Dim down your energy bills

A thermostat.
A thermostat.

As the nights draw in and the autumn weather really starts to bite, many of us are spending more time indoors, huddling up on that sofa in front of all those must-see Saturday night TV programmes, with the heating turned up full-blast.

Sadly though, this doesn’t do much to prevent cold sweat that then inevitably comes when we open our next energy bill...

Thankfully, a few simple steps could save significant sums of cash, and this week, the Big Energy Saving Week - which involves bodies such as the Energy Saving Trust, Citizens Advice, Age UK and the Government - is aiming to help people take more control over their bills.

So, before you reach for the heating switch, here are some tips to help you shave down your bills in the coming months:

Are you on the best deal?

Shopping around for a different energy supplier could save you up to £200 and there are lots of comparison websites that can help. Ofgem has recently urged consumers to add energy shopping to their “winter ritual”.

It may also be worth getting in touch with your existing supplier to discuss other options.

If you’ve switched suppliers or are considering doing so, make sure you haven’t left any unclaimed credit behind on your old account.

If you use heating oil, you may find it more difficult to shop around. You might want to consider setting up a local oil buying club, which could give you the collective buying power to negotiate a better deal from oil suppliers by buying in bulk and getting deliveries at the same time. Websites like Oilsave (www.oilsave.org.uk) can help people to find out about local suppliers.

Could the way you pay your bill bring down costs?

Many suppliers offer a discount for paying by direct debit. Paying this way can work out around £100 a year less than paying by cheque, for example.

You may also get a discount for receiving your bills online.

Get help you are entitled to

There are various schemes available to help people with their winter bills, and Citizens Advice could help if you aren’t sure whether you may be entitled to more money.

The Home Heat Helpline can also give information on grants, benefits and payment schemes at 0800 336 699.

Insulate your home

Research suggests that properly insulating your home, including insulating cavity walls, topping up loft insulation, upgrading a boiler and having double glazing, could save a household up to £320 on their annual energy bills.

You may be able to get insulation for free as suppliers are working with the Government to make homes cheaper to run. The Energy Saving Trust (energysavingtrust.org.uk) has information about the help that energy suppliers can give.

Is your fridge-freezer more than 15 years old?

As this appliance tends to be constantly switched on, it could be worth investing in a newer and more efficient model.

If you can’t afford a replacement, make sure your fridge is running as efficiently as possible. Checking the back is ventilated and dust-free and that the door seal is undamaged. Keep it away from heat sources such as direct sunlight or your oven or boiler.

Good habits can save money

Finally, changing a few habits around the house could bring financial rewards.

Most importantly, if you’re not using an appliance, switch it off. Rather shockingly, TVs and games consoles that are left on permanent standby are estimated to cost a household up to £80 a year. You could consider using a “standby saver” device which will allow you to turn off your appliance without having to reach for the plug.

Close your curtains at dusk to stop heat escaping through the windows. And turning off lights when you leave a room could save around £7 a year.

According to charity Business in the Community, turning your thermostat down by one degree could save around £75, while reducing your shower time could shave £20 off your energy bill on a yearly basis.

Only boiling as much water as you need in the kettle and only switching the washing machine on when you’ve got a full load of clothing are other small steps which could help to make significant savings in the long run.

HOW... CAN YOU PREPARE YOUR HOME FOR WINTER STORMS?

With Hurricane Gonzalo having brought high winds to the UK, many people have been reminded of the need to reduce the risk of damage to their property.

Lloyds Bank Insurance said that of the storm damage claims it handled last year, the average cost of a claim was just over £500.

It suggests taking the following steps:

* Clear gutters and drain pipes of any debris that has built up to reduce the risk of blocks and overflows.

* Keep gates and shed doors fastened securely and secure any loose items in the garden.

* Check external light fittings are secure.

* Cut back any low hanging tree branches in the garden that could cause damage in high winds.

* Check the condition of the roof of your home, including any cracked tiles, chimney cracks or problems with the pointing.

POUNDNOTES

Financial dictionary: Fingerprint payment card

MasterCard and Norwegian firm Zwipe have recently unveiled a contactless payment card featuring an integrated fingerprint sensor.

This means that people will be able to verify their identity when making a card payment by placing their finger on the card rather than needing to enter their Pin number.

The technology is already being tried out in Norway and Poland, and it will be made available to the banks that MasterCard works with as the card issuers next year.

ST BEES IN CUMBRIA ‘BEST PLACE FOR FAMILIES TO LIVE’

The coastal village of St Bees in Cumbria has been named the best place in England and Wales for families to live.

The “family hotspots” report from finance specialist Family Investments placed Wokingham in Berkshire and Faringdon in Oxfordshire in second and third position respectively.

The study took education, safety, childcare costs, local amenities, affordable property and green spaces into account when compiling the top locations for families.

‘FULL NEST’ PARENTS FACE MORE COSTS

Parents with adult children still living at home are spending £1,200 a year more to keep their household running than those whose offspring have flown the nest.

Research by the Centre for the Modern Family, a think tank set up by Scottish Widows, looked at the strain that the boomerang generation of young people who cannot afford to leave home is having on their parents, who end up supplying them with bed and board.

The “meet the full nesters” report found parents with a “full nest” of grown-up children report that their household spending is around £460 per month, which is £100 a month more than “empty nesters”, adding up to an extra £1,200 a year.

ONE POUND COIN COMPETITION DEADLINE LOOMS

There are just days to go in The Royal Mint’s search for a “distinctly British” design for the reverse, or “tails”, side of the new £1 coin which is due to enter circulation from 2017.

People have until Thursday, October 30 to submit their creative ideas for the nationwide competition, which was launched in September.

The winner will earn the opportunity to put their art in everyone’s hands for years to come, on millions of new £1 coins.

More details about the competition can be found at www.royalmint.com/newonepoundcoin.

HIGH FIVE SAVERS

Phone/Website Rate Account Period Deposit Interest Paid

Secure Trust Bank www.securetrustbank.com 3.52%(F) FixedRate 30.09.21(B) £1,000 Yly

Tesco Bank 0845 678 5678 3.10%(F) FixedRate 5YrBnd(H) £2,000 Yly

FirstSave www.firstsave.co.uk 3.08%(F) FixedRate 5YrBnd(W) £1,000 Yly

Secure Trust Bank www.securetrustbank.com 3.01%(F) FixedRate 30.09.18(B) £1,000 Yly

Islamic Bank of Britain 0845 6060 786 1.81% NoticeCashIsa 120Day £250 Mly

TOP FIVE MORTGAGE RATES

Phone No Rate Period Max% Adv Fee Incentive

Norwich&Peterborough BS 0845 300 2522 1.89%F For 2Yrs 65% £195 Yes

Yorkshire Bank 0800 202122 3.59%F to 31.1.17 90% - Yes

Yorkshire BS 0845 120 0874 2.89%F to 31.10.19 65% £975 Yes

Yorkshire Bank 0800 202122 4.19%F to 31.1.20 90% £999 Yes

Post Office 0800 077 8033 4.99%F to 31.12.16 95% - Yes

Code:

* - Introductory rate for a limited period F - Fixed H - Operated by internet or telephone K - Operated by internet, telephone or post B - Operated by post or telephone W - Operated by internet P - Operated by post D - Discounted rate V - Variable rate

Source: http://www.moneyfacts.co.uk 01603 476 476 (All rates subject to change without notice)