How can I keep my energy costs down?
Supply and demand on the global energy market has sent gas and electricity prices soaring, leaving many households struggling. Unfortunately, we can’t help you compare energy providers at this time, but here are some simple tips to help you keep your energy costs down until the situation improves:
- Switch off lights and appliances when not in use - this is one of the simplest ways to save money on your energy bills.
- Unplug appliances when not in use - most of your devices can be switched off at the wall without it affecting any of their programming.
- Switch to energy saving lightbulbs - LEDs are the most efficient lightbulbs currently available.
- Wash your clothes at 30°C instead of 40°C - and wait until you’ve got a full load before you run your washing machine.
- Hang dry your clothes instead of using the tumble dryer - tumble dryers use a lot of energy so drying your clothes on a rack or outside could save you money.
- Only run your dishwasher when it’s full.
- Take a shorter shower - use a timer to keep track of how long you’re spending in the shower and try to cut down.
- Only boil as much water in the kettle as you need - you could save on your electricity bill by not overfilling your kettle.
- Turn the heating down slightly - even turning down the heating by one degree can reduce your energy bill by 10%. For extra savings, only heat the rooms you’re using and remember to close the curtains at night to keep the heat in.
- Bleed your radiators - you can make sure your heating is running as efficiently as possible by getting rid of any air in the system, especially if you notice cold spots. Read our guide to bleeding your central heating system.
- Switch to paperless bills - some energy suppliers charge extra to send you paper bills.
- See if you can get a discount on your bills by agreeing to pay by direct debit.
Read our guide for more tips on saving energy at home.
How can I make my home more energy efficient and save money on my energy bills?
With the cost of living crisis, we know it may not be the ideal time make changes to your home. But if you’re able to make even one of these eco-friendly and energy saving home improvements, it could help you make significant savings on your energy bills in the long run:
- Choose energy efficient models if you need to buy any new white goods - check the appliance label for its energy rating. Appliances are rated on a scale from A to G, with A the most efficient model of its size and class and G the least. Read our guide to see which appliances use the most energy.
- Improve your home insulation to reduce the amount of heat loss - loft and cavity wall insulation can make a big difference to your heating bills and even insulating your hot water tank could save money. Read our guide to find out if you could qualify for free home insulation.
- Draught proof your windows and doors - you can make savings by reducing the heat lost through gaps in windows, doors, floors and skirting boards.
- Install a smart thermostat - they can help you monitor your energy use, and allow you to control the heating for individual rooms from your phone or tablet.
- Choose an energy efficient boiler - when it’s time to replace your boiler, choose a more energy efficient condensing model and you could save money on your heating bills. Alternatively, with the government’s commitment of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, you may want to get ahead of the game by switching to a lower carbon heating system, such as a heat pump.
- Install devices to reduce your hot water use - with an eco shower head, your shower will feel just as powerful but it won’t use as much hot water. Similarly, installing an aerator on your taps is a simple way to reduce your water use.
What to do if you lose your gas supply
If you suddenly find yourself without a working gas supply, call the 24-hour Gas Emergency Service on 0800 111 999. You can also check the website of your regional gas network to see if there are any loss or supply issues in your area.
If you’re on a prepayment meter, it may be that you’ve used up all your credit, so double check. If you’re having problems paying for a top-up, speak to your energy supplier about temporary credit.
If you ever smell gas or suspect you have a gas leak, it’s vital that you call the Gas Emergency Service on the number above. They’re available at all times of the day and night.
You should also take these safety precautions:
- Open doors and windows
- Turn off the main gas tap – it’s usually near your gas meter. If your meter is in the cellar, for your own safety, don’t enter.
- Turn off all gas appliances
- Don’t use mobile phones, light switches or any other electrical switches
- Don’t smoke or light matches
- Stay outside until you’re told it’s safe to go back in.
Carbon monoxide poisoning can be deadly. If you feel unwell, you should seek medical attention immediately. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include:
- Dizziness and nausea
- Stomach pain
- Tiredness and confusion
- Collapse or loss of consciousness
How to turn off your water supply
Do you need to do some plumbing or check a frozen pipe? Then you’ll need to turn off your home’s water supply.
You can do this using your internal stop tap – also called a stop valve or stopcock. It’s a good idea to find out where this is before you need to use it, in case there’s a burst pipe or leak that you urgently need to stem. It will be somewhere on the ground floor of your home, often under the kitchen sink or in the downstairs toilet. If you share a water supply with neighbours, you’ll often find the stop valve where the water supply enters the building.
Turn the water off by twisting the stop tap clockwise, and back on again by turning it anti-clockwise. It may take a few minutes for the water to stop running. Don’t use excessive force or you may damage the stopcock.
If for some reason you can’t turn off your water from the internal stop tap, there’s also an external stopcock – located somewhere near the boundary of your property. Officially, this belongs to the water supplier and should only be used by them or a plumber, so if you have any problems with the internal stop tap, call your water supplier and let them know.
I have no hot water. What do I do?
If you’ve no hot water coming from your taps, there are a few common causes. So before you call a plumber, make a few simple checks:
- Your gas, electricity and water supply – are they still on? If you’ve lost your gas supply, you need to call the 24-hour Gas Emergency Service on 0800 111 999.
- The boiler – check it’s switched on and that everything’s working, including the pilot light if it’s gas. If all else fails you could try using the customer-operated reset button – if your boiler has one – and see if the hot water comes back on. See your boiler manufacturer’s instructions for guidance.
- The water pressure – it needs to be between 1 and 2 bars (ideally 1.5) for the boiler to work properly. If it’s not high enough, you can adjust it using the filling loop. Low water pressure could be a sign of a leak. Look out for tell-tale signs including mould and damp patches on walls, ceilings or floors.
- The thermostat – has it been accidentally switched off or set to a low temperature? If so, try increasing the temperature and see if this helps. If you have a water tank or cylinder, check the thermostat on there too to see if it’s displaying the right settings.
- The timer – is the clock set to the correct times?
- The pipes – have they frozen during a cold snap? If so, you can try gently thawing them, using hot (but never boiling) water, or a warm compress.
- Your internet connection – if you’re using a smart home app to control your heating, check your connection’s switched on and working.
If none of the above fix the problem, it’s time to call a Gas Safe engineer. Boiler insurance could help you cover the costs of repairing your boiler if it breaks down or stops working properly.
If the radiators are hot but there’s no hot water, it may be because the diverter valve (which switches between heating and hot water in a combi-boiler) isn’t working. You’ll need to call in a Gas Safe engineer to fix this.
Repeated problems with your hot water supply may be the result of a boiler that’s simply not equipped to supply the amount of hot water you need. If that’s the case, it could be time for an upgrade.
I have a water leak. What do I do?
If you’ve spotted a serious leak – one from a burst pipe, for example – the first thing to do is switch off the water supply to prevent any damage. Again, do this using the internal stop tap. Also turn off the electricity supply if there’s any chance of water coming into contact with your electrics.
To stem the water from a leaking pipe temporarily, you can wrap a towel around it. If the water’s gushing out, you might be able to reduce it by turning on all the taps to divert the flow and drain the system.
If you know the leak’s coming from a single appliance, such as a washing machine or toilet, you might be able to stop it using the appliance’s isolation valve. That way, you’ll still have water throughout the rest of the house.
Leaks can be dramatic, but not always. Some are slow and barely detectable. Signs might be cracks in the floor, patches of mould appearing, low water pressure – even an unexpectedly high water bill, if you’re on a water meter.
If you suspect a leak but don’t know where it’s coming from, you may need to get a plumber in to do some detective work. Some home insurance policies offer trace and access cover for this.
Whatever the cause of a leak, you’ll probably need to have a professional come and fix the problem permanently once you’ve dealt with the emergency. Home emergency cover can give you peace of mind that you’ll be covered for urgent repairs for problems such as burst pipes.
How to tell if your energy meter is working correctly
An unusually high bill might cause you to suspect a faulty electricity or gas meter. There are a few ways to check whether you could be right.
How to check your energy meter:
- Turn off all your appliances and see if your meter’s still registering energy usage – if it is, it may be faulty. If it’s a gas meter, this could be a sign of a leak, so call the Gas Emergency Service on 0800 111 999 straight away.
- If there’s no usage registering, turn on your appliances, one at a time. If the meter starts moving very quickly when you turn on a particular appliance, it may be that the appliance has a fault.
Check that the clock on your meter is working if you’re on a time-of-use tariff.
If there is indeed a problem, you should contact your energy supplier. They’re responsible for making sure your meters are in good working order and are obliged to investigate if there’s an issue.
How gas and electricity meters are tested for faults
If you have a prepayment meter and the screen is blank or showing a message such as ‘error’, ‘call help’ or ‘battery’, you should tell your supplier straight away. They must send someone out to fix the problem within three hours on a working day and four hours on a non-working day, or you’ll be entitled to £30 compensation. If you have a faulty credit meter, your supplier should visit to check for faults within five working days of your call. If they don’t, you’re entitled to £30 compensation.
Your energy provider should be able to test your electricity meter in situ, initially. They may temporarily fit a second meter. Depending on these initial checks, the meter in question might then be taken to a laboratory for further tests. Your supplier will fit another meter while they’re investigating.
Gas meters always need to be sent to a lab for testing.
The tests themselves are free, but you might have to repay these costs if it turns out your meter is working correctly. According to government statistics, this was the case for most of the 231 electricity meters and 1,212 gas meters tested in 2017.
If the meter is found to be accurate, you’ll need to pay any outstanding bills, and you will have to repay those test fees. Your supplier shouldn’t be able to back-bill for more than 12 months.
If the meter is found to be inaccurate, the supplier will pay the testing costs and will credit any money you’ve overpaid on bills.
Frequently asked questions
What is the energy price cap?
The energy price cap was introduced by Ofgem in January 2019 to limit the price that energy suppliers can charge you for electricity and gas, to ensure that you pay a fair price for your energy. The price cap applies to customers on an energy supplier’s standard variable or default tariff.
It’s not a limit on how much you pay for your energy bill – that depends on how much you use - but instead it caps the amount a supplier can charge you per unit of energy.
The energy price cap is updated twice a year depending on wholesale energy prices. Read our guide to the energy price gap and how it affects your bills.
What should I do if I can’t afford to pay my energy bill?
If you’re struggling to pay your bills, you should contact your energy provider as soon as possible and let them know. They have a responsibility to help you arrange a payment plan that works for you. If they refuse to help, you can speak to your local Citizens Advice for help.
You can also check if you’re eligible for any government assistance or support schemes, or see if you can apply for a grant from one of the larger energy providers.
Read our guide to what to do if you can’t pay your energy bills.
What government energy support schemes are available?
You may be able to apply for grants or energy support schemes if you:
- Are at state pension age
- Have a disability
- Have a low income or you’re unemployed
- Have missed payments to your energy supplier
Some energy support schemes can be provided directly by your energy supplier. Depending on your circumstances you may qualify for:
- A winter fuel payment
- A cold weather payment
- A warm home discount
- A household support fund package available to vulnerable households through your local council
- In Scotland, a child winter heating assistance payment of £214.10 per year for each disabled child or person under 19.
The UK government has also announced an automatic £400 grant for all households with a domestic electricity connection to be applied in October 2022, which doesn’t need to be paid back.
Can I get help with my bills if I’ve been working from home?
If you need to work from home on a regular basis, either for all or part of the week, you may be able to claim tax relief for additional household costs, including:
- Your gas and electricity
- Metered water
- Phone calls and internet access.
You won’t be able to claim for the whole bill, just for what you use when you’re working from home, and you won’t be eligible if you chose to work from home. Find out if you’re eligible to claim for tax relief.