Household energy bills are likely to rise as millions of Britons try to make the best of largely being stuck indoors for the foreseeable future. But there are plenty of things you can do to keep your costs under control during the lockdown.
Wholesale energy prices have collapsed amid the coronavirus pandemic, pushing down the cost of new deals which means people sitting on pricey standard gas and electricity tariffs could save up to £380 a year by switching.
Many homes that would normally have been largely empty during the day are now a hive of activity as people work from home, self-isolate and try to stave off boredom. Adults and children will be using more energy as a result.
Warmer weather and lighter evenings will make life easier and should mean a reduction in gas and electricity usage. In the meantime, the comparison site Uswitch predicts that stuck-at-home households on poor-value, standard variable gas and electricity deals could end up spending an extra £16 a month on energy – equivalent to £195 a year.
Energyhelpline reckons bills are likely to rise by about 30%, or £28 a month, which would be almost £340 a year.
But experts say there are lots of ways we can reduce our energy costs.
“Wearing jumpers, socks and slippers around the house and putting an extra blanket on the bed means you won’t be tempted to turn the heating up,” says Uswitch.
Don’t leave anything plugged in, or on, that is not being used. Some appliances such as fridges obviously need to be kept on all the time, but many others are left on that do not need to be, and this background electricity use is known as phantom load, says the home energy-saving service Loop. It named some of the biggest culprits as set-top boxes (a faulty or unused one just sitting there could cost more than £75 a year if left on standby); unused fridges and freezers; and desktop computers.
For millions of people, lockdown means lots of cuppas. But make sure you fill the kettle only with the water you need. The humble kettle eats up about 6% of all the electricity supplied to British homes. A year ago, Guardian Money told how a university professor had estimated that, just by filling the kettle correctly, the typical UK household could shave £19 off their annual bill.
“The cheapest energy deals have dropped dramatically. This means customers have a golden window of opportunity right now to hunt out amazing deals. Many suppliers do not reward loyalty, so don’t expect a good deal to come to you,” says Mark Todd, the co-founder of Energyhelpline.
The cheapest deals are currently 16-18% lower than this time last year. So anyone coming off a fixed deal will be able to save by switching again. Those with the most to gain are the millions on a standard variable gas and electricity tariff, probably with one of the big six suppliers.
It was just over a year ago that the government’s energy price cap came into effect. This is a cap on the price that individuals pay for energy if they are on a standard variable tariff or one they have not chosen – known as a default tariff. These are usually the most basic packages offered by energy companies, and tend to apply if you have not shopped around for a better deal.
From 1 April to 30 September, the cap will be £1,162 a year for a dual-fuel customer who uses a typical amount of gas and electricity and pays by direct debit. These people will be hugely better off if they shop around. A deal called Fix’d 20 7.0 that fixes your price for the next 12 months is currently available at a typical cost of £784 a year – that’s £378 less than the new cap level – from Outfox The Market.
Scottish Power, meanwhile, has a tariff called Super Saver April 2021 B5, offering a fixed price until the end of April 2021, where the typical cost is £838. And British Gas has Energy Plus Protection Mar 2021v2, offering a fixed price until the end of March 2021, where the equivalent cost is £839.