Six in 10 people in the UK believe their energy bills have gone up ‘noticeably’ in the last 12 months yet making a few simple changes could shave hundreds of pounds off annual costs.
Although lockdown measures are gradually being relaxed, many of us have spent much of the last year working from home, which has resulted in gas and electricity costs.
There is a price cap in place to ensure that people don’t pay more than a certain amount for their gas and electricity each year, but many people aren’t aware that there are plenty of energy deals available that cost much less than the cap.
According to research by Uswitch.com, there are currently 62 fixed deals on the market cheaper than the latest energy price cap which came into effect at the start of April.
“Consumers could be £234 better off by fixing their energy for 12 months with one of the cheapest tariffs on the market, which is a substantial saving for anyone who is out of contract with their supplier,” said Sarah Broomfield, energy expert at Uswitch.com.
For example, it says that HUB Smart Choice Tariff 12 April 22 v1 tariff from HUB Energy costs a typical household with average energy usage £903 fixed for 12 months, which is £234 less than the £1,138 default energy price cap.
It’s also possible to reduce your energy bills by looking at ways you might be able to conserve energy around your home. Research by energy company Utilita found that more than four in 10 adults don’t make the effort to switch appliances or other items off at the wall, preferring to leave them on standby, even though this means they’ll still be consuming electricity.
Replacing old worn-out appliances with new energy efficient models can also reduce your bills. According to the Energy Saving Trust, choosing an A+++ washing machine over an A+ one could save you around £65 over its 11-year lifetime, whilst opting for an A+++ fridge freezer over an A+ unit will save you about £190 in energy bills over its typical 17-year lifetime.
If you pay your energy bills by Direct Debit, it’s worth checking whether you’ve overpaid over the year and might be able to claim some money back. Ofgem has proposed from next year that energy companies automatically clear outstanding Direct Debits back to customers on the anniversary of the start of their contract. Tom Lyon, director of energy at Energy Helpline, said: “We welcome measures to mandate energy suppliers to automatically return credit to their customers, as currently the onus is often unfairly on consumers to chase companies when they are owed money.”
If you’re working from home rather than in an office as a result of coronavirus, and this has led to steeper energy and other household bills, you may be eligible for tax relief to help you cover costs.
You can claim this on £6 a week and you won’t need to provide proof of your extra costs. Alternatively, you can claim tax relief on the exact amount of extra costs you’ve been paying above your normal weekly amount, although if you do this, you’ll need to provide evidence such as bills, statements or receipts to support your claim.
The amount of tax relief you can claim depends on the rate at which you pay tax. For example, if you’re a basic rate taxpayer paying tax at 20%, you could claim £1.20 a week in tax relief (20% of £6)
HMRC has introduced an online service here, where you can claim working from home tax relief. If you file an annual tax return, you’ll need to claim the relief through this instead.