Are you worried about your energy bill arrears? Not sure how you’re going to keep up with your increased energy costs, especially if you’re likely to be working from home over winter?
You’re not the only one facing this issue. With the furlough scheme ending and redundancies imminent as we head towards the end of the year, many families will soon be feeling the pinch.
Luckily, there are a few things that can help if this is the position that you’re finding yourself in. Read on to find out about the grants that you can apply for that will help you get rid of your energy bill debts. With any luck, they’ll give you a break and allow you to focus on paying other costs (for example your rent or mortgage) whilst money is tight.
- How Big is the Energy Debt Problem?
- What Grants or Schemes Might Help with My Bill Arrears?
- How Can I Find Out About Energy Grants?
- Ways to Save on Your Energy Bills
- More Money Saving Tips
Quite big. Almost three million homes will fall into energy bill arrears this winter. That’s half a million more than in 2019. Before winter has even begun, 2.8 million households are already in debt to their energy supplier. 9.6 million households are worried about how they’re going to pay their winter energy bills, and nearly two million are expecting to cut back on food to stop themselves falling into debt. It’s something that Sarah Broomfield, an energy expert at Uswitch, has called “incredibly worrying.”
Sarah says: “Anyone who is worried about their debt should contact their energy supplier as soon as possible to set up a repayment plan. They can also ask for energy savings advice and check if they are eligible for free insulation grants, such as the newly launched Green Homes Grant, to help keep costs down longer term.”
The good news is that there is help out there for those in difficulty.
Warm Home Discount
The Warm Home Discount is a one-off payment of £140 that can help with your energy bill between September and March. You may be eligible for the grant if you claim Pension Credit, or if you are on a low income and receive other benefits such as Universal Credit. The money will not be paid to you, but will be taken off your bill directly. Check your provider’s website to see if you’re eligible, and for details on how to apply.
Winter Fuel Payment
The Winter Fuel Payment gives between £100 and £300 to those claiming the State Pension, to be used against a winter heating bill. The amount that you can claim depends on your circumstances. It is usually paid in mid-January.
Cold Weather Payment
The Cold Weather Payment is a one off payment of £25 that is available in certain areas for those on benefits, if the average temperature in their area falls below zero degree for seven consecutive days. The payment is available between 1st November and 31st March. It is added to your next benefit payment.
The Green Homes Grant
In the longer term, you may want to think about making improvements to your home so that it is as energy efficient as possible. The government’s Green Homes Grant offers vouchers for between £5000 and £10,000. The vouchers must be used for insulation or to install a “low carbon heating measure”. Future savings on energy bills could be up to £600 per year.
There’s a lot of information out there on energy grants. Look at the following sites to see what you’re entitled to.
Simple Energy Advice
This Government-approved site allows you to input your postcode to see what local grants might be available to you, for example through the council. It also offers information on the Winter Fuel Payment, the Cold Weather Payment, and the Warm Home Discount.
Turn2Us is a charity that is dedicated to helping people out when times are tough. You can get in touch with the charity to discuss your situation, or read more about how it can help with your energy bill arrears online.
British Gas Energy Grant
You don’t have to be a British Gas customer to apply for their hardship energy grant. It could help you reduce some or all of your energy debt.
This debt charity has a section dedicated to those who are struggling with their energy bills, and can offer specific advice on situations that might have arisen due to coronavirus. They can also help you make a plan to get out of debt, including setting up debt repayment plans and communicating with the suppliers you owe money to on your behalf.
National Energy Action
National Energy Action also offers advice on energy bills and keeping warm at home.
Your own energy provider
Most energy providers have funds that can help reduce your energy bill arrears. Often, if you’re struggling speaking to your provider about your options first might be the best thing to do. They may be able to put a freeze on your account, provide a hardship grant, or allow you to change your payment plan to make your costs more manageable.
Switching to a different tariff
If you think you could be getting a better energy deal elsewhere, you might want to look into switching your provider. After all, overpaying when you don’t need to is just throwing money down the drain. We recommend taking MoneyMagpie’s advice on switching energy supplier. More on that here.
Gov.uk has some useful tips on saving money on your energy bills. These might prove helpful in keeping your costs down in the longer term. Tips include:
- Ensuring your boiler is working as well as it can by having it serviced, or upgrading if needed
- If you own your house, adding insulation in the loft or cavity walls to keep the heat trapped inside
- Making sure your windows and doors are draft proof (for an easy solution indoors, buy a draft excluder)
- Installing double glazing, if you own where you live
- Switching to low energy light bulbs could save you £5 per year, per bulb. Every little helps!
- Turning down your thermostat by just one degree could save you 10% on your heating bills
Have you got any advice to offer on bills arrears, or on saving money on your energy bills? We’d love to hear. Feel free to share your trips over on our forums.
More Money Saving Tips:
There are lots of ways you can save more money around the home to cut bills. Read these next to find out more!