Money Wellness
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calendar icon27 Sep 2023

Answers to your energy bill questions and top tips to help you stay warm for less this winter

We’ve noticed a definite chill in the air in the mornings recently. It makes it so much harder to crawl out from under the duvet, doesn’t it?

We could always turn the heating on, I suppose. After all, prices are falling in October aren’t they? Well actually, it’s not quite that simple.

In this blog, we answer your questions about what you can expect to pay for your energy this winter and provide our top ten tips on staying warm while keeping down costs.

Q. Energy will be a lot cheaper from October, won’t it?

A. Hmm… well probably not actually. The price suppliers can charge for a unit of energy drops from 1 October, so I suppose that’s good news. But standing charges – the daily fees that you pay just for having a gas and electricity connection - have rocketed recently.

From 1 October, the amount these charges add to an average dual fuel bill will top £300 a year. And they’ve typically risen by more than 60% over the past two years.

It’s often argued that higher standing charges and lower unit prices hit the poorest households hardest. This is because these households tend to keep costs down by reducing the amount of energy they use. Higher standing charges mean this way of controlling costs is less effective.

Another reason you might not see a big drop in your energy bills this winter is the removal of government support. We all got (or were supposed to get) £400 towards our energy bills last winter. That won’t be happening this time round, so your bill might end up costing you about the same as it did last year.

Q. I’m already behind with my energy bills. What should I do?

A. You’re definitely not alone. A lot of people are still struggling to deal with the energy debt they built up last winter. Around 60% of the people who got in touch with us for debt help in July did so because they were behind with their energy bills.

Those people did the right thing. If you’re unable to cover all your living expenses, don’t struggle on alone. We offer free debt advice and can help in a whole range of ways, including:

  • checking you’re claiming all the benefits you can get
  • coming up with a realistic budget you can stick to
  • advising you on debt solutions that may allow you to reduce your monthly payments and even write off some of what you owe

All our advice is free and impartial, so finding out your options won’t cost you a thing. Our budgeting and benefits checks are also free and we’ll spend as much time with you as you need. If it turns out you’d benefit from a debt solution, some of them are free while for others there’s a fee.

You can get online debt advice 24/7. Or if you prefer to talk to someone on the phone, we’re here Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm and over the weekend from 10am to 4pm. Give us a call on 0161 518 8285.

Q. Are the government offering any more energy support to low-income households this winter?

A. Although the government doesn’t have any plans to offer the £400 in energy bills support again this winter, there are a few other schemes in place to help certain people cover the cost of their gas and electricity:

Warm Home Discount

You could get £150 off your electricity bill this winter under the Warm Home Discount scheme if you either:

  • get the guarantee credit element of pension credit
  • are on a low income

Find out more.

Help with energy-saving improvements

You may be able to get help for energy-saving improvements to your home if you get certain benefits or live in social housing.

Discover more.

Cost-of-living payments

You could get up to £900 in three instalments if you’re on means-tested benefits.

There’s also an extra £300 pensioner cost-of-living payment and a £150 disability cost-of-living payment for people who get certain disability benefits.

Winter fuel payment

Pensioners get a winter fuel payment too.

Household Support Fund

Local councils are also offering cost-of-living help as part of the Household Support Fund. Contact your local council directly to find out what’s available in your area.

Our top ten tips to help you stay warm for less this winter

Whether you’re entitled to any government support or not, we’ve come up with our top ten tips to help you stay warm and keep your energy costs to a minimum this winter:

Install thermostats

You could save around £75 a year by installing room thermostats or radiator valves in the rooms you use the most - but they need to be placed in the right spot. Avoid areas with extreme temperatures, such as by doors, windows or radiators and keep them away from lamps and electrical items like TV’s, as they can make a room appear hotter or cooler than it is.

Block draughty door frames

If less heat escapes, your rooms will stay warmer for longer and could save around £60 a year in heating bills. Fit rubber, foam, brush, or wiper strips to keep heat in a room. Attach them to the frame of your doors with adhesive, screws, or nails. You can also buy fabric draft excluders to put in front of doors. Retailers such as Amazon and Dunelm have magnetic thermal insulated door panels for £29.99.

Keep curtains closed

Curtains reduce the amount of air exchange between a cold window and the rest of the room. High quality curtains can reduce heat loss by around 40% especially if they’re floor length.

Make sure furniture isn’t blocking radiators

Don’t block your radiators with furniture or sofas as it stops heat being distributed throughout the room. You should leave around 6 to 12 inches between any furniture and radiators to ensure free movement of air and circulation of heat.

Insulate pipework & hot water tank

Insulating your pipes is easy and relatively cheap. Without insultation a lot of warmth is lost through pipes into cold spaces like your loft, meaning you need more energy to heat your house. It costs around £1.75 per meter to insulate your pipes. All you need to do is buy the right size foam tube and fit it over.

Tin foil the radiators

Fit reflective panels behind radiators especially those that are fixed to external walls. You can pick them up for as little as £8.99. Alternatively, tin foil works just as well. It works by reflecting heat into the room instead of it being lost through the cold wall.

Layer up or heat yourself

You should make sure to layer up clothing at all times to trap heat against your body. Start with thermal vests, t shirts, jumpers and a coat or gilet, and invest in good quality, thick socks. Alternatively, you could invest in heated clothes, such as vest or blankets, to keep you toasty all day long. It cost just pennies to charge the batteries overnight.

Find warm, safe places

Warm spaces are being hosted in libraries and community centres up and down the country. They’ve also been set up in theatres, art galleries, museums, children’s centres, churches, and other religious buildings. They allow people to spend time in a heated environment where there’s often a free hot drink on offer and the opportunity to chat. You can find your nearest warm space either by contacting your local council or visiting www.warmspaces.org

Get help from your local council

Your local council might be able to help you with money towards your energy bills or with the cost of making your home more energy efficient through the Household Support Fund. Each council chooses how they’ll distribute their fund – they may offer vouchers or cash. To find out what support is available to you, speak to your local council or visit www.gov.uk

Grant help to pay energy debt

If you’re in debt to your energy supplier and have no realistic way to repay it, you might be entitled to a grant. A number of suppliers offer grants to struggling customers, including:

  • British Gas Energy Support Fund – apply online
  • Scottish Power Hardship Fund – apply online
  • Ovo Customer Support Package – apply online
  • E.ON Next Enerty Fund – apply online
  • EDF Energy Customer Support Fund – sign up to the priority support register to apply
  • Octopus ‘Octo Assist Fund’ – apply online
  • Shell Energy Support Fund – apply online

The British Gas Energy Trust also offers to grants to anyone – regardless of whether you’re a customer – to help with energy debts.

Avatar of Caroline Chell

Caroline Chell

Caroline has worked in financial communications for more than 10 years, writing content on subjects such as pensions, mortgages, loans and credit cards, as well as stockbroking and investment advice.

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