7 ways to save on gas and electric ahead of Ofgem energy price cap rise
The worst cost of living crisis for decades is eating into household budgets up and down the UK.
Supermarket food prices as well as fuel costs have already risen sharply over the past six months, while energy prices are set to rocket from Friday (1 April) due to the 54% increase in Ofgem’s energy price cap.
Boris Johnson’s Government has sought to intervene by providing an energy bills loan and a council tax rebate, but has been urged to go further as the Russia-Ukraine war is set to send inflation even higher.
So, given it does not appear as if any extra meaningful state support is on its way, what can you do to cut your household energy bills?
We have sought out some of the best tips for how to save money ahead of the price cap rise.
Energy bills quick wins
These are the things you can do right now to make a quick saving on your energy bills.
Top up your electricity prepayment meter before Friday
If you have a prepayment electricity meter it could be worth topping it up before the Ofgem energy price cap increases on Friday (1 April).
Most prepayment meters for electricity and gas are on tariffs governed by the price cap, which means households who have them will be fully exposed to the 54% increase and could see typical usage costs soar to more than £2,000 per year.
There had been suggestions consumers would be able to temporarily get around the rise by adding the maximum top up possible to their electricity meters before the new cap comes in - therefore, delaying when the new rate would apply from.
Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis has sought to clarify with Ofgem and the major energy suppliers whether consumers will be able to continue to pay the existing rate after 1 April if they do this.
However, Mr Lewis has had a mixed response.
Major supplier Scottish Power will apply the new energy price cap rates from 1 April regardless of whether you have topped up beforehand.
The other major suppliers have been less clear, although Martin Lewis said he thinks the trick could still work for British Gas, Octopus, Shell Energy and Bulb customers.
Essentially, you stand to lose nothing if you try it (unless you need to keep hold of money for cashflow reasons - in which case, the best advice is not to do it).
But you could cut a third off your energy bills if the trick works out.
It’s key to note that this hack will only apply to electricity prepayment meters and NOT gas prepayment meters (unless your gas is supplied by Octopus energy).
Martin Lewis also recommends taking a picture of your meter and e-mailing it to yourself to ensure you have evidence with which to fight back against your supplier if they overcharge you.
For more in-depth advice on this, visit the Money Saving Expert website.
Turn off your devices
It’s the bit of advice we’re always given but forget to follow.
According to the Energy Saving Trust - an independent organisation that promotes energy efficiency and sustainable energy use - turning devices like TVs and games consoles off completely rather than letting them idle on standby could save you £55 a year.
This estimate, and all the other estimates from the organisation included in this article, are based on the new energy price cap.
Watch your shower time
Keeping your shower time to four minutes - the equivalent of a long pop song - could also lop money off your annual bill.
By doing this and ditching your one bath per week, you could stand to save yourself £35 per person in your household, the Energy Saving Trust says.
If you want to make an even bigger saving and hold a gym membership, it’s worth showering after your workout or swim.
Keep tabs on your appliances
Appliances, especially ‘wet’ ones like dishwashers and washing machines, are notorious for burning through energy.
The Energy Saving Trust reckons you could shave £28 off your annual energy bill by keeping your washing machine to 30-degree washes and reducing the number of washes you do per week by one.
If you have a dishwasher it also recommends only running it once it’s full.
Getting rid of those pesky jets of cold air you often get from windows, doors and chimneys means you’re less likely to need your heating on as much.
And there’s likely to be a financial benefit in doing this too, according to Norton Finance.
It says draught proofing your home using specialist excluders could save you £215 over five years - and can cost under £3 to do.
With this hack, getting it done professionally is likely to be more effective.
However, this would cost the average two-bed flat occupant an estimated £110 (with the Energy Saving Trust saying the average annual saving on energy bills could amount to £55) and the average three-bed semi-detached occupant £240 (with a £95 annual saving).
So, opting for the professional route means you will make a greater saving over the longer-term - but you won’t immediately save money.
Medium-to-long term energy bill savings
These hacks will all require professional work and so you will not make an instant saving on your energy bills.
Instead, you will be likely to see positive results in your energy bills over a longer-term period.
Invest in insulation
Better insulating your home means you will lose less heat in colder months, and will therefore not need to reach for the thermostat as often.
There are two types of insulation the Energy Saving Trust recommends:
Cavity wall insulation
According to the organisation, a third of the heat lost from an uninsulated home passes through the walls.
If you’ve got a cavity in your wall - a standard building practice that’s a feature in most UK homes - you can fill it with insulation that’ll stop heat escaping like this.
While it will set you back around £1,200 if you live in a standard three-bed semi-detached house, you could stand to save £285 per year.
For a bigger four-bed detached house, the cost could be in the region of £2,500 and might see you save £480 per year.
If you live in a flat, you will have to run the project by your fellow flat owners or the building’s landlord, but it is likely to have a better cost-to-annual savings ratio.
The Energy Saving Trust estimates that a quarter of the heat from an uninsulated home is lost out of the roof space.
Getting at least 270mm of insulation into your loft will therefore help to reduce your energy bills.
But don’t expect a dramatic overnight saving.
For a standard three-bed semi-detached house, it’ll cost roughly £465 but will only deliver a £25 annual saving.
If you have a four-bed detached property, the cost could be £1,100 and will only deliver an average saving of £40 per year.
If you live in a flat that’s not on the top floor, or is but hasn’t got a pitched roof with loft space above it, you will have to rely on those living above and below you for insulation.
Being less reliant on fossil fuels means you will be better shielded from the kinds of price shocks we’re currently seeing on global energy markets.
But investing in things like solar panels carries a large up-front cost, meaning it’s a measure many people will be unable to afford.
If you can do it, the Energy Saving Trust says a typical solar panel installation will set you back £6,500.
However, it will save you a significant amount of money - £505 in London, £475 in Manchester and £450 in Stirling, the Energy Saving Trust says.