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Worried about the cost of your heating? Here's what you can do...

Written by Salman Haqqi, Senior Personal Finance Writer

4 January 2019

If you're worried about falling temperatures, snow and freezing fog this winter most of us reach to turn up the thermostat. But if you spend the winter with your heating on high, your energy bill may leave you feeling cold.

Person using thermostat

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 is 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 help from an energy companyBritish GasEDF and E.ON offer grants to help with the cost of energy bills. You don't even have to be a customer; anyone can apply online.

  • 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.

The Money Advice Service has a full list of free debt advice services in the UK

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:

Consider fixing your energy prices

If you haven't already, consider fixing the cost of your energy when it's time to renew your tariff.

It's 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.

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.