The rising cost of domestic fuel is often in the news, with the headlines regularly dominated by reports of price hikes.
But while it can feel that we are at the mercy of the suppliers – after all, paying for energy is not something we can opt out of – there are a number of things consumers can do to help keep bills down.
“People’s frustration with the cost of their gas and electricity has been on the increase, much like their energy bills,” said Jeremy Cryer, of Gocompare.com.
“This is understandable, as energy suppliers are often quick to charge us more when wholesale prices rise, but much slower to pass on any savings when these costs are falling, like they have been in recent months.”
Broadly speaking, there are two things that can be done to keep bills down – use less energy or pay less for what is used.
Using less energy is a sensible thing to do if you can, but investing in energy-saving appliances, lighting and insulation can be expensive and tends to deliver only medium and long-term results. Your bills are unlikely to drop suddenly. Making sure you pay less for what you use, though, is a much quicker process.
The first thing to do is get hold of your most recent statements and visit a price-comparison website. Enter your usage figures and see if there is a cheaper option on the market.
Most people find they can make savings this way, and if you have never switched provider for your gas and electricity, it is almost certain that you will be able to make a huge saving – possibly worth hundreds of pounds a year.
“If you find you’re already on a cost-effective tariff then at least you’ll know, but just remember to come back regularly to make sure it’s still the best tariff for you, as new deals are launched regularly,” said Mr Cryer.
“And if you find a better price, switch there and then.”
Look at the whole market
The so-called Big Six suppliers have the lion’s share of the UK energy market, but it’s well worth considering some of the smaller suppliers. They are often competitive when it comes to price and their customer service can be superior, too.
“There’s no need to fear moving to a smaller provider and there’s no risk of your energy being cut off simply by switching,” said Mr Cryer.
“Your gas and electricity will continue to flow through the same pipes and wires, so if you can save money by taking your business elsewhere, you should.”
Online deals are cheaper than traditional tariffs. In practice, the only difference with an online plan is that you have to log on to see your bill – it won’t arrive via Royal Mail.
If you use both gas and electricity, make sure you plump for a dual-fuel deal – in other words, get both from the same supplier.
Consider fixing your tariff for a set period, to avoid any price rises during that time. Mr Cryer said: “This can be a gamble, as you won’t benefit if there are any price reductions, but if it’s consistency in energy pricing you’re after, these tariffs are for you.”
Once you’ve switched suppliers, make sure you keep an eye on the market. Customers who switch regularly can save a small fortune over the years.