that you get, such as Universal Credit.
How much you get depends on your circumstances, such as whether or not you live alone.
Your payment may be different if you or your partner get one of the following benefits:
- Pension credit
- Income-based jobseeker’s allowance (JSA)
- Income-related employment and support allowance (ESA)
- Income support
The payments are made automatically, usually between November and December.
If you claim any other benefits, you’ll get your Winter Fuel Payment at the same time as your regular benefits at this time of year.
If you’re entitled to the payout but didn’t receive the cash by January 13 2020 then you should contact the helpline on 0800 7310160 from England, Scotland and Wales.
You have until March 31 to make a claim for the missed payment.
You’ll also need to apply if you qualify and you are not getting a social security benefit, such as the state pension, you will need to make a claim.
Eligible people can apply by visiting the winter fuel payment website.
To apply, you’ll need your national insurance number, the date of your marriage or civil partnership and your bank details to hand.
7. Warm home discount – up to £140 a year
The warm home discount is a one-off £140 payment which is designed to help with the cost of your electricity bill through winter.
Not all energy suppliers participate in the scheme so you should bear this in mind if and when you’re considering switching.
The money isn’t paid to you but automatically applied to your electricity bill between September and March.
You may be able to put the cash towards your gas bill too if your supplier provides you with both gas and electricity.
There are two sets of people who are eligible.
The core group - Anyone who gets the guarantee credit element of pension credit and is named on the bill should automatically qualify for this benefit.
In theory, you should be identified by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and should not have to apply for it yourself.
Eligible people will receive a letter between October and December 2020 informing you that you’re on the scheme.
You will have been asked to confirm your details by calling the helpline before February 26, 2021.
If you think you’re eligible but never received a letter – phone the warm home discount scheme helpline on 0800 731 0214 to check.
You should do this as soon as possible, as the DWP may not be able to help if a claim is submitted too late.
Before you phone, check to see if your supplier is a participant of the scheme.
Broader group - If you don’t meet the “core group” criteria, you may still be eligible for this benefit under your supplier’s “broader group” rules.
Each provider has different criteria, so you should check carefully to see if it applies to you.
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All suppliers must include some standard criteria, such as if you’re on a low-income and you get certain means-tested benefits like income-related employment and support allowance.
If you think you meet the broader criteria, you should contact your supplier directly straight away.
The number of discounts suppliers can give out are limited and some have already closed for applications.
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