The clocks went back on Saturday 24 October, the days are getting shorter and it's time to put the heating on. To make sure you don't receive crippling gas and electricity bills, follow these simple tips, compiled by Steve Coyle, operations director at Cullen Property.
"No matter whether you live in your own house or a rented property, there are a few simple measures everyone can take to ensure bills are kept as low as possible without spending all winter holding on to a hot water bottle", says Cullen Property Operations Director Steve Coyle.
1. Start with your energy bills
Despite recent price increases by a majority of the main energy suppliers there are still good deals to be had for gas and electricity. Check your bills to find out how much energy you typically use and see whether it would be beneficial to fix your energy prices for a year or see if there are cheaper deals altogether. Most suppliers also offer combined rates for gas and electricity. Good utility comparison and advice sites include Which? and Moneysupermarket, among others.
2. Pay your bills the clever way
Even if you do stay with your current supplier switching to paperless billing or setting up a direct debit may save money on a monthly basis. Always submit actual meter readings as opposed to relying on estimated bills. If estimates are too high, this will allow you to lower your bills. Should they be too low, you avoid a nasty surprise after a few months.
3. Insulate your home (and yourself)
If you are a home owner, check your energy supplier's deals on cavity wall and loft insulation. Most utility companies are encouraging customers to improve their homes and rewards include help towards the cost of improvements now and lower bills in the long run. If you're renting, it may be worth speaking to your landlord or letting agent about these schemes. And while it may sound obvious, putting on an extra jumper or investing in a pair of slippers can also make a massive difference.
4. Look after your heating system
Whether you have a gas boiler or are heating your home with electric storage heaters, it's worth having them serviced regularly, at least once every 12 months before the cold period starts. As temperatures are dropping, now is a great time to double-check everything is working fine before you get caught out by a sudden freeze.
5. Bleed your radiators
Radiators can only work efficiently when any air has been removed from them. This is done with the help of a radiator key. However, if you're unfamiliar with DIY, ask a qualified tradesman to help you.
6. Keep the heating on...
...especially if you are leaving your flat for a few days during a cold snap. This will prevent frozen or burst pipes and potentially structural damage to your home caused by cold conditions. Make sure you know where and how your mains water supply can be switched off.
7. ...but only heat the rooms you need
If you have a box room or a guest room that isn't being used, turn off any radiators in that room to avoid wasting gas or electricity. Seal the door against draughts.
8. Check fires and fire alarms
Autumn and winter are perfect for curling up in front of a cosy fireplace. However, winter is also the time when fire-related accidents increase. Have your fireplace serviced if you haven't used it for a while and check that all fire alarms in your property are working.
9. Minimise draughts
Draughty doors and windows can suck the heat out of your property in a short space of time. If you can't replace them, try using draft excluders and heavy curtains to retain heat during the colder months.
10. Compile an emergency kit
You don't need to go overboard, but having a small bag of useful tools ready can save time and take the stress out of an emergency. Your handy kit should include a torch, batteries, insulation tape and a screwdriver as well as a radiator key. Add to that a list of important phone numbers for your home insurance company, landlord, emergency plumbers and heating engineers etc.