In the latest attempt to leave no week unnamed, Monday is to be the start of “Big Energy Saving Week” — an undoubtedly noble attempt at cutting Britons’ energy use by encouraging the adoption of loft insulation, energy-saving light bulbs, new boilers, double glazing, solar panels and more. And the timing is perfect.
This month British Gas, Npower and Scottish Power announced price hikes; on Monday, Southern Electric customers’ bills rose by nine per cent. E.ON has promised customers that it won’t raise gas or electricity rates this year — but come January, experts expect it won’t be far behind, while the betting on EDF is that it will choose Friday to hike its own rates.
But you can make sure your bills don’t spiral out of control. A handful of (relatively) cheap fixed-rate deals remain: First Utility, for example, is offering a fixed-rate deal that runs till April 2014, so you know exactly what you’d be paying till then. If you wanted to move beforehand, you would face an exit fee of between £30 and £60, depending on whether you chose to fix just gas or electricity, or both.
Another deal, from Scottish Power, costs about £30 more a year than the First Utility one, but there are no punitive fees if you break the contract before its end in 2014 - so if prices fall, you can get out of the fixed-rate deal.
Any households who are keen to switch, remember to do so online if possible - the rates are cheaper. Pay via direct debit, and use a cashback website: Quidco, for example, is offering as much as £100 cashback to Britons who use its website to change energy providers.
But don’t forget to cut your consumption to trim your bill too. Free insulation deals run out next month, so if you haven’t yet got loft insulation and/or cavity wall insulation inside your home, ask your energy provider to supply it - for those aged over 70, in receipt of benefits or earning £16,190 or less, you could even get paid £300 to install it.
The Energy Saving Trust (energysavingtrust.org.uk) has extensive information on other ways to save gas and electricity usage, including the most economical white goods, fireplace draught excluders and more. Its top money-saving energy tips include turning your thermostat down by 1C - it could cut your heating bills by up to 10 per cent and save £60 per year. Closing curtains at dusk helps to stop heat escaping through the windows.
The Energy Saving Trust also recommends running one full load in your washing machine, tumble dryer or dishwasher as this will use less energy than two half loads. Energy-saving light bulbs last up to 10 times longer than ordinary bulbs, and using one can save you around £55 over the lifetime of the bulb.