Beat the Scottish and Southern energy price hike

KettleIt's officially going to be a long, cold winter, as Scottish and Southern Energy has become the latest of the major providers to announce massive increases in prices.

So how are bad are things going to get, and what can you do about it?
The rises
The company, which is the second biggest energy company in the UK, has announced it is hiking the price of gas by an incredible 18% and electricity by 11% on 14 September. For dual fuel customers this will add an average of £171 a year to their household bills.

It is blaming rises in the wholesale cost of fuel, the cost of using the energy network and the cost of environmental and social schemes that suppliers are forced to join. There is no mention of profits in there, but of course as with any commercial company there will be a chunk of this that covers their profit margin to make sure that however hard consumers are squeezed, shareholders still get their slice.

It's something we were all waiting for when Scottish Power and British Gas announced rises in the last few weeks, but we don't have to take it lying down.

What can you do about it?
There's little we can do to stop the prices going through the roof, so it's worth taking steps to control the effect t has on you if you can. There are a few things you can do. John Miles from Gocompare.com suggests:

1 – Don't ignore the letter from your energy company which tells you your tariff has come to an end. Unless you tell them to do otherwise or switch to another provider, you will almost certainly be put on to the energy company's standard tariff and these usually don't offer the best value. Read all the correspondence from your energy provider carefully.
2 – Fix at lower prices while you can. Although energy providers such as BG and SSE have recently announced big price hikes to their standard tariffs several providers are yet to increase their prices. Use a comparison site to check which companies are offering the best deals for your area but beware of switching to a variable tariff which may look good value now but may also be increased over the coming few months.
3 – Check that the meter readings on your bills are accurate and if possible try to avoid estimated readings. Also, if you pay by monthly direct debit and build up a credit balance on your account you may want to request that it is paid back to you rather than off set against future bills. If you frequently build up a credit balance you should ask for your monthly payment to be reviewed.
4 – Energy companies usually offer the best prices to customers who select an online tariff with online billing and who pay by monthly direct debit. If you're happy to be billed and pay your bills this way you may be able to get a lower tariff.
5 - A sure fire way of saving on your energy bill, and being kinder to the environment, is to use less energy in the first place. Here are some general tips on good energy saving practice...
  • Ensure that your home is properly insulated in the roof and cavity walls if appropriate. Grants are available to help with the costs of installation and insulation companies will often arrange these grants on your behalf and only charge you for the balance. Also, British Gas is offering existing customers free roof and cavity wall insulation. You need to apply before 31 October.
  • Get a home energy monitor. Some energy companies will provide them for free otherwise you can buy your own from around £30.00. They are a great way of making it extremely visible how much energy you're using at any time. You will go around the house turning off lights and appliances!
  • Turn down the thermostat on your heating and hot water. Reducing the temperature of your hot water to 60 degrees centigrade will reduce your energy bill.
  • Only boil the water you need when making a hot drink. There's a very clever device called an Eco-Kettle which you can fill up with water but will only actually boil the amount you need. Tests have shown it uses 31% less energy than a standard kettle.
  • Use lower temperature settings on washing machines and dishwashers. Modern detergents are designed to work well at temperatures as low as 30 degrees centigrade.
  • Install energy efficient light bulbs
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