Consuming Issues: How to save £600 on gas and electricity

September's sun is a memory and nights are darkening. Households are starting to feel the chill, not only from the cold, but the failure of Britain's big energy suppliers to lower prices. Consumer groups, MPs, the regulator Ofgem, seemingly everyone apart from Energy Secretary Ed Miliband has noticed that what went up last year, our bills, have not come down, despite drastic falls in wholesale prices.

Indeed, last month the Big Six – British Gas, EDF, E.ON, Npower, Scottish Power and Scottish & Southern – brazenly stated they had no intention of dropping prices this winter. An exasperated Ofgem admitted it had no power to bring about lower bills.

You, however, do. By switching supplier and saving energy, you can easily knock £600 off your bill. Of course, you may already be on the very cheapest tariff and have installed all the latest energy saving techniques, in which case, stop reading now.

First, switching supply. The average annual combined fuel bills paid by cheque quarterly are £1,239, according to Consumer Focus, the publicly-funded consumer champion. However, because two new independent suppliers have introduced cut-price deals in the past month, 99 per cent of households are paying too much. First Utility's internet i-Save works out at an average £954. Ovo Energy, which sources 15 per cent from renewable supplies, costs £978 a year.

You don't have to change any pipes, the electricity and gas coming into your house will be the same. All you have to do is go to a price comparison sites such as theenergyshop.com, energyhelpline.com or uswitch.com, enter your postcode, search for the best deal and switch. It takes about two minutes. It may be the easiest £285 you make; you've saved 23 per cent of your fuel bill. Now to the rest.

Energy saving is boring, but one of its virtues is that once you've made the changes, you don't have to do them again.

First, free things you can do immediately. One very effective way of cutting bills is to heed the hoary advice of putting on an extra jumper and wearing pyjamas in bed. Why not keep the central heating off until November? That's worth £60.

Turning down the central heating thermostat by one degree saves an extraordinary amount, £55 a year; it's unlikely you'll notice the difference (especially wearing that chunky-knit Aran jumper). Here's a similar one; don't heat your water so much. If you have an eco setting, choose this, because your water will then be heated on demand rather than in advance, just in case. If your water is ever uncomfortable to touch, lower the thermostat, which should work out at another £50.

You've now saved £450.

Now to things that cost some money upfront, but pay back quickly, usually in a year or two.

Why pay for your TVs, DVD players and computer when you're not using them? On standby they can clock up three-quarters of their "on" energy use. A Bye Bye Standy kit will switch them off at a click button at night or during holidays, saving an estimated £38.

Now to insulation and draught proofing. If you haven't had insulation fitted to your roof in the past 10 years, you've almost certainly got too little. Mineral wool insulation should be 270mm. Topping it up to that level is an easy DIY job. It might cost £250 upfront, but saves £45 a year.

Filling gaps between skirting boards and the floor saves £20. A jacket for a hot water tank saves £35 and an eco-showerhead £25 a year.

Now to energy saving lightbulbs. You may have installed a few already. But now there's an eco lightbulb for every socket: table lamp, dimmer switches, even the halogen spotlights that power down from kitchen ceilings. Wilkinsons even sells a one-watt LED light – one fiftieth of a typical 50w halogen, though it has a rather white light.

Replacing all the remaining traditional bulbs in your home with energy saving light bulbs saves £37 a year.

All these measures are highly practical. You could do most of them this weekend. And, notwithstanding some upfront costs, they would slash your fuel bill by £650. Year after year.

Heroes & Villains

Hero: Subway, the US chain, has cut salt in its Sub sandwiches by almost a fifth. The amount of salt, for example, in a six-inch Turkey Breast and Ham Sub has fallen by 26 per cent, from 3.4g to 2.5g, while a six-inch Ham Sub is down from 3.1g to 2.3g.

The recommended daily maximum for salt is 6g per adult. So beware, a Meatball Marinara still weighs in at an unhealthy 3.7g. But still, Subway is moving in a healthier direction...

Villain: Mercedes misled the public by making dubious environmental claims in its advertising for the new E-Class (left). Although the car pictured had emissions of 139 grams per kilometre, 22 of 24 models in the range emitted more pollution. Some of them, the Advertising Standards Authority pointed out, were rated M in the Government's VED emissions rating, making them the most climate unfriendly cars on the road. Mercedes told magazine readers: "It's a pleasure, but not a guilty one."

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Sport
Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
PROMOTED VIDEO
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Reach Volunteering: Trustee – PR& Marketing, Social Care, Commercial skills

    Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Age Concern Slough a...

    Reach Volunteering: Charity Treasurer

    Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Crossroads Care is s...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Soho

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35,000: SThree: We consistently strive to be ...

    Ampersand Consulting LLP: Markit EDM (CADIS) Developer

    £50000 - £90000 per annum + benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Markit EDM (CA...

    Day In a Page

    Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

    Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

    Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
    Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

    The last Christians in Iraq

    After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
    Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Britain braced for Black Friday
    Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

    From America's dad to date-rape drugs

    Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

    The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
    Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
    Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

    Flogging vlogging

    First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

    US channels wage comedy star wars
    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

    When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
    Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

    Look what's mushrooming now!

    Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
    Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

    More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

    The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, say DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

    Oeuf quake

    Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
    Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

    Terry Venables column

    Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
    Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

    Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

    Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin