Heating our homes is becoming increasingly expensive, and energy prices look set to rise again this winter.
Some energy firms have started warning that their wholesale costs are climbing – and they’ve never been shy about passing those increases onto their customers. The average annual energy bill is now £1,258, according to Consumer Focus. That compares to £1,110 in January last year, despite the milder weather. That means we’re using less but paying more. So why not make sure you’re getting every single benefit you can from your energy provider?
What’s up for grabs?
The offers change all the time, so don’t treat this as a definitive list. Check your supplier’s website for deals and compare the market regularly to see how much you can save and what freebies are on offer.
Free loft and cavity wall insulation from British Gas
Both existing and new British Gas energy customers can receive free home loft and cavity wall insulation, potentially saving them up to £310 in wasted energy each year. You have to check your home is eligible by letting one of the British Gas team call round and survey your home, but then the actual installation takes less than a day. This is a time-limited offer, you have to apply by July 31st and have the insulation installed by the end of the year. If you’re over 70 or on certain benefits then you may also qualify even if you’re not a British Gas customer.
£400 scrappage discount on British Gas boilers
If you’re in the market for a new boiler, then make sure you factor this discount in when you’re comparing prices. Arrange an appointment to trade in your current boiler before the end of June and British Gas will give you a £400 scrappage discount on your next boiler.
Free home insulation plus £100 from e.on
Several energy companies are offering free installation to households receiving certain benefits, but e.on also gives some households a £100 incentive. To qualify, you have to be receiving Child Tax Credit with an income below £16,190 or State Pension Credit. Some households receiving income support can also qualify.
Up to £75 of ‘Ice’ points with SSE
When you sign up to SSE’s Standard Energy tariff with iplan or betterplan, you’ll be rewarded with 3750 Ice points, worth up to £75. Ice is a customer rewards scheme that gives you a choice of free gifts, from free bus travel to Green and Black’s chocolate. SSE is also offering some households free loft and cavity wall insulation, with a £75 high street voucher included as an incentive.
As with e.on, someone in the household must receive Child Tax Credit with an income below £16,190 or State Pension Credit in order to qualify. You don’t need to be an e.on customer to take advantage of this offer. With all these free insulation offers, someone will visit your home to check it’s suitable and not every property will qualify. Fairly obviously, you won’t qualify if you’ve already fitted some insulation.
Free insulation and £200
Even Tesco is offering free loft and cavity wall insulation to qualifying households and you don’t need to be an existing customer to benefit. Not only that, but people receiving certain benefits may also qualify for a £200 cash payment as an incentive for getting the work done through Tesco.
Free with a fee?
All the companies offering free insulation have certain specifications that your property has to meet to qualify. Not every home will be offered entirely free insulation and you may be asked to pay a fee to cover any additional costs. If you are asked to pay something towards the service then take the time to get a few different quotes for the work, don’t assume the provider is offering you the best deal. You could even fit loft insulation yourself; it’s fairly simple to do. Check out the Energy Saving Trust for more information.
It’s not just free gadgets and rolls of insulation on offer, energy companies sometimes offer grants for other energy-efficient home improvements. Phone the Energy Saving Trust’s helpline on 0300 123 1234 to see if you qualify for any discounts or grants, or call 0800 512 012 if you’re in Scotland. The trust’s advice is impartial and it has a huge database of the different deals. Of course, there’s no such thing as free money and all bill payers are subsidising these grants. But since you’re subsidising them with your high and rising bills, why not benefit from them? The money has to be spent; the big energy providers have energy efficiency targets that they have to meet.
If you are living on benefits and your home does need better insulation, there is a government scheme called Warm Front that could provide you with up to £3,500-worth of home improvements. You don’t have to be a homeowner to qualify; if you rent from a private landlord then you may still be eligible. Grants are offered for improvements like loft and cavity wall insulation, or even to have gas central heating fitted if it isn’t already. You can see if you’re eligible for the scheme and apply for funding on the Directgov website.
Freebies are nice, but savings are better. Yet we are astonishingly rubbish at switching energy providers in this country. We all grumble when energy prices rise, but government figures show that the number of people switching energy providers last year was considerably lower than in the previous two years. But you could save hundreds of pounds a year* by comparing and switching gas and electricity suppliers through Gocompare.com. Surely that money is better off in your pocket than your supplier’s? If it helps, imagine a tiny moustachioed Gio Compario sitting on your shoulder and relentlessly singing until you switch.
*10 per cent of customers that switched for gas and electricity with Gocompare.com saved up to £385.15