Reducing your energy bills

For any renter or homeowner, the largest cost incurred throughout the year is often the most important: energy bills. Gas and electricity prices have risen pretty steeply in recent years as oil and gas prices have increased and energy companies have been slow in passing on savings to their customers, leaving many people needing some help paying bills.

If you're in need of some quick cash, trimming funds from your energy bills is actually one of the easier ways to reduce your expenditures, and there's a whole load of ways you can pinch back your pounds from the suppliers.

Know your bill

All bills will contain the same sorts of information, and it's through understanding this relatively straightforward data that you can start on your cash-saving quest!

On your bill you should see your provider, account or customer number, the name of your tariff, price of your tariff (per unit of energy and per year), and a comparison section that will let you know how much gas and electricity you're using this year, compared to the last. You'll also be given info regarding your meter and its readings, and finally a breakdown of how much you owe to your provider.

Check your bill to see it contains the correct information, then see if your usage is estimated or not – if it is, take a precise note of the amount on your meter, send it to your provider, and you may be able to get a refund if you're actually using less energy than they've calculated.

Get online and compare

Now that you've got your annual usage statistics – the yearly meter readings – you can fire up the computer and indulge in some bargain-hunting. To save your cash, you'll need to head to an energy price comparison website – there are lots out there, so shop around for the sites that offer the best cashback rates and deals – and input your location, tariff, and usage information.

After you've seen what the competition can offer you and the savings that can be made – a sum often measured in the hundreds – follow the easy on-screen instructions and switch your supplier. Be aware though: your current supplier may charge a cancellation fee, especially if you're leaving in the middle of paying a fixed-term tariff.

This kind of charge is usually easily outweighed by any potential savings though – between February 2015 and March 2015, the industry regulator Ofgem found that the average saving enjoyed by switchers was a massive £312!

Be energy-aware

By simply changing your behaviours, you can easily manage your energy costs, giving you great savings. During autumn and winter, try and resist the urge to turn up the heating and wear extra layers instead. It's also surprising how a room, containing only a few people, can heat up pretty quickly on its own, especially when the curtains are closed.

Draught-proofing doors and windows is also really easy – most hardware shops stock quick and easy adhesive strips that, over time, can make a big difference. Energy-saving home improvements such as insulation, double-glazing, and renewable energy generators can also shave cash off of your bills, however these are a high-cost, long-term commitment.

Opting for showers instead of baths, and limiting these to under three minutes, can also stack up the savings, as can fixing those drips and leaks that inevitably occur from time to time. Doing the washing up by hand, in a bowl, is also a very efficient way to clean, and you can also save a small amount by only boiling the amount of water you actually require whenever you use the kettle.

Make sure that all of your appliances are powered off, not left on standby mode – standby drains a trickle of power that, over time, can really add up. Switching your old light bulbs to cheaper, far more efficient LED versions will similarly save you money, and that's without the most obvious saving of all: turning off the lights when you exit a room!