If we are more efficient with our home energy use we can reduce our energy bills and do our bit to tackle the climate emergency.
Whether you own your own home, rent privately, from the Council or a Housing Association, we all have a role to play. Landlords also have an important role and there are legal duties and requirements in place around energy efficiency for landlords.
Home energy calculator
You can use the ‘Home Energy Check’ from the Energy Saving Trust to calculate how you could reduce you energy bills easily and quickly. Once you have filled out your Home Energy Check you will receive a report with details on which improvements will work best for you.
Reducing your bills
There are many ways to reduce your energy bills. There are some quick wins that you can do regardless of whether you own your own home or rent:
- make sure you are on a competitive tariff for your energy. Switching your energy tariff is the single most effective thing you can do to reduce your energy bill. OFGEM the energy regulator provide a useful clear guide on switching your energy tariff
- if you have a room thermostat turn it down by 1⁰C
- draw curtains and blinds at night, this helps to keep heat in
- don’t obstruct radiators, this prevents them circulating heat effectively
- fit energy efficient LED or compact fluorescent lightbulbs
- don’t leave electrical appliances on standby and turn them off at the plug
- You can find more easy energy saving tips on the Energy Saving Trust’s website
Who supplies your energy
Most properties use electricity and gas for energy. This will be supplied either on a “dual fuel tariff” where one supplier provides you with both gas and electricity or on separate tariffs where two different suppliers provide you with gas and electricity.
Some newer properties just use electricity. If you do not have a boiler but a hot water tank or electric radiators it is likely your property just uses electricity.
Some Council properties are supplied energy by district heating systems. Typically these are blocks of flats.
You should be able to find your energy suppliers from bills you receive. However if you don’t know who supplies your property you can find this out:
- gas - go to findmysupplier or call 0870 608 1524 (this number charges 7p a minute in addition to any network charges)
- electricity - call 0800 0111 3332 (free)
When you move into a new property the energy supplier/s will usually write to you. Whether you are moving into a house you own or are renting you need to set up an account with the same energy supplier/s that the former occupants used. You are then free to find a new supplier. to change to as long as you have not agreed a “fixed” energy tariff, this may reduce your energy bills. When you switch gas or electricity suppliers you will not lose your connection during the switch over
- If you have a standard meter you will also need to provide initial gas and electricity meter readings. If you aren’t sure how to take electricity or gas meter readings Citizens Advice Bureau provide a guide.
Types of meters
Meters record your gas/electricity use so your supplier knows how much to charge you. There are several types of meter:
- standard meters - you take manual readings for your gas/electricity use and send these to your energy supplier
- Economy Seven meters - your gas/electricity meter has two separate readings one for your day time usage and one for your night time usage
- prepayment meters - you pay for your gas/electricity by topping up credit on to your meter with a key, card or an app
- smart meters - your meter automatically sends your gas/electricity usage to your energy supplier
Types of energy tariff
There are several main types of energy tariff:
- Standard Variable Tariff where you are free to switch with no exit fees and the unit cost of your gas/electricity may go up or down. Standard variable tariffs are often expensive
- fixed where your gas/electricity unit cost are fixed for a set period, usually 12 or 24 months, this means your gas/electricity costs won’t rise or fall during this period. However if you end a fixed tariff early you may have to pay an exit fee of up to £30 for each fuel. Generally fixed tariffs offer the lowest cost
- Economy 7, where you have an Economy 7 meter you are charged two separate rates for your gas/electricity usage. A cheaper night time tariff and a more expensive day time tariff. Economy 7 tariffs originated when many people had electric storage heaters. Unless you use lots of electricity at night an Economy 7 tariff is unlikely to save you money, the day time tariff may be significantly more expensive than a regular tariff
- prepayment, where you have a prepayment meter which you top up with credit. Prepayment tariffs are often more expensive
You should refer to the terms and conditions of your own energy tariff/s.
Understanding my bill
Your energy bill consists of two parts for each fuel you use:
- a standing charge for each fuel you use (eg gas, electricity). This is charged every day regardless of how much energy you use. This covers the cost of transporting energy into your home
- the actual amount of energy you use, this will be a price per unit of energy you use, usually Kilowatt Hours (KwH)
Government is sponsoring a rollout of smart meters in our homes. A Smart meter automatically records your gas and or electricity usage and sends this to your energy supplier so you are billed accurately for your usage without having to manually submit meter readings.
Having a smart meter won’t save you energy on its own but it will allow you to work out where you are using gas and electricity. You will receive a display unit which links up to your smart meter and shows you how much gas and electricity you are using in real time.
Smart meters also allow better planning and management of the national grid. With smart meters the people who manage the grid can understand energy use better.
Smart meters can operate on a prepayment system. Smart meters using prepayment may allow you to top up your credit in new ways such as an app instead of having to use a card or fob.
There is no cost for a smart meter being installed, you can contact your energy supplier if you would like one to be installed or they may contact you. It’s important to note, if you don’t want a smart meter installed you don’t have to agree to it.
First generation smart meters (SMETS1) may lose their smart meter functionality if you change energy supplier, you will then have to provide manual meter readings. New generation smart meters (SMETS2) do not lose their functionality when you change supplier.
Your home might have a prepayment meter installed where you pay for credit to “top up” a balance on your meter. Some people like prepayment meters because they can help you to budget your spend on gas/electricity. You also can’t build up arrears on a prepayment meter, when the meter runs out of credit the supply will stop until you top it up again. However, the gas and electricity provided on prepayment meters is usually more expensive than with a standard meter and you will have a smaller range of tariffs available to you.
Some energy suppliers have an emergency credit function where you can access a small amount of credit until you can top up again, you will need to pay this back. Check with your energy supplier if they do this
Prepayment meters are often installed where a customer runs up arrears on their energy bills. In this case when you top up your meter some of the top up will go to paying off your arears and the rest will go on to your credit.
If your energy supplier wants to install a prepayment meter the Citizens Advice Bureau provide an online guide about your rights.
Help with energy bills
If you are struggling to pay your energy bills it’s a good idea to tell your supplier as early as you can. Suppliers may be able to work with you to find a solution, such as an affordable way you can repay any arrears you’ve built up.
The government provides several means tested benefits to help with the cost of fuel. In many cases you should be automatically notified if you are eligible for these benefits. If you think you are eligible and haven’t been you can notify the appropriate government agency:
- cold weather payment - a payment for each week the weather in your local area is freezing or below between November and March
- Winter Fuel Payment, an age tested annual payment to help pay your heating bills for older people
- Warm Homes Discount Scheme, an annual amount credited to your energy account to help pay your heating bills
- National Concessionary Fuel Scheme, free solid fuel or a cash allowance for fuel for those who worked for the National Coal Board or British Coal Corporation
In certain circumstances our Local Assistance Scheme can provide emergency credit for prepayment meters.
Energy Performance Certificates
All council houses and privately rented domestic properties need to have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). Landlords are legally required to provide an EPC to all new tenants or those applying for the ‘right to buy’ their council house.
An EPC tells you about the energy efficiency of the property tells you how it could be improved. After an EPC assessment a property is given a band from A to G with A being the most energy efficient properties and G being the least efficient.
They are valid for 10 years and must be renewed at the end of each 10 year period, following an energy efficiency survey.
For Council Houses we organise the survey which takes approximately 45 minutes. Access may be required to your property to complete the necessary checks. We pay for the EPC survey to be completed there is no cost to you, as the tenant or potential buyer of the property. Private landlords need to arrange and pay for EPC assessments for their properties
If you are looking for an energy efficient property you should consider homes that have an EPC with a high rating – this shows that the property has lower consumption of gas and electricity. Privately rented domestic properties legally require an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) with a minimum band of E.
There is guidance on EPCs for landlords from the government.
An EPC assessment need to be carried out by a qualified assessor, if you are a private landlord or are selling your property there is a government database of EPC assessors. You will have to pay for this.
Typically an EPC assessment is a relatively quick process but this will depend on the size of the property.
South Yorkshire Energy Centre based at Heeley City Farm, S2 3DT operate drop in sessions on Thursdays and can help you understand your energy bill.
Citizens Advice Bureau offer an extensive online guide to problems with your energy bill.
If you have queries or questions about home energy efficiency please contact the Strategic Housing team firstname.lastname@example.org