“Half of the UK’s workforce is likely to work primarily from home over the coming months,” says Jillian Ambrose in The Guardian. This “may see their winter energy bills rise by a fifth as radiators and boilers are kept running through the day”. The Energy Helpline says the average household energy bill will rise by £107 this winter as a result of people working from home five days a week. That is an overall extra £1.9bn between October and March.
That means it is more important than ever to make sure you are paying the lowest price possible for your gas and electricity. Unfortunately, simply tapping your details into a price-comparison website and opting for the cheapest energy supplier is no longer the best solution.
Firstly, in 2019 24 small energy suppliers went bust. If your company goes belly-up your gas and electricity won’t be cut off – Ofgem, the gas and electricity regulator, will arrange for you to be moved to another supplier – but your bills are likely to go up and you’ll need to shop around for the best deal and switch again. So it pays to do some research into a company before you switch. Check how long the company has been operating for and how it performs in customers’ reviews. Secondly, price-comparison sites don’t necessarily show you the best deals. They always tend to show the deals they get commission from first, so make sure you click the box to show you all the results. But even then you may miss out on savings worth £270.
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“Price-comparison websites, including GoCompare and MoneySuperMarket do not reveal cheaper tariffs available from a user’s existing supplier,” says Sam Benstead in The Daily Telegraph. “They only highlight where better deals are available from other providers.”
Data from Ofgem shows that the best deals available from the Big Six energy suppliers are, on average, 24% cheaper than the average cost of their standard variable tariffs (SVT). Simply by switching to the best deal from your existing supplier’s SVT could save you £270 a year. So shop around using a price-comparison website and then compare the best deals they show you with the best one your provider is offering.
If you are working from home, you can ask your employer for help with your energy bills. Government rules state that you can ask for a £6 a week allowance from your boss to help you cover the extra costs of working from home. Unfortunately, “there is no statutory obligation for employers to agree”, says Ambrose. You are also entitled to tax relief on the £6 allowance. You can claim more tax relief if your costs are higher than £6 a week and you can provide bills to prove it. You can claim the relief through the government’s online portal at gov.uk.
While you are thinking about your winter energy bills, don’t be tempted to fork out for boiler cover. According to consumers’ group Which, the average boiler policy costs £288 a year, but the average repair bill is £107 and the typical annual service costs £80. “If you only needed to repair your boiler once in ten years you would be more than £2,000 better off paying up front for servicing and repairs than if you took out annual cover,” says David Byers in The Times.
Ruth Jackson-Kirby is a freelance personal finance journalist with 17 years’ experience, writing about everything from savings and credit cards to pensions, property and pet insurance.
Ruth started her career at MoneyWeek after graduating with an MA from the University of St Andrews, and she continues to contribute regular articles to our personal finance section. After leaving MoneyWeek she went on to become deputy editor of Moneywise before becoming a freelance journalist.
Ruth writes regularly for national publications including The Sunday Times, The Times, The Mail on Sunday and Good Housekeeping among many other titles both online and offline.
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