Five Questions On: How to beat energy price hikes

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The Independent Online

What has been happening to energy prices?

All the Big Six energy giants have announced big rises, pushing the price of gas up by an average of 17.4 per cent and the cost of electricity up by an average of 10.8 per cent. A typical household's annual bills are expected to hit £1,322 as a result.

Does this mean all energy companies are now equally expensive?

No. You can still make large savings by switching to a different tariff. Consumers could cut their bills by 24 per cent by switching to better value deals – that's a collective saving of £3.7bn a year nationwide.

Where can I find the cheapest tariffs?

Dual-fuel online plans are generally the least expensive options for anyone keen to minimise their bills. The cheapest online tariff available at the moment, for example, is E.ON's Save Online V9 at an average annual cost of £982. That's a saving of £340 a year on the average bill.

What about fixed-rate plans?

Although slightly more expensive than the cheapest online tariffs on offer, fixed price deals provide peace of mind that the cost of energy bills will not increase if there is another round of hikes. They have become increasingly popular with cash-strapped consumers keen to protect their budgets from further shocks as a result. And the good news is that the huge majority of households could still save by switching. Scottish Power's Online Fixed Saver Dec 12, for example, offers a safeguard against price rises until December 2012 and has an average cost of £1,020.29 a year – or just £38 more than the E.ON plan.

Anything else I can do?

Switching to a better value deal is not the only way you can slash your bills. You can dramatically reduce the amount you pay for power by improving your home's energy efficiency. Easy ways to do this include installing loft insulation, which can save you about £140 a year, or cavity wall insulation, which can cut your bills by around £150. You may be able to apply for grants from the Government or your energy provider to help with the installation costs. Check out for more details.

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