The best ways students can save on energy bills this winter while at university

Head of price comparison site says students can 'pay for 82 pints of lager at £4 each if they made the highest possible energy savings of £328 a year'

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The Independent Online

Students are one of the least likely demographics to switch energy supplier or tariff. They often fail to cash in on cheaper energy deals available, in spite of a constant struggle to get by each term on an ultra-tight budget.

Sometimes student renters just accept the energy tariff that comes with their property and don’t question the eye-watering bills. Many believe renters with pre-pay meters can’t switch energy suppliers, or that the landlord has the final say in the home’s energy provider – myths that tend to be untrue.

So, how can students save on their energy bills and avoid shivering in rented digs this winter?

1) Don’t take your landlord’s word for it 

Assume you have the right to switch your energy tariff, because pretty much everyone does. Many students in rented accommodation think they can’t switch, because they don’t own the home or they would get in trouble with the landlord if they moved from the existing supplier. But, actually, there’s absolutely nothing stopping them from finding a better deal; virtually no-one can’t switch today. 

Don’t sit on an expensive tariff wondering whether or not you can move. Just switch. As is so often the case in the energy market, loyalty brings no rewards. Don’t switch and only your energy supplier will get rich. Do switch and you’ll be able to save up to £328 per household each year. Now, that’s called savvy student switching.

2) Don’t just accept the bills that fall through your letterbox 

When students move into rented accommodation, the energy supplier for the property will automatically put you on one of their most expensive rates. Typically, you will be put on their standard tariff paying on receipt of the bill. The average cost of one of these tariffs is £1,178 a year, whereas the cheapest average current fixed rate tariff is just £850 a year – a whopping £328 a year cheaper. 

Often, students only find this out once the first bill lands on their doormat and think, at that point, it’s not worth it or too late to change supplier. There are two things to learn here. First up, remember to ask which tariff or supplier the house is on when you move in and shop around straight away to see if another tariff beats yours. 

Or, if you receive your first bill and the tariff seems high, use it as a prompt to look for a cheaper alternative. You’ll make significant savings over the remaining rental months. Quite simply, take action into your own hands by shopping around to find the best deal and switch. 

3) Prepayment meters are expensive but you can still switch

Many students are on prepayment meters – approximately three million properties in the UK have them. These tend to be pricey to run and they mean you can’t switch to the cheapest direct debit deals but that’s not to say that prepayment customers can’t still save money by switching their energy. 

A typical prepayment customer in London can save £136 a year by switching supplier – which is well worth the ten minutes it takes – while in Manchester, a typical annual switch saving is £105. Elsewhere in Glasgow, £98 a year is available to save, and in Cardiff it’s £106.

4) Turn your heating off or right down when you go away 

It might seem obvious, but what’s the point in heating your home if nobody is in it? Forget to lower or turn off your heating and you could be warming a property needlessly which, over a four-week term break, could rack up a £50 to £100 heating bill that you needn’t otherwise pay.

Think about turning your heating off if you and your housemates are going away for a weekend during the milder months, or if you know you will be out all day on campus. 

However, when the weather turns really cold, keep your heating on but turn it to a low temperature so you don’t return to a burst frozen pipe. 

5) Shivering isn’t conducive to work – or play 

Students are one of the most likely demographics to turn the heating off because they are scared of receiving sky-high bills. But there’s no need to sit shivering in silence. If you jump on an inexpensive tariff, the money you save will make it much more affordable to heat your accommodation to a warm, healthy temperature. That’s living rooms heated to temperatures of 21C and the rest of the house to 18C.

Save a lot on your energy and there’ll be room to fund student play time too. Whole-of-market price comparison site calculated students could pay for 82 pints of lager at £4 each if they made the highest possible energy savings of £328 a year. 

Right, then – better get switching…

Mark Todd is the director of whole-of-market price comparison site