Martin Lewis warns everyone of eight energy checks you need to do as bills rise | The Sun

MARTIN Lewis has warned households about the eight vital energy checks to do now as bills rise.

It comes as millions of households will see their energy bills rise in April.

Martin Lewis said: " Energy prices will rise 20% for almost everyone in April, but some are being hit by unexpected rises now."

The current energy price guarantee caps the average household energy bill at £2,500 a year – but this ends in April when the cap will rise to £3,000 a year.

But the energy price guarantee is only a cap on unit rates – so if you use more energy expect to pay more than the average household.

Martin Lewis said that households urgently need to do eight vital energy checks in his latest MoneySavingExpert newsletter – we've listed these below.

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1. Check if your energy prices changed on January 1

Ofgem still sets an energy price cap on what suppliers can charge based on wholesale prices – and an updated cap took force on January 1.

And this meant that the discount on bills provided by the energy price guarantee changed slightly – pushing up costs for thousands who pay on receipt of bills or rely on economy 7 tariffs.

Martin said: "How much your costs change depends on how you pay and where you live.

"On average, there'll be no change in January for those paying by direct debit. However, for those on prepay, it's a £20 a year increase on average and £39 a year rise for those who pay on receipt of bills."

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2. Check if you're overpaying by direct debit

Most energy customers pay a fixed direct debit, which means you pay a fixed amount every month.

Your energy company will work out the cost of your energy for the year ahead and divide this into equal payments.

Most energy firms will use the average amount of gas and electricity used in previous years to calculate your monthly instalments.

But Martin said: "The last price rise was 27% in October, but many have seen direct debits rise far more, some by double, even though they're in credit.

"So it's worth checking if your direct debit is set right."

If your energy supplier has upped your fixed direct debit amount even though your usage is down, you can request that the fixed monthly charge is brought down.

Before you dispute your bill it's worth using an energy calculator to work out exactly how much your usage costs on paper.

You also need to be aware of your rights.

If you pay by direct debit, then this monthly amount should be "fair and reasonable".

If you don't think it is, you can complain to the company in the first instance.

If you're not happy with the outcome you can take it to the independent Energy Ombudsman to dispute, but there are a few steps before you get to that stage.

3. Check if you're eligible for the new cost of living payments

Millions are in line for up to £1,350 in free cash from spring – and the key payment dates have been revealed.

It includes a new £900 cost of living payment for those on benefits, another £300 for pensioners and a third for those with disabilities at £150.

There's no need to apply for the help – instead, the DWP will be in touch.

Although exact payment dates have not been revealed, households have now been told which seasons they'll be paid in.

The exact eligibility requirements, as well as bank codes you should look out for in your statement so you can check if you've been paid, will also be announced nearer the time.

4. Get ready to apply for £400 energy bill support later this month

The funding will now help park home residents and some tenants whose landlords pay for their energy bills.

Martin said: "Those in England, Scotland and Wales who live in park homes or pay their energy bills through their landlord, will be able to apply for the non-repayable £400 government grant."

Applications are expected to open later this month – but the exact date has yet to be confirmed.

It's expected that households will be able to apply either online, via the Gov.UK website, or via a dedicated customer helpline.

5. Check if you need to apply for the £200 alternative fuel payment

More than 1.6million homes are thought to currently rely on heating oil – and these households are eligible for £200 cash boost.

It comes as large recent price rises have led to concerns about the impact on households that rely on oil for heating.

Recent government data suggests that Northern Irish households rely on heating oil the most – and costs have risen by up to 120% in recent months.

Martin said: "If you live in Great Britain and use heating oil, LPG or alternative fuels? Your £200 payment will come in February – though some will need to apply."

But those who are fully off-grid will need to apply next month.

6. Check if you're due £600 in government support next month

Households in Northern Ireland are set to receive a £600 cost of living payment to help with energy bills this month.

All homes will be eligible for the much-needed funds, regardless of how heating is used.

Martin said: "Households in Northern Ireland will receive their non-repayable £600 grant from their electricity supplier, which is similar to how the scheme works in the rest of the UK."

This £600 payment is made-up of £400, which is the same discount all households in the UK will receive, as well as an additional £200 on top in recognition of the reliance on alternative fuels in Northern Ireland.

For households that pay bills via direct debit, £600 will land in bank accounts directly.

Other customers will be sent a voucher to redeem the full amount.

7. Check if you need to redeem any energy discount vouchers

Thousands of prepayment meter customers should urgently redeem their energy bill discount vouchers now.

Vouchers were sent out in October, November and December and can be used when households top up – but many have not been redeemed.

Almost 41% of the October vouchers worth £66 have not yet been redeemed.

Martin said: "The vouchers only last three months from the date they were issued so the October ones will become invalid soon."

Customers will need to redeem these vouchers at their local top-up point.

8. Check if you can get help through supplier grants

There are plenty of energy grants and schemes open to help you out if you're struggling.

Martin said: "Energy hardship grants worth millions are available for some, so speak to your supplier if you're struggling."

British Gas has confirmed it'll pay its most vulnerable customers grants worth £750 to help with sky-high bills.

And the British Gas Energy Trust Individuals and Family Fund pays hard-up households up to £1,500 – and it doesn't matter if they're not a British Gas customer.

Ask your supplier what's on offer and how to apply. The list below shows all the firms offering grants right now:

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  • British Gas Energy Trust Individuals and Family Fund
  • British Gas Energy Trust Support Fund
  • EDF's Customer Support Fund
  • E.ON and E.ON Next Energy Fund
  • Octopus Energy Octo Assist fund
  • Ovo's Debt and Energy Assistance
  • Scottish Power's hardship fund

We've listed the detailed eligibility criteria for each scheme.

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