BRITS’ energy bills are set to rise by an average of £32 per month as people spend more time at home.
During the UK lockdown, people have been using their home appliances, such as dishwashers, washing machines, televisions and ovens more than usual. Lights are also being left on for more of the day, according to new research from Comparethemarket.com.
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The extra usage could lead to a 37 per cent rise in energy bills, according to the price comparison site, pushing up household bills by £32.31 a month on average, or £387 over a year if similar usage continues.
Comparethemarket’s survey found that almost half of the people it asked were concerned about higher energy bills.
Peter Earl, head of energy at comparethemarket.comm said: “Many are understandably worried about how they will manage this increased cost, particularly if they are a high energy consumption household.”
Around a third of households said that they were turning down their central heating during the day, and over a quarter were limiting how much lighting they use.
So how can you cut your energy costs?
Switch energy supplier
The biggest money saver is to make sure you are on the best energy deal.
You can use comparison websites such as MoneySupermarket, My Utility Genius or Uswitch to check what deals are out there.
All you will need is your postcode, the name of your current supplier and the details of your current tariff.
You can find all this information on your last bill.
Once you’ve decided on your new supplier, you can confirm your payment details and the switch will begin.
The switch-over process can take up to 21 days, but in most cases it’s around 17 days.
If you change your mind, you have 14 days to cancel from the date you agree a contract.
The Money Advice Service says the average amount of money saved by switching suppliers is £300 a year.
Change your bulbs
Switching all your existing light bulbs to more energy efficient LED bulbs will lower your energy costs.
These bulbs are just as good as their older counterparts in terms of light – but last longer and don’t use as much energy.
If the average household replaced all of their bulbs with LEDs, it would cost about £100 and save about £35 a year on bills.
Get into better habits
Little changes to your routine can save you money in the long run.
The Energy Saving Trust, an independent organisation which aims to help people reduce their energy usage, has a list of quick wins to help you chip away at those bills.
For example, spending one minute less in the shower each day could save you £7 a year.
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Or switching appliances off properly, rather than just onto standby, could save you £30 a year.
And doing one less wash a week could save you £5 a year.
Other small changes include remembering to turn the lights off when you leave a room, or turning the television off when you're not watching it – this will save you a few pounds a year.
On their own these changes don’t amount to much – but it all adds up.
Turn your heating down
It might be time to ask yourself whether you could just pop on a jumper rather than rely on your heating to keep you warm.
Moving your thermostat down by one degree could save you £80 a year, according to the Energy Saving Trust.
Or you could try just heating the rooms that you use.
Try turning the radiator up in the room where you’re working and then closing the door to keep the heat in, rather than heating the whole property.
Draught proof windows and doors
Making sure your house is draught free will help to keep warm air in and cold air out.
For windows, you can buy draught-proofing strips to stick around the window frame.
What to do if you can't pay your bills
FALLING behind on your energy bills can be extremely stressful.
If you’re struggling to pay what you owe, contact your supplier as soon as possible.
Your provider has to help you come up with a solution, and you should be able to negotiate a deal that works for you both.
One option is to agree a payment plan where you pay off your debts in affordable instalments.
You may be able to pay off your debts directly from your benefits through the Fuel Direct Scheme.
A fixed amount will automatically be taken to cover what you owe plus your usage.
To be eligible, you must be getting one of the following benefits:
- Income-based jobseeker’s allowance
- Income support
- income-related employment and support allowance
- Pension credit
- Universal Credit (but only if you’re not working)
If you cannot come to an agreement with your supplier, they may try to force you to get a prepayment meter installed.
In very rare cases, where you refuse to negotiate, your supplier might threaten you with disconnection.
And for doors leading to the outside, you can try a purpose-made cover for your keyhole and a letterbox flap or brush to stop blasts of cold air coming in.
You could also install a draught excluder at the bottom of the door, and plug gaps around the edges.
Taking measures like this could save you around £20 in energy costs.
Claim back your costs
If your employer requires you to work at home because of coronavirus, you can claim for any increased costs, including higher energy bills.
But according to MoneySavingExpert, working out exactly how much you’re owed is difficult.
Instead, it might be easier to claim HMRC's standard rate of £6 a week directly from your employer, a payment which is free from tax.
If you can't do that, you can claim tax relief yourself which means you can ask HMRC for the extra costs to be deducted from your taxable income for the whole year.
If you normally do your own tax return you can claim when you do that.
This also counts for people who are self-employed, as your expenses for the time you are at home will be higher.
If you don't normally do a tax return, you can fill in a P87 form, which you can find online and submit via the government’s website or post back.
But it’s best to wait until you are back at work in a few months' time and claim the whole amount at once.
You will pay less tax over the year, rather than receiving a refund.
If you're struggling to pay your energy bills, you may be able to get some help from your supplier.
New rules came into force last week to compensate energy customers who have had trouble switching suppliers.
Millions of households will save £17 a year on their energy bills after energy regulator Ofgem announced plans to lower its price cap in February.
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