Beat the energy price hikes

According to charity Save the Children, nearly one in five families with children are now unable to afford to heat their homes. To avoid falling into this trap, follow these simple steps to ensure you're not paying more than you need to.

1 Check your meter

Incorrect meter readings are one of the most common reasons for households paying too much for their energy. You can overcome this by taking regular meter readings when you move in or out of a property, when price cuts or increases are announced and when you receive a bill. Where readings don't match, contact your supplier immediately to inform them of the correct reading and note the date of your call.

2 Switch suppliers

With so many price hikes and cuts over the past couple of years, it's tricky to know if you would be better off by switching to a different supplier. But industry regulator Ofgem estimates that someone who has never switched from British Gas or their original regional energy supplier - around 13 million energy customers - could save an average of £200 a year by making the switch. Gather together your bills from the last 12 months and visit a price comparison site to see how much you could save.

3 Review how you pay

It's generally cheaper to opt for a dual fuel tariff, where you pay for gas and electricity together from the same supplier. Online tariffs tend to be cheaper than paper bills, and choosing to pay by direct debit can also help to keep the cost down. However, beware of suppliers being slow to pass on price cuts or hikes to direct debit customers.

4 Energy saving measures

Making a few changes around your home can be good for both your pocket and the environment. For example, by simply switching appliances off at the mains rather than leaving them on standby, using energy-efficient light bulbs and blocking out draughts, you can make surprising savings. Investing in larger measures - such as cavity wall and loft insulation or double-glazing, or opting for energy-efficient models when replacing appliances like fridges or freezers - will also cut both your energy consumption and your bills.