It's not just turning up the thermostat that can send your bills soaring. This is traditionally the time of year when energy companies push up their prices - it was around this time last year that four of the Big Six energy providers imposed higher-than-inflation price increases, and more increases are expected this year, in spite of the fact the major energy companies raked in total profits of £3.74billion in 2012.
So what can you do if you're worried about how you're going to pay the heating bills? Let's take a look at how you can take control before winter kicks in...
Switch energy provider and start saving
If you're on a supplier's standard tariff or you're coming to the end of your current energy deal, it's vital you start looking around for a cheaper plan and lock yourself into the best rate before prices start to rise.
If you're on a fixed-term tariff and you stay with your current provider you'll be switched over to its standard tariff once your current deal ends. This could see you paying as much as £280 a year over the odds.
Below is a list of fixed deals that are due to end over the next couple of months. If you're on one of these plans you should go to
MoneySuperMarket's energy channel and switch to the best deal we can unearth for you.
Average Bill after End Date (and on standard tariff)
Platinum Fixed Price Energy October 2013
Discounted Energy October 2013
Blue+ Price Promise September 2013
Track and Save 14
Online Energy Saver 20
Online Fixed Price Energy November 2013
Energy Online October 2013
£1,352.23 Make sure you're insulated
If your house doesn't have loft and/or cavity wall insulation, you could be spending over £300 a year more than you have to just to keep it heated.
The good news is you should be able to get loft and cavity wall insulation completely free of charge as companies such as
British Gas, EDF Energy and SSE have free insulation initiatives - this isn't genuine altruism on their parts, it's all about hitting government targets, but there's no reason why you shouldn't help them hit those targets!
If you have a property with a fireplace and an unused chimney, blocking it up can help stop heat escaping from your home. You should never block a chimney that is in use, though, as poisonous gasses will be trapped in your home, but if you only occasionally use it you could use an inflatable chimney balloon to block it and keep the heat in when the fireplace is not in use. But make sure you remove it when you relight the fire!
You should also make sure any letterboxes are covered and block any draughts that are coming through door or window frames by placing heavy, floor-length curtains or draught excluders in front of them.
However, make sure you don't cover up radiators with thick curtains as this will restrict the amount of heat they throw out into the room. And speaking of radiators...
Bleed your radiators
Bleeding your radiators makes them more efficient as it releases the excess air in the coils, meaning they can store more hot water. This is something that will probably need doing around two or three times a year.
If you want to avoid the hassle of doing this you can buy devices that will automatically bleed your radiators throughout the year, ensuring they're always working at their full capacity.
And to maximise the heat they give out, you could place radiator foils on the walls behind them as this stops heat being absorbed by the wall and instead reflects it back into the room.
With its range of energy-sapping white goods, the kitchen generally uses more energy than any other room in the house. Thankfully, there are a number of ways in which you can save energy.
When boiling water, either on the hob or in the kettle, make sure you use just the amount you need, and always wash full loads when using the dishwasher and washing machine.
If you have a fridge-freezer, defrost it regularly and clear the elements at the back of any dust to make sure it's working at its full capacity. To make sure it's not working harder than it has to in order to keep food cool, you should also try to make sure your fridge is around 75% full. If you can't fill it with groceries, bottles of water will do.
And if possible you should think about replacing old appliances with new, energy efficient ones. Although this may come with a considerable initial outlay, it could save you around £500 per appliance over the course of its lifetime.
For more on energy efficient appliances read my article
Do new 'energy efficient' appliances really cut bills? Bathroom
Try to switch from taking a bath to taking a shower. The Energy Saving Trust reckons this could save a family of four up to £18 a year if they replace one bath per week with a five minute shower. And the savings will be even greater if you completely do away with having a bath and shower instead.
Around the house
If you're in the habit of leaving your phone on charge all night, and maybe even leave the charger plugged in once the charging is complete, you're wasting energy.
So charge your phone for a few hours then unplug the charger from the mains as it will continue to drain energy even if there's no phone plugged in at the other end.
You should also apply the same rule any other unused appliances, such as computers and televisions, as these will continue to use energy when left on standby. You can read more about just how much standby could be costing you in my article
Switch off and save cash.
Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Click on a highlighted product and apply direct.
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