Turn down your bills

Looking to cut your household bills this winter? Who isn't? Luckily, Vicky Shaw offers some welcome tips

Turning the thermostat down and insulating your loft are just two simple ways to cut bills
Turning the thermostat down and insulating your loft are just two simple ways to cut bills

As the nights draw in and the autumn weather really starts to bite, many of us are spending more time indoors, huddling up on that sofa in front of all those must-see Saturday night TV programmes, with the heating turned up full-blast.

Sadly though, this doesn’t do much to prevent cold sweat that then inevitably comes when we open our next energy bill...

Thankfully, a few simple steps could save significant sums of cash, and this week, the Big Energy Saving Week – which involves bodies such as the Energy Saving Trust, Citizens Advice, Age UK and the Government – is aiming to help people take more control over their bills.

So, before you reach for the heating switch, here are some tips to help you shave down your bills in the coming months:

Are you on the best deal? Shopping around for a different energy supplier could save you up to £200 and there are lots of comparison websites that can help. Ofgem has recently urged consumers to add energy shopping to their “winter ritual”. It may also be worth getting in touch with your existing supplier to discuss other options. If you’ve switched suppliers or are considering doing so, make sure you haven’t left any unclaimed credit behind on your old account. If you use heating oil, you may find it more difficult to shop around. Consider setting up a local oil buying club, which could give you the collective buying power to negotiate a better deal from oil suppliers by buying in bulk. Websites like Oilsave ( www.oilsave.org.uk ) can help people to find out about local suppliers.

Could the way you pay your bill bring down costs? Many suppliers offer a discount for paying by direct debit. Paying this way can work out around £100 a year less than paying by cheque, for example. You may also get a discount for receiving your bills online.

Get help you are entitled to

There are various schemes available to help people with their winter bills, and Citizens Advice could help if you aren’t sure whether you may be entitled to more money. The Home Heat Helpline can also give information on grants, benefits and payment schemes at 0800 336 699.

Insulate your home

Research suggests that properly insulating your home, including insulating cavity walls, topping up loft insulation, upgrading a boiler and having double glazing, could save a household up to £320 on their annual energy bills.

You may be able to get insulation for free as suppliers are working with the Government to make homes cheaper to run. The Energy Saving Trust (energysavingtrust.org.uk) has information about the help that energy suppliers can give.

Is your fridge-freezer more than

15 years old? As this appliance tends to be constantly switched on, it could be worth investing in a newer and more efficient model. If you can’t afford a replacement, make sure your fridge is running as efficiently as possible. Checking the back is ventilated and dust-free and that the door seal is undamaged. Keep it away from heat sources such as direct sunlight or your oven or boiler.

Good habits can save money

Changing a few habits around the house could bring financial rewards. If you’re not using an appliance, switch it off. Rather shockingly, TVs and games consoles that are left on permanent standby are estimated to cost a household up to £80 a year. You could consider using a “standby saver” device which will allow you to turn off your appliance without having to reach for the plug.

Close your curtains at dusk to stop heat escaping through the windows. And turning off lights when you leave a room could save around £7 a year. According to charity Business in the Community, turning your thermostat down by one degree could save around £75, while reducing your shower time could shave £20 off your energy bill on a yearly basis.

Only boiling as much water as you need in the kettle and only switching the washing machine on when you’ve got a full load are other small steps which could help to make significant savings in the long run.

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