We're all looking to save money wherever possible these days and energy suppliers are certainly making that difficult. By making a few simple changes at home though, it is possible to cut your gas and electricity bills.
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It might cost you to get the pipes and hot water tank insulated but you will save in the long run. Loft and cavity wall insulation, if you can afford it, could save you up to £160 a year on your energy bills - it might not seem much but year on year, those savings will soon add up.
Draught proof now
Most homes lose around 20% of their heat via draughts and poor ventilation – so taking the time to plug those gaps now will be well worth the effort.
Heavy curtains (remember to tuck them behind any radiators), and draught excluders needn't cost much and can make a big difference.
Check for cold air between gaps in the floorboards, around door frames, the letter box, loft hatches, windows and pipes - all of which can easily be plugged with self-adhesive foam, rubber or brush material from your local DIY store.
If you have an open fireplace you don't use, consider sealing the chimney with newspaper or a purpose-made chimney balloon which inflates to block the chimney (just remember to take it out again should you decide to use it).
If you can't afford double glazing, try covering draughty windows with a clear plastic film that tightens over the pane when heated with a hairdryer.
Don't forget that some rooms require ventilation - you might need an extractor fan if condensation is a problem in the kitchen or bathroom.
To fill or not to fill
You may have heard it all before but boiling only as much water as you need for that morning cuppa and ensuring dishwashers and washing machines are energy efficient by only switching them on when you have a full load, you can cut those annual bills. Similarly, keep lids on pans so that water boils quicker and you can turn down the heat.
If you are replacing any appliances (from fridge freezers to showers) choose an energy efficient model - most new appliances have good ratings these days and could save you a bundle on your annual bills.
Turn it off
As handy as that standby button is when you're ready for bed, it's costing you money so save yourself a few quid and turn off TVs, PCs, DVDs and unplug the mobile phone charger. You will no doubt already have your energy-saving bulbs in place - but don't forget to switch off the lights when you leave a room.
If you can't stand the heat...
Turn down your thermostat. According to the Energy Savings Trust, a drop of just 1°C could take 10 per cent off your energy bill.
Though it may seem like an unnecessary hassle, switching your energy supplier might just be worth it. The market is competitive and switching is easier than ever thanks to firms such as the Energy Helpline and Uswitch. Be aware that green energy suppliers often have lower tariffs and keep an eye out for dual fuel discounts - getting your gas and electricity from the same supplier might bag you the best deal.
Once you've found your cheap deal, consider switching to monthly direct debit payments. Most companies will give you a discount if you pay this way, and change to paperless billing and you might get an even better deal.
Lastly, read your own meter. Estimated bills are all very well but the chances are you'll end up paying more than you need to, while regularly reading your meter will mean you get a good idea of how much you are using and how you can cut back.
There are also grants that could help you with the initial installation of energy saving and generating devices (such as solar panels) and ultimately slash your energy bills. Visit www.energysavingtrust.org.uk for more information.