Energy bills are a concern for many people. Our consumer research regularly highlights that large numbers of UK residents are worried about their energy costs, and would like to do something about it.
Being more energy efficient at home is one way to reduce your bill payments. But often, you need to pay out before you can access the biggest savings.
Take, for example, getting a new, more efficient boiler. Heating accounts for more than half of annual energy costs, so it won’t be a surprise to learn that you can save up to £200 a year by changing your old model to an A-rated condensing boiler and full heating controls. But a straightforward replacement of a gas boiler plus installation of thermostatic radiator valves will typically cost about £2,300.
All is not lost, however. Financial help is available in a number of circumstances, with the focus very much on keeping warm for less.
If someone in your household is currently receiving benefits such as Income Support or Universal Credit, they could be eligible for support through the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) a GB-wide scheme through which energy companies are obliged to install energy efficiency measures in the homes of those who need them most. This includes insulation and boiler replacement.
There are other government-backed schemes available right across the UK to cut energy costs. If you were born on or before 5 August 1953 and you receive the State Pension or another social security benefit, you could well be eligible for the Winter Fuel Payment. This offers between £100 and £300 to help with energy bills in those chilly months when they tend to peak.
To help with the very coldest periods, there’s the Cold Weather Payment. This is £25 to help with bills after seven days of sub-zero conditions. You qualify if you’re receiving certain benefits – details of this, and of the other grants and payments, can be found on the government’s Simple Energy Advice website.
Other options in GB (not Northern Ireland) include the Warm Home Discount, another winter-only payment of £140 towards energy bills for those who claim the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit or are on a low income. Your electricity supplier must be part of the scheme, but as this list shows, the vast majority of them are.
As well as the help available UK-wide, the individual nations of the UK have their own financial incentive schemes. In Scotland, for example, we administer a number of schemes for Scottish Government through Home Energy Scotland.
Under the Home Energy Efficiency Programmes (HEEPS) there’s a range of help available north of the border, from help with getting discounts on energy costs to free and subsidised heating upgrades and insulation via Warmer Homes Scotland. Again, certain criteria apply here, but eight out ten of those qualifying for the scheme have received completely free measures installed in their homes.
In Wales, the Nest programme has a similar offer. We also administer this scheme on behalf of Welsh Government, and depending on the circumstances of householders, a sliding scale of measures is available to cover the costs of making those home improvements which make such a difference to comfort and costs.
Government and energy suppliers in Northern Ireland are working together to offer a package of options for householders. This includes Affordable Warmth, which offers a range of measures for households with an annual income of less than £20,000, and a boiler replacement scheme which offers a grant of up to £1,000 towards either replacing an inefficient gas boiler with a new one, switching from oil to gas, or investing in a wood pellet boiler.
Don’t despair if you can’t qualify for assistance from these programmes. You can still reduce your energy billswith one of these free and cheap ways to make savings.
Switching energy supplier can help you make significant savings immediately. Try this helpful calculator from Citizens Advice to see just how much you could save. If you’re satisfied with your service but not the price, it’s also worth talking to your existing supplier to make sure you’re on the best tariff.
Simply taking greater control of your heating can have considerable money-saving implications. Installing a room thermostat, a programmer and thermostatic radiator valves (and using them efficiently) can save £150 a year for a gas-heated, three-bedroom semi.
The DIY approach can get good results for little outlay. We include ways to make your home warmer and cheaper to run in our list of 10 energy saving quick wins. In particular, you might want to consider tackling the draughts coming into your home from doors, windows, floors and chimneys.
There are other savvy tips on keeping cosy for less to be found elsewhere online. An operations management expert writing for The Conversation includes additional pointers like effectively using your curtains to make the most of passive heat gains, and moving sofas and drying clothes away from radiators to get the best from the heat you have.
Although keeping homes warm and bills manageable can seem like a formidable challenge, it’s clear there are a number of areas worth exploring that can help. You may only be a few clicks from making your home more comfortable and cost-effective – at exactly the right time of year.