It’s fair to say that the majority of utilities companies out there are about as unpopular as high street banks. They’re forever in the news for one reason or another – more often than not because there has been yet another massive rate hike.
In this blog post we’re going to look at a number of different ways in which you can minimise the impact of utility charges and every day bills on your budget. After all, the less money you spend on bills, the more you have to save away for a rainy day – or even spend on yourself!
Utilities comparisons: Are they worth it?
In a word, yes! Utilities comparison websites are great because they present to you a large selection of offers from a range of different suppliers. Because the offers are listed side by side, you can compare energy suppliers quickly and easily – ensuring you get the very best deal possible. Imagine how hard it’d be to manually collate a comparison of every energy deal out there – it’d take hours, probably days! Price comparison sites are there to save you time and money – be sure to use them if you are looking to switch energy supplier.
Gas and electricity are the two main utilities comparisons that you should look into. You can save hundreds of pounds each year by subscribing to a tariff tailored to your specific needs (or a tariff that better suits your needs, compared to the tariff you’re currently on).
The recent speculation surrounding a law that obligates utilities companies to evaluate your requirements and tell you the best tariff is a huge step forward – but it’s not a guarantee that you’ll be on the very cheapest tariff. “Why?” you might ask – well, you might be on the cheapest tariff with that specific energy provider, but how do you know someone out there isn’t offering an identical deal a lot cheaper? The answer is that you don’t – that’s why comparison sites are worth using.
Top tip: Most utilities comparison websites receive a cut of any money that you pay to the supplier upon signing up (aka, a commission). With that in mind, it sometimes works out cheaper to go directly to the specific energy supplier’s website. Once you’ve got a short list of utilities suppliers offering the cheapest deals, clear your internet browser cache and cookies and navigate to their sites directly. It’s amazing how much you can save using this cheeky little tip!
Another top tip is to look at energy deals offered though online cash back websites like Quidco and Top Cash Back. Sometimes you’ll receive a cash back amounting to several hundred pounds for signing up with a certain supplier or using a particular price comparison website – this is something to bear in mind when calculating the overall cost.
Utilities providers & comparison sites
Here’s a small selection of the very biggest names in the world of gas and electricity:
• British Gas
• Co-operative Energy
• EDF Energy
• Sainsbury’s Energy
• Scottish Power
• Utility Warehouse
And here are five price comparison websites you could try:
This article by The Telegraph highlights the fact that in a little over three years, the average household has seen energy bills increase by a whopping £300. That’s nearly £6 extra each week, which is enough to leave a gaping hole in the most watertight of budgets. The issue is compounded by the fact that most people have experienced pay freezes over the last five years, bills have become more expensive and wages in real terms have regressed.
It’s easy to get bogged down in the doom and gloom surrounding the economy and the recession, but taking action to decrease the amount of money you’re coughing up to pay to energy providers is really, really simple: Use gas and electricity comparison sites as we’ve talked about above! Which? claim that on average you can save £217 by using their energy comparison facility.
So, if your bills have been hiked up by around £300 over the last three years, but you save around £200 by using an energy comparison site, you can claw back an awful lot of that price increase. It takes less than an hour to log-on to a comparison site and evaluate the deals on offer out there – so it really does make sense to spend an hour to save potentially hundreds of pounds!
Energy Price fixing
We’re not talking about illegal price fixing between big companies – no, we’re talking about entering into a contract with your energy supplier in order to lock down the price you pay for X amount of time. Most of the major energy suppliers out there offer a price fixing tariff or two – it’s something well worth looking into.
Typically you’ll pay slightly more than average when you first enter into the contract, but as time goes by and energy prices creep up for everyone else – your rates will remain at the pre-agreed level.
If you were one of the smart people that entered into a fixed price contact three to five years ago, you will have barely noticed the £300 hike in rates over the last three years.
Entering into a fixed price contract is definitely a risk, but with the trend of increasing energy prices continuing despite the end of the recession, it looks like energy prices are only going one way – and that’s up! Price fixing is a fantastic way to save money over the long-term, but it’s something that needs an awful lot of research – if the current trend of price increases ceases, you could end up paying a lot more for your energy compared to people who are free to chop and change between providers and tariffs as they choose.
Energy & water saving tips
It’s not always about using price comparison websites in order to slash the energy bills you receive – sometimes it’s about looking at your behavior and how you actually use that energy. Can you honestly say that every last drop of gas and electricity you pay for is used effectively? Or are you one of those people that tends to leave the TV on when you go out, or do you leave windows and doors open when the heating is running at full tilt during winter?
The one utility you’re not free to move from company to company with is water. The only way to reduce water bills is to switch between a water meter and being charged based on the ratable value of your home. Aside from that, your behavior is the only thing that can influence the cost of your monthly water bill.
Save electricity – turn it off!
From TVs to laptops, lights to radios, it’s amazing that people still leave energy consuming devices on even when they’re not using them. If you’re popping to the shops don’t leave the TV on whilst you’re out – turn it off (properly, not standby!). If you’re notorious for leaving your laptop on whilst nodding off, configure it to enter sleep mode after X number of minutes of inactivity (even better, turn it off yourself before falling asleep). When you leave a room, don’t leave the light on – the same goes for your radio, turn it off.
By turning off appliances and other electrical devices when not in use, it’s amazing how much money you can save on your electricity bill. Challenge everyone in the house to thing things off – you’ll be pleasantly surprised, there’s no doubt about it. Turn it into a competition – the kids will love it, and so will your wallet.
Dry your clothes outside (or on the radiator
Tumble dryers are cumbersome, noisy and a massive drain on electricity. Think about it for one minute: Most of us have a garden or patio, or even a balcony – so why not hang your clothes outside to dry? They’ll come in smelling fresh, and hanging your clothes outside doesn’t cost a dime. If you don’t have a washing line already you can pick up long lengths of washing line from your local pound shop – or alternatively one of those fancy revolving washing lines for under £50.
In the winter months when it’s wet outside you still don’t need to use the tumble dryer – instead hang your clothes on the radiator. If your central heating is turned on to keep the house warm anyway, this is a great idea. If you don’t fancy putting your clothes on the radiator simply buy a laundry airer – they’re very cheap indeed.
Draught excluders don’t cost the earth
If you’ve got little gaps around doors and windows your central heating has to work harder to maintain the required temperature in your property. By plugging those little gaps you can significantly reduce your energy bills. The best place to start is the gaps found under doors – pop into your local pound shop and buy a few draught excluders, they represent a great investment.
Switch to LED light bulbs to save electricity
This nifty little case study demonstrates how the average “400 Watt home” can save almost £430 each year, simply by adopting LED bulbs. If that’s not enough to convince you to kick your old incandescent bulbs to the curb (no, not literally) – nothing will be.
In the past there have been a number of negative connotations surrounding LED bulbs. Some people claimed the light was too “harsh” – others claimed they simply weren’t bright enough. Times have changed, LED bulbs have evolved and right now they’re a viable alternative to any other type of light bulb. Even taking into consideration the adoption cost of the LED bulbs (because they’re more expensive than traditional bulbs), the payback time is less than one year.
If you’re still not convinced to try LED bulbs then how about this: They last for around 25 years. Imagine not having to change a light bulb for 25 years – that’s crazy!
Say goodbye to bathing!
Baths: They take ages to run, they’re never at quite the right temperature, and they’re really good at running up your water meter every month. One of the easiest ways to save money on your utility bills is to wave goodbye to baths and start showering instead. If you’re serious about making a conscious effort to slash your water bill exponentially, why not challenge yourself to take some army-style short, cold showers? They’re not much fun but boy are they good for the wallet!
Use your curtains to reduce your gas and electricity bills
Curtains are just there to look pretty, right? No – of course they’re not! Curtains are there for a few different reasons, one of them being to help you retain heat within your property. We’ve already mentioned closing gaps in window frames and doors, but by closing curtains you can further reduce the heat lost from your property due to draughts. Be sure to draw your curtains in order to retain heat – even in rooms you don’t use.
Put a brick in your cistern to save water
Each time you flush your toilet it fills back up again, the is water stored in the cistern (the big tank on top). Most people can perform their toilet duties with little problem using slightly less water in the toilet itself – so to that end, why not put a brick in your cistern? This causes the cistern to become full quicker and each flush will require a lot less water.
If you’re currently scratching your head looking for ways to reduce an enormous monthly water meter bill, this is a great little trick. If it doesn’t work for you, you can always remove the brick at a later date!
Insulate to reduce your energy bills!
The importance of quality, effective insulation cannot be overlooked. A lot of the heat that escapes from homes escapes through the roof – which is why you must ensure the platform between your home and the loft area is fitted with adequate insulation. You can buy loft insulation from high street hardware stores – it doesn’t take long to install either. If your serious about slashing energy bills then it’s time to stop letting heat escape to your loft and through the roof – install insulation as soon as possible!
Get a light tube
Light tubes are super cool, they don’t cost a fortune and they’re extremely practical. By installing a light tube in various rooms in your property that suffer from poor levels of natural light, you can avoid having to use electricity by powering a bulb. These light tubes are extremely popular, they’re perfect for use in bathrooms, en-suites and other rooms that may not have any windows or natural light sources.
Go solar to save energy!
There was a time when seeing houses with solar panels installed on the roof was a rare sight – nowadays solar energy is being incentivised in a big way by politicians and energy companies. In a lot of cases you can generate enough energy to power everything in your home – with even a little bit of energy spare that can be sent back to the National Grid. There are various monetary incentives and initiatives in place to encourage the implementation of solar panels – they’re slowly becoming cheaper and more effective making them a great choice for those with the money to invest in the installation costs.
Whilst looking at the various solar options open to you, be sure to look at the possibility of installing a solar water heating system too – they’re a much overlooked solar energy saving method.
For more great energy saving tips, advice and encouragement, be sure to check out the Energy Saving Trust website – it’s full of helpful information and surprising stats.
These ten tips should help virtually everyone shave some precious cash off their monthly utilities bills. The harder you try, the more money you’ll save!
Fracking & other emerging technology
Fracking is short for the phrase “hydraulic fracturing” – this involves drilling into the ground and injecting fluid under high pressure in an effort to fracture shale rocks, and release the gas contained inside. Fracking has been proven to be frought with danger – it’s also proven to have a detrimental effect on human health, due in part to the chemicals contained in the fluid.
Despite all of this, fracking has commenced at various locations around the UK, and there are consultations in place to see fracking started at other sites too. So, what on earth does this matter to you?
Well, as traditional natural energy wells start to become depleted, we’ve got to look elsewhere for the raw materials required in order to generate energy to light, power and heat our homes. Whilst there are undoubtedly other options out there, the common consensus is that the implementation and running costs of these new forms of energy will be more expensive than the fossil fuels we’ve been exploiting for the last few years. Demand for energy and raw materials in emerging economies will also send the cost of heating, lighting and powering our homes to record levels.
This little bit of background brings clarity to the situation – it explains why prices for energy are gradually creeping up, and it makes a case for why everyone needs to start thinking seriously about reducing their monthly energy costs. If you continue to consume energy at the same rate you do currently, there’s no telling how much your bills will cost in three, five or ten years time. To that end, there has never been a better time to shop around for a better deal – there has never been a better time to become more aware of and diligent about the way you use energy either.
After all, it’s not just your pocket you’re saving – the less energy you use, the less impact you have on the environment around us.