Beat the 2013-14 winter energy price rises
1. Switch to a fixed-rate tariff
Some providers are even promising to fix your prices for the next four winters. EDF Energy's Blue+ Price Freeeeze tariff, for example, guarantees your prices until March 2017. With an average bill of £1,340 it will be £104 cheaper than the average standard bill from British Gas once the price rise takes effect.
2. Look beyond the Big Six
"When comparing tariffs and suppliers, don't limit your search to the big six, as many smaller energy companies can offer competitive deals and often fare better when it comes to customer service too," says Jeremy Cryer of Gocompare.com. First Utility, for example, has already stated it will not be raising prices this winter.
3. Help others switch
If you have an elderly relative or a friend who isn't online, pop round and ensure they can also benefit from any savings too. “Many older billpayers will consume a higher amount of energy than most, leaving them the hardest hit this winter,” says Clare Francis of Moneysupermarket.com.
4. Be energy efficient
Simple changes such as doing washing at 30 degrees and turning appliances off instead of leaving them on standby, can result in some big savings over the year.
5. Supply meter readings
Keeping your supplier up to date with regular meter readings can also ensure that you receive an accurate bill for the energy you have consumed.
6. Find out what help is available
This winter, eligible pensioners of 75 or over (as well as some people on low incomes) could get a £135 discount on their electricity bill through the Warm Home Discount (WHD) scheme. Also, some companies offer additional discounts for people who qualify for the Warm Home Discount – British Gas, for example, will reduce your bill by £60, on top of the £135 WHD.
Similarly, the Winter Fuel Payment offer between £100 and £300 to people born on or before 5 January 1952; while Cold Weather Payments offer £25 for each seven-day period of "very cold weather" between 1 November 2013 and 31 March 2014. The latter payments kick in when your local temperature is either recorded as, or forecast to be, an average of zero degrees Celsius or below over seven consecutive days.
7. Talk to your provider
Your supplier may have further grants and advice to help people who are struggling to pay their bills. For example, British Gas operates its own Energy Trust, which provides grants to households in need, helping to clear energy and other household debts.
It can also place vulnerable customers on its Priority Services Register, which provides: free gas safety checks; priority attention for those who are most vulnerable and without heating due to faulty appliances; alternative bill formats; and a nominee scheme which allows others to manage your account on your behalf.
Often used by stockbrokers to ease the administration of buying and selling holdings on behalf of their clients, a nominee (the broker) holds securities on behalf of investors (the “beneficial owners” of the securities). Holding securities through a nominee is cheaper, but the disadvantage is that beneficial owners of shares forego certain rights enjoyed by shareholders on the register, such as the right to vote at an annual general meeting (AGM) or extraordinary general meeting (EGM) and the right to propose AGM or EGM resolutions. Holding securities through a nominee still entitles the shareholders to dividends, rights issues etc.