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Struggling with rising bills? Here’s how you can manage your energy bills in lockdown

 

  • Government guidelines aimed at tackling the Coronavirus means millions are working from home or self-isolating
  • Making sure you haven’t overpaid on your direct debit, switching supplier and keeping your usage down just some of the ways to stay on top of household bills during the pandemic
  • Households could save £140 by identifying their household’s ‘Phantom Load’

As families across the UK continue to spend most of their time at home and as we approach the two-month mark of social-distancing measures, many will be facing higher household bills. And with more than 6 million workers on furlough and millions more claiming universal credit, many households will be working out how to juggle rising costs with a lower income.

Steve Buckley, Head of Data Science at home energy-saving assistant Loop has shared five simple tips for managing your energy bills during lockdown and getting the most for your money.

1. Investigate overpayments

More than half of customers pay their energy bills by direct debit[1], but it’s important to remember that what you pay each month doesn’t necessarily reflect how much energy you use.

Steve advises “If you have access to an online account, it’s easy to log in and see if you’re owed a refund based on the energy you’ve actually used, or give your supplier a call to find out if you’ve overpaid. It’s important you regularly provide accurate meter readings to your supplier though – this will ensure your monthly bills are more representative of what you use and help you avoid any unwelcome surprises.”

2. Switch on to Switching

Despite the growing awareness of the savings available to those who regularly switch, figures from Ofgem revealed only a quarter of customers switched supplier in 2019 (24%), and just 18% switched to a new tariff. The regulator also revealed almost half (49%) of customers have never switched, or have only switched once.

Switching tariff, if not supplier, every year is a must and savings of up to £300[2] could be made quickly and easily. Steve says “If you’ve been on the same deal for more than a year then it’s likely you’ve rolled over onto a pricey default plan, or Standard Variable Tariff (SVT). Put simply, you could be paying hundreds more than you need to for the same product. It doesn’t matter if you rent or own your home either – anyone can switch their supplier.”

It’s quick and easy to switch supplier and using something like Loop can make it even easier and more beneficial, with savings calculations and supplier recommendations based on your actual electricity usage, and many switches available directly through the Loop app. With many households having to tighten the purse strings, Loop is now offering its next 1,000 newsletter subscribers a 90-day free trial so customers can explore the savings available for themselves, free of charge. For more information, subscribe at loop.homes.

3. Ask your supplier for help

“No matter how well you usually manage your bills, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many households into financial difficulty, so it’s important to get in touch with your supplier if you’re struggling to pay your bills.” says Steve.

The Government has agreed a number of emergency measures with the UK energy industry to make sure people are protected during this time, including ensuring prepayment and pay-as-you go customers remain supplied with energy. They’ve also agreed to support customers in financial distress, so giving your supplier a call to find out the options available is vital.

Citizen’s Advice also has helpful advice on the support available to help with paying bills, or covering existing debt with suppliers.

4. Check your Phantom Load

While it’s inevitable that many families will see their bills rise as they spend more time at home, some could be wasting hundreds unknowingly on their household’s Phantom Load – Loop’s term for the ‘always on’ background energy use in your home. Analysis of Loop data found the average UK household could be wasting up to £140 unnecessarily through their Phantom Load, while in some households it was over £450, so it’s worth a search to see what’s on that doesn’t need to be

Some appliances need to be left on all the time (like a fridge or freezer) or kept on standby (like a smart speaker) but many appliances are left on that don’t need to be. Make sure you keep your Phantom Load low by turning items off when they’re not in use, such as laptops and desktops you are using to work from home. Household appliances like multi-room speakers and digital TV boxes can also contribute to rising costs, so switching things off at the plug when they’re not in use is a must.

5. Swap and save

To mitigate the increase in energy your household is using, making some simple swaps could help you keep bills down. Steve advises “It might sound obvious, but making small changes like opting to dry clothes outside if you can rather than heading for the tumble dryer and only boiling the water you need in a kettle can all contribute to keeping your usage in check.”

Other simple actions like moving furniture away from radiators in the winter, switching to LED bulbs, and turning your thermostat down by just 1 degree could help you mitigate increased usage in other areas of your home.

Steve says  “Many families across the UK are facing huge challenges at the moment as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, so it’s important they reach out to their suppliers if they’re struggling to meet any bill payments to find out what support is available to them. The good news is there are some simple steps that can be taken first to make sure you’re getting the most for your money and help you manage your bills effectively.

“Many people chose to pay their bills by direct debit over the year, but this could mean you’ve previously overpaid and are due a refund on your bills. Getting in touch with your supplier and providing accurate meter readings should reveal if you’re owed a refund.

“As well as checking for any overpayments, keeping your usage as low as possible, and identifying your Phantom Load is not to be underestimated. There are some obvious culprits to look out for, like devices that are regularly left on standby, and you can drastically reduce your energy waste and spend by making sure they’re switched off when not in use”.

 

[1] Data from Ofgem https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/system/files/docs/2019/03/direct_debit_factsheet_feb_2019.pdf

[2] Data from Loop.