Everyone has been shocked by the rise in their electricity and gas bills. But there are things you can do to keep the cost down.
Do you pay quarterly? Most people pay by monthly direct debit and they get the cheapest tariffs. If you pay quarterly you’re charged a big premium: your unit price can be 5% higher, and the standing charge could be £21 a year more for electricity and £17 more for gas than monthly direct debit customers pay.
Next, remember the rule that using electricity to heat something up – kettle, heater, iron, dishwasher or washing machine – is expensive. Use them as little as possible and only put enough water in the kettle for the drink you’re making. Use a gas hob to heat water to cook with.
If a charger or standby box gets warm, it’s using power so turn it off and turn off lights when you’re not in the room. If you have a condensing combi gas boiler you can save money by turning its flow temperature down to 65˚C without reducing your room or hot water temperature
– see theheatinghub.co.uk.
You can also contact your energy provider and ask about their hardship fund. Many give grants to help elderly customers or those with a disability, medical condition, young children or just too little money. Find out more by searching turn2us.org.uk for “fuel poverty” or call 0808 802 2000. Or search citizensadvice.co.uk for “struggling to pay energy bills”.
Sometimes a supplier will ask you to switch to a prepayment meter. Resist if you can, as standing charges for these are higher so you’ll pay around £3.53 a week for electricity and £2.62 a week for gas just to be connected, even if you’ve run out of money and use neither.
Finally, check your benefits are correct. Nearly a million pensioners – and millions of working age people – could get a boost to their income through pension credit or universal credit, or a cut in their rent or council tax (rates in Northern Ireland), but for various reasons they do not apply. It’s easy and private to find out what extra money you can get at entitledto.co.uk.
Paul Lewis presents Money Box on Radio 4. QUESTIONS? Send any questions to Paul.Lewis@radiotimes.com. Paul cannot answer your questions personally, but will reflect them in his column.