16:47 21 January 2013
Temperatures have dipped below zero all over the UK in the last week or so, and will be causing financial headaches for hard-pressed households reluctantly reaching for the thermostat.
No wonder. Around 50% of households are paying an average of £200 a year more than they have to for their gas and electricity - and if you've been on the same energy plan for more than 12 months, you're probably overpaying.
It's our mission to put that right. We can help you find the cheapest deal and get you started on the switching process without delay.
Recent price hikes by the Big Six energy suppliers mean it's more important than ever to save money where you can. Switching to the absolute cheapest tariff, whether it be with your current supplier or someone else, will save you money.
Our energy switching service is really simple, and will tell you if there's money to be saved in a few clicks. All you need to get started is your postcode, your latest bill and your bank account details.
The whole switching process is taken care of by your current supplier and the new supplier within eight weeks, and the only difference you'll notice is that your new, lower bills start coming from a different company.
It really is worth doing, as the average household will save £220 a year by switching to the cheapest tariff.
Aim for energy efficiency
If you've switched very recently and you're looking at other ways of keeping your energy bills down, you might be able to incorporate it into any DIY you're planning over the coming weeks and months.
Yes, listen carefully and you might hear the faint hum of handsaws and the clunk of hammers, the yodel of profanities and the throbbing of thumbs as households around the country give their homes a makeover to see in the New Year.
If you've got a project in mind this year, why not take the opportunity to make sure your home improvements are energy efficient? It could save you a few quid on your energy bills and potentially make your property more attractive to buyers in the future.
If you don't know where to start, here's a look at some of the simple and environmentally-friendly changes you can make.
On the boil
Replacing your boiler with a more energy efficient model can be pricey, but your boiler accounts for 60% of what you spend on your energy bills each year - so a better one could pay for itself in time.
Boilers are rated on a scale ranging from the inefficient G rating to the saintly A rating, and the savings from upgrading are significant. The Energy Saving Trust says that switching from a D-rated boiler to an A would save you £105 over a year. Switching from a G to an A would save you a massive £300 a year.
You need to set this against the fact that a new boiler will cost the thick end of £2,000 to buy and install, so it will be a number of years before you earn back the expense in the form of lower bills. That said, you might be eligible to get financial help, as explained below.
Worth looking into...
Next is double glazing, which is a tried-and-tested way to keep your home warm. Replacing all single-glazed windows with B-rated double glazing (like boilers, double glazing also comes with efficiency ratings) could save you as much as £165 a year on your energy bills.
Draught-proofing is one of the cheapest ways to retain heat and keep your energy bills down and could save you money. The Energy Saving Trust says it can save households an average of £55 a year on energy bills.
Look for any unwanted gaps around your home that can be plugged. Places to look include windows, doors, keyholes and letterboxes, suspended floorboards and pipes leading outside.
However, you must make sure you have good ventilation in certain areas. Any room with an open fire or flue needs decent ventilation, as does any room where moisture is produced, such as kitchens and bathrooms.
You can buy draught-proofing materials from most DIY shops, but it's best to go for products with the Kitemark to make sure you're buying something of a good standard.
If you're already forking out for new furniture or fixtures, the added cost of a boiler, insulation or new windows might be off-putting, but there's financial help available to those who want to make their homes greener.
Free loft and cavity wall insulation is widely available and can save you as much as £175 a year, as I explained a few months ago here.
Starting this year, you can also apply for the government's Green Deal scheme, which offers loans to pay for things like new boilers or new double-glazed windows. Rather than paying it back like a normal loan, however, repayments are covered by the savings on your energy bills.
The idea is that your repayments will never be greater than the money you save on energy, so if your energy bill is £50 cheaper after a boiler upgrade, you should pay £50 back- and once the loan is repaid you'll be rewarded with the savings directly.
You can find a list of improvements covered by the Green Deal here, along with more information on eligibility and how to apply.
Working alongside the Green Deal is the government's new Energy Companies Obligation (ECO) scheme, which aims to reduce energy consumption in the UK and help people in fuel poverty (those who spend more than 10% of their household income on energy) by funding energy efficiency improvements in their homes.
The means-tested scheme is funded and delivered by energy suppliers. To find out if you're eligible for ECO support you should contact the Energy Saving Advice Service on 0300 123 1234.
If you're doing-up your kitchen or living room, it might mean buying new integrated appliances like dishwashers or washing machines, in which case you can save money on your bills by choosing more energy efficient models.
Jessica Bown explains how energy efficiency ratings work here.
Energy efficiency isn't all about plumbing, insulation and windows - even if you're just giving the front room a lick of paint and some new furniture, you can do a little to make the room warmer and lighter.
Painting your walls with light colours will make a room feel brighter, but using white, beige, cream or magnolia tones will also bounce natural light around and reduce the need for electric lighting.
On the other hand, painting your walls with darker or warmer colours will means the walls will absorb more sunlight, reducing the need to turn up the thermostat. Depending on how the light hits your rooms you should choose your colours accordingly.
Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Click on a highlighted product and apply direct.
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