As consumers, we are constantly bombarded with information about energy and encouraged to switch suppliers. This is a minefield and for some of us it is difficult to navigate.
However, help is at hand.
Firstly, read your meter regularly and check your bills to make sure you know how much energy you’re using. Talk to your supplier or Citizens Advice if you think your bill is wrong or have problems paying. You could be entitled to benefits or support to pay your bill.
You could make savings by switching energy supplier or changing tariff. Visit https://energycompare.citizensadvice.org.uk to compare prices.
You can switch even if you owe up to £500 per fuel if you use a prepayment meter. If you have problems switching due to fuel debts, Citizens Advice can help you negotiate.
Make your home more energy efficient by insulating lofts and walls, double glaze, use thick curtains and get your boiler serviced or replaced. There are schemes to help with this and Citizens Advice can help you find them.
Save money and energy – don’t leave appliances on standby, always turn off the lights when leaving a room and don’t overfill your kettle, only boil the amount of water you need.
Find out how to get lower energy bills and a more comfortable home with the Energy Saving Trust at www.energysavingstrust.org.uk
Take care if you do decide to switch. Citizens Advice, as the official consumer body for energy, is highlighting the poor performance of some new and smaller energy companies, arguing the need for tighter regulation.
Ofgem will shortly consult on new proposals for granting licences to energy suppliers, as well as the monitoring they should face.
Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Too many customers are being let down by firms that aren’t ready or capable of providing a decent level of service. These aren’t small problems. Billing errors, blocking people from switching, and poor communications can cost customers money and make people’s lives a misery.
“It’s vital that Ofgem tackles the problem of newer and smaller firms letting people down and tightens up the rules around who can become an energy supplier.”
The Warm Home Discount is a Government scheme that provides people with a discount to their energy bill. If you’re eligible, £140 will be directly taken off your bill. Not all suppliers are part of the scheme so contact your supplier to see if they offer the discount.
Many people will receive the discount automatically, without having to apply. This will be the case if, on July 8, you were with a supplier that is part of the scheme, were receiving the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit and your name or your partner’s was on the energy bill.
If you receive the discount automatically, you’ll receive a letter by December 7 with the details of your application. You’ll need to call the helpline by February 28 to confirm your details, and should receive the discount by the end of March.
If you do not receive a letter, contact the Warm Home Discount Team on 0800 731 0214, Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 4.30pm.
If you don’t receive the discount automatically, you may be eligible if you’re with a supplier that is part of the scheme, you’re on a low income and you receive certain means-tested benefits.
Check with your supplier to see if you are eligible as different suppliers can have different rules. If you switch supplier before receiving the discount, you’ll need to check if your new supplier offers it and apply again.
Cold Weather Payment or Winter Fuel Payment will not be affected.
Citizens Advice Northumberland has workers ready to assist you. Call 03444 111444, visit our offices or see www.citizensadvice.org.uk/northumberland