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How to keep heating costs down if the energy crisis has increased your bill

The rising cost of natural gas has led to an energy crisis – and UK households are now footing the bill.

Soaring gas prices have left millions of UK households facing higher bills for heating their homes, with prices expected to rise by up to £400 per year for some households. 

With the cut in universal credit hitting millions, many households have expressed fears over their ability to pay for basics like electricity, heating and food.

If you’re worried about paying your bill, or simply looking for ways to save money as the colder months approach, here’s everything you need to know about the rise in energy costs, how you can keep your bill low and where to turn for help making payments. 

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What’s driving the energy crisis? 

Increased demand for gas has squeezed the supply chain, pushing up gas prices and causing a number of energy suppliers to go bust.

This is because energy suppliers have a cap on what they are allowed to charge for energy – meaning they can’t pass on all the increased costs to consumers. 

Because of a recent increase in this price cap, however, many have seen their bills rise.

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Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng claimed over the weekend that he was involved in talks with the Treasury on providing support to businesses struggling with energy costs.

In an unprecedented move, however, the Treasury denied that these talks had taken place.

What is the energy price cap and how does it affect my bill? 

Set by the energy regulator Ofgem, the energy price cap is a limit on the rates a supplier can charge for their default tariffs. It doesn’t apply for fixed-term energy tariffs. 

Your energy usage will also affect how much you pay – so the cap level isn’t the maximum anyone will pay. Higher usage will mean paying more. 

Ofgem increased the price cap on standard and default tariffs on October 1, raising the price from £1,138 a year to £1,277 a year for a typical dual-fuel household.

In the past, standard price-capped tariffs have been among the most expensive energy deals to be on, but thanks to the recent rise in gas prices, they are now the cheapest available. 

The new cap will last until April 1 2022. 

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What can I do to keep my energy usage low?

One of the most obvious ways to save on heating costs is to only crank up the thermostat when you need it, as well as taking shorter showers (as energy is used to heat the water). 

Draughty houses, however, can make it hard for a building to retain heat – so having thick curtains on your windows and keeping internal doors closed is one way of trapping heat.

If you live in private or social housing and claim certain benefits you may be eligible for the Affordable Warmth Obligation, a scheme under which the government helps pay the cost of insulation work or upgrading your heating in other ways. 

You can find out more about this scheme, and others you may be eligible for, on the government’s energy advice website.

Another way to keep an eye on costs is to see whether your energy supplier can give you a smart meter – this allows you to see how much you’re spending on a live meter.

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What help can I get with paying my heating bill?

If you’re struggling to pay your heating bill, your first port of call should be your supplier.

You should be able to negotiate a payment plan which works for you and the supplier should take into account how much you can afford to pay. 

Citizens Advice offers a budgeting tool to help you calculate how much you can pay based on your circumstances.

If you can’t reach an agreement or can’t make payments you’ve agreed, the company may install a prepayment meter instead.

If you receive income support, income-based jobseekers’ allowance, employment and support allowance, pension credit or universal credit (while unemployed) you may be able to pay energy bills or debts through your benefits.

This is called “third party deductions” or Fuel Direct and you can find out more about the scheme on the government’s website.

Recipients of benefits may be eligible for other schemes to help pay for heating such as the Warm Home Discount. 

Citizens Advice has a list of schemes and grants available for those who need help paying. 

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