Fuel bills are rising, what can you do?

By | January 28, 2013

Now that much of the country has been covered in a blanket of snow and temperatures have dropped below zero, most of us will be keen to turn the thermostat up on heating systems. But with the cost of energy being as high as it is, thousands of households will find that having a little warmth can have seriously detrimental effects on the state of their finances. According to MoneySupermarket, 40 per cent of annual energy use occurs during the winter months so it’s far from surprising that people are often hit with more expensive bills than they expected.

Indeed, the price comparison website believes that the average family will receive a quarterly bill of around £530 in the next few weeks; this kind of unexpected outgoing can easily lead to the need for a  debt management solution. Clare Francis, consumer finance expert at MoneySupermarket.com said: “A huge energy bill will come as an unwelcome shock. A spate of price rises which mostly came into effect before the Christmas period saw the cost of energy increase by an average of 7.6 per cent, leaving many people worrying about the crippling costs they could face in the coming months.” The research was backed up by a study conducted by over-50s group Saga, who found that energy bills have doubled since 2005. Its survey of 8,500 people also found that 58 per cent of people are worried that they will not be able to afford their next bill, while 35 per cent said they were already struggling. But what can you do to ensure that your energy bills don’t leave you with a serious financial problem?

One option is to fit insulation in your loft or other draughty spaces. The National Insulation Association (NIA) says that more than 60 per cent of a home’s heat escapes through un-insulated walls and roofs, meaning that as much as £310 a year in energy could be going to waste. EnergyZone.net recommends fitting loft and cavity wall insulation which is at least 270mm in depth. Fitting insulation will cost several hundreds of pounds but the investment can usually begin paying for itself within two years.

You should also look to stop heat escaping from your windows and doors. Double glazing will significantly improve the temperature of a room and can save you around £60 a year in energy costs. Using thick curtains and keeping them closed in the evenings is also an effective way of stopping heat escaping. Another good way of cutting down costs is using by using appliances more effectively. EnergyZone suggests washing clothing at lower temperatures as this will work as well as normal heat setting but use less power. It is also advisable to only wash when you have a full load to put in. Washing one t-shirt may mean you have something quickly to look your best in, but it is a massive waste of electricity.

One small way of saving money is by using energy saving light bulbs. On average these will save you around £9 a year in electricity, but they also last around 12 times longer than normal bulbs so can help you cut down on the amount you spend stocking up in supermarkets and electrical shops. Lastly, you should consider switching your energy supplier. MoneySupermarket recently stated that on average families can save £220 a year by moving tariffs. Ms Frances advised: “Ideally customers who have fixed deals expiring should look to begin the switching process about six weeks before the termination date of the deal to avoid paying more than they need for their gas or electricity. However, it’s not too late to switch now, even if your deal has already expired.” However, unlike with things like car and home insurance people are often put off switching because they struggle to work out which is the lowest priced supplier and view the process of changing as a hassle.