Well, it’s unfortunately official: summer is over, and autumn is here. If this sad news wasn’t heralded in your area this morning by an unsettlingly crisp walk to work, count yourself lucky – it certainly was in mine…
As if to celebrate the oncoming cold weather, the last two of the six major UK energy suppliers have increased their gas and electricity tariffs, resulting in a record leap in average energy prices of 38 per cent for 2008. Yeah, that’s no typo. 38 per cent.
I am in the process of switching energy providers at the moment as part of my August goals (oops, it’s already September. Where did August go?) Here are some of the things to keep in mind if you’re thinking about doing the same.
Here is a summary of the price increases so far:
|Average gas increase||Average electricity increase||Annual dual-fuel rise|
What to do:
In short: make sure you are on the cheapest energy tariff available in your area. Now that the big players have finalised their increases, you will be able to get a clearer picture of price comparisons across the board.
Check out any of the various online comparison sites available (uswitch, moneysupermarket, TotallyMoney to name a few). Once you find a good deal with a new provider, it’s worth calling your current provider to see if they can beat the offer in order to retain your business. If not, get switching!
Remember that dual-fuel tariffs are often cheaper than having two separate tariffs.
Personally I prefer to be being billed quarterly for our gas and electricity usage. This means we have to put money aside throughout the year so that we have enough cash to pay the bills when they arrive, but it’s the best way to make sure you are paying exactly for what you are using.
If you are being billed quarterly, when your bill arrives double-check the usage estimate by calling up and asking for a bill for your exact usage. Your provider will then re-issue your bill based on your exact usage rather than an estimate. This will prevent your account going into credit or debt.
It is usually cheaper to pay with a monthly direct debit on a dual-fuel tariff; however I have found that this is rarely a pain-free practice. It might help to manage your household budget by paying a set amount each month, but be aware that your account may fall into debt at any time, which means you may be suddenly hit with a higher bill. It also means that your account may go into credit by a large amount, and getting this money credited back to you can be a nightmare.
Check out customer reviews of the customer service you can expect from each company online, before signing up to a new provider. If lots of people have written reviews about it being almost impossible to get an overpayment back off a certain provider, avoid!
Fuel poverty is the term used to describe people who spend more than 10% of their income heating their house to a satisfactory level (around 21 degrees for the main living areas and 18 degrees for other occupied rooms).
If you are struggling to keep your house heated due to the price rises, there are a few organisations you can contact. You may qualify for a grant or discount to help with your energy bills. See the local branch of your consumer charity for further information.
If you are over 60 or have a relative who is, make sure you/they are getting your Winter Fuel Payment, an annual payment to help with household heating bills. See the Age Concern fact sheet for more information.
See part two of this post for tips on reducing your heating costs this winter.