It may be summer but it’s time to think about heating costs

THE HEAVY rain and chilly winds in the past few days are reminders that now is the time to think about winter and rising gas and electricity costs.

The West Sussex Fuel Poverty Co-ordinator, Michelle Cheeseman, is advising households to take action now to reduce bills as the colder weather approaches.

There have already been massive price hikes announced by energy companies, and more are expected in the coming weeks. It means that many households could face the threat of being pushed into fuel poverty.

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West Sussex County Council Cabinet Member for Environment and Economy Deborah Urquhart said: “Gas and electricity prices are getting more and more expensive. Fuel poverty is a risk facing many households and families, and I would urge residents to act now and get the cheapest energy deal possible so they are prepared for winter.”

There are three key areas that can help households:

Change energy supplier or tariff. Shop around for the best deal. It can be cheaper to buy both gas and electricity from the same supplier. Paying by direct debit and paperless billing can lead to further discounts. Fixed tariffs can protect against future price increases, but check if there is a penalty charge for leaving the deal early.

Get insulated. Homes that are not properly insulated typically lose 35 percent of heat through walls and 25 percent through the roof. There are many local free or discounted insulation schemes on offer. For more information call the Energy Saving Trust on 0800 512 012.

Adequate heating. If a boiler is more than 15 years old, it’s time to consider replacing it with an efficient condensing boiler, which could save up to 40 percent on fuel bills. Keep houses heated between 18C and 21C to be as efficient as possible. Households in receipt of certain means-tested benefits could be eligible for heating and insulation assistance under the Government’s Warm Front scheme.

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Michelle said: “There couldn’t be a better time to take energy and money saving measures that will mean a warmer winter.

“Take your time to compare suppliers. Don’t just switch if someone knocks on your door offering you savings. Always do your research before you switch, as you could be getting the best deal already.”

The West Sussex Fuel Poverty Coordinator is funded by West Sussex councils. The position helps councils, the NHS, the voluntary sector and community groups to reduce fuel poverty through a range of initiatives and partnership working.