Make the switch
According to figures from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), the average annual fuel bill for a UK household was £1369 in 2014. What’s more, research from the House of Commons Library found that the impact of price rises in recent years has been felt most keenly by those on the lowest 10 per cent of the income scale. This group saw electricity bills rise by 39.7 per cent and gas bills by 53.3 per cent between 2010 and 2013, compared to market averages of 22.2 per cent and 29.2 per cent respectively.
Thankfully, this trend could be set to change, as oil prices have shot down to just over $45 per barrel in recent months, the lowest rate seen in 6 years. Business, Energy and Enterprise Minister Matthew Hancock has already formally urged the UK’s largest energy providers to pass these savings on to consumers, and the average cost of a fixed energy deal is now £100 less than it was a year ago, Energy UK reports.
However only 40 per cent of customers are currently on fixed deals and, as yet, E.On and British Gas are the only suppliers to have announced price cuts for their standard rates. This underlines the importance of consumers regularly comparing energy tariffs to determine whether they could stand to save by switching to another supplier. Fortunately, DECC also reveals that average switching times have fallen to just 17 days in a year, having formerly taken up to five weeks, with 3.1 million consumers choosing to move to a new gas provider last year.
“There's never been a better time to shop around, switch and save money faster than ever before,” comments Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey.
Beyond choosing the most cost-effective provider, some savers could also be eligible for additional help from the government to cover energy costs. Those born before 1952 can gain up to £200 a year in Winter fuel payments, or £300 for those over 80. Individuals receiving certain benefits, including income support, could also benefit from cold weather payments for periods when temperatures drop below zero for a week or more.
Similarly, support may be available to replace boilers over ten years old with newer, more efficient models, and those who have installed renewable energy systems, such as a biomass boiler, may be able to receive a subsidy on their energy bills. Finally, homeowners who have a roof with less than 100mm of insulation can apply for free cavity wall or loft insulation, which can be effective way of trapping heat in order to reduce energy consumption.
Even for those that do not own their home, a few simple changes can ensure energy is used more efficiently. Swapping baths for showers, choosing a slow cooker instead of the hob and installing energy-saving light bulbs can all help to keep costs low during the winter, without sacrificing warmth.
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