Switching to a cheaper supplier is one of the best ways to save money this winter. The latest figures show that millions of people could save over £200 or more by moving to a different supplier – and it’s easy with MoneySuperMarket’s energy comparison pages.

It’s also a good idea to find out if you are entitled to any help towards the cost of energy bills.

The government offers various forms of financial assistance to vulnerable customers, particularly the elderly, including the Cold Weather Payment and the Winter Fuel Payment.

There’s also the warm home discount, which could knock £140 off your electricity bill during the colder months.

The government introduced the warm home discount in 2011 and the scheme was to run for five years. However, the chancellor confirmed in the 2015 Autumn Statement that the warm home discount scheme will run for a further five years.

Eligibility for the discount

The discount is not available to everyone – and there’s a core group and a broader group.

The core group is made up of pensioners, and you qualify for the discount if
- on 10 July 2016 your electricity supplier was part of the scheme,
- your name (or your partner’s) was on the bill, and
- you were getting the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit.

The money is usually paid between September and March in the form of a one-off discount on your electricity bill.

In other words, you don’t get the cash directly. If you use a pre-pay or pay-as-you-go electricity meter, your supplier will tell you how you get the discount. For example, you might be given a voucher to top up your meter.

Vulnerable customers

Energy companies also offer the discount to a broader group of vulnerable customers.

The government issues guidelines on the eligibility criteria and you would normally only qualify if you get certain means-tested benefits, such as income support or universal credit, or your household income is below about £16,000.

However, different suppliers have different criteria, so you should check with the company that provides your electricity.

Companies with fewer than 250,000 customers do not have to offer the warm home discount to either the core or the broader group. However, most of the well-known firms are part of the scheme.

The full list is as follows:

Atlantic; Bristol Energy; British Gas; Co-operative Energy; EDF Energy; Eon; Equipower (Ebico); Equigas (Ebico); extraenergy; First Utility; GB Energy; Manweb - see Scottish Power; M&S Energy; Npower; Our Power; OVO; Sainsbury’s Energy - see British Gas; Scottish Gas - see British Gas; Scottish Hydro; Scottish Power; Southern Electric; SSE; SWALEC; Utility Warehouse

Switching tactics

If you want to switch to a different supplier, it’s worth bearing in mind that the new firm might not offer the warm home discount. Or, the eligibility criteria for the broader group could be different.

However, the saving you make from switching could outweigh the loss of the discount, so you shouldn’t rule out switching completely.

Customers who are eligible for the warm home discount in the core group do not usually need to apply. But they should receive a letter by 16 December 2016, which will explain the discount and any application procedure.

If you don’t get a letter and believe you qualify, you should contact the warm home discount team. The number is 0345 603 9439 and the lines are open Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 4:30pm.

Customers who fall into the broader group must apply to their electricity supplier for the discount.

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.