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Help elderly winter-proof energy bills

Help elderly winter-proof energy billsMonday, 26 October, 2015

Big Energy Saving Week – a joint campaign with Energy Saving Trust, Department of Energy and Climate Change and Citizens Advice – calls on Brits to swot up on switching energy supplier and, where possible, help an older relative or neighbour find a better deal.

As people prepare for winter one of the things many can do is switch to a better gas and electricity deal. The findings from an Ipsos MORI survey of 2,710 UK participants shows millions of householders across the UK don’t realise how much they could save from switching energy supplier or tariff.

Almost half (45 per cent) of people don’t think they could save anything by switching and of the other half, the vast majority (75 per cent) believe it could only save £100 or less. 

Big Energy Saving Week is a national campaign to help people cut their fuel bills and get all the financial support they are entitled to. The campaign provides advice to people over the telephone through the Energy Saving Advice Service on 0300 123 1234, or face-to-face at hundreds of events being held across Britain.

The campaign this year urges householders to help those elderly people who need support to winter-proof their energy bills. Just over 40 per cent of people with an elderly friend or relative said they were unsure on how to help an elderly person switch, and almost two thirds (65 per cent) of these people believe their elderly friend or relative cannot switch because they don’t know how to use the internet.

Online searches are the main way Brits find the best energy deal – over three quarters (78 per cent) of us would use an online site to switch, yet only 13 per cent have actually taken the time to help an elderly person to find a better deal.

This is in contrast with other chores undertaken by friends, neighbours and family. Of those running errands for older people, 61 per cent do their grocery shopping, 58 per cent visit them regularly for company and nearly half (47 per cent) drive them to local services.


Philip Sellwood, chief executive of the Energy Saving Trust, said:

“What’s most concerning is that a fifth of the people we spoke to (20 per cent) said they were aware an elderly person they look after has fallen behind or been unable to pay their energy bills.

“We’re urging sons, daughters, friends, neighbours and even older people themselves to help each other, or someone they know, to check and make sure they are on the best deal online or over the phone. It could make a real difference this winter.”


Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Amber Rudd, said:

“By not switching, hardworking bill payers are missing out on hundreds of pounds – savings which could especially help older people heat their homes for less this winter.

“We’re spreading the message to help friends, family and neighbours to shop around for a better deal. We’ve made it easier to change supplier and increased competition in the market – so there’s never been a better time to switch.”

The findings from the study showed that misunderstandings and misconceptions could be a major reason behind why people are not switching. Nearly two thirds of people (60 per cent) wrongly believe one or more switching myths were true.


  • A third of people wrongly think that prepayment customers can’t switch supplier if they’re in any debt.
  • A quarter of people wrongly think that tenants require their landlord’s permission to switch.
  • 25 per cent of people wrongly think they might be disconnected when changing supplier.
  • One in five (22 per cent) wrongly think you can’t change energy supplier when you move house, rather than staying with the property’s existing supplier.


Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:  

“Myths about energy bills and switching are standing in the way of savings.

"Consumers can cut their gas and electricity bills by shopping around and switching to a new deal. Whether you are a tenant in a private rented property, own your own home or have a prepayment meter there are savings to be made.

"While the process is fairly straightforward not everyone feels confident to find the best tariff and some are put off by myths around switching.

"That's why we're running Big Energy Saving Week to help people find the cheapest deal before temperatures really start to drop. Help and information is available online, over the phone, or by attending one of the hundreds of events across the country.”


For advice about switching and to find the best energy deal visit  For advice and tips on how to save money on your energy bill call the Energy Saving Advice service on 0300 123 1234.




For further information please contact:

Richard Kay

Seven energy saving tips could cut £1.5bn

Switching is one step, but making sure heating controls are set correctly could also have a big impact on bills. These simple steps can cut bills by as much as £1.5bn for the whole of the UK.*

Even just moving furniture away from radiators can help make a room more comfortable by letting the warmth circulate better – 42 per cent have one or more radiators blocked by furniture.


1. Switch energy supplier

Visit Many could save around £200, some even more.


2. Move furniture away from radiators

Move furniture away from radiators if you can – ask someone to help if it’s heavy. It will bring warmth more easily into the room.


3. Draught proof

Draught-proofing windows and doors could save you £25 to £35 a year. 46 per cent of people still need to draught-proof their windows and doors. This could save around £365m a year.


4. Energy Saving light bulbs

Replacing all standard bulbs and halogen spotlights in your home with energy saving light bulbs could save you £35 a year. Swapping incandescent bulbs for energy saving and halogens for LEDs would save the UK around £300m a year.


5. Standby

You can save around £30 a year just by remembering to turn your appliances off standby mode.


6. Kettle

Filling the kettle up with as much water as needed could save around £7 in energy bills a year and around £46m for the UK.


7. Shower smarter

Spending one minute less in the shower each day could save as much as £10 off energy bills each year.  At least 25 per cent of people could cut a minute off their showers. This would save the UK around £60m a year.


* Not including switching saving.


Switching Myths


MYTH: Households on pre-payment meters cannot change energy supplier if they are in some debt to their current supplier FALSE

If you’ve owed money for more than 28 days, you can switch supplier but your debt must be below £500 for gas and £500 for electricity. If you haven't owed the money for 28 days yet, you'll have to wait for this time to pass. You’ll need to ask the new supplier to agree to transfer your debt along with your supply (this is called the ‘Debt Assignment Protocol’).


MYTH: If those who are renting are responsible for paying their bills, they require their landlord’s permission before they can change energy supplier FALSE

You have the right to switch supplier if you pay your energy supplier directly for your bills. You should check your tenancy agreement to see if the landlord has a ‘preferred supplier’. This won’t stop you from switching supplier, but you should tell your landlord or letting agent. You may have to return the account to the original supplier at the end of your tenancy.


MYTH: Households cannot change energy supplier if they have a pre-payment meter FALSE

If you have a prepayment meter, you'll be able to switch supplier unless you owe your supplier more than £500 for gas or electricity


MYTH: Households may be disconnected for a short period whilst changing energy supplier FALSE

There should be no break in supply when there is a change of supplier.


MYTH: If a household changes energy supplier, it must change both gas and electricity to the new supplier FALSE

Consumers can choose to have gas and electricity supplied by different companies or by the same supplier, which is called ‘dual fuel’. It’s up to consumers to choose the right tariff(s) for them, whether that’s a flexible tariff, the cheapest tariff or an environmentally friendly tariff.


MYTH: When households switch energy supplier, the meter will need to be changed FALSE

It’s just the supplier and tariff that change when a household switches energy supplier.


MYTH: When households switch energy supplier, pipes/cables supplying the house will need to be changed FALSE

It’s just the supplier and tariff that change when a household switches energy supplier.


MYTH: The ‘Big 6’ energy suppliers offer the best deals – smaller suppliers are more expensive (the Big 6 energy suppliers are: E.ON, Npower, British Gas, SSE, EDF Energy and Scottish Power) FALSE

It’s best to shop around to find the best deal. You can use an accredited price comparison website to compare prices from different energy suppliers.


MYTH: If you move house, you need to use the existing supplier which is serving the new property FALSE

While you’ll be automatically put onto a ‘deemed contract’ with the existing supplier of the property, there’s nothing to stop you switching. The deemed contract will normally be one of the most expensive tariffs available, so you should look for a better deal with the existing supplier or a find a new supplier as soon as you move in. You can only change suppliers from the day you become responsible for the property. Switching will normally take about 21 days, so you’ll have to pay at least one bill with the existing supplier.


MYTH: A household cannot change energy supplier if the current supplier has installed a smart meter in the property FALSE

You can switch, but it’s possible that you’ll lose some of the smart meter functionality. For example, you may have to start submitting meter readings again. This would stop once the supplier you move to introduces smart meters to their customers. If it’s important to you, you should check with the new supplier to make sure they currently offer smart meters before you switch. Suppliers can’t refuse to supply you because you have a smart meter.


Debt advice

  • If you’re struggling to pay your gas and electricity bills, contact your supplier to discuss your options to pay what you owe them. They have to help you come to a solution.
  • You should try to negotiate a deal that works for both of you. Suggest a repayment plan that will allow you to repay your debts in instalments that you can afford.
  • If you’re struggling to make repayments, let the supplier know as soon as possible.
  • It’s also worth seeking advice to help you work out if there might be extra help available to help you afford your energy bills.
  • If you don’t try to solve the problem with your supplier, they might threaten to disconnect your supply. They can do this unless you are elderly or vulnerable and it is winter.


Affordable Warmth advice


How else could I reduce my fuel bills?

If you privately rent or own your own home, you could get help with heating and insulation measures to make your home warmer and more energy efficient through the Affordable Warmth scheme. If you are receiving the appropriate benefits you may be considered for help. You may also need a survey of your home to see if you qualify. Please call the Energy Saving Advice Service (ESAS) on 0300 123 1234 to find out more.


About Big Energy Saving Week

  1. Big Energy Saving Week is supported by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, Citizens Advice, Energy Saving Trust.
  2. Big Energy Saving Week is a national campaign to help people cut their fuel bills and get all the financial support they are entitled to.
  3. Big Energy Saving Week focuses on raising awareness of energy and efficiency issues among the general public through joint working between the voluntary sector and energy suppliers.
  4. There will be local events across the UK during Big Energy Saving Week which will be run by a network of Citizens Advice local services and volunteers that are part of the Big Energy Saving Network.
  5. Further advice and information can be found at or call the Energy Saving Advice Service (England, Northern Ireland and Wales) on 0300 123 1234 or Home Energy Scotland (Scotland) on 0808 808 2282. 



Seven energy saving tips

The nationwide £1.5bn potential saving for the seven tips was calculated by multiplying the number of households in the UK by the proportion of households who are able to do each of them (taken from our survey). This was then multiplied by the typical household saving which can be made for each measure.

Details for the measures:

  • Draught-proofing: 46% of people who said they did not have either their windows or their external doors draught-proofed. The fuel and property weighted average saving for draught-proofing windows and doors is £29 in the UK
  • Lighting: people had an average of 4.6 halogen or incandescent bulbs which could be replaced by energy saving bulbs or LEDs, with an average saving of £3 per bulb per year
  • Standby: 78% of people regularly leave two or more devices on standby. Average household saving for turning things off standby is £28
  • Shower: 25% of people have weekday showers of 7 minutes or longer. Reducing shower time by one minute will save on average £9 a year
  • Kettle: 25% of people overfill their kettle (based on the Attitudes and Behaviour Tracker). Annual energy saving for only boiling the correct amount of water is £7 per household

Data on the number of households for each locality in the UK was taken from government projections. The source for each nation was:

  • England – DCLG: Live tables on household projections
  • Scotland – National Records of Scotland: Estimates of households and dwellings in Scotland, 2014
  • Wales – StatWales: Household estimates
  • Northern Ireland – NISRA: Household projections


About Energy Saving Trust

Energy Saving Trust is an organisation providing evidence-based advice and ground-breaking research that helps people save energy, every day.

Trusted by consumers, businesses and organisations for our expertise and independence, our goal is to find new and better ways to drive change and reduce energy consumption.


About the Department for Energy and Climate Change

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) works to make sure the UK has secure, clean, affordable energy supplies and promote international action to mitigate climate change.

DECC is a ministerial department, supported by nine agencies and public bodies.


About Citizens Advice 

The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local Citizens Advice, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers.

To find your local Citizens Advice in England and Wales or to get advice online, visit You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers.


About Power to Switch

The ‘Power to Switch’ campaign helps domestic energy customers compare tariffs and get a better deal on their gas and electricity bills. There is an easy guide at as well as links to accredited comparison sites. The site is hosted by Ofgem.


About Ofgem

Ofgem is the independent energy regulator for Great Britain. Its priority is to make a positive difference for consumers by promoting competition in the energy markets and regulating networks. 

Ofgem also runs the public information campaign Be An Energy Shopper to give impartial advice on how to compare energy tariffs to get a better deal. View its easy guide and a list of accredited comparison sites under the Ofgem Confidence Code at