1. Fix your deal to save £300
All of the big energy companies are announcing price rises. Battle the hikes by grabbing a cheaper tariff.
There is a £300-a-year difference between the best and worst tariffs, according to the price comparison website uSwitch.
Make sure you sign up to a fixed deal.
The lowest-cost deal available is First Utility’s iSave Fixed v4 March 2014. A family of four living in a three-bedroom, semi-detached house — seen as a typical customer — would pay, on average, £1,087 a year for gas and electricity.
Crafty tricks: Try these 10 tips to cut your bills
The price is fixed until March 2014.
In the unlikely event of prices falling heavily before then, you would have to pay a £30 exit fee for each fuel you use.
Deals without exit penalties include Scottish Power’s Online Fixed Price Energy April 2014 tariff. This costs a typical household £1,140 a year.
You need to act fast. The top deals are disappearing rapidly.
If you don’t want a long fixed deal, you can get First Utility iSave v12, which costs £1,054.
To see if you could save money, compare prices using the This is Money Fuel Bills Finder.
2. Stop paying by cash and cheque
You can make serious savings just by changing the way you pay your bills. Most energy companies reserve their best deals for online customers. So if you have access to a computer, use it.
Energy providers will also give you a better deal if you sign up to gas and electricity — a so-called dual fuel tariff.
You can also get a hefty discount — often as much as £100 a year on the average bill — if you pay by monthly direct debit.
Paying by cash or cheque is expensive. Only use this method of payment if you have to.
If you have access to the internet, you can also cut costs by viewing bills online, rather than receiving paper bills in the post.
Scottish and Southern Energy, for example, offers a £6 per fuel annual discount if you go paperless.
3. Put on a cardigan
Most families have the heating on at 20 degrees centigrade all day, and wander about the house in a blouse or T-shirt.
Turn down the thermostat just one degree, to 19 degrees, and put on a jumper or cardigan and you can shave 10 pc off your heating bill.
This is a £60 a year saving for the typical household.
You’ll hardly notice the difference if your house is well insulated.
If your hot water is piping hot, it’s probably too high. Set the thermostat to no more than 60c/140f.
Make sure the central heating and hot water are off when you’re out for the day — whether that’s at work, school or visiting relatives. Use the timer sparingly so it comes on only when necessary.
Turn off the radiators in rooms you’re not using and keep windows and doors closed if the heating is turned on.
Buy a hot water bottle — Tesco and Asda sell them for just £3.
Off: Don’t waste money on lighting when you’re out
4. Turn off the lights
Lighting accounts for 19pc of the average household’s electricity bill. Energy-saving bulbs can knock £55 a year off your bills. These last ten times longer than normal versions, and use 80 pc less energy. Each bulb replaced can save you around £120 over its lifetime, according to the Energy Saving Trust.
Ignore anyone who says it takes more electricity to switch lights back on than is saved switching them off — experts say that is just a myth.
Cut out any bad habits. Turning off lights when you nip to the shops on a gloomy winter evening and on landings at night can save £10 a year.
Unplug appliances that have a light on when idle. That’s the TV, DVD player and even the mobile phone charger.
Wait until the dishwasher is full before you switch it on — one full load uses less energy than two half loads.
5. Close the curtains
Don’t let heat slip through the cracks. Draw the curtains or blinds at night and use draught-blockers for doors.
Turn down the heat on your washing machine: use the 30 degrees setting or the quick wash function if your machine has one.
Use tumble-driers sparingly.
Don’t waste hot water — the more you use, the more you have to heat.
A dripping tap wastes enough hot water to fill 69 baths a year. Tighten it with a spanner or ask a friend or plumber.
Running a bath uses up to 100 litres of water. Showering instead uses much less — rarely more than 35 litres — and saves £18 a year.
In the kitchen, only boil as much water as you need (as long as it covers the element in the kettle).
A good idea is to measure out how many cups of tea you want to make. This can save £7 a year on its own.
Put a lid on saucepans if you’re boiling vegetables or rice and turn down the heat on the hob.
6. Claim your benefits
Last year, the Government paid out £2.1 billion in winter fuel benefits to more than 12 million people. The winter fuel payment is an annual, tax-free benefit paid to people over the age of 61, irrespective of how much they earn.
The amount you receive ranges between £200 and £300, depending on your age and circumstances. For example, people aged between 61 and 70 can claim up to £200. Those aged over 80 can claim up to the full £300. However, if you live with a partner who also qualifies you will get only part of the benefit. Be aware that the qualifying age for this benefit for men and women is rising in line with the increase in women’s state pension age — currently 61.
A separate benefit, called the cold weather payment, is paid in the event of exceptionally cold weather.
If the temperature is below zero degrees Celsius in your postcode area for seven days in a row between November and March, you will receive an extra £25.
These payments are usually paid automatically to those who are eligible.
But if you haven’t received the payment before and are not getting the state pension or another benefit, you may need to apply.
Men under 65 who are too young to claim their state pension are most likely to miss out.
7. Read your meter regularly
Avoid estimated bills at all costs. This is when your energy supplier guesses how much energy you use in a year and averages it out. It can leave you paying much more than you need.
Provide your supplier with accurate meter readings instead.
Check your meter once every three months at the very least. Record your usage by calling your supplier or setting up an online account.
If you’re heavily in credit, ask for some money back — this way it will be earning interest in your bank account.
If your provider kicks up a fuss, quote ‘condition 27 of the Gas Supply Licence’. This states that credits must be refunded and direct debits fair.
8. Replace your boiler
Getting rid of an old boiler can cut costs dramatically over the longer term.
Boilers swallow 79 pc of your total fuel usage, according to Energy Saving Trust.
Scrapping a creaking model and putting in a more efficient one can cut bills by as much as £240 a year.
However, you’ll have to splash out to see these benefits.
Get quotes — don’t simply get your energy company to fit one. The prices can be vastly inflated compared with what an independent plumber will cost you.
The top new boilers from brands such as Vaillant, Worcester or Baxi cost anything from £600 to more than £2,000.
And getting a plumber to fit it can cost another £600.
If you spent £1,800 getting a new A-rated efficiency model to replace a G-rated boiler, you’d save £237 a year, according to price comparison website USwitch.
For bigger houses and families, this may be a good idea — for pensioners, however, it’s likely to be impractical and expensive.
Due to the initial cost, it would take 10½ years to break even.
9. Get free insulation
Take advantage of free insulation deals. Making your home more energy-efficient could shave hundreds of pounds off your bill each year.
Loft insulation alone can save you up to £175 a year, according to the Energy Saving Trust.
Cavity wall insulation adds a further £135 saving.
Savings: Loft insulation being fitted
Energy suppliers are offering free deals because they have to meet strict efficiency targets, set by the government or face a fine.
This means even middle and high-income households can take advantage.
British Gas, for example, is offering free insulation worth up to £1,000 to all households, regardless of their energy supplier.
But you must apply before the end of November and your home must also meet certain requirements — for example, having less than 60mm of loft insulation. Call 0800 048 0505.
British Gas is also paying a £50 referral fee to anyone who puts forward a vulnerable household for free insulation. The person you refer will get £50, too.
The very poorest can also claim up to £3,500 in government grants to help. The Warm Front scheme pays a company to improve insulation on your loft, cavity walls and hot-water tank.
To qualify, you must receive Pension Credit with your state pension, have an income below £15,860 and receive Child Tax Credit or Working Tax credits, or claim income support.
10… And buy some clingfilm
Double-glazing your windows can save you up to £165 a year.
But just like a boiler, the initial outlay will put off some people.
Prices vary wildly between providers. Expect to pay from £350 for each small bedroom window, ranging into the thousands to fit more than one room.
However, these fees can tumble thousands of pounds if you haggle with the suppliers, says consumer group Which?
Make sure that you get a minimum of three quotes so you can compare them — and then don’t be afraid to drive the price down.
A wacky alternative is to use cling film. This creates a DIY double glazing effect by trapping the hot air in.
But instead of stuff you buy at the supermarket, go to your DIY store and ask for ‘double-glazing film’ or ‘stretch wrap’.
Six square metres of Stormguard double-glazing film costs £7.19 from Homebase and is fixed to the window using a hairdryer