Peter McClenaghan of the Consumer Council
Northern Ireland is in the grip of an energy price crisis.
Energy costs and petrol prices have soared with many facing a choice between heating or eating.
Last week, SSE Airtricity was the lasted gas company to increase it prices. Its near 40% rise, it was warned, did not factor in the recent upheaval in the markets brought on by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Petrol prices, however, have been increasing at an alarming rate, with a warning Northern Ireland could see £2 a litre at the pumps.
This week the first payments are to be made from Stormont's home energy support scheme. Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey said she was looking at if the scheme could be widened to include more people.
As part of consumer week, the Consumer Council is giving tips on helping make budgets stretch a little further.
Running household appliances more efficiently can save up to £100 a year on electricity bills.
The Consumer Council has an appliance cost calculator to find out how much your kettle or washing machine are setting you back.
And the single appliance checker will let you see how much appliances cost to run on a per-minute, per-hour, and per-day basis.
Here are some tips on ways you can act on now in order to save on electricity and heating bills.
Reduce electricity usage
Switching off appliances at the wall could save you £40 per year.
Only using the water you need in a kettle could save you £8 per year.
Reducing your washing machine temperature to 30°C could save you £10 per year.
Wait to use appliances like your washing machine and dishwasher until there is a full load.
Use outdoor drying instead of a tumble dryer where possible.
Turning off lights when leaving a room could save £14 per year.
Replacing household bulbs with LED alternatives saves around £30 a year.
How to save on home heating
Pull your sofa away from the radiator if it is in front of it.
Keep curtains closed to keep heat in.
Draught-proof windows and doors.
Turn down your thermostat by 1°C could save you £80 a year.
Servicing your boiler regularly will reduce your heating bills.
Insulating your loft can save you around £155 per year.
Cavity wall insulation can save you as around £185 a year.
Solid wall insulation can save you around £250 a year.
Switch supplier and save
Switching payment methods can give the biggest savings – for example from paper billings to direct debit e-billing.
There can be over 20 different electricity tariffs available so switching could bring saving. The Consumer Council's website has a free energy price comparison tool that allows you to compare all available tariffs in one place.
If you are a gas customer in the Belfast area, check that you are on the cheapest tariff as there are two suppliers in this network. Unfortunately there is no competition in the Ten Towns gas network which is serviced by Firmus.
There are also savings to be made on home heating oil, each supplier will have their own price – so it is important to shop around as there is money to be saved.
Every week the Consumer Council survey prices from around 70 home heating oil suppliers across Northern Ireland and publish the results of the cheapest, average and most expensive prices for 300 litres, 500 litres and 900 litres in an interactive tool format on its website. You can use this information as a benchmark to see if you are paying more than the average on the cost of home heating oil.
The Consumer Council also surveys the price of petrol across Northern Ireland and reports every Thursday. For the latest click here.
In the last week a price of 158p per litre was found to be the highest for diesel and 144p per litre was the lowest.
Home heating oil price averages are also surveyed on a Thursday. For the latest click here.
In the last week the most expensive 300 litre average for home heating oil was £288.18 in Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon. The cheapest 300 litre average was recorded as £265.33 in Derry City and Strabane.
Oil Buying Clubs and budgeting
The Housing Executive has established 27 Oil Buying Clubs across Northern Ireland which has enabled householders to buy oil at a competitive price through community bulk buying and make savings.
The Northern Ireland Oil Federation also has PayPoint facilities to enable you to budget and make regular payments towards your oil delivery instead of having to pay for your delivery in a lump sum.
Emergency oil drums
Avoid buying 20 litre emergency oil drums from forecourts as a regular means of topping up your oil tank as they are extremely expensive and should only be used in emergency circumstances.
Want to know more?
There is also a dedicated energy efficiency webpage with tips, tools, and information to run your home energy efficiently and save money.
You can also get in touch with The Consumer Council for free advice by calling its freephone number on 0800 121 6022, Monday-Friday 9am-5pm.