Why have energy prices risen?
The demand for energy has rocketed due to a worldwide shortage across Europe and beyond. Even though the 2022/23 winter hasn't been especially cold so far, some recent years were, which ate into the supply of stored gas. This, as well as increased demand for liquified gas in Asia, plus a fine summer without much wind means a shortage in energy.
Does the energy price cap help?
The government tries to stabilise bills by enforcing an energy price cap, meaning suppliers cannot charge over a certain amount for their basic variable tariff. However, with energy prices increasing at a wholesale level, the UK’s price cap has continually risen. (Read more about current energy prices here.)
Already families have been explaining their struggles to pay the bills, with a pensioner stopping showering to save on energy and a parent saying he fears he may need to choose between heating and eating after his monthly bill soared from £80 to £400. These cases tell a story of what is happening up and down the country.
Erin Yurday, founder of NimbleFins, said: "The price cap applies if you're not on a fixed rate, your fixed rate has nearly expired, or if your energy supplier recently collapsed and you were moved to another company. This applies to millions of people—millions of people in this country who face a steep rise in energy bills and a squeeze on their finances.
"Energy companies are struggling to stay afloat too, so it is very difficult and potentially impossible to find one offering a new money-saving fixed rate tariff at the moment. Therefore the best thing to do right now is to look at the energy you're consuming and see if there are ways to cut back."
You may also want to consider switching to a fixed tariff if your current energy supplier offers one, but only if it meets certain criteria.
Ways to reduce energy consumption
1. Check your boiler's flow settings
Many boilers have a setting which controls the temperature hot water is heated to before it comes out of the tap. If your setting is too high, you're wasting energy by heating the water up only to cool it down again with the cold tap.
Reducing the temperature could save you 8% on your gas bill, according to Octopus Energy, which recommends setting the water temperature to 50C-55C on combi boilers, or just over 60C for those with hot water cylinders (to prevent legionella).
2. Get the most out of your radiators
- Make sure furniture isn't too close and avoid drying your clothes on them as this blocks the heat.
- Clean away dust which absorbs heat.
- Install reflective foil behind your radiator so the wall doesn't absorb the heat.
- Consider a radiator fan which spreads the heat around the room.
- Do you need it on? Radiator valves mean you can adjust the amount of heat, or turn it off completely, in rooms you don't use.
- Does your radiator need bleeding? If so, see below.
(Although if you turn a radiator completely off, beware of the risk of frozen pipes if the temperatures plummet below 0—in which case, leave the radiator on a low setting to prevent freezing.)
3. Bleed your radiators
If you've never done it before this might sound daunting but it is an incredibly easy way to keep your radiators efficient. You'll know if you need to bleed your radiators because the bottom will be hot but it'll be cooler or cold towards the top. This is because there is trapped air stopping the hot water moving up.
At the side of the radiator there will be a screw which needs turning with a radiator key (they cost a couple of pounds, max) or newer ones can be loosened with a screwdriver.
Have a towel ready and slowly loosen the fixture. Air will begin to escape before a trickle of water—at this point close the screw again because you've got rid of all the air and you're all done.
4. Not using your chimney? Block it
Otherwise heat is escaping up through the chimney, and that cold air will love to blow in on a windy day. There are tonnes of balloons and draft excluders around online, or you can ask your chimney cleaner for advice.
5. Block drafts
They are the first place you'll lose any warm air. Draft excluders are brilliant for doors, and if you have a door between the front door and rest of the house, keep it closed as much as possible. This is one of the many home repairs you can carry out to make your home more efficient ahead of winter.
6. Get cosy when it gets dark
Close your curtains before it gets dark as they keep heat escaping, and if you're not going to be in the house when the light fades, do it before you leave the house. Make sure your curtains don’t cover the radiator otherwise the heat will escape through the window rather than staying in the house.
Check around the home that electricals and lights aren't on unless needed. This is particularly important before you go to bed - leaving TVs, computers, consoles and more on standby and phones charging wastes about £30 of electricity a year according to the Energy Saving Trust. Turn them off at the plug.
The Energy Saving Trust also says turning lights on and off when entering and leaving a room - no matter how long for - uses less energy than leaving them on.
7. Shower instead of bath
You'll use much less water.
8. Avoid electric heaters
They will cost you much more than gas central heating. If only using one room, use thermostatic radiator valves to turn the radiators off in the other rooms (if you have them).
9. Fill up your dishwasher and washing machine
Turning them on for a half load is a waste of money—if you did that every time you're essentially doubling your energy consumption.
10. Turn it down 1C
Switching your thermostat down 1C will save money but it should still be a comfortable temperature.
11. Dodge the tumble dryer
They use lots of energy. Instead, use a clothes airer and try to hang your washing out when the heating is going to come on. Alternatively dry your clothes outside when possible to avoid condensation and damp. If worried about damp and mould but drying clothes inside is unavoidable, try leaving the window of the room open and close the door.
UPDATE: We now have a 12th way to save on energy costs, and it could be free—home insulation! Read about the new £1 billion ECO+ campaign, which is a nationwide offer for free home insulation. Are you eligible?
Finally, if you're struggling paying your energy bills, read about where to get help.