Step one: Save energy. The Government, energy suppliers and local authorities all offer grants to help households reduce their impact on the environment by implementing energy saving measures. Average savings of £200 a year can be made by installing energy-saving heating and insulation. There is a useful search tool to find out what grants are on offer in your area at www.energysavingtrust.org.uk. Another good resource on grants is www.heatproject.co.uk.
Step two: Switch. For those that have not done so yet, now would be a good time to compare prices and switch provider because it is possible to save £100s with a few minutes' work. Price comparison sites such as www.energyhelpline.com and www.moneysupermarket.com will compare prices and even perform the switch. Just say where you live and what you normally pay. Savings of up to 20% are possible the first time a household switches and even if you have switched before, it is worth doing the comparison exercise again to check the tariff is still competitive. Dual fuel, where the consumer pays for both gas and electricity from the same provider, is not always the cheapest, so also compare prices for separate services.
Step three: Stay warm. If there is at least one resident over 60 in your home you can access E.ON's special Staywarm dual fuel tariff, which often is not included in comparison sites. The advantage of the service is the final bill does not depend on the energy used. You pay a fixed tariff over the year, which gives you peace of mind, that if you turn up the heat, you won't pay more. For more information try www.eonenergy.com. Staywarm is not de facto the cheapest provider, but it is worth comparing it to the rest of the tariffs on offer.
Step four: Pay clever. Paying for fuel by fixed monthly direct debits will save up to 10% on the final bill. Make sure you do a meter reading every time a bill arrives to avoid over or under payments, which can be disruptive to cash flow later on.
Step five: Conserve energy. According to the Energy Saving Trust, being energy efficient can cut as much as £270 off annual fuel bills. Before the cold weather sets in it is well worth doing a home energy audit. Stop draughts by installing low-cost brushes or PVC seals on exterior doors and fill gaps in floorboards and skirting boards with newspaper or sealant. Hot water tanks should be fitted with a tank jacket that is at least 3" thick, which should save £30 a year on fuel bills.
Step six: Learn to adjust. While at home and awake, set the heating thermostat as low as is comfortable and then turn it right down while you are out or during the night. Just knocking it back for a few hours a day will be barely noticeable, but can save 10% on fuel bills.
* Teena Lyons' opinions are her own and for general information only. Always seek independent financial advice.
The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.
The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.