Keep warm, avoid fuel poverty

posted by in Budgeting

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Keep warm this winter

In September 2011 we released figures that showed that almost a third of people contacting us are in fuel poverty.

Our figures revealed that these people needed an average of £302 extra coming in each month to be able to afford their basic living costs, with no money whatsoever to offer to their creditors.

If energy prices continue to rise, this shortfall will continue to get bigger. So with this in mind, here are our top tips to keeping warm this winter without breaking the bank.

  1. Martin Lewis seems to scream this down the TV more than I have hot dinners, but there’s a reason for it! SWITCH, SWITCH, SWITCH! Timing is important as all of the large energy firms have recently increased their prices. If you’re like me and not convinced whether switching will help, you can look at locking into a cheap fixed tariff. This may be more expensive at the moment but could protect you against future rises. Try our utility switching service to see what you can save.
  1. I should really practice what I preach when I say read your meter and check your bills. Like many people, my bills are paid by direct debit on an estimated basis. I know exactly how much I have to budget each month but reading the meter is the only way to make sure you’re paying for what you actually use. Most energy providers have useful guides on their website telling you how to read your meter if you’re not sure, like this one from British Gas.
  1. Find out what help is available to you. If you’re struggling, it’s often a good idea to speak to your provider in the first instance. They may be able to switch you to a more affordable plan. They also have trust funds available that may be able to help you. Look through this useful energy help guide from the BBC to see what advice is available. You can also look through the Grants and Discounts Database from the Energy Saving Trust to see what’s out there for your property.
  1. Work out what’s cheaper for you. If you have the choice of using electricity or gas, choose to use the one which burns less. For example is it cost effective to use the gas boiler to heat water in the summer or is it better just to use the electric immersion heater? And is it cheaper to use a gas cylinder heater or an electric fan heater? There’s no hard and fast rule so you’d need to test it to make sure. And if you live in the countryside and use oil, look into joining an oil club.
  1. Get rid of the draughts. Replacing your windows and doors with double glazing is a costly exercise and the benefits can take many years to pay back the costs. You can draught-proof your doors fairly easily yourself without shelling out a fortune by making a few snakes! For your windows you can buy a roll of self-adhesive foam rubber draught strips for less than a fiver. You’ll see immediate improvements and you can pat yourself on the back for doing a bit of DIY!
  1. Don’t forget about the water. It’s easy to forget that you can cut your water bills if you’re savvy enough. Is it better for you to have a water meter fitted? It’s an important decision because you can’t reverse it if you decide to go for one but it can save you lots if it’s right for you. This guide to cutting your water bills gives you lots of useful points to consider.
  1. Every little helps with the water. Rather than following the rule of ‘if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down’ think about the option of fitting a water saving device in your toilet. Also check your local council to see if they provide discounts on water butts.
  1. There’s mixed reviews on zoned heating, but it can save you money if you turn down the radiators in rooms that you don’t use. Monitor it to make sure that it doesn’t cause a condensation problem; just turning them down a few degrees can make a big difference.

We hope you find tips useful – go and use them and save money! And we’d love you to let us know if there’s any more that we’ve missed or if you swear by something that we’ve never heard of. The obscure ones usually work the best!

And if you’ve already tried all of the above and it’s a three dog night, turn the heating off, put on a few jumpers, switch off all the lights and cosy up under a blanket (or dogs if you’d prefer!).

*Updated December 2013

Pavan Gata-Aura is a qualified debt advisor with 6 years of experience. She enjoys spending time with her two children, fundraising for charities, has spent time volunteering in Africa and takes part in organised races.

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  • Richard G

    They are draughts, not drafts.

    • Hi Richard, they certainly are – thanks for letting us know. We got it right in the text, but not in the title!

  • delboy0754

    It’s alright saying SWITCH your supplier, But they ALL CHARGE roughly the same price. SWITCHING is NOT the answer, Either HELP the people in FUEL POVERTY with VOUCHERS to pay their Fuel bills, or CUT THEIR FUEL RATE, which will take them OUT OF FUEL POVERTY.

    • Billy

      Try UTILITA.They are a small company that do not advertise but all price comparisons say £100 less per year

      • Thanks Billy, we have some exciting news coming up about comparing utility providers.

  • Tia

    I like many others found my heating bill’s have become unaffordable; therefore, I looked at other ways of staying warm. I have discovered a “Heated Throw”, I can not recommend it enough. To run over 6 hours, cost pennies! My friend was so impressed she bought herself one. Already I have saved a small fortune.

    • janet dixon

      Where can I get one from? How much can I expect to pay?

      Best regards,

      • Hi Janet,

        Do you mean a water meter? If so, then you just contact your water supplier and they’ll tell you their process. There isn’t usually an upfront charge and most people find it saves money.



  • mavis mackie

    i have just switched my mobile house phone and gas and electric to utillity warehouse i get 300 texts and calls for £7.50 a month instead of a tenner and my phone bill gas and electric one bill and 20000 different places youcan spend money at less and get a discount off your utillty bill for you bother so thats a win win situation sainsburys boots m&s waitroses kleeneze betterware plus loads of others i wash up once a day and catch rain water in a butt we save the washing up water in a bucket to water thegarden shop at icelands and lidls and but the cheapes goods but i buy my fruit and veg at waitroses as it lasts almost a fortnight without going rotten unlike all the rest

    • Good suggestions Mavis, thanks for posting.

  • Dave

    Hear what you say about switching supplier very good Idea except I pay my gas and electricity by monthly direct debit the. same amount each month so I can keep to my budget but this results in a balance in debt which the energy company get back over time by increasing my monthly payment, if I try to change supplier I have to pay this debt off which I can’t do, so I’m trapped, I have to pay what they charge, and I don’t assume I’m the only person in this position.

    • Hi Dave, you are right. We speak to many people in a similar situation and it means you are limited in the options to reduce fuel bills.

  • rebecca hellon

    You can have a water meter fitted and removed after twelve months if you find you are not saving, so it is not the case that if you have one fitted you are stuck with it.

    • Thanks Rebecca. One of my family members recently switched to a water meter and halved their water bill, so it can be an easy way to save money.

  • RedRoseAndy

    Half the heat from your radiators goes out through the wall rather than heating your room due to conduction, convection, and radiation. To double the heat generating capacity of your radiators just cut cardboard boxes, or pallet dividers to size, so that they can slip behind the radiators, and cover the cardboard in silver paper. This invention was thought of by a child prodigy who made it onto the TV program “Tomorrow’s World.”

    • moneyaware

      Thanks for the tip Andy.

      Sounds very sciencey but if it was on Tomorrow’s World then it must be true (though I’m still waiting for my hover board!)