Just because you rent a house or live in shared housing, it doesn't mean you're not able to get the best deal possible when it comes to your gas and electric bills.
With autumn now well and truly upon us, many of us have found ourselves reaching for the central heating controls over the past few days.
Indeed, recent research from GoCompare actually found that 16 October is the most common day for UK households to turn the central heating on.
For tenants and those that live in shared housing, though, it's not always as simple as just switching the heating on when you think it's needed. Energy usage can be a big point of contention amongst tenants, even more so now as rising energy prices mean the average household spends more than £1,000 a year on gas and electricity.
GoCompare's Ben Wilson said: “We’re now entering the peak period for energy usage and higher fuel bills, but the affordability of heating is a real issue for many households.”
For those who rent or live in shared accommodation, it is certainly not uncommon for arguments to start about when the heating should be turned on, and what the thermostat should be set to. Housemates taking too long in the shower or leaving the lights on when they go out are also common causes of disputes.
The good news for renters and tenants is that there are certain steps that can be taken to save money on energy bills...
Switch your energy provider
A recent study by MoneySupermarket.com showed that a failure to compare and switch gas and electricity providers is costing tenants as much as £1 billion in potential savings, purely because they don't know that they are allowed to switch suppliers, already have energy bills included in their rent or just don't discuss their options with their landlord.
The research also found that nearly half of tenants in the UK are not provided with the correct information about their gas and electricity supplier at the beginning of their tenancy, and 12% of renters think only the landlord is responsible for switching.
The energy market regulator Ofgem has set out rules that state that if a tenant's name is on the bill then they have the right to switch their supplier at any time during the tenancy period.
Even if the tenants name is not on the bill i.e. if the energy costs are added to the amount paid in rent, then it is worth discussing switching providers with the landlord as there is usually big savings to be made.
MoneySupermarket.com's Stephen Murray said: “When it comes to energy switching in rented properties, there is some confusion over who takes responsibility.
"But with savings of up to £359 per household to be made by switching suppliers, it pays to take control and shop around. That said, it’s always important to keep your landlord up to speed with any changes you plan to make.”
Switching to a cheaper energy tariff
A lot of smaller energy suppliers have increased their costs recently due to the rise in wholesale energy costs, and there is widespread speculation that the consumer energy market as a whole could follow suit soon - so now is an ideal time to look into the different options available to you.
Luckily, switching energy providers has never been more simple and quick to do. Just add your postcode below to start comparing the gas and electricity tariffs in your area:
Top 10 tips to cut energy usage in a rented/shared house
As well as switching your provider, there are lots of other actions you can take in a rented/shared house to help reduce the amount of gas and electric you use and pay for. For example...
- Turn down the thermostat - Simply turning the thermostat down by 1 degree Celsius can save you as much as £60 a year. It's also worth bearing in mind that it is much more efficient to keep your heating on all the time at a low setting rather than turning it on and off at a high temperature.
- Keep the radiators clear - It's amazing how many homes have sofas and other large pieces of furniture in front of radiators. This blocks the heat from spreading into the room and ultimately means you pay more to heat up the room.
- Stop using the tumble drier - Tumble driers are one of the most expensive appliances to run, so it's worth either using the washing line or getting a good drying rack/airer to dry your clothes indoors. This can save you up to £70 a year on energy bills.
- Wash your clothes at a lower temperature - Most of the time the washing machine doesn't need to be put on a three hour cycle to wash your clothes at 60 degrees. Try the quick 'eco' settings that use much lower temperatures and see if you even notice the difference.
- Make use of the dishwasher - Unlike the tumble drier, using a dishwasher can actually work out as more efficient than washing dishes by hand - particularly if you wait until it is completely full before turning it on.
- Only shower for 10 minutes or less - As it gets colder it can be tempting to spend longer in the shower, but if you're looking to save money you need to be more disciplined. There are lots of timers and shower monitors available to buy now that can help you keep track of how long you're spending in there, and many water companies will provide water-efficient shower heads away for free if you ask for one.
- Switch appliances off at the mains - It may seem like a bit of a chore, but you quickly get into the habit of it. So turn the TV, hair straighteners, games consoles and everything else off a the plug when they're not in use rather than leaving them on standby. Also, get into the habit of charging your smartphones and tablets before going to bed rather than leaving them plugged in all night.
- Only boil the water you need - A lot of water and energy gets wasted by people putting too much water in the kettle when making a cup of tea or coffee. Get in the habit of only boiling what you need, and if you need boiling water for cooking make sure you use the kettle first rather than the hob as it is much more efficient.
- Use the microwave whenever possible - You don't want to use the microwave for everything, but whenever possible consider microwaving instead of cooking in the over. For example, it's much more efficient to microwave a jacket potato for ten minutes rather than oven cook it for over an hour.
- Get energy-saving lightbulbs - These can last 10 times longer than ordinary light bulbs and can save around £50 over the lifetime of the bulb, so they are well worth investing in.