Overpaying on energy bills is something that happens all the time here in the UK, yet many of us are unaware that it’s even happening to us. Energy tariffs are not the simplest things to understand, and with all the larger energy companies insisting that they’re the cheapest, how can you tell if you’re overpaying for your household gas? And how can you get the money back if you are?
Where possible, speak to trusted friends and close family members about their gas bills. It’s always useful to get a ballpark figure of how much other people are paying. Try, if you can, to ask those who have a similar sized home to yours, with a similar amount of people living in it. For instance, it would be pointless to compare a 4 bedroom family home with 5 occupants to a 1 bedroom flat with two occupants. Once you’ve got a general idea what others are paying, you’ll know if you’re shelling out far too much or not.
The only way you can keep your gas bills close to the price that they should be is to check the energy meter readings and report these to your gas supplier regularly. Most energy companies will work on an ‘estimated usage’ scale, which will take into account the size of your home and the number of occupants, as well as the average use. By giving your supplier all the information they need, they should only charge you for what you use, not what they think you’ll use.
Many thousands of people have money sitting with energy companies but they may not know it. Some gas suppliers will automatically refund you when your credit goes beyond a certain amount (£75 in many cases), but others will simply wait for you to get in touch with them. Every so often, call your energy supplier and ask them for a statement of your account. It should tell you if you are currently in credit, and you are fully within your rights to ask for this money back.
If your gas use is somewhere in the middle of what your friends and family are paying, then it may be worth comparing energy tariffs online to see where your energy supplier sits on the scale. If you’re with one of the more expensive companies, then you could save a lot of money by switching to a cheaper rate with someone else. Do plenty of research before signing on the dotted line though, as some deals may look great but end up costing you more over time.
Go through your old bills, particularly ones which coincide with the time of year you’re in now, and see whether your gas consumption was similar. By keeping a close eye on the amount you usually pay, you can flag up large increases or unusual activity before it becomes a big problem.
Direct Debits are the preferred payment method for the majority of UK energy suppliers, and while this is highly convenient, it can also make you complacent. Having a set amount coming out of your bank account automatically each month is a great way to take the hassle out of paying your bills, but you may be paying far more than you need to. Keep an eye on this and ask your energy supplier to review your Direct Debit amount on a regular basis.
Pre-payment meters are installed in thousands of homes across the UK, and while you may not have a choice when it comes to having one (either through non-payment of bills in the past or because you are renting a property which has one installed already), it’s always important to try and switch to more traditional billing. Pre-payment meters often charge a premium for gas and electricity, even though you pay for it in advance. The good thing about them is that you can easily keep track of what you’re spending on gas each month.
If you’re going through a big change at home, such as adding to the family or having someone move out, then it’s important to consider how this will affect your gas bills. More people living in the building will mean more resources are needed and your gas bill is likely to go up. Similarly, in the winter time, your gas bills will rise considerably if you have gas central heating. Being aware of when and why your bills can fluctuate will ensure you’re well prepared.
If you receive a bill which is different to what you expected, or which seems high for the amount of gas you have used, then you should always query this. It may be that your energy company has increased their tariff without you realising, or perhaps your meter is faulty – there are many reasons why your gas bill might be very different to what you’ve expected, and it’s always sensible to have any issue sorted before it becomes a real burden. Some people are overcharged for months on end simply because they do not pay attention to what they are paying.
You should have your boiler/gas system checked every year (or more frequently if you identify a problem) by an approved engineer. This can not only help everything run as smoothly and efficiently as possible, but it could also save your life. Gas is dangerous and can cause carbon monoxide poisoning if something goes wrong, so having your system checked can help to identify and correct any weak points. Having your home checked before you need to put the heating on in the autumn/winter time will ensure that your system can cope with the increased demand, and that you won’t be putting yourself and your family at risk.
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