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How to reduce your energy bills

Best ways to save on gas and electricity

Energy bills are very high at the moment, but there are a few things you can do to keep your costs as low as possible.

Pay by Direct Debit

It’s usually cheaper to pay by Direct Debit and it will mean you won’t have to worry about missing payments.

Use less

It sounds obvious, but the less energy you use the lower your bills will be.

There are plenty of tips and tricks you can use to cut your usage. We’ve listed some below.

Here are some quick ideas to help you cut back: 

  • Close your curtains and use draft excluders to stop heat escaping.

  • Use your washing machine or dishwasher at a lower temperature, or run them on the ‘eco’ setting – and avoid putting the washing on when you don’t have a full load.

  • Get into the habit of switching off lights when you leave a room and switching off electrical items instead of leaving them on standby. 

Make your home more energy efficient

Spending a little to save a lot is a good investment – especially if you don’t have to spend your own money.

There are lots of grants available to help improve your home’s energy efficiency such as:

  • improving your insulation

  • upgrading your boiler and appliances

  • installing solar panels or other green technologies.

These improvements could help you save you hundreds of pounds a year. Even if you don’t qualify for a grant, these investments should help you start saving money quite quickly.

Find out more about energy savings grants across the UK in our guide How to pay for home improvements.

Government schemes to help you in 2023/24

Find out more about the government schemes that may help you in our blog Everything you need to know about the government’s cost of living support package to help with your energy bills.  

Can I save money if I have a prepayment meter?

A prepayment meter works like a ‘pay-as-you-go’ tariff for gas or electricity. You need to pay for energy before you can use it.

That means putting money directly into your meter, using an electric or gas meter key, tokens or, in some cases, topping up online.

The main benefit of prepayment meters is that you won’t spend more than you have. It used to be slightly more expensive to pay for your energy through prepayment, but the price cap is now the same as for households who pay by Direct Debit, saving prepayment customers £45 a year. 

Prepayment meters are not suitable for everyone, particularly if you’re vulnerable. Your supplier should also not force you onto a pre-payment meter if you are having problems paying your bill.  

Your supplier can’t make you move to prepayment if it wouldn’t be safe or practical and is required to follow the rulesOpens in a new window set by Ofgem, the energy regulator. 

Your supplier can force-fit a prepayment meter by warrant or by remotely switching your smart meter, but only after they have taken all reasonable steps to agree payment with you. It should be a last resort to disconnect your supply. 

Find out more about being moved onto a prepayment meterOpens in a new window at Citizen’s Advice. 

Can I switch energy suppliers if I have a prepayment meter?

If you have a pre-payment meter, you can still switch energy providers. At the moment there aren’t many deals available for less than the price cap, however you should check regularly to see if there are new fixed deals you can switch to. Some energy companies are only offering fixed tariffs to existing customers, so you might not even need to switch.  

You might find that the price fix you want isn’t available for prepayment customers. If that’s the case, none of the big six suppliers will charge to switch you to a credit meter (where you pay for energy after you use it) which can be cheaper.  

You will probably have to undergo a credit check and your energy account will need to be debt fre

Will a smart meter help me save money?

A smart meter can help you track your use of energy so you can try to reduce how much you use and when. 

What if my fixed deal is coming to an end?

When your fixed plan ends, your supplier will put you on their standard variable tariff. With the high energy prices we’re facing at the moment,  

this will be the Ofgem price cap. The price cap limits the amount you pay, although ask about any cheaper fixed rate tariffs that might be available to new or existing customers.  

If you're near the end of a fixed plan, you won't have to pay a fee to leave it and move to a new tariff – provided your switch completes within the last 49 days of your current deal.

Find out more about the price cap in our guide What to do about high energy bills

Fixed energy tariff

With a fixed price energy tariff, you won’t be affected by price rises during the contract. New fixed rate deals at slightly below the price cap are starting to enter the market. It’s up to you whether you want the certainty of locking in current prices or if you’d rather wait to see if the price cap goes down.

If you do choose a fixed rate tariff and, energy prices fall, you will still be paying the old, higher rate until the end of the contract. 

If you want to switch again before it ends some fixed tariffs have exit fees, that you’ll need to pay to leave. 

Getting a fixed tariff also doesn’t mean you’ll pay the same amount for each bill. It’s the tariff that stays the same and your energy bill will rise and fall with your usage.

Help if you’re sent a catch-up bill for energy – energy backbilling

Sometimes you might be using more energy than the amount your energy supplier had predicted you would us.

This is more of a problem if you’re on a Direct Debit, or don’t send your meter reading to your energy supplier regularly.

If you’re on a fixed payment instalment plan and are using more energy than you are being charged for, your supplier might send you a catch-up bill. This is a bill for the extra energy you’ve used above the amount you’ve paid for.

If you’re switching, you could be sent a catch-up bill. This will depend on how accurately you’ve been charged for your energy use.

Energy backbilling sets out rules for sending you catch-up bills. They can be for any amount but can’t be for energy used more than 12 months ago.

Struggling to pay your energy bills?

Not being able to afford to heat or power your home can be worrying. However, there is help available if you’re struggling.

It’s important to get in touch with your supplier to ask for help before you miss a payment.

If you’re struggling with money or repaying a debt, options include:

  • reviewing bill payment plans, including debt you might be repaying in instalments
  • payment breaks, or reductions in how much you pay
  • having longer to repay what you owe
  • switching to a prepayment meter
  • access to hardship funds –  in exceptional cases.

If you’re struggling with bills and payments, our quick, easy-to-use Bill prioritiser helps you understand which bills and payments to deal with first and how to avoid missing any payments. 

Find out who your gas or electricity supplier is, and their contact details, on a recent energy bill.

If you get benefits, you might be able to pay back money you owe your energy supplier using the Fuel Direct Scheme.

This works by automatically taking a set amount from your benefits to pay your debt, plus an extra amount to cover your energy use.

Warm spaces

Councils across the country are opening community spaces for people to keep warm for free during the day during the colder months.   

Find your local council at GOV.UK for locations and opening timesOpens in a new window

What should you do if you think your Direct Debit amount is wrong?

If you think the monthly payments you’re being asked to make are excessive and you already have a lot of credit in your account, you can ask your supplier to change them. The Ofgem code for suppliers that applies in England, Scotland and Wales states that they should set a fair Direct Debit and be able to explain to you why that amount is reasonable. If they can’t, you can ask your supplier to refund some of your credit.  

MoneySavingExpert has a calculator to help you work out what your monthly payment should beOpens in a new window  

Winter energy bills are usually much higher than summer ones, so instead of charging you for what you use each month suppliers will often take your yearly usage and divide it into 12 chunks, so the cost is more evenly spread. This could explain why you’re being charged for more than you’re using. You can ensure your bills are as accurate as possible by taking regular meter readings, if you have a smart meter your readings are sent off automatically.  

Is it better to go for a dual fuel tariff or have separate electricity and gas contracts? 

A dual fuel tariff simply means you get both your gas and electricity from the same energy supplier.   

Many fixed, online and standard tariffs will offer a dual fuel option.  

Many dual fuel tariffs also offer a discount for taking both gas and electricity from the same company.  

It can be more convenient to deal with one supplier than have two separate suppliers for gas and electricity. Sometimes it can work out cheaper but it’s not always the cheapest option.

Find out more about energy tariffsOpens in a new window at Citizens Advice. 

How to complain about your energy provider

If you’ve got a complaint, contact your energy provider first. Your supplier’s phone number and website will be on your energy bill.

Explain the problem and say what you want your supplier to do about it. You can use free  template  complaints  lettersOpens in a new window from Citizens Advice . (Opens in a new window)

Energy suppliers will then have up to eight weeks to tell you their decision on the complaint.

If you can’t reach an agreement with your supplier after eight weeks, you can ask for a “deadlock letter”, which lets you to take your case to the free Energy Ombudsman.

The Energy Ombudsman will then decide which party it agrees with and how to resolve the issue.

Find out more about  how to make a complaint at Ofgem(Opens in a new window)

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MoneyHelper is the new, easy way to get clear, free, impartial help for all your money and pension choices. Whatever your circumstances or plans, move forward with MoneyHelper.

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