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Where to turn for help with your energy bills

Struggling financially? Get some help with your heating costs

By Esther Shaw

Published: 19 October 2021

Leaves in gutter

Many people have been hard hit by the pandemic, and are now facing a tough winter due to rising food bills, higher petrol prices, the axing of the uplift to Universal Credit – and the ending of the furlough scheme.

On top of that, just as temperatures are starting to dip, households are seeing energy bills jump by £139 a year as Ofgem’s new price cap kicks in.

To make matters worse, the energy crisis has been causing disruption to supply chains, and a number of suppliers have gone under in recent weeks. As a result, many customers are now facing having to pay hundreds of pounds more to new providers taking over their contracts this winter.

But while this makes for gloomy reading, the good news is, there is support on offer. If you qualify for schemes, such as the Warm Home Discount or Cold Weather Payment, these can help you pay your bills.

What grants and schemes are available?

Warm Home Discount

If you’re a lower income household, you may be able to apply for £140 one-off payment towards heating costs between October and March via the Warm Home Discount. Rather than being paid to you, money is paid directly to your energy provider which will then apply the discount to your bills. You will need to be in receipt of certain benefits to qualify. Find out more here.

Cold Weather Payment

This is a grant of £25 for every seven days of very cold weather between November and March, paid when the temperature drops below zero for a week. You may get the payment if you get certain benefits. For more information, head here.

Winter Fuel Payment

This is a payment of between £100 and £300 for eligible pensioners – depending on your age, and if you claim certain benefits. If you’re eligible, you will get this payment automatically. Find out more here.

Schemes offered by suppliers

Some energy firms offer schemes and grants to help with home heating and energy costs. This might include support when making your home more energy-efficient, or free boiler checks and upgrades.  

What else can I do?

Talk to your provider

If you are struggling to pay your energy bills, it’s vital you talk to your supplier at the earliest opportunity.

Under rules from regulator, Ofgem, providers must work with you to agree on a payment plan. This could include:

  • A review of your payments and debt repayments
  • Payment breaks or reductions
  • More time to pay
  • Access to hardship funds
  • Priority Service registration – a free support service of you are in a vulnerable situation

Take steps to be more energy efficient

As well as making the most of the help on offer, there are also lots of simple steps you can take yourself to bring energy costs down:

  • Rather than turn the heating, up, layer up in thick socks and chunky knits instead
  • Make savings by turning the thermostat down by one degree. Most people, only need 18°C to be comfortable
  • Get a smart thermostat which comes equipped with a host of energy-saving features to keep your boiler running at maximum efficiency
  • Get your boiler serviced regularly. Always use a Gas Safe engineer
  • Only heat the rooms you need, and get your heating to come on ten minutes later and go off ten minutes later. It may sound small, but it all adds up
  • Switch gadgets off standby
  • Invest in energy-efficient appliances. There may be a big upfront cost, but over time, you’ll reap the savings. For example, a fridge with an A+++ label will consume up to 80% less power than a fridge with D-rating. Investing in an A-rated condensing boiler could save your hundreds of pounds a year on your energy bills
  • Make use of the ‘eco’ mode on your appliances
  • Improve insulation by laying carpets, or investing in thick rugs. Get draught excluders for doors and a brush for your letterbox. Put foam tubing around pipes and buy sealant for gaps in floors
  • Put reflective panels behind your radiators and bleed them frequently
  • Reduce the amount of time you spend in the shower
  • Try to use the tumble dryer less frequently. When you do come to use it, make sure you’ve got a full load to maximise efficiency
  • Make the move to efficient LED light-bulbs, and always switch off lights when you leave a room

For more tips, visit the Energy Saving Trust.