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
    0

    Comment number 267.

    Give everyone the right levels of hormones to cause menopause - that'll keep them warm! Nice side effect for Call me Dave and his cronies is that none of the plebs will reproduce so the rich can have it all. They'll not enjoy it, though, when there's no one to fetch their Pimms, cut the croquet lawn or hoover the duck house.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 266.

    185.joseramirez - "We lived in a shoe box at t'side o' t'canal...."

    Watch it! The way things are going, you might have to, metaphoically speaking

    At least those of us who did live in your metaphorical shoebox have had plenty of practice, know what to expect and how to cope

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 265.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 264.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 263.

    Gas, water and electricity should be ten times more expensive in this country, then we'd really become efficient and stop damaging our environment so much.

    I need less than a tenth of the energy I used to consume just by paying attention to what I'm doing. I'm just as comfortable as before!

    We probably already generate enough renewable energy, but we just waste so much that it's not enough.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 262.

    In answer to post 126 - "should the heating be on low constantly" I have done lots of experiments on this with my heating, it's not as simple as yes or no. Factors such as your current levels of insulation, heating controls/thermostats in use, internal temp you would like and the outside air temp all impact the answer. You also have to consider what % of the time the house is occupied vs empty.

  • Comment number 261.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 260.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 259.

    My family and I moved to a new house in June. Our old house - an end terrace - was freezing during the Winter. I'm self-employed and, for those days I wasn't working, I ended-up sitting in bed watching the TV or reading a book to keep warm. We're hoping the open fire in our new living room, reflectors behind radiators etc are going to help this Winter. It's scandalous that so many suffer.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 258.

    its all about getting as much from the people as possible.the rich get richer and the poor freeze.there is no such thing now as the wealth trickling through down to the poor.the rich get greedier and keep it for themselves hence the recent riots....there is more to come watch out....

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 257.

    The energy companies are not profiteering, well not that much but the real reason for increases in energy is quite simply the green taxes that the government has forced onto the utilities.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 256.

    It's only a few years ago that we were warned that climate change was the single biggest threat to our way of life and long term wellbeing, much bigger than terrorism or an economic downturn. If high fuel prices force us to collectively change our behaviour that must surely be a good thing, no? Perhaps a few less long haul flights and car share to work and use the money saved on double glazing!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 255.

    I would like to know how much willingness to pay research was completed to justify this jump in prices - and whether Ofgem actively pursued that info. Nonetheless, Increased energy prices will undoubtedly push up bills, but 18% in this economic climate does not inspire me with the confidence that Ofgem are doing their job of protecting the interests of the customer.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 254.

    236. Kelly "Re double glazing: I would argue with your savings.
    Double Glazing will NOT save you ANY money! YOU WILL PROBABLY NEED TO REPLACE THE GLAZING every 12 years or so"

    I agree with this as I've been stunned at how short lived the individual panels are and by how much they cost.

    Like the low energy bulbs, it shows how saving money often costs you money! (arguments about CO to one side)

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 253.

    The energy saving trust are a promotional body for the industry. They are funded in part, by the big industry players.
    Every "saving" is quoted as "could"
    A rated boiler - on their own "savings" (which miss out servicing costs) it would take 16 years to pay for, yet they need replacing after 12 years
    British gas price increases are in part due to "lower consumption" use less they charge more!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 252.

    I've been a science teacher for 26 years. For more than two decades I've been teaching kids that fossil fuels are a finite resource and that they would run out, getting more and more expensive.
    And meanwhile government in the UK did nothing other than close down the coal mines.
    And now people are likely to die of hypothermia in a country that had prodigious resources of fuel.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 251.

    I do agree the government needs to get a grip; Ofgem do not appear to be regulating the industry well. They appear to be unresponsive to external forces: they lack the encouragement of innovation and increased efficiency. I would like to see the wholesale market price increases for energy - if Ofgem are doing their job correctly this should be more than the 18% rise being pushed onto the customer.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 250.

    241. weeljing "nieuw divil: I also remember windows frozen on the inside, but I also remember smelly people, ringworm, poverty, ill health, ignorance.... Your worldview needs an upgrade."

    That may well be the case but people today do have the option of reducing the temp to save money - and all this without the ringworm!

    So no upgrade of world view is required!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 249.

    Well I'm going to be doing star jumps to keep warm this winter.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 248.

    All of these home insulating improvements are only affective until the rates go up again.
    For example, my parents home was insulated and double-glazed from top to bottom over 10 years ago. This stopped the heat from escaping, but not the ever increasing bills. Today they are struggling to cover the bills, what else can they do to a home which is already perfectly insulated?

 

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