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Bills. They come out of your bank account every month so that you can keep your home warm, watch the television, download your favourite films and have a nice hot shower. You may think that the price you pay for the energy and services you use at home would be the same no matter who your providers are. However, energy prices can differ a lot between providers and you could actually be overpaying for your gas and electricity.
If you’ve checked your energy bill and had a shock, find some ideas below as to why your gas or electricity bill might be so high, and what you can do about it.
There are a few reasons why your gas bill could be higher than normal. Below, you can find some of the most common explanations and tips on how to solve these issues.
Your energy provider will charge you per unit of gas that you use. In the UK, this is an average of 3.5 pence per kilowatt hour (kWh) (prices subject to change), however, depending on the area you live in and the company you get your gas from, this could range from 3 pence to 5 pence per kWh. It’s not unusual for suppliers to change their prices every now and then to reflect current trends in the energy markets and to meet supply and demand - the more gas is in demand, the higher its price tends to be. Different providers may offer gas at a cheaper rate and so it may be beneficial to switch to another provider if you’re out of a fixed term tariff. Switching providers is encouraged as new customers often get the best deals and discounts.
If you believe that your higher high energy bill could be down to a price change, you should check with your supplier to see if this is the case and, if it is, you could start looking for alternative tariffs elsewhere.
It may not be that the price of gas has increased but that your household has been using more than normal. Try to think back over the last few weeks (or however far back your energy bill goes) and consider whether your gas usage has increased. Perhaps the evenings have been a little chilly and you’ve been using the gas fire to warm up a certain room. Maybe you’ve extended the amount of time the heating is on for or increased the thermostat temperature.
You’ll be able to see if you’ve been using more energy either by looking at the usage figure on your bill or by checking your smart meter.
Sometimes, energy bills can be based on an estimate, rather than using the official reading on a smart meter. If you’ve received an estimated bill, you can compare it to the usage stated on your smart meter to make sure the figure is correct. If there’s any discrepancy between the two figures, you should contact your supplier for a more accurate bill.
You may be required to submit your own meter readings if you don’t yet have a smart meter. There could be a chance that you’ve entered a number incorrectly or misread the meter. If you believe that this could be the case, you should contact your provider to explain the situation.
While we’re reminded all the time that good quality insulation is so important, many people might not actually stop and think about the amount of heat that is being lost from the home. Any heat that is lost needs to be replaced by your heating system. Whether this is a boiler or a heat pump, the appliance will need to work harder to replenish the heat, resulting in increased energy usage.
You should take the time to look at the insulation already in your home and see if it can be improved. It’s also important to try to keep doors and windows closed during winter, using devices such as an extractor fan in the bathroom to remove steam instead of opening the window.
As with gas, electricity is charged per unit you use. In the UK, the average cost of electricity per kWh is 14.4 pence (subject to tariff type and market changes) but it can range from around 14 pence to 18 pence per kWh.
You should also check that the standing charge hasn’t increased. The standing charge is a kind of admin fee that must be paid to your energy provider for keeping your home connected to an electricity supply. It covers the provider for things such as maintaining the wires that go to your home, carrying out meter readings and payments that must be made towards government initiatives. It’s a set fee that doesn’t change depending on your usage.
It’s rare that this will change, and your supplier should let you know before it does, but it could be a reason for a higher-than-normal energy bill. Some suppliers set their standing charge as zero, however you should be careful of these tariffs as they generally put the price of gas and electricity up instead to cover the difference.
It may be that your high electricity bill is a result of you using more energy than normal. In the winter, it goes dark much earlier and so you’ll be using your lights more frequently and for longer periods of time. As with your gas bill, you should check the bill compared to your actual usage to make sure the two tally up and you aren’t paying for electricity that you didn’t use.
Don’t forget that, if you rely on solar energy, darker days will result in less electricity being produced and so more may need to be taken from the grid. To make the best use of Solar PV technologies use bigger appliances like washing machines during the daytime.
When you think about how many electrical devices and appliances you have in your home, there are probably more than you realise. There are big appliances, such as your washing machine, television, fridge and freezer, but then there are lots of smaller devices too, such as lamps and chargers that can still draw electricity even when they’re not in use.
If you have any old appliances, these will be less efficient than their modern counterparts, and could therefore be using more electricity.
It may be worth thinking about what could have changed in your home to result in such a high electricity bill. This could be the addition of a new appliance or even a change in circumstances that could result in more people being at home for longer periods of time. Try altering your habits. For example, unplug chargers when you aren’t using them, turn lights off when you leave a room and put your washing on the line instead of always using the tumble dryer. You may even consider changing to energy-efficient LED bulbs.
Worried that you’re overpaying for your electricity? The average bill will obviously differ from household to household depending on size and the number of residents, it can also be affected by quality of home insulation. The price of electricity can also differ between locations and providers. However, you can use the table below to give you a rough estimate of what you should be paying for your electricity.
|Size of house||Monthly estimate||Yearly estimate|
|One to two bedrooms||£34||£403|
|Three to four bedrooms||£49||£590|
|Five bedrooms plus||£70||£846|