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Save money on your energy bills

Cutting your energy bills down to size and making them more affordable doesn’t have to mean making big changes – small measures can save you money too.

Saving money on your energy bills is as easy as 1, 2, 3!

  1. Check Even something as simple as paying by direct debit could help you save up to £100 – talk to your provider to make sure you’re getting their best deal.
  2. Switch You could potentially a lot of money, particularly if you have never switched before
  3. Insulate Save up to £140 by making sure you have some loft insulation, and save even more by making small everyday changes to save energy.

Our guide Save energy, pay less has tips on how to save energy at home, as well as advice on what to do if you're finding it hard to pay your energy bills.

The savings listed throughout this section are based on information provided by the Energy Saving Trust.

Check your energy bill

It's important to check your gas and electricity bills to see if you are paying too much. Follow these steps:

1. Check with your current supplier

Your current energy supplier may be able to offer you a cheaper tariff or one that promises not to increase prices for a while.

If you’re having difficulty paying your bills, speak to your supplier as soon as you can. They'll let you know how they can help you avoid getting into debt.

If you're already in debt, you may be able to agree on a repayment plan to pay your arrears or have a prepayment meter installed. Payments can be taken from your benefits to pay off an energy bill debt if you receive certain means-tested benefits, including Pension Credit. This is known as the Fuel Direct Scheme.

2. Check how you're paying

Are you paying your energy bills in the most efficient way? Most suppliers offer a discount if you pay by direct debit, up to £100, compared to paying your bill by cash or cheque.

Sign up to paperless billing. This means you won’t receive bills in the post and will instead manage your account online.

3. Check if you're claiming all benefits

Billions of pounds of benefits go unclaimed by older people every year. Your supplier may be able to offer you a discount if you are on certain benefits too.

Use our quick and easy online benefits calculator to find out what you may be entitled to claim or check our guide to heating benefits to see what help is available.

Switch your energy supplier

Switching may seem daunting, especially if you've always been with the same supplier, but you could potentially save up to £200, particularly if you have never switched before. It should take no more than 21 days according to the Energy Switch Guarantee.

Find the best tariff

There are 6 major suppliers of gas and electricity covering the UK, but smaller regional suppliers may also offer a good deal. You can find their best deals by:

1. Using a price comparison site

The internet is perhaps the easiest way to shop around. You can enter your details into a price comparison website and it will list the best deals available. Many also offer a telephone service. Make sure you use an impartial site with an Ofgem accredited logo.

Find an Ofgem accredited price comparison site

2. Contacting energy suppliers directly

You can contact a supplier directly to ask about their best deals. They should be able to give you this information over the phone or send you pricing details on request.

What you need to compare tariffs

You should have this information when comparing different deals:

  • Name of your current supplier and current tariff. This is on your bill.
  • How much you spent on electricity and gas in the last year. Look at past bills or ask your current supplier, otherwise work it out approximately.
  • How you currently pay, e.g. cheque or direct debit.
  • How you would like to pay with a new supplier.
  • Your postcode.

Know these answers before switching

Before you switch, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are there special offers or discounts included in the price? If so, how long will they run?
  • Are there any extra or hidden charges?
  • Is the payment schedule and method right for you? A prepayment meter is one way of spreading your payments, but it can be more expensive and inconvenient if you can’t get out to charge your card.
  • Are you sure your gas or energy supply won’t be interrupted when you switch?
  • How much is the standing charge and the consumption charge? The standing charge is a fixed amount which covers the cost of maintaining your supply and the consumption charge is what you pay for the gas and electricity you use. Check both to get an idea of what you could actually end up paying.

Not everyone can switch

You may not be able to switch if you:

  • rent - check with your landlord first
  • owe money to your supplier - they can stop you from switching to another supplier until your debt is paid off. However, if you have a prepayment meter, you can transfer debts of up to £200 to a new supplier.

Our factsheet, Switching energy supplier, offers detailed information on how to shop around and explains the different tariff options.

Switching energy supplier (PDF 122 KB)

Insulate your home

There are many things you can do to make your home more efficient and help you save money on your energy bills.

These steps can help you save on your heating bills:

  • Insulate your loft, roof and cavity walls. You can save hundreds of pounds per year if you do this (depending on the type of house you live in).
  • Install letter box covers or draught excluders to make your home warmer. Draught-proofing can save you between £25-£35 a year.
  • Draw your curtains in the evenings, and tuck them behind radiators so heat doesn't get trapped.
  • If there are rooms you don't use, like a spare bedroom, turn off the radiators and close the doors. Keep your main living room, or the room you use the most, heated to 21°C (70°F ) and your bedroom heated to at least 18°C (64°F).

Some local Age UK’s operate Handyperson services to help older people with small jobs, such as installing draught excluders and radiator heat reflectors.

Find out more about Age UK’s Handyperson service

Free Home Energy Checks

Free Home Energy Checks

Julie Banks talks to David Terrace about Age UK’s scheme which is offering free home energy checks for those in later life.

More radio features

Keeping warm in winter

Winter can be a worry for many of us, because our bodies react differently to the cold as we get older. This can leave us more vulnerable. With a little preparation, we can keep ourselves warm, healthy and safe.

Get advice on staying warm in winter

5 heating myths

Many people are spending more on their heating because they don't know the full facts. Households can save up to £75 a year by not falling for these 5 myths.

1. Turn up the heating when it's cold

Half of households turn up the heating when it's cold outside. You shouldn't need to do this because the thermostat is there to maintain the temperature of your home, whatever the weather.

2. Turn up the thermostat to heat the room quicker

A third of households turn their thermostat up when they want the room to heat up more quickly. This won't help warm your room any quicker and only heat your home to a warmer temperature.

3. Leave the heating on low constantly

As many as 38% of households will leave the heating turned on at a low temperature constantly, rather than turn it on or off, because they think it's more energy efficient. This means the homes are heating when no one is there to benefit from the heat and it's too cold when you are home.

4. Hot water runs out if you stop feeding the tank

A quarter of households will leave their water heating on all the time to make sure they never run out, which can cost far more on their energy bills than necessary.

5. Keep electric storage heaters on all the time

Only 38% of people with electric storage heaters fully understand how they work. This means households with electric heating could be paying through the nose by not taking advantage of cheaper night rate electricity.

For further information about saving energy in the home, visit the Energy Saving Trust website. You can call the Energy Saving Advice Service on 0300 123 1234.

How to cut your electricity bill

Follow these steps to make sure you’re not wasting money on your electricity bill.

In every room

  • Turn off the lights when they are not needed, although always be sure you have enough light to see and move around safely. You could also consider replacing halogen downlighters with LEDs, which could typically save around £35 a year.
  • Keep radiators and heaters clear so hot air can circulate. Don’t forget to draw your curtains and tuck them behind radiators to minimise heat loss.
  • Switch appliances off when they're not in use rather than leaving them on standby. This can save around £30 a year.
  • Make sure doors and windows are draught-proofed to avoid loss of heat, that includes covering key holes and letterboxes where cold air might get in.

In your living room

  • Choosing Energy Saving Trust-recommended appliances could help you save money every year. The better the energy rating, the less electricity the appliance will use.
  • If you're buying a new television, think about the size of the screen. In general, the smaller your television, the less it will cost to run. Plasma televisions also use more electricity that other TVs.

In the kitchen

  • Do the washing up in the sink or a bowl rather than under running water to save around £30 per year, and only boil the amount of water you need for hot drinks.
  • Use the right sized pan for what you are cooking and keep lids on as much as possible to reduce heat loss.
  • Wait until you have a full load before running the washing machine or use a half-load setting. Set the washing temperature to 30C – this can save £6 per year.
  • Defrost your freezer every six months - this will ensure it runs efficiently.

In the bathroom

  • Shower instead of taking a bath. A short shower uses less water and less energy to heat it than a bath.
  • Fix any dripping taps. A dripping tap can waste the equivalent of half a bath every week.

For further information about saving energy in the home, visit the Energy Saving Trust website. You can call the Energy Saving Advice Service on 0300 123 1234.

Should I get a prepayment meter?

A prepayment meter will let you pay-as-you-go for your gas or electricity. You can top up your meter using a key or card, which you can add money to at local shops.

When smart meters become more common, it will also be possible to top up by phone.

Prepayment meters have some benefits. They can:

  • help you budget more effectively, as you decide when to top up and by how much
  • be used to pay off money owed to your energy company.

 There are however downsides as well, such as:

  • they are usually more expensive than standard meters
  • the nearest place you can top up may be far from your home
  • if you don’t have money to add, there won’t be any gas or electricity.

How to get a prepayment meter

If you want a prepayment meter, contact your supplier to find out how. They may charge around £50 to remove the current meter and install a new one. You must have no more than £500 debt on the meter.

If you are a tenant, remember to ask the landlord for permission first.

What is a smart meter?

Smart meters are a new type of energy meter being offered to every household in England, Wales and Scotland. You don’t have to pay to have a smart meter installed.

Smart meters record exactly how much gas or electricity you use and automatically send regular readings to your energy company. This means you won’t have to take meter readings any more and should get accurate bills (although it’s still a good idea to check that your bills match the amount of energy you’ve used).

Smart meters come with a small, easy-to-use device (known as an in-home display unit), which sits in your home and allows you to see how much energy you’re using in kilowatt hours (kWh) and how much it’s costing you in pounds and pence.

Every home will be offered a smart meter by 2020. When you can get one installed depends on your supplier’s plans, where you live and what type of meter you have. If you’re interested in getting a smart meter, check with your supplier about what would happen if you wanted to switch to a different deal.

Find out more

For more information, please download the information leaflet, or visit the Smart Energy GB website.

Ofgem accredited price comparison sites

It's important to use an impartial price comparison website. Look for the ‘Confidence Code’ logo, which is a sign that the site has signed up to Ofgem’s voluntary code of practice and will offer independent and unbiased comparisons.

Here are some Ofgem accredited price comparison sites that carry the Confidence Code:

Further information

Downloads

Our Information guides are short and easy to digest, giving a comprehensive overview of the relevant topic. Factsheets are longer with more detail, and are aimed at professionals.

You can download other guides in our series from publications

For more information: Call Age UK Advice: 0800 678 1174

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