Two Jumpers: How to fight rising gas prices

I read with horror over the weekend that a report commissioned by Centrica claims gas prices could soar by more than 60 per cent over the next two years. Aren’t we all paying enough already?! And how will the 1 in 5 UK households already struggling in fuel poverty cope?

So what great advice does the MD of Centrica, Jake Ulrich, have to impart? Wear two jumpers! OK, he may have a point. I’ve admit, I’ve been guilty in the past of turning up the thermostat instead of putting on a cardigan, although I’ve learnt my lesson. So Mr Ulrich’s advice might be appropriate for those accustomed to dancing around their houses in bikinis in December. But I doubt the pensioners who told me during my pension challenge earlier this year they could only afford to heat one room will be too impressed. Some charities have told Mr Ulrich in no uncertain terms what they think of his comments. I fear that ‘Two Jumpers’ may be the moniker he is forever known by now – reminiscent of John Prescott and his nickname Two Jags…

Both energy companies and the government through VAT are making a fortune out of the current high gas prices and charities, such as Age Concern, are trying to get them to work together to fight fuel poverty. The government wants to abolish fuel poverty by 2010, but the charity says this isn’t going to happen unless they revise their strategy and make providing social tariffs compulsory for energy companies. Currently it’s only voluntary and the poorest customers don’t always get the best deal. Not to mention the fact that many poorer customers on pre-payment meters are often charged the highest rate. A spokesman for Age Concern told me that if we see price hikes of 25 per cent then 1 in 3 pensioner households will be in fuel poverty. A shocking figure. The charity is also trying to get the government to raise the winter fuel allowance.

It’s so warm now that it’s hard to imagine what it will be like in the winter. But how can we combat rising gas prices, besides piling on the layers? Here are a few ideas.

1. Visit Uswitch.com. OK, so energy prices may rise, but it’s worth seeing if the current deal you’re getting is competitive. With Uswitch it’s easy, as long as you’ve got a current bill nearby, to tap in your details and see if there is better deal out there. Switching is reasonably pain free. If you’re not on the internet you can call them on 0800 404 7908.

2. Pay by direct debit. Most providers offer discounts for paying by direct debit – as well as paperless billing online – and it helps spread the cost. It is, however, unfair that people who don’t wish to pay by direct debit may be charged extra.

3. Is your loft properly insulated and do you have cavity wall? If not, around a third of your energy could be wasted. There are grants available for this from Warm Front, so get in touch with your energy provider/local council to find out if you qualify. Make sure your water tank is properly lagged too. Some energy providers provide insulation free to low income customers, so it’s worth checking.

4. Exclude draughts. Draw your curtains early in winter evenings to keep the heat in and put up thick ones to ensure draughts are kept out. Make sure they fit closely to the window. Look for cold spots in your home and consider having draught excluders fitted, such as brushes and flaps. It may seem old fashioned, but the old sausage dog ones work well put across any draughty bits under doors etc. And don’t be ashamed to use a hot water bottle to warm the bed either! Friends of the Earth also suggest fitting wooden shelves (not MDF) above radiators to direct heat downwards rather then let it escape through the ceiling.

5. Is your heating on a timer? If not, you could be wasting cash by heating the house when you’re not around. Friends of the Earth suggests timing it so it goes off 30 minutes before you leave home and comes on 30 minutes before you arrive back, if you are out all day. And, it may be reminiscent of Mr Ulrich’s comments, but think about turning the thermostat down a few degrees and making sure you’re wrapped up warmly. But don’t risk your health – many pensioners become ill each year because they scrimp on the heating and their immune systems suffer. Something which, frankly, is sickening in our society.

6. If you’re home during the day one option which many pensioners are forced to adopt is to heat only the room you’re in, and avoid heating the whole house or flat. But again, you must ensure you’re not letting your health suffer.

7. Save money on fuel by cooking more than one thing at once in your oven. For example, if you’re making a pizza, why not make two and cook them at the same time. Or make a cake and cook it in the oven too while you cook your dinner, so you get two meals from the same amount of energy.

8. Use a hob that is the right size for your pan and fit lids on top to save on heat. Use a steamer on top of the pan to cook vegetables. It’s healthy and helps save energy.

9. Take meter readings and check all your energy bills. You may find you are paying too much with estimated bills.

10. Are you a pensioner? Then make sure you claim the winter fuel allowance. Many pensioners don’t claim all their entitlements because of the bureaucracy or because they feel uncomfortable taking handouts, but you’ve worked hard for them! Contact Age Concern or Help the Aged for help with the forms.

11. If you are struggling with your heating bills don’t suffer in silence. Contact your supplier and tell them of your difficulties. Also contact the Citizen’s Advice Bureau if you wish to speak to a third party or the Home Heat Helpline on 0800 33 66 99. Here is a great link from the BBC with information on finding help with your bills and grants available.

12. Support Age Concern and Help the Aged’s campaign for a £50m energy rebate for pensioners this year from the energy companies. The charities want the UK’s six biggest fuel companies to work with the government to make social energy tariffs compulsory for energy companies. They also want the government to plough its bumper VAT revenue from higher energy prices into providing energy for people on low incomes. If you feel strongly about it, why not write to your MP or energy company?

Got any great ideas about how to save on your gas bill? Should energy companies and the government be doing more to help pensioners and other people struggling to pay their bills? Leave a message and enlighten me!

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10 Responses to Two Jumpers: How to fight rising gas prices

  1. Christine says:

    So many pensioners are not on the internet and so can\’t take advantage of things like uSwitch or on-line bills that offer bigger discounts if you pay by direct debit as well. Also the social tariffs are not always the best offers as I found to my cost when I changed from one last February to another offer with the same company. I mean – the power companies are not going to tell you if they have a cheaper tariff are they? Also some people can\’t manage a bank account or can\’t get one so are unable to pay by direct debit. Other pensioners still prefer to pay cash as they feel that they are more in charge of their money. So many problems – so few answers in some cases.

  2. PrakashTC says:

    <b>Lets All Join together to force the price of fuel down!</b> <br /> <br /> A man eats two eggs each morning for breakfast.  When he goes to the Grocery store he pays Rs. 12 a dozen.  Since a dozen eggs won\’t last a week he normally buys two dozens at a time. One day while buying eggs he notices that the price has risen to Rs. 16. The next time he buys groceries, eggs are Rs. 22 a dozen.  <br /> <br />When asked to explain the price of eggs the store owner says, "The price has gone up and I have to raise my price accordingly". This store buys 100 dozen eggs a day. He checked around for a better price and all the distributors have raised their prices. The distributors have begun to buy from the huge egg farms.  The small egg farms have been driven out of business.  The huge egg farms sell 100,000 dozen eggs a day to distributors.  With no competition, they can set the price as they see fit. The distributors then have to raise their prices to the grocery stores. And on and on and on.  <br /> <br />As the man kept buying eggs the price kept going up. He saw the big egg trucks delivering 100 dozen eggs each day. Nothing changed there.   He checked out the huge egg farms and found they were selling 100,000 dozen eggs to the distributors daily. Nothing had changed but the price of eggs.  <br /> <br />Then week before Diwali the price of eggs shot up to Rs. 40 a  dozen. Again  he asked the grocery owner why and was told, "Cakes and baking for the holiday".  The huge egg farmers know there will be a lot of baking going on and more eggs will be used. Hence, the price of eggs goes up. Expect the same thing at Christmas and other times when family cooking, baking, etc. happen.  <br /> <br />This pattern continues until the price of eggs is Rs. 60 a dozen. The man says, " There must be something we can do about the price of eggs". He starts talking to all the people in his town and they decide to stop buying  eggs. This didn\’t work because everyone needed eggs.  <br /> <br />Finally, the man suggested only buying what you need.  He ate 2 eggs a day. On the way home from work he would stop at the grocery and buy two eggs. Everyone in town started buying 2 or 3 eggs a day. The grocery store owner began complaining that he had too many eggs in his cooler.  He told the distributor that he didn\’t need any eggs.   Maybe wouldn\’t need any all week.  <br /> <br />The distributor had eggs piling up at his warehouse.  He told the huge egg farms that he didn\’t have any room for eggs would not need any for at least two weeks. At the egg farm, the chickens just kept on laying eggs. To relieve the pressure, the huge egg farm told the distributor that they could buy the eggs at a lower price. The distributor said, " I don\’t have the room for  the eggs even if they were free".   The distributor told the grocery store owner that he would lower the price of the eggs if the store would start buying again. <br /> <br />The grocery store owner said, "I don\’t have room for more eggs. The customers  are only buying 2 or 3 eggs at a time.  Now if you were to drop the price of eggs back down to the original price, the customers would start buying by the dozen again". The distributors sent that proposal to the huge egg farmers but the egg farmers liked the price they were getting for their eggs but, those chickens just kept on laying.  Finally, the egg farmers lowered the price of their eggs.  But only a few paisa. The customers still bought 2 or 3 eggs at a time. They said, "when the price of  eggs gets down to where it was before, we will start buying by the dozen." <br /> <br />Slowly the price of eggs started dropping.  The distributors had to slash their prices to make room for the eggs coming from the egg farmers. The egg farmers cut their prices because the distributors wouldn\’t buy at a higher price than they were selling eggs for. Anyway, they had full warehouses and wouldn\’t need eggs for quite a while. And those chickens kept on laying. Eventually, the egg farmers cut their prices because they were throwing away eggs they couldn\’t sell.The distributors started buying again because the eggs were priced to where the  stores could afford to sell them at the lower price. And the customers starting buying by the dozen again. <br /> <br /><b>Now, transpose this analogy to the gasoline industry.</B> <br /><br />What if everyone only bought Rs 200.00 worth of Petrol each time they pulled to the pump?  The dealer\’s tanks would stay semi full all the time. The dealers wouldn\’t have room for the gas coming from the huge tanks.  The tank farms wouldn\’t  have room for the petrol coming from the refining plants. And the refining plants wouldn\’t have room for the oil being off loaded from the huge tankers  coming from the oil fiends. <br /> <br />Just Rs 200.00 each time you buy gas. Don\’t fill up the tank of your car. Don’t drive to places where you can walk. Don’t drive to places where you are just driving because you have a vehicle to spare. You may have to stop for gas twice a week, but the price should come down. <br /> <br />Also, don\’t buy anything else at the fuel station; don\’t give them any more of your hard earned money than what you spend on gas, until the prices come down…" <br /> <br />Think about it. Share your views, please.  <br /> <br />Thanks & Regards,PrakashTC. 

  3. john says:

    i am not a pensioner but i have a bone disease im only 30 i live in a council flat no choice there with no double glazing as they will not put it in for a few more years and wearing extra jumpers will not help me as it affects all of my bones especially my wrists the same as pensioners what are we expected to do wear several tops glove the lot and spend all of our lives in bed because when we get cold we cannot move for pain 😦

  4. Chris says:

    i am pensioner and love cooked meals but expensive to run large oven. so bought a small table top oven, it\’s a lot quicker cooking,uses less fuel, also has quick rings on top,and grill, was £49 .95. i think i\’ve save that in fuel, so easy to clean too.thats my tip.i also have super ser gas fire for sitting room in winter,just rung round got gas cheaper this year than last, i love the living flame too, it\’s nice when it\’s cold. one thing must have it serviced regulary.    

  5. karlos fandango says:

    best way to save money with gas bill is to switch off your gas supply and use something else!

  6. Eva-Maria says:

    Centrica are only interested in making a profit for its shareholders and the fat-cats at the top of the ladder within. I believe essential utilities – gas/water/electricy should not be privatised. Yes, we all should contribute towards our carbon footprint, but to make us suffer by forcing us to pay huge bills and at the same time make us freeze away in our homes as we cannot afford such a high expenditure, is a crime in my eyes. Also, it is known the high price of gas is mainly to blame because europe, who supply our gas, is holding us, Britain, to ransome by hiking up the prices – they are the criminals in this awful act. And linking the price of gas to the cost of a barrel of oil, due to a clause in a legal binding contract, which was added by some crazy lawyer and CEO of the gas company, again is a crime – It was done to ensure that gas prices would always go up and those with shares in gas companies would be gauranteed a huge dividend each year. It is all about making money. Oil has always been expensive.  There are, I feel 100% certain, new ideas out there of how energy can be produced – I am sure it is all kept under wraps until we are so desperate and the gas begins to run out – Reason being: because at the moment, oil is a great money spinner for these greedy companies.  I hope those with shares in gas/oil feel guilty reading this!

  7. Laura says:

    I loved Prakash\’s brilliant analogy of supply and demand  (chickens ,eggs and consumers) If we all applied this philosophy there would be a quite rapid fall in the artificially high price of energy. We could all simply not buy any petrol for a week, walking or cycling to work, car sharing or working from home would mean a drastic fall in revenue at the filling station tills,and that would soon grab the oil companies attention!
    We could then say to them "next month it will be for 2 weeks" I accept that not all of us could, or would be willing to participate, but the important thing is that the impact is significant enough for the "Barons " to take notice. There is a need for a co-ordinated approach to this type of producer/ supplier tyranny

  8. Mr says:

    I think it is tyrannical to make people pay so much for basic things such as heating one\’s home and cooking food. I have tried my best to not be a victim to the greed of others, and most of us have a choice to take it or make a stand. I have chosen a log / coal fire and now collect old wood from the local tip and burn this, and it heats my whole house all winter. The only cost is my initial pride in asking what others are throwing away. My winter gas bill was £16 for the quarter! The wood is free and it is recycling to boot. I also bought a bike and get paid to use it for work purposes, so i get paid by the mile as i cycle. I stopped my gym subscription as i no longer needed it. More saving and more time for me. I also buy food from local suppliers and farms and avoid supermarkets at all cost. Most of the stuff in there you don\’t really need anyhow, and im getting more veg and fruit than i ever did. The upshot is that i am fitter and richer by doing things the way of my parents. Life is a whole lot more chilled too, except when it rains! Now is the time for change, not just from ourselves, but for the greedy corporates who will watch while their brand becomes synonymous with extortion. This has already begun to happen as we change our buying habits away from Tescos, BT, food companies and M&S. The time for small, ethically sound companies has returned. We just need to make the change ourselves away from over convenient lives that make us fat and unhappy at working all hours just to survive. There are lots of websites dedicated to this stuff, so look around. I don\’t even wear sandals!

  9. philip says:

    You would think in this day & age that by now those that we elect to represent us would learn that we the cold,elderly,disabled,housebound & on low income have power. Email.write pester your MPs if we all get together & demand our rights many of us have defended this land of ours, worked in jobs that may have broken body but not our mind. If we stand to gether & tell our MPs we wont better pensions,fuel payments & if we dont get them many of them will be at the DWP office come the next election. my freinds unite make them do something for us remeber the pen is mighty. Write,ring,emailPester & warn them jobs are hard to find for ex MPs as well 

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