Gas prices rising: Can you cut your bill by 15%?

 
Girl holding hot chocolate, temperature control and girl hugging hot water bottle

Gas bills in the UK are rocketing with one firm this week raising prices by 15%. How can customers cut their gas usage to avoid being hit by the jump in prices?

Npower is just the latest of the big energy firms to dramatically raise its prices. The company has warned customers that from October gas bills will rise by 15.7% and electricity by 7.2%.

Five of the big six energy firms have now announced substantial increases. The price rises will see the average gas bill increase from £665 to about £740 a year.

People are used to dire warnings about the effects on those living in fuel poverty, many of them pensioners.

Those on low-incomes are already forced to think of ways to cut energy usage and save money - whether it be putting on an extra jumper or spending less time in the house.

Gas price rises at the Big Six

  • British Gas: 18%
  • EDF: no change so far
  • E.On: 18%
  • Npower: 15.7%
  • Scottish Power: 19%
  • SSE: 18%

But the jump in prices now is so large that millions of people will be looking urgently at how to keep warm for less.

With incomes static and winter around the corner, the extra cost will have many worried. There are 3.5 million older people living in fuel poverty - defined as spending at least a tenth of income on energy bills.

In the past year an increasing number of old people have taken to sitting in shopping centres and libraries to save their home heating bills, according to the National Pensioners Convention.

There were 25,400 deaths caused by cold weather last winter, according to the Office for National Statistics, with most of the deceased aged 75 and over.

How to cut your gas bill

Measure Saving £s % off bill*

Source: Energy Saving Trust

Loft Insulation

£145

15%

Reduce room temperature 1C

£50

10%

Draught-proofing windows/doors

£25

3%

Block gaps in floors/skirting

£20

3%

Cavity wall insulation

£110

15%

Floor insulation

£50

7%

Double Glazing

£130

17%

Insulate hot water tank and pipes

£45

7%

Replace boiler with A rated model

up to £225

up to 25%

Note: Results for individual measures only

*based on gas-heated, three-bedroom, semi-detached house

This winter will be harder still, the convention warns. The government is cutting winter fuel allowances from £250 to £200 for those aged 60-80 and from £400 to £300 for the over 80s.

Npower's price increase comes into effect in October. So how might customers cut their gas bills by 15% before then to avoid a price hike?

The Energy Saving Trust (EST), which advises householders on energy efficiency, outlines four steps that could each save all of the 15% in one fell swoop.

Replacing an old boiler with a modern version can cut a gas bill by up to 25%. Double-glazed windows could reduce it by 17%, and insulating a loft or cavity walls would bring the bill down by 15%.

According to consumer experts Which?, a new boiler costs about £2,500. Grants for energy efficiency improvements are available from the EST.

Consumer website uSwitch recommends that anyone paying for gas and electricity separately moves to a dual fuel account - gas and electricity from the same provider.

Paying by direct debit will save 7% on an average energy bill and signing up to an online price plan will also bring reductions.

Gas typically accounts for about 60% of the cost of a dual fuel account.

The big question people need to ask themselves is whether to opt for a fixed tariff, says moneysavingexpert.com founder Martin Lewis. Hunting for the cheapest fixed tariff will save customers on a dual fuel account about £100 a year, he says.

Simple behavioural changes can also yield big savings.

John Harrison, author of Low Cost Living, says that it's all about little steps. Draught-proofing can cut gas bills by 10% by merely putting sticky tape around windows and doors. Loft insulation is the next cheap and effective step.

Why is gas going up?

The Big Six energy firms say that with wholesale gas prices rising, they have no choice but to put up bills. "With reduced quantities of North Sea gas, we are forced to buy energy on the volatile global wholesale market," says Kevin Miles, chief commercial officer at Npower.

In a report earlier this year, energy regulator Ofgem questioned the pricing approach of the big suppliers. It argued that they were quicker to increase bills when wholesale costs rose than they were to cut them when wholesale prices fell.

Richard Lloyd, executive director of Which? says the Big Six have a lot of work to do in convincing customers the increases are justified. "We argue that all energy tariffs should be structured in the same way so that customers can easily compare different deals."

"I got a subsidised roll from Npower and installed it in the loft last week. It cost us £90 and we've felt the difference already," he notes.

Cooking accounts for only a small proportion of one's gas bill. But by using a lid one can cook pasta and rice on the low flame, he says.

Turning the thermostat down 1C will reduce a gas bill by 10%. For fit, healthy people there's no need to have the house above 18C, says Michelle Shipworth, an energy researcher at University College London.

It's also a good idea to rethink which rooms you are heating. "At home I have the core of the house hotter and other areas like the spare room cooler at 15 or 16C."

It's a good idea to have thermostats in every room but you can always turn down radiators in rooms you're not using. Keeping active, having hot drinks and wrapping up warm are other ways of keeping the thermostat down.

"I have really delicious slippers that I wear and angora wristwarmers," Shipworth says. "My mantra is - mind the gap in the clothing. I have a throw on the sofa I can get under. It makes an enormous difference having lots of cosy layers on during the winter."

 

More on This Story

In today's Magazine

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

Comments

This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
 
  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 187.

    Winter fuel allowances being cut when fuel bills are going up. The government are hoping to kill of all the poor pensioners so they will have to pay less in state pensions. Their own mums and dads will be OK because they have rich children to take care of them.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 186.

    I shall definately be following the suggestions on how to cut my Gas Bill as it would appear I will be in credit. Add up the % amounts and it comes to 102!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 185.

    We lived in a shoe box at t'side o' t'canal................

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 184.

    I often sit with 2 hot-water bottles. One for my feet and one for my tummy. Wearing a woolly hat keeps the heat inside your body (you lose most of it through the top of your head believe it or not!) Making a brew to keep your hands warm helps as do fingerless gloves.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 183.

    Clean coal burning technology. Cheaper domestic fuel, work for many people and decommission nuclear power stations. Every one a winner.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 182.

    Singe 126
    I live in one of the coldest parts of the country and this is how I set my thermostat (I have no gas-fire by the way).
    Early winter; 18C during the day turning it up half a degree in the evening when it gets colder.
    Mid-winter if it gets really cold; on continuously at 16c at night prevents the house from getting cold and thus avoiding the need to turn the thermostat up high first thing.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 181.

    If you think kippers are cheap these days you're either living in the past or don't have to worry about your heating bill. Probably the second since you refer to "shoe leather". I thought I was one of the last remaining purchasers of leather shoes. They cost a small fortune today if you can find any worth buying. Porridge or borage?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 180.

    #175 2 rooms heated in the evening.....thats luxury...we had 1 room heated when it was -10 ..if we were lucky...

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 179.

    The hard thing is actually switching though - the minute you do the old company show no mercy in trying to get their money from you (always an expensive bill IMHO) and then they new firm can't wait to get the new month's money off you - and then you need a meter reading otherwise the new firm hammer you with a huge first month estimate. Make it easier to switch by standard bills whatever firm!!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 178.

    Solar panels and wind turbines; invest now and stop complaining about gas company cowboys later.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 177.

    My gas company estimates my next years total gas consumption to be £227. That's just over 60p per day, and includes their increase. My secret? A pre-payment meter: just top it up once a week, and your gas is paid for as you use it. No massive bill every quarter. I do the same with the electric too, although it works out a bit higher, about 90p - £1 a day. PAYG is the future!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 176.

    the 1 thing that surprises me in this country is that we don't get even more riots,this time for a reason.the energy companies have a captive market and they know it and so do the government.Ok people switch that gas and electric off and help the planet, and at the same time wreck the energy companies profits.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 175.

    When I was a lad (not that long ago) we had no central heating and no double glazing, resulting in ice on the inside of the bedroom windows every morning during winter. The whole house was cold first thing and only two rooms were heated in the evening. We just used an extra blanket at night and put a jumper on during the day, it's not the end of the world. I do feel sorry for the elderly though.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 174.

    Here's a tip for all those delicate blossoms shivering in their double glazed homes. If you want to warm up, stop playing with yourselves on the internet go outside and do some exercise!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 173.

    the best way to save money would be for the energy companies to reduce prices and stop ripping people off.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 172.

    I don`t complain about global warming, I grew up without central heating

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 171.

    I had looked at the check list, I have already done all of them. so no saving for me.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 170.

    I can save 15% per annum and more on my gas bill simply by emigrating. Which I regret not doing 45 years ago when I thought about it. Pity I didn't think about it a bit harder. I have considered hypothermia but that's not unusual enough to attract any interest these days.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 169.

    The UK has turned into a nation of slack jawed weaklings with low moral fibre. That's why you're all so cold all the time (and why Labour gets so many votes).

    One minute you're complaining about global warming - the next you're acting as if the next ice age had started. Well make your minds up!

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 168.

    Why are we unable to cope with temperatures that our grandparents were fine with? Maybe because we're less healthy, more overweight, less active.

    Eat a proper breakfast - kippers, eggs and porrage are all cheap, healthy foods. Going for a 30 minute walk costs nothing more than shoe leather. Are you chilly? Clean the house, do the washing up, play active games with your kids!

 

Page 5 of 14

 

Features

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.