Now that all the Big Six energy giants have announced hikes, the price of gas has now shot up by an average
, while electricity prices have jumped by an average of
Average annual bills are expected to hit £1,322 as a result.
And there is no doubt that these higher bills will many households hard - especially once the icy temperatures of the winter months take hold.
According to a recent MoneySupermarket poll, 41% of you will have to dip into your
savings and an extra 17% will use overdrafts to cover the astronomical cost of your energy this winter.
However, our figures show that
consumers could slash their energy bills by 24% by switching to better value deals - that's a collective saving of £3.9 billion a year nationwide.
Scott Byrom, utilities manager at MoneySupermarket, said: "Bill payers will be reeling from the recent price hikes.
"Yet despite the choice available for both gas and electricity, the majority of UK households stay loyal to their energy provider and pay way over the odds for their gas and electricity."
One of the main problems is that the huge number of tariffs available makes it difficult to work out whether you are on the best value deal or not.
New figures from Ovo Energy reveal that a massive 39% of customers are unable to work out if they are getting a fair deal or not.
In fact, so few energy consumers take advantage of better deals, the government has decided to step in to make it easier to find the best deal.
In his speech at the Liberal Democrat conference, Energy Secretary Chris Huhne said: "Higher energy bills hurt. I want to help households save money with simpler charging, clearer bills and quicker switching."
What is the government proposing?
The government's plans to make it easier for consumers to ensure they are paying the lowest possible prices for their energy involve giving regulator Ofgem new powers and encouraging greater competition.
"We want to encourage new small companies to come into the market," Huhne said. "Ofgem should also have new powers to secure redress for consumers - money back for bad behaviour."
It intends to make life easier for new entrants into the market - and for consumers struggling to work out which deal to switch to - by forcing big energy firms to offer the same prices to both new and existing customers.
Huhne said: "We are determined to get tough with the big six energy companies to ensure that the consumer gets the best possible deal.
"It's not fair that big energy companies can push their prices up for the vast majority of their consumers - who do not switch - while introducing cut-throat offers for new customers that stop small firms entering the market."
This will certainly make it easier to compare the various energy deals available, and has been welcomed by providers that already guarantee the same offers for new and existing customers.
Thanks to MoneySupermarket, you do not need to wait for the new regime to come into force, though. You can use the site to navigate the maze of tariffs and find the best one for you today.
Where can I find the best energy deals?
Although slightly more expensive than some of the cheapest online tariffs offered by the energy companies, fixed price deals provide peace of mind that the cost of energy bills will not increase should there be another round of hikes.
The cheapest online tariff available at the moment, for example, is E.ON's Save Online V9 at an average annual cost of £982.
However, if you'd prefer security, EDF Energy's Fix S@ver v2 product offers a safeguard against price hikes until 30 September 2012 for about £1,009 a year - just £27 more than E.ON's variable deal.
MoneySupermarket research shows that this plan offers the best value in 13 of the 14 UK energy regions for the average household.
However, rather than just signing up straight away, it makes sense to check what the best deal for you is - it may be different depending on your usage and where you live. This is simple and will only take a few minutes to do using
MoneySupermarket's comparison calculator.
Byrom added: "With so much uncertainty about whether the cost of energy will to continue to rise, my advice to consumers is to think about taking a fixed energy product and weigh up the peace of mind this type of tariff offers compared to the best price online option."
"If households aren't on this kind of deal they therefore really need to act now to avoid burning money unnecessarily.
"The recent increases mean that times are now even tougher, and with winter on the way, bill payers need to act fast to start saving money on their energy bills."
If you are uncertain about what to do and would like some advice about switching energy provider, you can speak to one o MoneySupermarket's advisors by calling
0845 345 1296. Lines are open from 9am to 6pm Monday to Thursday and 9am to 5.30pm on Friday.
Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing.
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