Don't be fooled by the recent balmy autumn days. The nights are rapidly drawing in and the clocks will soon go back, which can only mean one thing, to channel game of thrones, WINTER IS COMING! So as early preparation helps, our Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis is here to bust some popular energy myths…
True or false: Renters can’t switch energy provider without their landlords permission?
False. You have a right to switch energy provider in your home even if you only pay the rent. There are two exceptions to this 1) If you don’t pay for energy yourself, it’s all included in your rent 2) If you’re looking to switch meter, eg from prepayment to a credit meter, as that’s a physical change to the property that needs permission.
So feel free to do a comparison. Just plug your details into Martin’s ‘Cheap Energy Club’ or any other Ofgem-approved comparison site and it'll tell you the best deal for you. Just make sure you select ‘all tariffs’ as some comparison sites now default to only show you the ones that will pay them (Martin’s cheap energy club doesn’t do this).
If the landlord says it’s written into your contract that you can’t switch, challenge it. Preventing a tenant from changing energy suppliers may be viewed as an unfair term in a tenancy agreement. Talk to Citizens Advice to see if it can help.
True or False: If you’re in credit when you switch energy provider they must give you the money back?
True. Well true now anyway. If you pay by direct debit, you've likely built up credit over the low-use summer period, and if you’ve switched since 2014 and were in credit you should automatically get this back. But track it and if the supplier doesn’t, call them and ask for it.
If you switched before 2014 and think you might have been in credit then call and ask anyway. Chances are you might get something back like Aston who emailed “eight minutes work calling my old energy suppliers, got £140 refunded after leaving in credit. Why don't more people do this?”
True or False: It’s cheaper to leave the heating on low all day rather than have it turn off and on?
False(ish). Both the Energy Saving Trust and British Gas say that this is a myth. They say it’s better to only put the heating on when you need it – as you pay to pump energy in as and when is needed,and to keep pumping it in constantly isn’t efficient. Using a timer's best, because your thermostat is designed to turn your heating on and off to keep your home at the temperature you set it. So in general I’d stick with that.
There are some engineers though who argue that keeping the heating on low with all the radiators on and the boiler down can work as it reduces condensation, which when the heating is turned off collects within the walls, and can help conduct heat outside the home – meaning you loose heat more quickly and so will use more energy as a result. So if your house is prone to that you may want to think about it.
True or False: When you change energy supplier someone will need to visit your home?
False. Nobody visits your home. Your pipes don’t change and your gas and electricity won’t get cut off. You don’t even need to contact your old energy supplier to tell it you’re switching. The only thing that changes is the price and service.
It’s so easy to switch. It isn’t a big deal.
True or False: It’s cheapest to pay energy bills by direct debit?
True. Suppliers offer discounts of around 7% when paying by monthly direct debit. But just make sure you always give regular meter readings to get accurate bills. If not you could end up with overly inflated monthly payments or face a bill shock if you've not paid enough. And if you think it's too high, you've a right to challenge it.
True or False:You can only get free loft and cavity wall insulation if you receive benefits?
False. Energy firms face sanctions if they don’t meet Eco quotas, so two firms, E.on and Npower are giving free loft and cavity wall insulation to anyone with a suitable home. You don’t even have to be their customer or on a low income claiming benefits to get it. If you paid for this commercially it could cost over £600 and the savings can be huge. The Energy Saving Trust estimates you’ll see a reduction in bills of up to £450 a year compared with a typical uninsulated home. On average it takes 3-4 weeks to book a survey and a further two weeks for the insulation to be fitted (though it can take longer).
Yet be careful, as cavity wall insulation isn’t for everyone. It’s mostly only suited for homes built between 1920-1990, which tend to have a gap between the internal and external wall, for the cavity to fit in, keeping cold air out. But if you live in an area where there is high 'wind-driven rain' – particularly south-west England, the west of Wales, north-west England and Scotland – having the insulation could cause damp and mould issues in your home, so it's vital to first check that the insulation is suitable before you get it.
True or false: I must get boiler cover with my energy provider?
False. Many energy firms use our fear of losing heating to charge hefty insurance costs. They also want us to think there's some link between our energy provider and our boiler cover. There isn't - you're not locked in, so if you do need it, go elsewhere, like Amanda who emailed "I swapped my boiler cover company and saved £213 a year whilst also increasing cover - and still with an annual service included. Thanks."
You can choose between boiler-only or central heating cover and to find the cheapest cover use a comparison site such as uSwitch,Energyhelpline and MoneySupermarket. If it's right for you, get cover ASAP, before the true cold weather kicks in, as almost all new policies have a no-claims period within the first 14-30 days.