In the last week or so, I’ve heard and read lots of advice from those in authority about how to control household energy costs. Some of the advice has prompted responses such as: “they are living on another planet.” (Otherwise known as “they’re having a larf.”)

At the risk of prompting the same response, I’ll wade in with my own “two penn’orth”; two bits of advice that might help people to (a) monitor and (b) reduce their energy costs.


“Back in the day”, I used to cover my utility costs by the time-honoured method of paying the monthly or quarterly bill as it came in. This had the benefit that I saw the amount regularly, thus I had the option to do something about it if the costs seemed too high. (e.g. reduce thermometer settings and / or switch suppliers, just as the experts are telling us now.)

The downside: I might forget to pay; in the worst case ignore the bills so long that I’d be at risk of being cut off. It never happened; but it could have.

Then the suppliers came up with Direct Debits coupled with estimated usage; and offered a discount for paying that way. That made budgeting easier; but you can guess the downside; once you got used to that amount going out every month, you were less likely to query it.

But then, if unit costs increased (as they are about to do, again, by an average of 9%; in fact four of the “Big Six” have already increased) and the supplier didn’t advise you quickly, you might suddenly get a letter saying that your payment has to go up by a large chunk. (For example, a couple of months ago, mine went up overnight from £61 to £74 per month, which is a 21% increase; and I’m sure that it’ll soon go up again)

The other downside is that the estimate is often in the supplier’s favour, so that you are paying more than you need to, especially in the summer months.

The solution is maybe obvious to you, but it wasn’t to me. It came from a friend of mine who has lodgers. She needs to know her energy costs on an actual basis, so she can divide them up. So she has a Direct Debit (with the discount that goes with paying that way) for the ACTUAL amount, not the figure that the energy supplier estimates. I don’t know if they all offer this, but it’s worth asking. It seems the best payment solution for all of us.


My energy provider offers a FREE smart meter and I am sure that others do the same. They can help you save money by giving you information, minute by minute, about how much energy your home is using. Here’s their video. (LINK)

“78% of customers say smart meters have changed their energy habits,” according to research undertaken by my supplier, who is one of the “Big Six” energy suppliers that supply 98% of the UK domestic market.

They also say: “Using a smart meter, you could save on average 3% a year on your energy costs. This works out to around £42 a year.” (for the average household)

Only 3%? I have never had a smart meter; but I plan to order one right away. My feeling is that if I know from day to day how much energy I am using at home (this little gadget monitors not only electricity but gas too), then I can save much more than 3%.

The meters make sense. Get one now! I’ll be ordering from my energy supplier, which is E.On (LINK), because theirs is free. If your supplier doesn’t provide one free, then do an online search, as you can get a wide range of energy monitoring gadgets elsewhere. For example go to Nigel’s Eco Store (LINK) or Amazon (LINK).

It is worth shopping around, as prices do vary and there are deals to be had. “Which?” have done a review: LINK.



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