AS the cost of living crisis intensifies, households have been warned they could face an annual energy bill in excess of £3,600 this winter. Previous predictions had bills rising to £2,800 for the average household in October, and energy consultant Cornwall Insight says a regular gas and electricity bill in Scotland could reach £3,615 in the new year. While you might not be able to overhaul your bills, every little helps – and some small moves now might get you in better financial shape to face the upcoming winter...
Are you eligible for financial support?
"If you are vulnerable – have a medical condition, are elderly or have a child under five – then ask your supplier about their priority services register," says Peter Smith, director of policy and advocacy at National Energy Action (nea.org.uk). He recommends looking at nea.org.uk/energyhelp for more advice.
What about insulation?
Will Owen, energy expert at Uswitch.com, says: "Insulating your home is one of the most significant ways you can save money. Installing wall and loft insulation will help reduce heat loss, while double-glazing prevents heat escaping through the windows." Think of it as an investment to future-proof your home and heating bills.
Insulation can be pricey, and not something everyone can afford right now. Owen says: "If you are not in a position to install these larger energy-saving measures, it is possible to make lots of small, easy changes to your home. Energy-saving light bulbs are just as bright as the alternatives, and will save you money."
Is smart technology the answer?
Again, not everyone will be able to spend money on smart tech – but if you can, it could save you some cash in the long run. Property and energy saving expert Jonathan Rolande, from the National Association of Property Buyers, says: "Smart heating apps and devices such as Hive help you to save by reminding you what you are spending, and allowing you to turn the heating off when you're not home unexpectedly. A traditional timer heats the home whether somebody is there or not. Users report a 15% drop in heating costs, outweighing the price [of the device] in no time."
What can you do with a £5?
On the more affordable end of the spectrum, Rolande recommends buying energy-saving plugs – which can cost as little as £5. They "allow you to switch off items easily that might otherwise be on standby mode", he says.
Are you thinking time?
"Often, electricity is cheaper at night when demand is lower," suggests Rolande. "Think about using the delay setting on your dishwasher, washing machine and tumble drier to get it to come on after 10pm. The eco-mode on a dishwasher uses less energy by taking longer, allowing dishes to soak. Use this to save too." If you get into the habit of doing this now, you can already start saving money – in preparation for winter.
How tough will things be?
Smith, of National Energy Action, says: "In the past, advice has focused on switching suppliers or turning the thermostat down a degree. But now it's very difficult to find suppliers offering significantly cheaper deals, and many of the most vulnerable have already cut back as much as they possibly can. Living in cold homes puts people's physical and mental health at enormous risk. While draught proofing or using an eco-wash cycle will save a few pounds, it won't help people cope with the rise in energy bills [over the last] 12 months. The UK government must step in and increase support now if people are to stay warm and safe this winter."