What To Do If You Are Concerned About High Heating Bills This Winter
Get the Facts – Be Fully Informed
- Let’s begin at the beginning. The first thing to think about if you are worried about your heating bills is making sure that you have all the facts. It is important to be fully informed. Checking your current supplier, their policies and pricing, and the accuracy of your bills is crucial.
- Make sure that you:
- Find out what tariff you are currently on. Check the unit price, and take a look to see if your supplier has hiked the prices. If your supplier has hiked the prices, you may be able to switch without being charged.
- Make sure you are being billed on the right tariff. Check that the tariff on your most recent bill matches up with previous bills you have been sent. You may have been put on a variable tariff by accident, and that could dramatically increase the amount you are asked to pay.
- Determine whether your bill is estimated or based on actual usage. To get an accurate idea of what you actually owe, you want an actual bill, rather than an estimated one. Take a new meter reading and contact your supplier to update your account.
- Check that the supplier is reading the right meter. Make sure the MPRN on your meter matches the number on your bill. Otherwise, you might end up paying for a neighbour’s heating rather than your own!
It might sound obvious, but it is surprising how many people do not stay on top of their heating bills, and check them each month to make sure that everything is in order. Make some time to make sure you have the facts and are fully informed, and you can rest easier knowing that you are on top of the situation and are not being overcharged, or paying more than you have to.
Keep the Lines of Communication Open
If you receive a high heating bill, it can be very worrying. But no matter how upsetting the figure may be, it is vital to keep the lines of communication open. As soon as you realise that you will struggle to pay your bill, get straight on to your provider. Call them to discuss your options.
If you are having difficulty paying your bills, energy companies are obliged to offer you payment options. You may be able to plan to split the cost over a number of separate payments, or switch to a cheaper tariff. For advice about how to agree a payment plan with your energy company, you can visit the Citizen’s Advice Website.
Reach Out For Help When You Need It
If you are struggling to pay your heating bills, it is important to reach out for help. Help may be available from a number of quarters. For example:
- The Government (Check to see if you are eligible for help with your heating bill from the state. You are more likely to get benefits if you are unemployed/ on a low income or over 60 – but it is always worth checking to see exactly what you may be entitled to.)
- Free Debt Advice (There are plenty of free resources available online to help consumers cope with debt. National Debt Line also has a free phone number that you can call (0808 808 4000). It is open until 8pm on weekdays.)
- Energy Company Help (British Gas, EDF and E.ON offer grants to help people with the cost of energy bills. You do not even have to be a customer with these companies, and anyone can apply online.)
Avoid Paying Too Much For Heating
- Switch to a fixed tariff if you are not already on one.
- Pay by direct debit. (This can be cheaper, and also means that it will be easier to avoid falling behind because you have forgotten to pay your bill.)
- Installing a smart meter. (This may also save you money.)
Reduce Your Energy Needs
- If you have struggled to pay heating bills in the past, one of the very best measures that you can take to avoid this happening again is to take steps to reduce your energy needs.
- Adding extra insulation to your home, getting better glazing, or even installing solar panels or ground source heat pumps will reduce energy needs significantly. However, even if you do not have the money for any major new additions or improvements to your home, there are still things that you can do cheaply to reduce your heating needs:
- Open curtains and blinds fully during the day to allow light and heat from the sun into your home.
- Cut back foliage blocking the sunlight outside your windows.
- Close curtains or blinds as soon as it begins to get dark.
- Make some thermal blinds to keep in the heat.
- Try some DIY double glazing solutions to reduce heat loss through your windows.
- Make draft excluders to place under doors or round leaky windows.
- Block a disused flue or chimney with a DIY chimney blocker.
- Add some extra rugs or carpets on your floors.
- Heat only rooms you are actually using, close off any rooms that don’t need to be heated.
- Reduce the temperatures on your thermostat and use other methods to stay warm. For example, pop on a jumper, add some layers, wear some thick socks/ slippers, and use a hot water bottle, blankets and throws to stay cozy.
- Invite some friends round – throw a party! The extra body heat will help to keep things warm.
High heating bills can come as a shock, and staying warm in winter can be a worry. But follow the advice above, stay calm, and things will rarely be quite as bad as you thought.
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