Shedding light on how to slash those rising energy bills
Chiara Cavaglieri and Julian Knight show how you can cut the ever-spiralling cost of gas and electricity
The cost of heating and lighting our homes is higher than it has ever been and with recent increases announced by the bulk of the "big six" suppliers this is only set to rise and rise. The average annual dual-fuel bill, covering gas and electricity, stands at £1,315 per household, according to energy regulator Ofgem, but that is probably now an underestimate. Fortunately, though, there are many things that you can do to bring those bills down by several hundred pounds.
Switch to a cheaper tariff
Many people are stuck on the most-expensive tariff, despite potential savings of £140 a year – the average amount saved by people using the Which? Switch service – and the opportunity to lock in no price hikes for up to four years.
Speak to your current supplier first to find out whether they can move you onto a cheaper tariff. You could also save up to 6 per cent if you pay your bills by monthly direct debit. Otherwise, use a comparison site to help you get a better deal, looking out for online tariffs as these are typically the cheapest option. Even if you rent rather than own your home, you are entitled to change supplier at any time. Suppliers are responsible for managing the switch and your existing supplier must continue to provide your energy until it takes place. But be warned that for now the whole process can take up to eight weeks.
Tackle any draughts
Draught-proofing is one of the cheapest and most-efficient ways to save energy. Seal draughts coming from gaps around windows and doors, skirting boards, loft hatches, keyholes and letter boxes. You can also buy a chimney balloon which is inflated in your fireplace to stop cold air coming in. Full DIY draught-proofing costs around £100 for materials but saves up to £55 a year so it won't take long to pay for itself.
Upgrade your boiler
A new boiler certainly isn't cheap (you can expect to pay around £2,300) but they do account for more than half of what you spend in the year on energy bills, so if yours is getting on for 15 years old it's probably time for an upgrade. Replacing an old gas boiler with an A-rated condensing boiler could save you as much as £310 a year.
At the very least, make sure your boiler is as efficient as it can be by making sure it has an annual service and safety check. If you live in an older house with a poorly insulated hot-water tank, wrap it up in a cylinder jacket to reduce heat loss by 70 per cent.
Install a room thermostat to use your heating controls more effectively. You can pick when you want the heating to come on, restricted to the areas where it's needed and at the right temperature. Smart meters also help you take control, and although there are no direct savings, the display shows your latest energy usage and costs, giving you a much-clearer idea of how to lower your bills.
Insulate your roof and walls
One third of the heat you are paying for disappears through the roof, so get the loft insulated (costing roughly £300) and save yourself up to £180 per year if your loft has nothing in place, or top up your existing insulation from 100mm to 270mm to save around £25.
Cavity-wall insulation also keeps the warmth in and can help reduce condensation. The Energy Saving Trust (EST) says cavity insulation typically costs £450 to £500 to install but can save an average, three-bedroom home up to £140 a year on its bills. If you're on a low income and receive benefits such as child tax credit and pension credit, you may be eligible for free home insulation from one of the energy firms or your local council.
Fit an eco-showerhead
Some water companies are giving water-efficient shower heads away for free and installing one could save a family of four around £75 a year on gas for water heating, as well as a further £90 on water bills if they have a water meter.
Double glaze your windows
Double glazing is expensive to install but you'll cut heat loss by an impressive 50 per cent, saving around £170 a year on bills if you replace all single-glazed windows with B-rated double glazing. It should last for at least 20 years and not only will your home be warmer, but you can turn down the heating to save a few more quid, and you'll drown out some of the outside noise too.
Switch to a wood-burning stove
Switching from gas heating to wood-fuelled heating would save you around £100 a year.
The installation costs can be steep – EST says an individual pellet stove will cost around £4,300 including installation, while a new log stove will cost half this, including a new flue or chimney lining – and you'll have to factor in the cost of the wood pellets, chips or logs. If your home is heated electrically, you could save huge sums by switching to a wood-fuelled system. The initial outlay is between £7,000 and £13,000 including installation, but you could save £580 per year and you can also apply for a £2,000 grant under the renewable heat premium payment scheme.
Invest in renewable technology
While electricity costs are going up, the cost of solar panels is going down, so it could be a great time to invest in solar photovoltaics and benefit from savings as well as income from the Government's feed-in tariffs which pay you for the electricity you generate, even if you use it. A typical 4kWP panel could generate and save you £785 per year (knocking £143 off your electricity bill).
It may also be worth exploring other technologies such as solar -thermal panels and air-source heat pumps, as there are financial rewards available through the Government's renewable heat incentive.
Five-minute bill fix
Turn the thermostat down by at least 1ºC to reduce annual bills by up to 10 per cent
Save £50-£90 a year by turning off lights, appliances and chargers when you're not using them
Switch to energy-saving bulbs, and buy LED spotlights to replace halogens
Save more than £55 a year by being careful how you use your kitchen appliances; wash your laundry at 30°C, use a bowl to wash up and don't fill your kettle right up
Use the sun's light and warmth during the day but close your curtains at dusk to keep the heat in
Keep the heat circulating by moving large furniture away from radiators and buy reflective insulating wrap to go behind them
Save baths for a treat because showers use a third of the energy
Crowd-to-let: How crowdfunding sites can give investors a slice of the property market for £500
General Election 2015: How you vote next week could affect your finances
Dirty tricks in a divorce can cause some nasty surprises
Social tenants locked into energy tariff for 40 years
Have you won £1m in the May Premium Bonds draw?
- 1 Morgan Freeman on the riot-focused coverage of the Baltimore protests: 'F**k the media'
- 2 The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
- 3 Top Gear: Jodie Kidd, Philip Glenister and Guy Martin 'in advanced talks' to replace Jeremy Clarkson and co
- 4 Frankie Boyle on Scottish independence: 'In the Interests of Unity, F**k Off'
- 5 Length of pregnancy can vary by up to five weeks, scientists discover
In defence of liberal democracy
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
General election live: SNP suspends two members for disrupting Labour rally
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils
General Election 2015: Post-election 'shambles' looms as 70 per cent of voters say SNP 'should not be able to veto UK government policies'
iJobs Money & Business
£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...
£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...
£40-50k + Benefits.: Guru Careers: A Project Manager / Business Analyst is nee...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Can you speak German,...
Day In a Page
Located in the University area, this semi-detached five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors - there's even a rear garden and off-road parking too.
Only a few minutes' drive from the charming town of Marlow, this two-bedroom home sits on the private riverside estate of Harleyford.
This detached four-bedroom home in Middleyard is arranged over two floors, with features that include a wood-burning stove and bespoke oak staircase.
In a row of eight detached Georgian residences, this five-bedroom home offers views of The Sound, Mount Edgcumbe and Cornwall from its impressive veranda and full-length balcony.
If you love cooking for friends this two-bedroom flat - complete with views of the iconic Battersea Power Station and an open-plan kitchen/dining area - will go down a treat.
Located above Grasmere village, this five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors and offers countryside views across Grasmere Lake towards Silver Howe.
Surrounded by the Western fells, this five-bedroom Georgian home retains many original features including panel-plastered ceilings, sash windows and fireplaces.
This six-bedroom home is set amongst three acres of grounds. Currently a large family home, Clift Hill has potential to make a B&B, subject to change of use permissions.
A former period coach house, Glebe Farm Stable is now a three-bedroom cottage with a double car barn, office, kennels and an outbuilding that's currently used as a gym.
Set sail for this four-bedroom farmhouse in Cowes. With five acres of land and an indoor pool, this home oozes character. There is even potential to let a one-bedroom annexe.
Surrounded by woodland, this five-bedroom manor house has plenty of outdoor storage space in the form of three converted loose boxes, two smaller outhouses and a woodstore.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with a double carport, useful workshop, garden and two walkways that offer views of the adjacent countryside.
With space for an equestrian business, a greenhouse for growing your own veg, a wine store and a gym; this five-bedroom home has all the ingredients for a country retreat.
This four-bedroom home has exposed brick chimneys and a vaulted ceiling in a breakfast room that's ideal for summer entertaining - the doors open to the patio and garden.
The decked roof terrace of this two-bedroom flat is perfect for summer drinks while large windows and ample storage space make for a light and spacious interior.
Surrounded by approximately 15 acres of grounds, this six-bedroom grade II-listed home has been extensively refurbished yet retains many period features.
This four-bedroom home comes with a two-bedroom cottage and commercial office, with planning to extend, in a stunning courtyard setting.
In a pretty Norfolk village, this four-bedroom family home is surrounded by landscaped gardens, with even a self-contained annex for guests.
A few miles from the seaside at Perranporth, this four-bedroom farmhouse sits amongst nine acres of idyllic grounds - including a lake and two barns used as holiday lets.
This five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors of a converted Victorian hospital, offering spectacular views of the Pentland Hills - only three miles from the city centre.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with grounds that span to approximately 2.5 acres, as well as two large patio areas and a double garage.
This four-bedroom cottage is a Grade II-listed town house, well-located for the thriving market town of Nailsworth.
A four-bedroom apartment on the ground floor of a stunning period property in North Yorkshire, with two kitchens and a large south-west facing garden.
This high-spec two-bedroom home is part of a smart collection of new flats at Beaufort Park and has a large decked balcony that's perfect for summer drinks.
Capitalise on the fabulous views of Trevone Bay by taking two homes and creating one spacious boutique B&B. Just a cliff-top walk from Padstow.
Overlooking a golf course, this six-bedroom Edwardian detached home spans four storeys and retains many period features including the original, operational servants' bells...
On the edge of the city, this six-bedroom home comes with an outdoor swimming pool and a large garage block that has annexe potential.
In a Grade II-listed manor just outside of Bath, this three-bedroom home is arranged on two floors with a skylight in a vaulted roof line.
Open the living room's bi-fold wooden doors to reveal a retro-style kitchen, and a conservatory leading to a paved garden at this three-bedroom home.
A Grade II-listed, four-bedroom home, in a charming Somerset village, with a two-storey studio that could be converted into a holiday cottage
A modern four-bedroom Victorian home, within walking distance to the high street
A luxury apartment in the Gothic mansion of Wyfold Court in Kingwood, offers six bedrooms spread over three floors and a turret
This school conversion, near Stockwell Tube, oozes New York loft style. The one-bedroom flat features double height ceilings and exposed brick work
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two-oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn
High Crest House covers an impressive 9384sq ft, with almost three acres of grounds including a tennis court and summer house enclosed by electric gates
A six-bedroom farmhouse with separate accommodation in converted stables. Situated in the village of Church Aston, within walking distance to the market town
A two-bedroom flat with under-heated walnut floors and bespoke built-in storage. The Tube and Clapham Common are a short stroll away
A refurbished seven-bedroom townhouse with staff quarters, cinema room, superb gym, steam room and plunge pool
A minimnalist four-bedroom home designed to the highest spec, featuring glass walls and a kitchen space lit by a glass roof
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business