Martin Lewis: Winter is coming... now is the time to act to save cash on your energy bills
PUBLISHED: 16:06 03 November 2017 | UPDATED: 16:06 03 November 2017
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The clocks have gone back, the temperature is plummeting and leaves are losing their green colour.
Which, to channel Game of Thrones, can only mean one thing - winter is coming.
And that means energy bills will be bursting.
So I want to play a little game of true or false with you over a series of popular energy myths.
• True or false? The cheapest way to pay energy bills is by direct debit.
True. But specifically it needs to be monthly direct debit as suppliers offer discounts of around 7%.
Yet while you pay less in total, as they estimate your usage, if they overestimate it they could ask you for more cash – leaving you in-credit – or worse, leaving you underpaying, and in debt.
Ensure you always give regular meter readings to get accurate bills.
• True or false? It’s cheaper to leave the heating on low all day rather than have it turned off and on.
False(ish). Pay to pump energy in as and when it is needed as to keep pumping it in constantly isn’t efficient.
Using a timer’s best, because your thermostat is designed to turn your heating on and off to keep your home at the temperature you set it.
Yet some heating engineers argue that keeping all the radiators on full but with the boiler down can reduce condensation.
As condensation helps conduct heat outside the home you lose heat more quickly and will use more energy as a result. So if your house is prone to condensation, you may want to think about it.
• True or false? Renters can’t switch energy provider without their landlords’ permission.
False. You have a right to switch energy provider in your home even if you only pay the rent. There are two exceptions to this; 1) if you don’t pay for energy yourself, it’s all included in your rent and 2) if you’re looking to switch meter as that is a physical change to the property that needs permission.
If the landlord says it’s written into your contract that you can’t switch, challenge it.
Preventing a tenant from changing energy suppliers may be viewed as an unfair term in a tenancy agreement.
• True or false? If you’re in credit when you switch energy provider they must give you the money back.
True (now anyway). If you pay by direct debit and when you leave an energy firm you’re in credit and, as of 2014, you should automatically get this back. But make sure you track it and if the supplier doesn’t pay up, call and ask for the cash.
If you switched before 2014 and think you might have been in credit then call to check as they operated a ‘don’t ask, don’t get’ policy and you can still ask.
• True or false? When you change energy supplier someone will need to visit your home.
False. Nobody usually visits your home. Your pipes don’t change and your gas and electricity won’t get cut off.
You don’t even need to contact your old energy supplier to tell it you’re switching. The only thing that changes is the price and service.
• True or false? I must get boiler cover with my energy provider.
False. Many energy firms use our fear of losing heating to charge hefty insurance costs.
They also want us to think there’s some link between our energy provider and our boiler cover. There isn’t – you’re not locked in, so if you do need it, go elsewhere.
You can choose between boiler-only or central heating cover and to find the cheapest cover use a comparison site.
If it’s right for you, get cover as soon as possible, before the true cold weather kicks in, as almost all new policies have a no-claims period within the first 14 to 30 days.
Martin Lewis is the founder and chairman of MoneySavingExpert.com.