With climate experts warning that it could be the UK’s coldest January and February for decades, it’s more important than ever to ensure your home is warm enough.
But this can be expensive – especially for those that spend most days in their home. What’s more, many elderly people – and other at-risk customers who are unable to access the internet to pay by direct debit – are often charged up to £93 pound a year more to pay by cash or cheque.
So, what’s the solution?
Well, you might be entitled to some help. Running from 20th – 26th January, Big Energy Saving Week is a national campaign that’s designed to assist people in cutting their energy bills. It also informs them of any financial support that they may be entitled to.
We spoke to Dan Curtis, Marketing and Energy Desk Coordinator at BHESCo – a not-for-profit company that delivers clean and affordable energy – for some advice.
What advice can you give to people who are looking to reduce their bills this winter?
It’s a good idea to review your tariff every year – and switch if necessary.
Around 70% of residents in the UK are on a ‘Standard Tariff’ with their supplier, which is typically the most expensive. Most of the big companies like British Gas, EDF, SSE, etc. have over 300 tariffs. One of those is bound to be the cheapest.
However, at the very least, it’s important to call your supplier once a year and make sure you are on their cheapest tariff.
For bigger savings, it’s worth using an online price comparison website such as uSwitch to see if there is a cheaper company to change to. Typically, annual savings for a 3-bed house will be around £280.
Green energy is obviously better for the environment, but can it save customers money?
Aside from the financial benefits, there’s also real peace of mind to be had when you know that the electricity in your house is coming from clean, renewable sources such as wind and solar power.
How easy is it to make the switch?
Switching is as easy as ordering anything else from the internet.
You choose the tariff you want, submit your name, address and bank details, and your new supplier will take care of everything for you.
After 3 – 4 weeks, you’ll be asked to provide an opening meter reading – and that’s it. Cheaper gas and electricity for a least a whole 12 months.
But for those who don’t have access to the internet – or find it challenging to use – you can request a switch over the telephone just as easily.
What financial help is available for elderly and vulnerable people who are struggling to pay their energy bills?
Anyone who receives the Guaranteed Element of Pension Credit will be automatically eligible for the Warm Home Discount. This is a credit payment for £140 that customers can receive from their energy supplier.
However, those who don’t receive pension credit may still be eligible for the Warm Home Discount provided they meet certain income criteria. You can find out more and apply by contacting your supplier.
Anybody who is over the age of 65 will receive the Winter Fuel Payment. This is a payment of £200 which is paid by the Department for Works and Pensions and is paid directly to a customer’s bank account. Those over 80 years old receive £300.
Do you have any other tips to help keep the house warm over the colder months?
Aside from switching tariff, reducing the amount of energy you use will obviously reduce your household energy bills. But quick wins include closing your curtains when it gets dark, setting your thermostat to 18°C, and turning off the heating in empty rooms.
You can further improve home energy efficiency by installing affordable – but effective – measures like energy-saving LED lights, radiator reflector foil and draught excluders. These are all available from retailers like B&Q and Robert Dyas.
For homeowners who can afford to make more significant improvements to their property, adding measures like loft and wall insulation will deliver immediate and substantial benefits. Not only will your home feel much warmer and comfortable, but you’ll also see a big fall in the cost of your monthly fuel bills. Typical payback time for new loft insulation is as little as 2 years.
More energy saving advice
Need a little more help? Citizens Advice has a handy energy comparison tool which lets you quickly compare tariffs and prices. They also offer advice on energy, debt and benefits. And if you’re wondering if you’re eligible for some financial support, just check the energy grants calculator on Gov.uk.
Careium can help you feel confident at home for longer. For more information about how a personal alarm could help, call 0300 333 6511. Alternatively, send us an email: [email protected].