Bills are probably one of the worst parts of adulting. It’s even worse when you have a disability or chronic illness, limited income and higher consumption of water, gas and electricity as a result. But, there are some little known ways of reducing your bills that aren’t always publicised.
Have you checked your bills?
My meters are in really difficult to get to places. You can ask for them to be re-situated. Unfortunately, most suppliers want them to be changed for smart meters. DON’T SWITCH TO A SMART METER! They are still very glitchy and some will find their bills dramatically rise rather than fall. Theres also health concerns regarding them, as well as many people feeling it’s an invasion of their privacy. I won’t be getting one for sure! Its best to give 3 monthly readings to your supplier. If this is difficult, ask for them to come and take the readings, on the grounds of your disability/chronic health issue.
If you have key meters, which you find expensive and hard to use, you can ask for them to be replaced with credit meters (where you can pay by direct debit instead). Its cheaper for the vast majority of people to use credit meters. The standing charge applied is much cheaper than the standing charge on key meters. It also means no more treks to the local pay point when your lights go out! Most companies will allow you to do this even if you have some debt on your account.
You can change meters (and energy providers) even if you live in rented accommodation. If the energy provider isn’t willing to do so, and you don’t have a large debt with them, you can also take it up with the energy ombudsman – ofgem. Its also worth contacting your company to see if you’re in credit with them. Large credits can be paid back to you. Alternatively, you could reduce your monthly bill amount.
Compare and compare
You’ve probably heard this one before but it’s worth saying again. Never stay on a standard tariff! It’s almost never the cheapest option. Comparison sites such as – Compare the market, Confused.com, Uswitch and Moneysupermarket, are all worth checking for the cheapest option. You’ll get the most accurate figures if you know what your annual energy consumption is. You should be able to find this out by looking at your bills or contacting your current supplier.
Switching supplier is very easy for gas and electricity. Once you have signed up to a new company, call them with a meter reading. Tell your old company the same reading so they can make sure that your final bill is correct. You can still claim any credit you may be in when you leave them. It’s important to check whether you are or not as they sneakily don’t always tell you!
In most places in the UK you can’t change your water supplier as it’s based on where you live. Your water rates (if not on a meter) are usually set on rateable values. These were set in 1991, and related to the council tax band of the property. If you feel yours may be lower than it was back in 1991 (not the case for most people) then check it out with your water supplier. Water rates vary massively across the country. It usually dependent on how much rainfall you get and maintenance needed in your area. Generally, different tariffs are not available.
Although, if you have high water usage (due to frequent laundry and frequent bathing/showering), you can get your bills capped at the average bill for metered use in your area. The scheme is called watersure and more details can be found here.
Some low consumption customers may find it cheaper to be on a water meter. Once installed you have a year to decide if it suits you or not. There are lots of water saving solutions – from using a water hippo to water butts. Although it doesn’t actually reduce the amount you pay the water, spacing your water bill payments over 12 months instead of 9 can you help considerably with budgeting. Just contact your water company and ask to set up a direct debit over 12 months.
Warm home discounts and cold weather payments
If you have high energy costs due to your condition and receive means tested benefits, you should be eligible for Warm Home Discount. This is £140 paid directly to your electricity supplier between November – April. You may also qualify to receive cold weather payments. This is a payment of £25 which you should automatically receive with your benefit payments when the temperature outside is below zero for seven consecutive days. This site tells you more about them and how to challenge a decision if you believe you should have received them and didn’t.
You may also be entitled to a council tax reduction. This only applies when you have to have an extra room due to disability. For example, a downstairs adapted bathroom or an additional room for an overnight carer. Contact your local council for more information.
If you don’t normally use a phone line but have to have one installed because you need Telecare (also called falls alarms, or pendant alarms), contact your provider. Ask them for a reduced service if you need only this function. Some pendents work off their own sim card. If you don’t have a phone line and don’t want the cost of one, this might be a better option. You can also use the comparison sites already mentioned to find a better deal if you do need a phone line.
Priority services register
Althought not a money saving measure, its a useful thing to know about! If you have a disability, chronic health issue, mental health issue, aged over 65 or have children under 5 then you can sign up to the priority services register. You sign up to it by just calling up your supplier. This was set up so those who have priority need for energy use can be advised of any planned power cuts, and supplied with back up power in the event of a prolonged power cut. There are also so additional benefits, but these differ from one company to the next. A similar service may be offered by your water provider, in event of your water supply being cut off.
Energy or Water Debt
If you are in debt with your power company the first step is to negotiate an affordable payment plan. If this is still too much, there are a range of grants available which may be able to relieve you of some of the burden of your debt. This page can point you to some of the sources of these grants.