The Telegraph revealed that reports by industry regulator Ofgem indicated that “utility bills have risen on average £300 over the past three years. This is an increase of nearly 30% in three years, or 10% a year.” The article went on to say that “gas and electricity bills will rise £95 over the next 12 months for a standard tariff, dual fuel customer based on a current average annual bill of £1,420 per year.” With wages rising by a measly 1.4% per year, rising fuels bills only add to the disproportionate cost of living. With tips on how to reduce the escalating costs of energy hitting the headlines daily, The Guardian reported that it’s the climate change policies that will help to make energy more affordable. Energy and climate secretary Ed Davey was quoted saying, “energy-saving policies, better gas boilers, tighter building regulations, the coalition’s green deal loan scheme and smart meters could save householders around £166 a year by 2020.”
But, if like most householders, you can’t wait for policy change to make a difference to your energy bill, you’ll be surprised and delighted to discover how quickly a bit of diligence and small modifications to daily energy use will equate to reduced bills.
No matter how insistent your provider claims that you’re getting the very best deal, always call their bluff by checking with a price comparison site. Make sure you put in as much detailed information as possible to enable the software to calculate the most relevant deals available. Use the information available at your fingertips to look at various tariffs and methods of charging, considering what would suit your household best with no pressure to make a commitment. Once you’ve narrowed your options, you can make calls and enquiries from a more informed position.
Negotiate a deal
Don’t assume prices are fixed – especially in a hotly contested market like energy. Call up and speak directly to both current and potential providers, and try to negotiate a better deal or added benefits for your current spend. If you’ve been loyal to a company over time, play heavily on that fact – energy companies are loathe to lose a customer. Similarly, let a new provider know that you’re wavering from your current provider, and you might find them suddenly keen to move mountains in order to poach your custom. As a firm rule, always ask, no matter how unconfident you are with your bargaining power. The worst you can be told is ‘no’.
Standby to save
According to The Guardian, “leaving our everyday appliances on standby costs UK households between £50 and £86 a year on average,” with “televisions, satellite boxes and other video and audio equipment the worst offenders.” Get into the habit of totally switching off manually. If you’re not really watching the television, switch it off and turn lights off when you leave rooms. When you’re making a cuppa, boil only as much water as you need. Rather than automatically switching on the fire or air conditioning, try adding or removing a layer; closing the curtains or opening a window. On warmer days, turn the heating off rather than leaving it to come on at a set time as routine. Turning the thermostat down by a degree will be barely physically evident, but the evidence will be in black and white when the bill comes in.
Water-saving outside and in
If you’re on a water meter, curb your usage. Switch to showers instead of baths and don’t leave the taps running when you brush your teeth. Be conscious of how much water you’re using on the garden and fix dripping taps as soon as possible. Only run the washing machine with a full load, and check out online facilities like usage calculators and the free water-saving devices on offer, like the ‘Freddie’ or ‘hippo’ for toilet cisterns, and tap and shower-flow regulating rings.
Check the energy rating of all intended purchases before you buy, and see if it’s possible to get a part-exchange or upgrade with existing devices that have poorer ratings. A+++ is the best available – but it can be difficult to differentiate between multiple items with the same rating. Look for the annual figure for consumption in kWh and choose accordingly. Make sure appliances are kept clean and given any necessary servicing to maintain their efficiency rating. Which.co.uk recommends that if you’re comparing two A-rated appliances, “look more closely at the energy consumption calculation data found on the label to find which of the two uses the least electricity.”
The cost of cooking
According to Uswitch.com, “the cost of cooking accounts for about 4% of the average gas and electricity bill.” They state that as an overview, ” the microwave oven is the most energy-efficient, followed by a hob and lastly an oven.” So to help bring the bill down, opt for methods of cooking that require less energy. Quick cooking usually retains maximum nutrients, so perhaps add a few more stir-fry meals to your weekly menu. Some quick tips for efficient cooking are:
- cook in batches
- defrost in advance
- use glass and ceramic dishes for higher efficiency
- cut food smaller for quicker cooking
- use the right sized burner for hob cooking
- use lids on pots to retain heat
- steam vegetables instead of boiling
Make sure your home is as warm as possible – hang heavy curtains and draw them as soon as it gets dark or when the temperature drops. Use draft excluders under doors and check the draft seals on all your windows are properly fixed and effective. Install double glazing and put sheets of aluminium foil behind radiators to reflect the heat back into the room. Make sure you have loft insulation and check whether you can access government funding and grants or other financial assistance. If you’re a pensioner, you should be receiving a winter fuel payment.
Kitty Hastings is lifestyle journalist from London, with a reputation for writing informative articles about a vast range of lifestyle topics. She has years of experience writing about travel and food, fashion and personal finance, and understands the importance of living within your means and staying out of debt in these difficult economic times. She recommends Eccount Money, a leading provider of Internet current accounts aimed to help people with debt. Kitty’s articles appear in a wide range of publications both in print and online – and she loves nothing more than relaxing with a cup of tea and a great book .