It looks like the winter of 2017/18 is gearing up to be a cold one, and that could put a lot of people who are already struggling with their energy bills even deeper into what has become known as ‘fuel poverty’. This is a serious issue that affects the most vulnerable members of society, and is increasingly worrying as energy prices continue to rise.
What is fuel poverty?
A household that’s defined as ‘fuel poor’ is one that spends more than 10% of the total household income to achieve an adequate standard of warmth throughout the home. In the UK that is defined as 21°C in the main living area, and 18°C throughout the rest of the property’s occupied rooms. The figure is determined by three components: the energy efficiency of the house, overall energy costs, and the income coming into the household.
The government has committed to combat fuel poverty since 2001, and has worked closely with organisations that look after vulnerable groups such as Age UK, and cancer support charities like Macmillan. However, fuel poverty continues to be a major concern for millions of people throughout the UK, and with a cold winter and the ‘flu season’ about to hit us, it’s no exaggeration to say that lives could be at risk.
So how can you combat increasing fuel bills, stay out of fuel poverty and keep your home warm this winter? Here are a few suggestions.
Check you’re getting the best deal
Top of the list has to be going online or calling suppliers like British Gas and comparing their prices to check you’re getting the best deal on your gas and electricity prices. Suppliers are currently under pressure to simplify the numbers and make them understandable for users who may be confused by the sheer number of different tariffs on offer. If you’re currently on a variable tariff and would be better off on a fixed rate one then now is the time to switch. It’s much easier than you think, and can be easily arranged with just a few clicks. The savings could translate into hundreds of pounds a year.
Combine your energy bills
If you’re using both gas and electricity then it can make more sense to combine the two into a single package. This makes it much more manageable as you’re paying one bill and not two. You’ll also find that combined packages often have great deals attached to them, so you could save a considerable amount of money on both your gas and electric bills by bundling the two together.
Paying by direct debit
Energy suppliers offer deals for customers who pay a monthly regular amount, and if you know exactly how much is going out on your energy bills every month, you can manage your finances more easily.
Eventually, all households in the UK will have a smart meter. This will allow you to see exactly how much you’re spending (to the penny!) and when your peak energy usage periods are. You can then make subtle changes around the home that can help bring your energy bills down considerably.
Estimated bills are more expensive
If you don’t supply your energy company with accurate readings, then they will do an estimated bill which could be far higher than your actual usage charges should be. Always stay up to date with your energy meter readings, so that you avoid the dreaded ‘estimated bill’.
Turn the thermostat down
It can be all too easy to just turn the thermostat up too far, and kids especially can often turn up the dial without the parents noticing. While the recommended temperature for a home is between 18 and 21°C, many homes are well over that level. Turning your thermostat down a degree or two can make all the difference to your bill, yet you’ll barely notice the change in temperature. And if anyone does complain of being cold, you can always give them an extra thick Christmas jumper to wear this year!
Check your home for draughts
Heat will always find the easiest escape route from a room or your house, so make sure your home is thermally efficient. Eliminate draughts with ‘door snakes’, double glaze windows, and find out if you’re eligible for government grants to put extra loft insulation into your home. The better thermally efficient your home, the warmer it’ll be and the cheaper your gas and electric bills.