Winter is coming. Don’t wait until you’re knee-deep in snow to sort out your bills. Prevention truly beats cure. Tackling your bills now means you can take the financial bite out of winter chills…
Free loft insulation and even boilers (for some)
While the loft insulation free-for-all’s ended, some will still be entitled to free energy-saving measures.
Most of the big six energy firms offer free boilers, typically worth £2,000, and free insulation, usually worth about £300. Crucially, you don’t need to be with the energy provider to get it, but you do generally need an income under £16,000, and to be on income-related benefits or pension credit. It’s worth checking.
Alternatively, the Green Deal initiative is designed to let you pay for under-floor heating, double glazing and solid wall insulation, from the “savings” you make on energy bills.
Save £100s and beat the hikes
Rather surprisingly, fixing energy, where you lock in a set rate, is now cheaper than a normal switch. Five of the big six energy providers have now announced hikes, and their best new prices are costlier than the cheapest fixed tariffs. So right now you can get the very cheapest deals available, and it comes with no-hike certainty.
The cheapest fix comes from E.on for a year, but slightly longer and only a touch more are deals from EDF or Npower. Crucially, these two have no exit penalties. So on the off-chance the Prime Minister delivers the price cuts he’s promised, and the even more unlikely event that they’ll be so substantial that other tariffs elsewhere are cheaper, you’ll be free to leave.
But, always look at your own circumstances. Do a standard comparison on any Ofgem and search for The Confidence Code at www.ofgem.gov.uk to see the full list.
Paying energy bills by monthly direct debit is up to 6 per cent cheaper
If you can, do, as it’ll usually mean discounted bills of up to 6 per cent less, so contact your provider to check. Though always do regular meter readings for accuracy, as your bill is estimated. If it’s too high, you have a right to ask for it to be lowered. Got electricity only? You can still save.
With electricity only, you can still get a cheap fix to save — just follow the info above. For those on Economy 7, assessing is trickier. It’s only really a boon for those who use at least 40 per cent of their energy at night.
Can you find your stopcock?
No sniggering — winter frozen pipe bursts can create an average £7,000 of damage, often worsened as many scrabble round searching for their stopcock — the mains water off switch — for ages as their home floods.
Take the time to find it now — mine is under the kitchen sink. Others find theirs in the bathroom or inside a cupboard. If yours isn’t working, you may want to call a plumber now, before it’s a problem.
Cut boiler cover costs by £100s
Many energy firms use our fear of losing heating to charge hefty insurance costs. Yet you needn’t stick with your energy provider’s boiler cover.
If you rent, your landlord’s likely to be responsible for the boiler. But if you’re the homeowner, you’ll need to decide if you want boiler-only, or central heating cover too. Quickly compare with a comparison site such as www.uswitch.com, and also add www.energyhelpline.com and www.moneysupermarket.com if time.
Is it cheaper to leave the heating on all day?
Not according to the Energy Saving Trust. It says it’s far better to only pump heat energy into your house when needed. It also says there’s also little point painting radiators black, though putting reflective panels behind radiators could help cut energy use by reflecting heat back into the room.
Choosing between heating and eating?
If you’re seriously behind, or in general financial hardship — as far too many are after the hikes — you may be eligible for special help. Call the Home Heat Helpline on 0800 33 66 99 to check.
Plus if anyone in your home was born on or before 5 January 1952, you’re due up to £300 in tax-free winter fuel payments. Payments should be made automatically, but if you’ve never had it before then you may need to register.
Plus anyone on specific income support, jobseekers’ allowances or pension credit gets £25 in cold weather payments for every seven days it’s sub-0 C.