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."

 

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 207.

    Time to re-open the coal mines. The country sits on the richest seam in Europe. We could have a nationalised coal industry independent of the profiteers.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 206.

    @monkeyPuzzleTree
    ...I think the only deficit in the UK. is one of hope! What next for the screwed....

    Look on the bright side - we've just had the brightest batch of A- grade students ever, who are going to pay £9K/year to help fund all our pensions and clear the debt of the country !

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 205.

    126. singe "Does anyone know, definitively, if it is better to set the heating on all the time or to have the heating off for large parts of the day but switch on at set times? For someone in the house most of the day"

    Leave it on if you're in, awake & have a room thermostat. You don't save money till the house feels cold, which is pointless if you're at home - might as well just turn it down.

  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 204.

    Alternatively, we could just renationalise the utilities so that ordinary people could afford to keep warm......

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 203.

    There are 2 very simple but effective ways to save electricity/gas.
    1) Turn the boiler off, until you have a shower.
    2) Buy a thermal water jug, so when you've boiled the kettle, pour it into the jug, and you've got hot water for 8hrs. No waiting for the kettle either.

    We are a family of 5 in a 4 bed house, our gas, electricity bills turned up 2 days ago: under £100 each, for the last quarter.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 202.

    It can be difficult to switch if your direct debit payments are too low, perhaps because the supplier estimated your bill for a long time or didn't suggest you increase payments in line with prices. A final bill can be quite a shock. You'd think they'd want that money to play with but it's in their best interests to have you indebted to them. It's an obstacle to changing supplier for sure.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 201.

    I got cavity wall insulation on a deal last autumn and noticed a drop in the gas bill (heating) from the previous winter. It's worth checking with your energy provider if they are running any discounted cavity wall installations.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 200.

    196. nieuw divil
    5 MINUTES AGO

    (laughing)
    I'll bear that in mind !

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 199.

    No187, I agree with you, Feel so sorry for poor pensioner and disabled. All the energy companies just thinking profit, look at their Financial statement. If this winter will be freezing cold, may be lots of people died because of it as they can't afford it and will make this gov another wake up call.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 198.

    What people seem to be forgetting or ignoring is that back in the good old days when we were tougher blah blah blah a lot more people died every winter.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 197.

    Sex - lots of it. Under the duvet will save tons in energy bills.

    I'm actually in correspondence with the Department of Energy to find a way to lessen bills on those less able to afford it. Watch this space.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 196.

    191 You forgot stopping playing with yourself on the internet and doing some exercise!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 195.

    To pay for energy saving devices is fine if you can afford them, and do you really save cash. A new boiler £2,500 for example. If you don't have it you need to pay the interest on borrowed money. If you do you lose the interest you could earn from it. Either way you have at least £75 a year less to pay your bills.

  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 194.

    The reason they make the tariffs so complicated is to stop everyone going for the cheapest provider. If everybody did that they would be forced to compete with one-another.They are happy with the way things are, remember its the share holders that are the priority not the consumers.
    I cant wait for renewable energy to to replace gas, just to hear the excuses about the rising cost of wind!!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 193.

    Heat is one of the luxuries I won't give up. Living at 16 degrees, whilst possible, is miserable so I will keep the heating at 21 and accept the additional cost.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 192.

    Back in the 80's I fitted 6 radiators in my house, but I could not afford a gas boiler. I already had a back boiler in the lounge fireplace so I changed that for a high efficiency back boiler to run my central heating on solid fuel. Best thing I ever did! This winter I will be buying less coal and collecting free driftwood off of the beach, there's no VAT on it ether! :)

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 191.

    169. nieuw divil

    So what your saying is that we (inc. freezing old people) should

    a) stop being slack jawed weaklings.
    b) have high moral fibre (NOT LOW).
    c) stop voting Labour.
    d) make our minds up as to whether there's global warming or global colding.
    In order to cut energy costs.

    GEE THANKS NIEW DIVIL !

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 190.

    Thermals (cheaper synthetic or merino wool) beneath your lined trousers and woolen jumpers will save you many times their value. The trouble with them is that the outside doesn't seem properly cold in the winter!
    Exercise doesn't hurt either.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 189.

    @Lois
    I'm all for making a pot of tea, but your claim you make about loosing most of your heat through your head has been debunked, a few times now.
    I wonder if we'll see the prices come down if gas prices come down?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 188.

    a hotwater bottle in the small of your back works wonders on heating the core of your body and keeping you feeling warm! and if you make sure it is insulated (even just wrapped in a towel) it will stay hot for far longer

 

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