All of us are feeling the pinch caused by soaring energy and food prices. The announcement by Power NI of another rise, this time of 27.5%, is grim news, and will mean annual bills of nearly £1,000 for its 461,000 customers.
Gas prices have been going up at an even steeper rate, with firmus energy and SSE Airtricity customers now facing an annual bill of around £1,200. Home heating oil has also climbed in price.
Fluctuations in demand following the reopening of the global economy after lockdowns were already pushing up prices last year, but the war in Ukraine has exacerbated the situation and heaped more financial pressure on us all.
In fact, it is estimated half the population is now living in fuel poverty.
But there are small measures which can make a slight difference and shave as much as £100 off annual bills, according to the Consumer Council.
Its tips for saving money include:
Switching off appliances at the wall could save £40 per year.
Only using the water you need in a kettle could save £8 per year.
Reducing your washing machine temperature to 30°C could save £10 per year.
Wait until there’s a full load before using appliances like washing machines and dishwashers.
Use outdoor drying instead of a tumble dryer where possible.
Turning off lights when leaving a room could save £14 a year.
Pull your sofa away from the radiator if it is in front of it.
Keep curtains closed.
Draught-proof windows and doors.
Turning down your thermostat by 1°C could save you £80.
Servicing your boiler regularly will reduce your heating bills.
Insulating the loft can save around £155, cavity wall insulation can save around £185, while solid wall insulation can save you around £250.
The Consumer Council further suggests using LED bulbs, which can save customers up to £30 per year.
Also, consumers have the option of switching supplier.
If you’re on gas in greater Belfast, you can choose between firmus energy or SSE Airtricity.
However, costs for both have been growing at similar rates, as both are responding to increases in the wholesale price of gas.
If you are in the Ten Towns areas for gas, your only option is firmus energy.
There are more options when it comes to electricity, with five suppliers offering around 20 tariffs.
The Consumer Council has said that e-bill monthly direct debits are the cheapest way to pay.
Visit its free energy price comparison tool at https://www.consumercouncil.org.uk/comparison_tool/begin