I am a tenant – what can I do to reduce my Energy Bills?
Many tenants are labouring under the assumption that they can’t switch their energy supplier. That it’s down to the landlord to select the provider and that the tenant just pays the bills. Well, this is incorrect.
Since it is the tenant(s) names on the bills and they are the bill payer then they are entitled to shop around just like anyone else. Most landlords are happy to leave this to their tenants, most don’t care (or even know) who the energy supplier is for their property. As long as there is a clear paper trail, which there would be, and there is no contest about who owes what when new tenants take residence, then the landlord should be amenable. When you become a tenant in a new property, probably one of the first things you do is to take the meter reading, and call the supplier (the departing tenants usually do the same) so that any final bills from the previous tenants can be settled. This is an ideal time to think about whether the energy deal the household is currently on is a good one. The chances are that if the property has been tenanted for a long time, no one will ever have bothered switching suppliers, and you could make significant savings if you do so!
If you are sharing the house or property with other tenants, have a meeting about the energy suppliers and propose the idea of switching. Just spending 30 minutes on a comparison or switching site could save the household up to £300 a year – who would turn their nose up at that? You will need your MPAN number or an energy bill so the site knows what tariff you are currently on but that is all you need to do. Within a few days you will be up and running. Of course, if you are living in rented accommodation that runs on a prepay meter, you have slightly less flexibility. Nonetheless, it is worth doing a comparison as you may be with an expensive provider and there are others out there; or you can try calling the supplier to see if there is anything they can do about moving you onto a standard credit meter. Normally the prepay tariffs are more expensive than paying by direct debit. It all depends on how reliable your housemates are and what the history is with that particular property. (Often meters are installed in homes which have a bad credit history, or where bills historically haven’t been paid). But if you can prove you are a reliable payer, they may be amenable to removing the prepay meter and putting you onto the standard monthly payment system.
Energy efficiency is another area where being a little more conscious over your energy use can reap rewards. Try to buy energy efficient light bulbs if you can stretch to replacing the light bulbs in the house. Try to switch appliances and lights off when you leave your room and communal areas, and put up signs or stickers asking everyone else to do the same. Turn your thermostat down by 1ºC and cut the heating bills by up to 10 per cent, saving you around £30 a year. (The recommended room temperature is 21ºC for a living room, 18ºC for other rooms). Use blankets rather than switching the heating up.
As of 2015 you should be contacted by your supplier to have a usage meter installed (all households will get one of these as a matter of course). These meters could be of particular use for tenants since you will be able to see your energy usage in real time, and thus make behavioural adjustments quickly. Think for example about how you use your washing machine currently. Does each member of the household do their washing separately? Do they wait until they have a full load of washing before putting it on or are they running the machine half-empty? There’s nothing like sharing a load (quite literally)!
Other, bigger projects that can help you to save on your energy bills, is to check the level of insulation you have in the house, both loft insulation and cavity wall insulation. Ask your landlord whether he can look into financing any additional insulation, or find out whether you are eligible for any of the government schemes.