Energy prices are on the up and according to the End Fuel Poverty Coalition, over 2 million households in the UK cannot afford the cost of heating their homes.
If you're struggling to pay for your energy, there are ways to get help and stop it from happening again. Here's what you can do if you're worried about the price of your heating bill:
Check your bill
While it's rare, there's always a chance your bill could be wrong. Get a copy of your most recent energy bill and check:
If it's actual or estimated: If your bill's estimated, it's based on typical usage rather than what you've actually used. Take a new meter reading and contact your supplier to update your account.
Your meter reading: This might be wrong, so call your supplier to give them an up to date meter reading. You should also check that the MPRN on your meter matches the number on your bill, otherwise you could be paying for your neighbour's heating.
If you're on the right tariff: Check the name of your tariff on your most recent bill matches up to previous copies. You may have been put on a variable tariff by accident, which means you'll pay more for your energy.
If your supplier has changed their prices: Compare the unit rate and standing charges on your most recent bill to a previous bill. If your supplier has hiked their prices, you may be able to switch without being charged.
It sounds obvious, but checking your energy bills is vital if you want to avoid being overcharged. Pop them in a folder if you get them in the post, or set time aside each month to log in to your online account.
Lots of energy companies offer apps to help you keep track of your energy usage. This means you can check the cost of your heating easily, wherever you are.
Talk to your supplier
Call your provider as soon as you realise you'll struggle to pay your bill. The longer you put this off, the more debt you'll get into and the harder it'll be to pay it back.
If you're having difficulty paying your bills, energy companies have to offer you options to pay back what you owe.
This could be anything from a plan to split the cost over several separate payments, or a cheaper tariff. The Citizens Advice website explains how to go about agreeing a payment plan with your energy company.
See if you can get help
There are lots of charities and government schemes that could help you with the cost of your heating bill:
Get government help: You can check if you're eligible for help with your heating bill on the GOV.UK website. You're more likely to get benefits if you're on a low income or over 60, but it's always worth checking.
Get debt advice: There are lots of free resources online that can help you manage your debt. National Debtline also has a free phone number (0808 808 4000) that's open until 8pm on weekdays.
Stop it happening again
Once you're back on top of your energy bills, there are lots of ways to avoid paying too much for your heating:
Fix your energy prices
If you haven't already, fix the cost of your energy when it's time to renew your tariff.
It's by far the cheapest way to pay for your gas, because the unit price of your energy is fixed at the start of your contract.
So, while your bill will still fluctuate based on how much energy you use, the basic rate stays the same.
What's more, if your supplier tries to put your prices up, you can switch to another company without charge.
Pay by direct debit
It's usually cheaper to pay for your energy by direct debit, and it means you won't fall behind because you've forgotten to pay your bill.
What's more, if you overpay a bit during the summer, you'll end up with a reserve of cash to cover the increased cost of keeping warm in the winter.
Get a smart meter
Smart meters can help you monitor your energy usage in real time. Plus, energy companies are installing them for free, so it won't cost you a penny.
44% of consumers say their energy bills have reduced after having a smart meter installed.Source: ECTA Training, leading provider of gas, electric and trade skills courses in the UK“
The government wants smart meters in all homes by 2020, but not all energy companies have started fitting them yet. Ask your supplier if you can get a smart meter installed.
You could save more than £200 by switching your energy service, so shop around to see if you could get a better deal.