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9 tips to lower the cost of your heating bill

As the cold draws in, here are some easy ways to cut your winter heating costs.

energy saving app

1. 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 Meter Point Reference Number (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 ar

2. Save on your bill by switching supplier

Whether your home is heated with gas or electricity, it’s easy to check if you could be saving on the cost of your energy. The quickest and easiest way to check and switch is online.

You can use our comparison to shop around and find the best energy tariff to suit you. Some companies may not supply your area, so use our postcode checker to see what is available where you live.

Read our guide on how to switch energy supplier for more information.

Choosing the right energy tariff 

There are a range of different energy tariffs out there, so picking one that meets your needs could help you save hundreds of pounds a year.

Fixed

A Fixed tariff is often cheapest in the short term, as your price is fixed from the start of your contract until a specified end date. 

There are two different types of fixed energy deal:

  1. Prices are fixed for the length of the contract

  2. Prices are fixed at different rates, at different stages of the contract

Your bills could still increase based on how much gas or electricity you use, but the set rate remains the same for the duration of your contract. This also means that if energy prices fall, your rate will not be reduced.

Fixed energy deals can save you money, but they offer little flexibility to switch and you may be charged a fee if you leave more than 42 days before the end of your contract.

Variable

This is the default option offered by most energy companies, and is also called a standard tariff because the price you pay for your energy is not fixed.

A variable tariff is a good option if you want flexibility, because you are free to switch without charge whenever you want.

However, variable tariffs are often more expensive and the price could change at any time.

Dual fuel

Most suppliers offer the option for you to combine your gas and electricity services in one dual fuel package, which could save you money on your energy bills.

You pay one bill for both your gas and electricity, and you also get a discount from your energy supplier for using them for both services.

You can still choose between fixed, standard and online tariffs, and you can compare dual fuel energy deals here.

Time of use

Tariffs like Economy 10 charge lower rates for your electricity at certain times of day, typically between midnight and 7am.

This could save you money if you use the majority of your energy during off peak hours, but rates during the day can be higher which could cost you more.

What is off peak?

Time of use tariffs usually require you to have a new meter installed at your home, because you need to see two different readings depending on the time of day the energy is used.

You also need a storage heater fitted so that you can heat your water overnight ready to be used during the day, which could cost around £2,500.

Full details on how different energy tariffs work.

3. Check if you’re eligible for government support

The government offers a series of grants to help those on lower incomes meet their energy costs. Here is how the main schemes work.

Warm Home Discount

The Warm Home Discount is a government scheme that requires large energy suppliers to help vulnerable customers meet their energy costs. 

If you’re eligible for the Warm Home Discount, a one-off payment of £140 is sent directly to your energy supplier, and comes off your bill. If your household is eligible and uses a prepay energy meter, you’ll get a voucher from your supplier. 

The discount is usually applied to your bill between October and March.

You’ll automatically get the discount taken from your bill if you receive the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit and on 5 July 2020 the following applied:

  • Your energy supplier was part of the Scheme 

  • Your name or your partner’s name was on your energy bill

If you do not get the Guaranteed Credit element of Pension Credit, or you’re not on Pension Credit at all, you may be able to apply directly to your energy supplier for the discount.

The get the discount this way you’ll need need to meet the following conditions:

  • You energy supplier is part of the Warm Home Discount scheme

  • You’re on a low income

  • You get some means-tested benefits.

Note: If you fall into this category, you’ll need to stay with your energy supplier until the discount is paid.

Full details on how the Warm Home Discount works

Winter Fuel Payment

If you’re over the age of 65 you may be eligible to receive between £100 and £300 towards your winter fuel bills this winter. 

If you are eligible you’ll usually receive the Winter Fuel Payment automatically. 

To receive the payment you’ll need to meet the following requirements:

  • You were born on or before 5 October 1954   

  • You lived in the UK for at least one day during the week of 21-27 September 2020.

  • If you didn’t live in the UK during that week, you can still qualify for the payment if you live in one of the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, and Switzerland.

  • You’ll also need to have what the government calls a ‘genuine and sufficient’ link to the UK. This could include having lived or worked in the UK and having family here.

You’ll usually receive the Winter Fuel Payment automatically if you get the state pension, or other social security benefits, including Pension Credit, Jobseeker’s Allowance or income-related Employment and Support Allowance. 

For full eligibility information is on the GOV.UK site.

The deadline for claiming payments for winter 2020-21 is 31 March 2021. Most payments will be made automatically between November and December 2020.

How much you’ll receive will depend on your circumstances during the week of 21-27 September 2020. You can see how much you may be eligible for by looking at the Gov.uk website: https://www.gov.uk/winter-fuel-payment/what-youll-get

These amounts will vary if you get certain benefits. For full details on how much you can expect to receive based on your personal circumstance, go to the GOV.UK site.

Cold Weather Payment 

The government gives Cold Weather Payments to those claiming certain benefits if the average temperature where they live is 0 degrees celsius or below for a certain period of time.  

Eligible households can receive £25 for each 7-day period of very cold weather between 1 November 2020 and 31 March 2021.

You may be able to get Cold Weather Payments if you’re getting any of the following benefits:

  • Pension Credit

  • Income Support

  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance

  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance

  • Universal Credit

  • Support for Mortgage Interest

If you’re eligible, you’ll usually receive a Cold Weather Payment automatically.

Full details on how the Cold Weather Payment works.

4. Insulation and energy efficiency schemes

To help you save on your energy costs over the longer-term, you might be able to take advantage of one of a range of government schemes designed to help you better insulate your home.

This will not be a quick fix to cutting your energy bills quickly. But over time, you should be able to notice reductions in your annual heating bills by making improvements to your home.

Green Homes Grant (England only)

This scheme offers households in England vouchers to help meet the cost of making energy improvements to their homes.

You may be able to get up to £10,000 towards the cost of things like new heating systems, insulation and double glazing.

It’s important to note that you need to be a homeowner to take part. Sadly, those in social or private rented accommodation cannot benefit. 

What’s more, the scheme does not last very long. You’ll need to have the work carried out on your home by 31 March 2021 to take advantage of the scheme.

How does the scheme work?

The grants will cover two-thirds of the cost of making an eligible energy efficient home improvement, up to a maximum payment of £5,000. 

Those from the lowest income households may be able to get the full cost of any eligible home improvements covered up to a maximum of £10,000 per home. 

The government will pay out the grants in the form of vouchers, once the work you want done is approved. It has said that it expects to be able to provide vouchers to around 600,000 homeowners in total.  

These vouchers will then be used to pay tradespeople carrying out the home improvements. 

To be able to get financial support through the scheme, your household has to be making one of the following types of ‘primary’ home improvements:

  • Insulation (Solid wall, cavity wall, under-floor, loft, flat roof, room in roof or park home)

  • Low carbon heating systems (Air source heat pump, ground source heat pump or solar thermal)

As long as you plan to make at least one of these ‘primary’ home improvements, you can also get funding for ‘secondary’ changes, including:

  • Draught proofing

  • Double/triple glazing (if you’re replacing single glazing windows) 

  • Secondary glazing (in addition to single glazing) 

  • Upgrading to energy efficient doors (if you’re replacing doors installed before 2002).

  • Heating controls and insulation - including appliance thermostats, hot water tank thermostats, hot water tank insulation, smart heating controls, and thermostatic radiator valves.

The amount you can receive for any ‘secondary’ improvements cannot be more than the sum you get to help cover the cost of a ‘primary’ home improvement. 

For example, if a household receives £1,000 for solid wall insulation (a measure from the primary category), then they can only receive a maximum of £1,000 towards getting double glazing (a ‘secondary’ measure).

The government has said that you will be offered a list of accredited tradespeople in your area who are registered to be able to carry out the relevant work.

Full details on how the Green Homes Grant works.

 5. Get help if you’re having trouble covering your bills

Help from your energy company

Some of the larger energy companies offer grants to help with the cost of energy bills. 

While the majority offer hardship funds that are only available to their customers, British Gas runs a scheme that is open to anyone. It’s called the British Gas Energy Trust

To check if your energy supplier is able to help you with a grant, get in touch with them or use the relevant link below: 

Getting 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 also has a full list of free debt advice services in the UK

6. Can you switch from a prepayment meter?

While using a prepayment meter can help you budget and ensure that you only pay for the energy you use, that’s where the advantage ends. They are one of the most expensive ways to pay for your energy.

This is because gas and electricity prices are charged at a higher rate for customers using prepayment meters. Sadly, households with prepayment meters also have fewer tariffs to choose from than those with credit meters.  

Standing charges also apply and could build up as additional debt if you do not regularly top up your meter, so check your meter display to find out how much your standing charges are.

A credit meter lets you pay for your gas and electricity after you have used it, and is usually the cheapest way to pay for your energy. If you have a credit meter, you can also benefit from paying your bills via a monthly direct debit, saving you up to £85 a year. 

You can switch to or from a prepayment meter or a credit meter. But if you are renting, you need your landlord's permission.

While the energy regulator Ofgem has set price caps on prepayment meter tariffs, you’re still likely to pay less for your energy if you’re able to switch to a credit meter. 

In order to switch, your energy company will need to install a credit meter instead. Some suppliers don't charge for this, but ask them before you switch. 

Full details on how prepayment meters work

7. Installing a smart meter could help you lower your costs

Until a few years ago, the easiest way to ensure that your energy bill accurately reflected your actual energy usage was to check your gas and electricity meter and send the readings to your supplier.

With the introduction of smart meters, this process is done automatically, particularly if you pay for your energy by direct debit.

Getting a smart meter will not automatically lower your bills, but they can offer the following benefits:

  • They ensure your bills are accurate

  • They help you monitor and reduce your energy use

  • They can give you access to cheaper energy tariffs

  • They can help you get support quickly in the event of a power outage

These devices can be fitted to your home and can be used whether you pay by direct debit or by prepayment meter.

To get a smart meter installed:

  1. Contact your energy supplier

  2. Ask if a smart meter can be fitted at your home

  3. Arrange a date for installation

  4. Be at home for the engineer to fit the meter

If you decide to switch to a supplier who is not using smart technology after your meter is installed, you may have to upgrade your meter again at a later date.

Full details on how smart meters work.

 8. Check costs from the palm of your hand

Thankfully, there are a range of apps and websites that can help you find ways to cut your energy costs. Here are a few examples: 

Apps like Energy Cost Calculator (for iOS and Android) and Energy Consumption Analyzer (for Android) are handy for helping you keep track of how much energy your appliances are using, and how much they are costing to run. 

Energy Cost Calculator allows you to enter the energy consumption of an appliance or device, how long you’ve used it and its cost per Watt and the calculator will show you how much it costs to use per day, per month or per year.

Smappee is another useful app for tracking energy usage (for both iOS and Android). While the app itself is free you’ll need to buy a Smappee Energy Monitor to make it work. At a pretty hefty £229, this certainly is not cheap, but over time the app will provide bags of detailed information about how much energy individual appliances are using. 

9. Get creative

There are also some cheap and simple things you can do to save on your energy bills, such as using light-saving lightbulbs wherever possible.

You can also insulate your home to prevent heat escaping, especially over winter. The Energy Saving Trust says that 15% of heat loss from the average home is through draughts caused by gaps in your windows and doors. Getting rid of these draughts could save you over £55 per year in heating costs.

While proper, professionally installed draught-proofing can be a worthwhile investment, there are a few temporary DIY solutions that could help carry you through the coldest winter months.

The Energy Saving Trust suggests the following measures:

  • Sticking self-adhesive foam strips to edges of windows and doors

  • Buy purpose-made covers for keyholes that drop a metal disc over the keyhole. 

  • Block cracks in wooden floorboards with silicone-based flexible filler

Compare energy deals

Find out how much you can save on your energy by comparing current deals and switching here.