Household energy bills have been following an upward trend in recent years, with estimates suggesting they're likely to top £1,500 by 2015.
Don't just shrug and accept a high energy bill though - find out why your bill has gone up and do something about it.
Why is my household bill higher?
1. Is it an estimated bill?
If you receive a bill that's higher (or lower!) than expected, your first port of call should always be to check whether it's based on an estimated meter reading.
Estimated meter readings can get your usage completely wrong. You can find out whether or not it's an estimate look for 'estimate' or an 'e' written next to the number of units you've used.
If it is an estimate, take your own meter reading and give it to your energy supplier - they'll send you a new, correct bill.
If you don't know how to take your own meter reading simply determine what kind of meter you have. If you have a standard meter reading you should see a mechanical display that shows your readings in digits. Just read the black numbers from left to right, don't make a note of the numbers in red.
If you have a dial meter on the other hand, which will look like a small clock, your meter reading is a bit trickier. You should be able to simply read off the numbers the dial points to, but different dials placed next to each other rotate in opposite directions, so make sure you read it carefully.
2. Has anything changed since your last bill?
If you've checked that the meter reading on your bill is correct, think about whether or not anything has changed in your home since your last bill. Has the weather been unusually cold? Have you been spending more time at home or are your children at home more because of the school holidays? Have you bought any new appliances?
These things might sound trivial, but they can have an impact on your bill. An energy monitor can help you to work out which appliances are using the most electricity in your home.
3. Has your fixed price plan ended?
Over the last five years or so, many people have signed up for fixed price energy plans to protect themselves against rising prices. If you've suddenly noticed a sharp increase in your bill, it could be because your fixed price plan has come to an end.
Fixed plans guarantee the rate you are paying per kWh for a fixed period of time, but when this time elapses they usually revert to that supplier's standard energy rates, which tend to be the most expensive.
If this is the case, then it is definitely time to do a comparison and switch to the cheapest deal.
You shouldn't be put off fixed plans in future though. Often fixed energy plans offer the best value for money, particularly so in a time of rising prices, but it is vital you make a careful note of the end date and switch plan or supplier around a month before your plan ends.
4. Have your discounts ended?
Another possible explanation for a high energy bill is that an introductory discount you were receiving has ended. If this has happened to you, then it's a good idea to see if there's a cheaper deal available.
Compare gas and electricity prices to find out which supplier is the cheapest - you may be surprised by the result. Often smaller suppliers that many people haven't heard of, or wouldn't have considered switching to, provide the best value for money.
5. If the bill is correct and you're already on the cheapest plan...
...don't panic, there is still help available to you. Just because you're already on the cheapest energy deal doesn't mean you can't save a lot of money by reducing your consumption. After all, a new energy bill will cut your bill in the short run, while reducing your overall energy usage will cut your household bills for years to come.
What to do
- You can cut your average household bills by using less energy and being more energy efficient - take a look at our energy efficiency tips for around the home. Using simple technology you can save money on heating and electritiy.
- Look into some energy saving gadgets .
- You can also get in touch with the Energy Saving Trust for more help and advice. The Energy Saving Trust is a non-profit organisation that helps tackle climate change by offering helpful advice for around the home.
- If you're worried about how you're going to pay your bill, speak to your energy supplier. They can arrange a repayment plan so you can pay your bill gradually. What's more, if you contact your supplier they are required to give you advice on how to cut your bills, and are likely to be able to stagger your payments. Read our article on energy debt to find out more.
- Big projects such as a new energy efficient boiler or home insulation can be expensive, but the savings you make through cutting the price of your energy could be re-invested into energy efficiency measures so that you reap even greater rewards in the future.
Find out if you could be eligible for an energy efficiency grant to help you pay for home improvements that could save you money and help the environment. There is plenty of money available to help households cut their bills and become more energy efficient, just see if you qualify for any of the grants available.