The current energy crisis has so far led to record-high energy prices, suppliers going bust and many UK households struggling to pay their energy bills. What's more, these difficult times look set to become even more challenging with the new energy price cap predicted to increase in April by upwards of 50%.
All this also comes at a time where running an energy comparison to switch to a better tariff isn’t an option, as even the best energy deals from the best energy suppliers can’t better the current price cap.
However, MoneySavingExpert has recently put together some recommendations and guidance that consumers can use to potentially help make their energy bills more affordable or manageable. Here, we’ve recapped some of this advice and offered a few more tips you may wish to use.
Speak to your supplier to negotiate a new payment plan
According to the ruling of the energy regulator Ofgem, if you’re having difficulties paying your energy bills, you supplier must support you with a new payment plan. It might be that they restructure how much you have to pay back, or they give you more time to make your payments, but there’s no set rules, as each case is treated on an individual basis.
What’s important is contacting your supplier as soon as you can to arrange this, before you get too far behind with any repayments.
Speak to your supplier about their ‘hardship funds’
Most of the big UK energy firms have funds and charitable trusts available to help those struggling the most with the energy bills. Again, the support on offer is given on a case-by-case basis but can include things like grants to pay your bills or to help make your property more energy efficient.
Check your eligibility for the Warm Home Discount
With the Warm Home Discount scheme you can get a £140 one-off discount paid by the government towards your electricity bill between October 21 and March 2022. This is subject to the following eligibility criteria:
- you get the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit - known as the ‘core group’
- you’re on a low income and meet your energy supplier’s criteria for the scheme - known as the ‘broader group’
With the latter option you need to apply directly through your energy supplier, if it is involved in the scheme. You should do this as soon as you can though, as there’s a limited amount of support available and it’s on a first come, first served basis.
Check your eligibility for the Winter Fuel Payment
Every household in the UK that is home to someone born on or before September 26, 1955 can get help towards their energy bills with the Winter Fuel Payment. Providing the person is the right age and has lived in the UK ‘at least one day between 20 and 26 September 2021’, you could get a payment of between £100 and £300 to help you.
As we’re into January, most of those eligible should have received a payment by now. If you haven’t, you should check to see if you can make a claim.
Enquire about the Cold Weather Payment scheme
Older people and those of you on certain benefits can access the Cold Weather Payment scheme, which can see you ‘get a payment if the average temperature in your area is recorded as, or forecast to be, zero degrees celsius or below over 7 consecutive days’.
The current government guidelines on this state that you can ‘get £25 for each 7 day period of very cold weather between 1 November and 31 March’. You can see if you might be due a payment using this checker tool.
Enquire about your local council’s household support fund
With the new Household Support Fund, your local council is able to access a pot of £500m to help its most vulnerable citizens. This could mean you’re eligible for support with your energy bills, but you need to contact your local council directly to find out more as quickly as you can before the fund runs out.
Be wary of leaving devices on stand-by mode
Leaving your devices and appliances on standby-mode can be a big drain on your energy bills. By simply switching these items off, you can save upwards of £110 a year on your electricity costs.
Only use your central heating when you need it
A recent study has found that the most efficient way to heat our homes is to only use our central heating as and when we need it. This is something we previously reported on and we found that a number of experts agreed that this was the most cost-effective option when compared to leaving the heating on constantly on a lower temperature.
Get a smart meter installed to monitor your energy use
The UK smart meter roll out is still well underway and if you’ve yet to get one installed, you need to speak to your supplier about getting one fitted. Smart meters can help you save money on your energy bills by showing you how much energy you’re using in real time. This then allows you to take steps to lower your usage and ultimately help cut your bills.
Make little changes to reduce your overall energy consumption
We’ve also recently explained a number of top energy saving tips you can use to reduce your energy consumption. You can read these here and you’ll see that with just a few little lifestyle changes, you can potentially save hundreds of pounds a year on your energy bills.