Big Energy Saving Week 2020
As part of a national campaign by Citizens Advice to help people cut their energy bills, Ripon Ray, Quality Assurance Officer for Debt Free London, shares a few simple tips on how to save money on your energy bills.
January 20th – 24th 2020 is Big Energy Saving Week, a national campaign by Citizens Advice to help people cut their energy bills and get all the financial support they are entitled to.
We all have the power to save energy, money and the environment through everyday actions. Simple changes such as switching energy supplier or tariff, accessing discounts or grants, and making homes more energy-efficient can make a big difference.
As part of the campaign, Citizens Advice have launched a free energy price comparison tool which is uses a full market comparison, is totally independent and gives a customer service rating for the major energy companies.
Debt Free London (A London-wide debt advice partnership led by Toynbee Hall) helps more than 23,000 people each year with their debt and money problems and increasingly, more people are coming to us about their energy bills. In 2018/19, 1 in 5 Debt Free London clients were behind on either their electricity of gas bills. Ripon Ray, Quality Assurance Officer for Debt Free London shares a few ideas that can help you save on your energy bills.
At this time of year, when temperatures drop, the cost of gas and electricity can be significantly higher which means many people go without basics or are forced into debt. Putting aside double glazing (or anything else that is expensive to install), I want to give you a few simple tips to save you money on energy.
Payments in winter:
It might put you at ease to know that your fuel bills could be brought down if you know where to look to save costs. Cold Weather Payments are one of the ways to do just that. To qualify for the payments, you may have to keep an eye on the actual weather forecast. As part of the payment, there is a period of cold weather in the area where you have your usual home. Watch out for your nearest weather station and keep a record of the temperature at or below 0 degrees Celsius. The Scheme is valid only between 1 November 2019 and 31 March 2020. There is a catch: you must be in receipt of Pension Credit, Universal Credit, Income Support, Income Based Job Seekers’ Allowance, income-related Employment Support Allowance for at least one day during the period of cold weather. You’ll get £25 for each 7 day period of very cold weather. In case you want to find out how to get it, check here: https://coldweatherpayments.dwp.gov.uk/
If you are in receipt of state pension (and another benefit), you may be entitled to a one-off Winter Fuel Payment. You should be getting it automatically. You do not see the actual payment in your hand or coming through your letterbox because your energy supplier adds the payment onto your bill. If you do not receive it, you should consider making a claim by calling 0800 731 0160. You will be asked to provide your National Insurance number, bank and building society details, and the date you were married or entered into a civil partnership (if appropriate).
Avoid estimated bills:
According to Ofgem, the industry regulator, an average household energy spend is around £1,254 per year. To estimate your bill, fuel suppliers use various factors – your past energy usage, the time of year, whether your house is insulated and the number of people who live there.
If you are paying your bill on an estimated reading, you are not the only one. It’s a well-known fact that in winter the cost of energy is high regardless of the variation in the usage in weekends, daytime or night. An estimated bill in winter is not the true reflection of your use of energy. If you are ever in doubt about the cost, contact your provider to get an actual reflection of your energy cost. The only thing you need to do is write your meter number on a piece of paper, telephone your supplier and give them the numbers shown on your energy meter – you will then know the actual usage of your energy!
Perhaps you have done everything you could, yet, it’s impossible to bring the cost of energy cost down – what do you do next? Switch your supplier. If being faithful to your energy supplier does not bring a reduction in the price of energy, what is the point of sticking with the same supplier? USwitch.com, a free only website that you can use to find out whether there are better offers you can get in your locality. It’s easier said than done.
Guess what; I recently advised a client on her energy bill. Through USwitch.com I brought her energy bill down by £300 per year. You won’t necessarily see the reduction in your energy until you make the decision to be unfaithful. You do need to come out of your comfort zone and make that move to reduce the cost.
Having a pre-payment meter in your home is not to be taken lightly. It’s also known as a ‘key meter’ or a ‘pay as you go’ tariff. Around 5.9 million people in the UK have a prepayment energy meter. It’s a well-known fact that prepay customers have fewer options for tariff and pay more. If you can find out whether you can change to a credit meter, you will definitely save money and have options to a variety of tariffs. If you request for a credit meter, before they make a decision, a fuel supplier will do a credit check on you to see whether you can keep up with repayments of a credit meter. If you pass the check, an inspector will call around to remove your current meter and install a new meter. It could be that they may charge a fee to pay the cost of installation. You might be able to offset the cost of the installation by making savings on a tariff. Do remember that each supplier has its own policy on replacing the prepayment meter. Contact your supplier first to find out more.
There are other options too. If you are on a pre-payment meter you can still switch your supplier, even if you are in debt to them, to get a better deal. According to Ofgem, as long as you owe your energy supplier less than £500, you can switch to a new supplier. You would do it under the ‘Debt Assignment Protocol’. This would mean the new supplier takes on the existing debt and you repay the new provider based on a new agreement. So long the new supplier agrees with taking on the debt, you can definitely switch.
If you are struggling with debt, or are worried about your energy bills, then get advice as soon as possible.
You might think you have your money under control, even if you do find yourself overstretched at the end of the month. But dealing with your debts head-on at an early stage makes it an easier problem to solve.
Debt Free London offers free, expert advice at over 55 locations across London.
To make an appointment call us on freephone 0808 164 2480 or you can complete an online form here. We’ll use the information you’ve given us to establish the nature and urgency of your debt and arrnage a face to face appointment at a centre near you.
Live or work in the City of London? City Advice provides free and expert advice in person at one of our surgeries across the City, by telephone or email. Find out more or call 020 7392 2919.