Winter could bring record energy bills. Is it time to switch supplier?

Like it or not the nights are drawing in and winter is on the way. After last year's big freeze many homeowners will be dreading the likely cost of heating their homes this winter, particularly as some providers have started to edge up the cost of gas and electricity. The not-for-profit organisation Home Heat Helpline says 44 per cent of British households are worried about their winter gas and electricity bills. No wonder, with average bills topping the £1,000-a-year mark for the first time.

So using every method you can to push down the cost of heating and lighting is a crucial move if you want your energy bill to land on your mat in the spring with a flutter rather than a thud.

Firstly, you could slash the cost of your bills by switching to a more competitive online tariff using a price comparison site. After all, some energy suppliers lure new customers with cheap deals that are soon revoked. Switching can ensure you're always on a cheap tariff but timing is key. Switching your provider online is an easy task, however, it does take about four to six weeks to complete the process. So now could be the right time to switch to ensure you will be paying less this winter.

Cheapest deals disappearing

What's more, current trends within the energy market suggest the time is right to shop around for a new supplier – a number of the "Big Six" energy companies have recently withdrawn their cheapest deals. EDF replaced its Online Saver V6 with a less competitive version 7 and Scottish Power has increased the price of its online plan.

You'll probably always save money by shopping around for a more competitive tariff but your savings potential drops when the most competitive deals disappear from the market.

When it comes to energy, the best deals are almost invariably available online. As a general rule of thumb, you will also pay less if you opt for a dual fuel plan and pay by monthly direct debit. Take British Gas for instance, on average its standard tariff – paid by cheque or cash – is £1,157 a year. Switching to an online deal where payments are made by direct debit will see the average bill fall to £979. That's a saving of £178. Meanwhile, Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) customers could see average bills fall by a whopping £321 from £1,305 to £984 by agreeing to go with monthly direct debit. In order for you to get the cheapest rate possible consider dual fuel so you receive both gas and electricity from the same provider. Also checking your meter readings will ensure you are paying the correct amount as opposed to estimated billing.

Doorstep danger

Ofgem, the energy regulator, has launched an investigation into four of the "Big Six" energy providers amid claims over mis-selling by doorstep agents. Npower, Scottish Power, EDF and SSE could face fines of up to 10 per cent of their annual turnover if these complaints are upheld.

Obligations require suppliers to take a proactive approach in preventing mis-selling. Doorstep agents must provide potential customers with an estimate and comparison before any sale is conducted. Although new regulations will be introduced in January to clamp down on misleading sales agents, many households have reported that sales people working for the suppliers have been misleading them by giving them inaccurate quotes – leaving them worse off when they switch supplier.

Energy-saving tips

But it's not all about shopping around. The Energy Saving Trust recommends you do the following:

* Switch off appliances. Leaving them on standby could add £40 to your bill.

* Lowering your thermostat by just 1C and cut annual heating bills by £50.

* Use the right-sized hob for every pan.

* Try to fill the washing machine – one load uses less energy than two.

* Use energy-saving lightbulbs. They can save you up to £45 over the life of the lightbulb.

If you want to add insulation to your walls and loft the Government's warm front scheme offers grants of up to £3,500 for households in receipt of benefits or those with older people, expectant mothers, or children living in them. Find out more at www.warmfront.co.uk.

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Recruitment Genius: Collections Agent

    £14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company was established in...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE 40k: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 busi...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 ...

    Recruitment Genius: Mortgage Administrator

    £20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are a vibrant and establishe...

    Day In a Page

    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
    Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

    That's a bit rich

    The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
    Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

    Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

    Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
    Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

    Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

    Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
    A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

    Britain's Atlantis

    Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

    David Starkey's assessment
    Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

    'An enormous privilege and adventure'

    Oliver Sacks writing about his life
    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
    Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

    Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

    Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
    Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

    Orthorexia nervosa

    How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
    Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

    Lady Chatterley’s Lover

    Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

    Set a pest to catch a pest

    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests