Guest post written by Maggie Boyle
A video produced by the charity National Energy Action (NEA) packed with lots of useful information. This gives you step by step advice on some low cost or free measures you can carry out. It also tells you about possible sources of funding.
Guest blog written by Maggie Boyle
The TV adverts suggest its easy to find a cheap deal using a comparison site - when you get there there are lots of deals to choose from so how do you choose the right one for you? Also, not all comparison sites show you all the deals, some will only show you the deals from suppliers they get a fee from if you switch. Use an Ofgem accredited comparison site
Things to consider:
1. How do you pay now and how you want to pay?
Being able to paying for both gas and electricity to the same provider, using monthly direct debits and managing your account online will usually get you the cheapest deal.
But you may be on a prepayment meter. Energy bought using a prepayment meter is likely to be more expensive. You can ask a provider to change your meter, so that you can choose a cheaper deal on your energy, whether this is a useful option for you and whether it is possible will depend on your circumstances.
2. Do you choose a variable tariff or a fixed tariff?
Variable tariffs may look cheaper but as winter is on its way its is likely that energy prices will go up so you will probably be better off on a fixed deal for 12 months or more - you’ll know exactly how much your energy is going to cost, can estimate how much you will use from the information on your bill and hence can budget for the next 12 months. Look out for the symbols next to the quote. Most fixed tariffs will incur an exit fee if you want to switch before the end of the fixed deal. This can be quite a large sum so you want to check whether a new deal is so much more competitive that it is worth switching to before the end of the period of your fixed tariff.
3. Are you eligible for Warm Home Discount?
This is a discount of £140 on electricity bills for the winter period 2017-18. You maybe be automatically eligible for Warm Home Discount. Those who receive the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit are automatically eligible, some other low-income and vulnerable households may also be eligible but to find out you need to ask your energy supplier. If you think you may be eligible you need to look for the WHD symbol next to a quote, only the bigger suppliers are obligated to offer the WHD. You will need to take this into account when working out whether a deal is cheaper for you or not.
4. You need to switch tariff or provider each year
If you choose a fixed tariff the deal will usually last 12-18 months. After the deal ends the provider will put you on a standard variable tariff. This will be more expensive and you will need to switch again so as not to be charged uncompetitive prices. The supplier will write to you telling you your deal is coming to an end and that you will not incur exit fees if you decide to switch. You can usually switch 42-49 days before the expiry of the fixed term without incurring the exit fees. You can decide to ring up your current provider to see what deals they are currently offering and this will invariably be better than the standard variable deal you will go on to after the end of a fixed deal so you can save money simply by ringing your supplier. However, you will probably be able to get a better deal by finding the supplier offering the best prices at the time you need to switch. So always read your letters/emails from your supplier - they have to tell you when it is time to switch - you’ll pay less for your fuel!
Come to the Folkestone Power Café to find out more! (Search for Folkestone Power Café on Facebook or see the Power Café page on this website for more details.)
Guest blog written by Maggie Boyle
Switching tariff or supplier
If you haven’t switched supplier for over 12 months (or 18 months if your last tariff was fixed for that long) the chances are that you are overpaying for your gas and electricity.
If you are not in debt to your supplier then if you pay your own fuel bills you can switch tariff or energy supplier whether you own your own house or live in rented accommodation (if your landlord pays your fuel bills you will have to speak to your landlord to discuss whether a change of tariff or supplier is an option).
Switching tariff is easy - it takes one phone call to your energy supplier to ask whether there is a cheaper deal. If you are on a standard variable tariff (the term of your fixed deal has finished) then there will be a cheaper deal offered by your supplier (they should tell you that on your bill but if you can’t see that information then when you ring them they will inform you what is their cheapest deal for you) and you can decide to switch and save yourself some money this year.
You can usually save more money by finding the cheapest supplier for your circumstances. So before you decide whether to stick with your old supplier and agree on a new fixed deal it is a good idea to check what other suppliers are offering.
Finding the cheapest deal
Find the cheapest supplier by using a comparison site. Not all comparison sites work the same way. Ofgem (the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets, a non-ministerial government department and an independent National Regulatory Authority) has a list of accredited switching sites (see their list below).
Which supplier can offer you the cheapest deal will depend on your circumstances: what area you live in, whether you can pay monthly, by direct debit, manage your account online, whether you have a prepayment meter, whether you have a meter using a single tariff or use a dual tariff meter such as Economy 7, how much energy you use, etc. You will need your electricity bill when you access a comparison site to make sure you provide all the information so that the search finds the best tariff and supplier for you.
How to choose a good deal
Usually the best deal is a fixed deal for 12 or more months, this means your bills won’t go up for that length of time. A variable deal may look cheaper but it is likely that the price of energy will go up over winter and this will make your bills higher than those on a fixed deal over the course of the year.
There are other things to take into consideration: if you are on benefits you are likely to be eligible for Warm Home Discount and will need to check the new supplier can offer that.
You need to look out for all the information about the deal that the comparison site is showing you.
If you are in debt or can't afford to pay your bills
If you are currently in debt to your supplier you may still be able to change supplier if you are on prepayment meters or have not had the debt for over 28 days.
If you can’t afford to pay your bills you can negotiate with your supplier about how to reduce it.
There is a lot of helpful information about your options in the Citizen’s Advice website
Sustainability Connections is a Community Interest Company who are currently funded by the Lottery to provide support to help people reduce their fuel bills. We are not paid by any utility company nor do we receive a fee from any utility company for helping someone to switch. Our advice is free and unbiased. To get some help reducing your bills this winter drop into the Folkestone Power Cafe, for details see the Power Cafe page on our website www.sustainabilityconnections or go to our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Sustainabilityconnections/ and click on events.
List of Ofgem accredited switching sites
My Utility Genius
Switch Gas and Electric
The Energy Shop
For more on comparison sites and why to use an Ofgem accredited one see http://ow.ly/87v130gst6O
This post is a collaboration with University of Kent students. The opinions in this piece are those of our guest blogger and do not necessarily represent those held by Sustainability Connections.
Guest blog by: Charlie Hatherley
Now that winter is looming many households are struggling to heat their home adequately and often choosing whether to 'heat or eat'.
The fuel poverty gap is a term used to describe the difference between how much a household spends on fuel, and what they would actually need to spend to live in comfortable conditions.
Fuel poverty is a term that just won’t go away. It’s on the news and on flyers everywhere. If to heat your home adequately you would need to spend more than about £1200 a year on fuel, and doing so would leave you with income below the official poverty line then it is likely you would be classed as ‘in fuel poverty’.
Households with the highest levels of fuel poverty
Is it just me? How common is fuel poverty?
One in ten households in England is fuel poor and faces the ‘eat or heat’ scenario in the colder months. The number of households in fuel poverty is rising, the cost of living is rising and the cost of fuel is rising. It is harder and harder to set aside the money to make homes more energy efficient and often people in fuel poverty are renting making this even less possible.
What can you do to keep yourself warm and spend less money on fuel?
Understand your bills to work out whether you are paying more than the average to heat your home.
Look for a cheaper deal – this often means changing to a provider offering fuel at a cheaper price.
Try to save energy wherever you can. Use thermostats on your radiators if they have them and the timer if you have central heating. Replace light bulbs with low energy bulbs, take showers rather than baths, use draught excluders, switch appliances off rather than leaving them on standby.
Find out whether you are eligible for help with bills (for example the Warm Home Discount is available for those on certain types of benefit). Help is also available to make your home more energy efficient (you may be eligible under the Energy Company Obligation scheme to receive a discount towards insulating your house or putting in a more modern and more efficient boiler if you are on certain benefits).
If you are in debt
If you are in debt and/or cannot pay your bills there may be extra help for you; there are a number of charitable trusts that you can apply to, even some energy companies have set up charitable trusts.
What do I do next?
There is a lot of information that may help you on the internet - see the link below for example.
This November Sustainability Connections is running a Power Cafe in Folkestone where trained Energy Champions can help save you money. Energy Champions are not selling anything and are not paid a fee by any energy provider (the funding to provide this help comes from the Lottery).
Visit the Folkestone Power Café to see how much you can save - see details on our website
For more information about fuel poverty provided elsewhere on the internet and ideas about what you can do visit