Winter is almost officially here, which means one thing for gas and electricity customers - bigger bills! Here's a list of our favourite tips to help you keep your bills down during the long, cold and dark winter months.
It’s that time of the year again. The clocks have gone back, the days are getting ever shorter, and we're facing another long and dark few months.
And as winter approaches, concerns around managing energy bills invariably start to arise as we spend more time indoors with the lights on and the heating cranked up.
And this winter looks to be particularly difficult for households as gas and electricity prices are at record levels. What's more, with many of us working from home, our energy use has never been higher.
So we decided to have a look at some of the simple ways you can save on your energy costs so that you won't suffer from 'bill shock' when you get your next bill.
1. Pay by direct debit
Most of the cheapest energy deals are reserved for people who pay by direct debit.
As well as being cheaper, paying by direct debit is also more convenient as it avoids a trip to the local Post Office or a call to your supplier every time payment is due.
2. Choose online billing
Most energy suppliers offer online billing and will give you a small discount if you choose not to get your bills in the post. So as well as being good for the environment it's also good for your pocket. But that's not the only selling point...
Online billing is simple, your bills are archived, you can see invaluable information on your energy consumption and usage habits, and you can enter meter readings easily online. And speaking of meter readings...
3. Don't settle for estimates, provide your own readings
The ESB reads all electricity meters regardless of whether you have Bord Gáis Energy, SSE Airtricity or Electric Ireland as your supplier. The thing is, they'll only come out to read your meter four times a year.
If your meter isn't read or the ESB can't get to it because you're not home, you'll get an estimated bill. It's easy to tell if your bill has been estimated - it'll have a big "E" after your meter reading. However these estimates are by no means 100% accurate. This is especially true if you've been away and have used less electricity than you normally would. And if there's one time of the year you don't want to pay for electricity you haven't used it's winter.
Providing a meter reading to your supplier is easy - you can do it online or over the phone and some providers will send you a reminder text so that you can do it just before your bill is about to issue.
However if you have a new smart meter installed, you won't get estimated bills or have to submit a reading as they have a two-way communication system, which means both you and your supplier have constant access to your usage levels.
This means you'll only be billed for what you've used each month.
And on the subject of smart meters...
4. If you have a smart meter, consider signing up to a smart tariff
To coincide with the rollout of smart meters, smart tariffs or so-called 'time-of-use' tariffs have been introduced by some of the main electricity suppliers, which could help you save money on your energy bills.
At the moment energy suppliers usually charge you the same price for your electricity throughout the day (although those with a night saver meter will be charged a separate night time rate).
However, with the rollout of smart meters, energy suppliers are now able to offer consumers electricity deals with multiple different tariffs to encourage you to move your energy usage to times when electricity is cheaper to produce.
Some of these deals even offer free electricity at certain times of the week!
However if you have a smart meter installed, you'll have to specifically ask or sign up for a smart tariff.
5. Switch supplier - the quick fix!
Most suppliers offer substantial discounts to new customers to entice them to switch, and these discounts last for the duration of your contract, making for some significant savings! Why pay more for gas and electricity when you don’t have to?
And with energy prices at record levels, it's never been more important to be on the best deal.
At the moment the average household could save over €500 a year by switching. However a household which is switching from one of the most expensive providers to one of the cheapest could save well over €1,000!
However, before making the switch, take a look at these 7 important things to consider when switching energy suppliers.
6. Reduce your energy consumption
After switching supplier, the second easiest way to lower your energy bills is to try to reduce your usage. This needn’t be a huge effort or hassle, as there are lots of small everyday changes you can make around the home that will make a decent impact without leaving you sitting in a freezing cold room with the lights off.
Here are 15 of our favourite tips to help you lower your electricity consumption - some might surprise you!
7. Consider longer-term energy efficiency measures
If you’re looking for some longer-term energy efficiency solutions, here are a few good places to start:
- Install a smart home thermostat. These are devices which allow you to control your home’s heating from anywhere in the world using your smartphone. How does this save you money? Well, for example, if you have the ability to turn your heating off remotely, you’ll never have to pay to heat an empty house again!
- Invest in some home energy efficiency measures. Many of us are turned off from putting money towards things such as decent wall and roof insulation or solar panels because of the cost of installation, even though such measures lead to significant longer-term savings. The good news is there are both grants and loans out there to help you with making your home more energy efficient.
- If you're considering retrofitting your home, you can learn more about the finance options available to you here. We also recently spoke with a retrofit expert from Electric Ireland SuperHomes on an episode of our bonkers.ie podcast and outlined all you need to know about retrofitting.
Did we miss anything?
If you've got any top energy-saving tips we might have missed, please let us know in the comments! We'd love to hear from you.