Slash your energy bill this summer
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Don't wait for the providers to do the right thing and cut their prices - follow these steps to cut your energy costs today!
Earlier this month E.ON caused a bit of a stir when it announced a 3.3% cut in its gas prices. For the average customer, that apparently equates to a saving of about £25 a year. This followed a cut of more than 9% in its electricity prices earlier this year, so E.ON has been on the receiving end of some very positive press.
Of course it's a good thing that they have cut the prices, but in all honesty it's nowhere near enough.
Research last month by Consumer Focus found that had suppliers passed on the recent declines in wholesale energy costs, gas would be at least 7.4% cheaper (around £60 annually) and electricity a minimum of 3.1% (nearly £14).
For too long, many energy providers have been only too happy to take advantage of the average Brit's lethargy and apathy towards cutting our energy bills, and milk us for all we're worth.
Well no more!
There are a number of things you can do today to cut your energy bills. You cannot afford to ignore them!
Be proactive in searching for a new deal
It would be lovely if the cheapest deal for your electricity and gas fell straight into your lap. Unfortunately, things don't work like that, and you have to put in a bit of work to find the best deal.
Don't just stick with your existing provider for the sake of it - get onto a price comparison site that covers gas and electricity prices (or take advantage of lovemoney.com's very own gas and electricity tool), and see what other options are out there.
With a number of attractive fixed deals coming to an end in the next month or two (npower's One Tariff, Scottish Power's Fixed Price 2009 and E.ON's Energy Guarantee among them), now is the exact time when you need to start doing your homework on which provider is best for you, as sticking with the standard deal will result in a whack to your wallet.
Of course, whether you want to go for what is currently the cheapest deal, or prefer to fix your payments for the next year comes down to your own circumstances. If you are unsure of what is the best move for you, I'd recommend having a read of both Fix your energy tariff before prices rise and Get the cheapest energy tariff and save £150.
Be wary of direct debits
In most things, a direct debit is a lifesaver. Set one up for your mortgage, credit card or even mobile phone bill, and chances are you will never suffer as a result of a missed payment on your credit rating.
They take a lot of the hassle away.
Well, that's what I thought anyway. Turns out that's not always the case if you pay your energy bills by direct debit.
It stands to reason that the amount of energy you use over the course of a year is not consistent. During this month's heatwave, our central heating went untouched. Chances are that won't be the case come November.
To get round this, if you pay by direct debit, energy suppliers will estimate what you are likely to use in a year, and charge you a twelfth of that total each month. Inevitably such estimates are pretty generous in the favour of the suppliers, and you may still be charged even if your account is in credit!
So you might want to consider cancelling that direct debit, and pay off each bill when it arrives through the post, though be warned - you will miss out on the small discounts many providers offer direct debit payers.
Start reading your meter
Nothing winds me up more than an 'estimated' bill.
I don't randomly guess how much I want to pay for other essentials, so it's just plain daft that suppliers can do exactly that with how much they charge me!
The simple way around it is to get into the habit of reading your meter regularly (probably once every couple of months) and keep your energy supplier informed on each reading. That way, you know that you won't be out of pocket thanks to your supplier's guesswork.
The domestic options
Of course it's one thing to switch provider, or how you pay for your energy, but there are plenty of simple things you can do at home that can make a big difference to your bills.
The main one for me is ensuring your appliances are energy efficient.
When the time comes to replace the essential electrical gadgets in your home, it's a very good idea to make sure that you get appliances that use as little energy as possible. They will cost less to run, and therefore save you money!
So whether you are shopping for a new fridge, a digital radio or a laptop, do your homework and you can make big savings.
If you want to check out how various electrical appliances compare in terms of their energy efficiency, have a gander at the Energy Saving Trust website.
You can also use the Energy Saving Trust site to establish whether you qualify for grants to help you improve the energy efficiency of your home, through measures like cavity wall insulation. Not only will it lead to lower bills, but you'll be helping to save the planet as well!
In addition, there's a whole host of nifty tricks you can employ to cut your energy use, from bleeding your radiators to ensuring your freezer is defrosted regularly. Follow the advice in Eleven Clever Ways To Cut Your Energy Bills and you'll be laughing all the way to the bank.
The key to a lower energy bill is to be proactive - always shop around for the best deals, and be as rigorous with saving energy as you are with saving the pennies in your pocket.