Take charge of your energy bills

Thanks to a winter of soaring energy bills, the average yearly dual fuel power bill now stands at a record £1,318, and nearly 15% of households expect to be unable to pay them this winter.

And an even more shocking statistic shows that one in four families have been forced to ration food in order to pay their energy bills, according to research by energy provider Ovo Energy.

This New Year, keep your energy bills in check with these three easy steps.

1. Shop around

It is always a good idea to check regularly that you are getting the best deal. Use a comparison site such as moneysupermarket.com, energyhelpline.com or indeed moneywise.co.uk to track down the best rate.

If you have never switched provider you could stand to save around £330, according to energyhelpline.com.

2. Lower your bill

Besides wrapping up in jumpers and scarves at home, there are a number of ways to cut your energy bill.

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For example, lowering your thermostat by just one degree could save you 3% a year.

You could also save about £75 a year if you get into good habits such as turning off lights and washing clothes at 30°C, according to the Energy Saving Trust.

3. Ask for help

For most families, January's bill is likely to be the biggest, so if you are struggling to pay it, try contacting your provider to discuss spreading the cost. The government also has a number of grants such as the Winter Fuel Payment and Warm Home Discount Scheme for the elderly.

If your home is poorly insulated and you are receiving certain benefits, you could also be entitled to £3,500 towards improvements through the Warm Front Scheme. Go to gov.uk/browse/benefits/heating to see if you qualify for any state help with your energy bills.