Get savvy with your energy bills by following this simple checklist
Moving into a new house is exciting – especially if you’re leaving your shared, messy halls to move in with your mates. But it also usually means no more all-inclusive bills either…
Sorting out your gas and electricity might not be top of your fun list, but understanding your energy means there won’t be any headaches further down the line. To help you avoid any energy mishaps, we spoke to the experts at Energy UK, the trade association for the energy industry, to find out everything you need to know.
1. Shop around for the best provider for you
People have different priorities when it comes to energy providers. For many, it’s the cost – who’s going to provide you with the lowest monthly bills? For others, picking the right provider might be based on their environmental stance. Many companies will now offer either completely renewable energy, or a promise that at least half of the energy you use will come from renewable sources. Companies are also rated on their customer service, so that may be one to bear in mind too.
Whatever your preference, make sure you shop around so you can find the right fit for you and your housemates, as well and finding the best deal.
2. But you can always switch providers if necessary (and you could save cash by doing so!)
If you’re not happy with your energy supplier, the good news is it’s simple to switch –and it might save you a lot of money!
There are loads of price comparison websites online, and the Citizens Advice website has plenty of unbiased advice about how to do this. You should also be aware of the Energy Switch Guarantee, which is a voluntary set of promises and covers 90 per cent of the energy market. It means that switching will be simple, speedy and safe. Abbie Sampson, director of external affairs at Energy UK, says: “It can take as little as ten minutes to check if you are on the best energy deal for you. Or simply call your existing supplier to see if you could be on a different tariff. You could potentially save as much as £300 on your energy bills by switching.”
3. Make sure you read – and understand – your energy meters
When you move into a new property, make sure to ask your landlord where your meters are – you’ll probably have a separate one for gas, electricity and possibly water too. Read them and report the numbers to the relevant providers the day you move in (and also the day you move out). This sounds simple, but is one of the most common hurdles people face…
Remember, the meters may not always be located together – some can be found in fairly obscure places (under the floorboards, in the garden, and behind a cupboard are quite popular locations). Ask your landlord for help if you need – giving you access to your meters should be part of the service.
Just as you wouldn’t pay an estimated amount for your mobile phone or broadband bill, you shouldn’t be paying an estimated amount for your gas and electricity. That’s why sending your monthly meter reading to your energy supplier is so important – unless you have a smart meter.
4. Smart meters can be super helpful
“Smart meters can help you save money as they show you in almost real-time exactly how much energy you’re using, in pounds and pence,” says Abbie. “It means you can take steps to reduce your energy use, and therefore your bill.” Smart meters were also designed to simplify the billing process by automatically sending your usage information to your supplier. This means no more having to read the meter and no more estimated bills – definitely a plus! If you think you'd benefit from this, call your supplier and ask for one.
5. Stay safe from carbon monoxide poisoning
This is an important one. Carbon monoxide (CO) is an invisible gas, there’s no smell or taste, and the symptoms of poisoning can feel a bit like having a hangover, a common cold or the flu. But, as Abbie says, a leak can be deadly. “Every year more than 4,000 people are admitted to hospital suffering from the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning, and around 30 die,” she warns. “Long term exposure can leave you feeling permanently under the weather with headaches, fatigue, memory problems and difficulty concentrating. As well as a fire alarm, make sure you have a separate carbon monoxide alarm - and test to check that it's working.”
“Our campaign – ‘CO Be Alarmed!’ – has a simple ABC guide to help everyone stay safe: do you have an Alarm and has it been tested? Are the Batteries working? And have you had an up-to-date gas Check? Our video also gives easy-to-follow advice on what to look for like when buying an alarm”
You can find out more about how to stay CO safe on the CO Be Alarmed website.
6. Understand what your landlord should be doing for your house
It's a requirement for landlords to do an annual gas check and service all fuel-burning appliances– such as boilers and cookers which are generally gas run. Ask your landlord for the service certificates and make sure that any checks have been carried out by a Gas Safe registered engineer.
7. Everyday tasks may cost more than you think…
Boiling a full kettle of water is estimated to cost around 2.5p – it doesn’t sound much, but it can add up. To save on the pennies, only boil as much water as you need, and offer to make your housemates a cuppa while you’re at it – not only does this make you look like a top housemate, it also saves you all boiling the kettle separately and running up the electricity bill.
Then there’s the washing machine, which is one of the more expensive appliances at around 50p per one-hour wash. But you can always save money on that by taking your dirty laundry to your mums for the weekend…
For more information and advice about energy usage, visit Energy UK.