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

PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Life and Style
tech
Sport
Andros Townsend is challenged by Vladimir Volkov
football
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

    SQL Developer - Watford/NW London - £320 - £330 p/d - 6 months

    £320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...

    Head of Audit

    To £75,000 + Pension + Benefits + Bonus: Saxton Leigh: My client is looking f...

    Audit Manager Central Functions

    To £85,000 + banking benefits: Saxton Leigh: You will be expected to carry out...

    Credit Risk Audit Manager

    Up to £90,000 + benefits: Saxton Leigh: Credit Risk Audit Manager required to ...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week