How to survive fuel bill price hikes

reading the electricity meterAs the last of the Big Six energy suppliers increases its consumer prices tomorrow, the reality of sky-high fuel prices as cold weather looms is starting to sink in.

EDF Energy is to hike its prices up by 15.4% for gas and 4.5% for electricity, following its competitors doing the same thing.Now the vast majority of us – 87% according to uSwitch – are worried about the affordability of winter fuel bills, up by 26% for the same time last year. And around nine out of 10 households – that's around 23 million are looking to ration their energy use, even if it means turning off the heating to save on bills.

That's 4 million more than those admitted the same thing last year.

Moving to the tropics
So what can you do to save on these crippling costs? Well, basically there are two options, if you discount moving to the tropics or turning off all your lights and heating.

First, make sure you have the best deal available to you. Use those price comparison websites to see what's on offer under the various payment plans open to you. Though energy bills are notoriously confusing, make sure you get to grips with what you are being charged.

Average use is classed at 3,300kWh of electricity and 16,500kWh of gas a year paid on a standard plan. That would mean a bill of £1,293 taking into account an average from the six leading energy providers: British Gas, E.On, nPower, EDF Energy, SSE and Scottish Power.

Work out where you fit in terms of use, above or below average, and look at whether shifting your payment method might say you money or not. Some providers, for instance, offer a discount for those paying by direct debit.

The second way you can look at saving on your bills is to ensure you use less energy. That doesn't mean putting another pair of socks on and shutting off the central heating. It means being a bit more observant of the thermostat and turning it down when it's not needed.

Make sure all your appliances are off when not in use. That little red standby light is costing you cash.

Obviously, double-glazing, blocking drafts and adequate insulation are all important as well but it's only logical that if you can't afford your fuel bills it's unlikely you'll have cash sitting around for new windows.

Nevertheless, some energy providers and even councils have offers on insulation to help make sure you make the most of the money spent heating your house. Just ask the right people.

It's tough going, but there is help out there.
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