Household bills have fallen for millions this autumn, as the energy price cap has been lowered. On 1st October, Ofgem, the UK energy regulator, reduced the maximum limit allowed to be charged for gas and electricity by suppliers from £1,254 to £1,179, saving consumers on standard variable tariffs £75 on their annual bill.
Yet many households are still paying hundreds more than they have to. 11 million homes are still on default tariffs – the rate customers are rolled onto at the end of their existing fixed term deals. These are poor value when compared to fixed-term tariffs, which you can choose to switch to when you come to the end of your current term. As energy firms battle it out to attract new customers with the most competitive deals, it’s never been a better time to switch supplier.
For homeowners and tenants alike, managing the cost of electricity and gas can be a serious headache. Yet, with the number of free comparison and switching services on the market, there’s no excuse not to shop around. Be warned, not all comparison sites purporting to find the best value tariffs are impartial. Many of the popular names are owned by insurance companies, and only display a select number of promoted tariffs. The Citizens Advice Bureau has a widely recommended, unbiased comparison tool which shows you the best deals based on your current usage, plus it gives you the option to view only 100% renewable energy tariffs.
When you’ve found a deal, check the cashback sites like QuidCo and TopCashback, which offer some attractive incentives to sign up with selected suppliers. It’s also worth talking to friends and family to see if their providers offer discounts for referrals. But most importantly, ensure your current term doesn’t have an exit fee before you make the switch – though in some cases, your new supplier may even be willing to pay it for you.
If you still find all this decision-making a major hassle, there are companies who will happily do all the legwork on your behalf. Look After My Bills is an auto-switching service which rose to fame after securing the best deal in the history of BBC Dragons’ Den, when all five Dragons offered to invest. The online service helps you save money by automatically switching your energy provider to the best available market rate annually. The best thing is, it remains free for consumers, making its money through the commission it earns from the energy companies it switches you to.
As much as a cheaper tariff will help you get a grip on your bills, the best way to reduce the impact on your wallet and the environment is to become energy smart. Homes that use energy derived from fossil fuels are responsible for 36% of the UK’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, a figure projected to rise by 11% over the coming decade. A few simple changes to your energy-usage habits, combined with cost-effective home efficiency solutions, can help you drastically reduce the power needed to perform simple daily tasks.
Here are JLife’s easy energy-saving tricks to help you to go green, while saving you hundreds on your household bills…
If you’re still clinging to your incandescent or halogen bulbs, it’s high time you let them go. Now banned from sale, these energy-guzzling bulbs use up to 90% more energy compared to their new LED counterparts, which will last 10 times longer and save you an average of £55 over its lifetime.
Dust and dirt can be a drain on your household appliances, as dirty motors force them to work harder and use more power. Declogging the filters of your washing machine and wiping down the coils on the back of your fridge will ensure they run at peak efficiency. Regular bleeding and dusting of your radiator columns will allow heat to flow freely, and moving furniture just a few centimetres away can help to boost the temperature of the room.
KEEP THE HEAT
A properly insulated home could save you up 20% on your annual heating bills. It’s worth checking if you’re eligible for a grant under the government’s Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme for the installation costs of roof and cavity wall insulation. If you’re up for a bit of DIY, rockwool insulation can be bought cheaply from your local hardware shop, and attic installation is a relatively simple task. At the very least, investing in heavy curtains is an economical way to help your home hold the heat as efficiently as possible.
TURN IT DOWN, STAT!
The Energy Saving Trust reports that reducing your thermostat by just one degree can save up to £75 on your annual bill. Turn radiators off in unused rooms and ensure televisions, kitchen appliances and the kids consoles are off at the wall, rather than guzzling leccy in standby mode. Washing your garms at 30°C will make a huge difference, as will washing your dishes in a bowl instead of leaving the tap running. Fewer baths and more showers is the way forward.
ON THE METRE
Smart metres are steadily being rolled out by energy suppliers across the UK. The nifty display gives you a live update of how much energy your household is using in pounds and pence, helping you to set daily, even hourly budgets and spot if you’ve accidentally left an appliance running. Check with your provider whether they’re already available in your area, bearing in mind some of the smaller firms won’t offer them at all.