Don't be an energy victim

Energy price hikes by British Gas, EDF Energy, npower and ScottishPower mean over 30 million households are going to have to pay out more each month for the energy they use.

The rises already announced will affect over 40% of the population and experts say that all energy suppliers are likely to follow suit and put prices up at least once in the months ahead.

But there are ways to avoid the rising cost of gas and electricity and even cut your energy bill. Despite the fact that people are able to easily switch their energy supplier with only 28 days notice, many households continue to stay with old tariffs - and are probably paying more than they should.

Mark Todd, director of energy at, says households should investigate switching now before the remaining suppliers put their prices up.

He says: "It's easy to be an energy victim by just sitting there paying sky-high rates. But people should get active - by checking energy prices once a year and switching to cheaper deals you could save £200 a year."


So if you've never switched tariff before don't hold back. There are lots of different price comparison sites on the internet that allow you to see if you could get a better deal elsewhere.

Your postcode and the amount of energy you use will determine the price you pay, so it's not easy to simply rate the cheapest deals on the market.

However, says that switchers should consider capped rates at the moment because these mean the cost won't increase for a set period of time.

A word of warning though - sources from within the energy industry say that some providers are looking to introduce lock-in periods. These were outlawed until last year when the regulator decided that there was enough competition in the market to allow suppliers to put consumers on fixed-term contracts.

But being tied to one supplier might not necessarily the best thing for you, so think carefully before committing to one.

Joe Malinowski, founder of, says there are several good deals on the market for British Gas customers on standard tarrifs.

He adds: "They could switch to British Gas’ Click Energy 4 and pick up annualised savings of up to £309, but how long before those prices rise?

"Alternatively, Online Energy PriceFall from ScottishPower offers a potential annualised saving of up to £292 which is guaranteed until November 2008, while E.ON's Price Protection offers a potential saving of up to £148 guaranteed until 1 October 2009.

"It’s a good level of choice, but you need to act quickly or you’ll miss out.”

If you are planning on switching then don't forget to take any charges into account, as these could mean the difference between a good and a bad deal.

Vulnerable households

If you are elderly, disabled or have a long-term illness, or are on a low income and spend more than 10% of your income on energy bills, then you could be able to get help paying for gas and electricity.

Mark Todd of says: "Pick up the phone and ask your supplier what you can get. Some may offer free lightbulbs or lower bills."

Energy efficiency

Finally, consider the ways in which you use energy around the house. Turning down your thermostat or just using the heating when you are in the house could save you money.

Making energy efficient changes to your house could also help. For example, cavity wall installation or loft padding helps keep heat inside your home - meaning you don't have to turn all the radiators on when it's cold outside.

The type of property you live in will determine the cost of your energy bills. Research by National Energy Services, commissioned by the New Homes Marketing Board, recently found people living in a new home saved up to £556 a year on energy bills compared with people living in older-style homes.

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