WINTER - and bigger heating bills - are on the way. Vicky Shaw shares some expert tips on how to shop around for better deals.

The nights are drawing in - and just as we might be starting to spend more time back indoors and wondering how long before the heating needs to start going on again, energy prices have been on the rise.

So, before the chill really kicks in, now could be a great time to see if there are savings to be made.

According to some recent analysis from in early September, the average price of the top 10 most competitive tariffs had increased by £65 per year since the start of August. Want to see if you could switch and save? Head to the website's free 'cheap energy club' ( to see what better deals are out there.

Switching may seem like a hassle but there could be some significant savings to be made. Adam Bullock, UK director at, says: "Energy suppliers are continuing to increase prices for households across the UK, meaning many families are going to be worse off this winter.

"Switching energy providers can make a big difference, yet many people put it off or want to avoid the hassle. However, by working out household usage, shopping around for the best rates and earning cashback on top, people could be cutting off hundreds from their energy bills."

• COSY: A cat keeping warm at home during winter. Photo: Thinkstock/PA

Ofgem, the independent energy regulator for Britain, recently set out plans to cap rip-off gas and electricity tariffs and hopes to have the measures in place by the end of the year - although consumer groups are still encouraging people to shop around for the best deal.

Here are some tips from for shaving money off your energy costs...

1. If your household circumstances have not changed - meaning the same number of people are living at the property and you have the same boiler - then it's worth working out your household consumption from the previous year, for both gas and electricity. This will enable you to be more accurate than the monthly estimate from your provider.

2. Once you have worked out your household consumption, you could try using an accredited energy price comparison website to see which provider can give you the best deal based on the amount of energy you use. Remember, when you use your energy - during the day or evening - will also have an influence on what deal is best for you.

3. While getting your gas and electricity from the same supplier seems the simplest and most logical thing to do, depending on how you use your energy, separate deals may work better. Check out the prices of both dual and single fuel with providers, as you may find two providers are better than one.

4. Another way to make a saving when switching is to do your switch via a cashback website, which will pass commission back to you as cash - giving you extra money on top of the savings you'll be making on bills.

5. Once you've found your preferred supplier and you've made the switch, it's important to keep on top of your consumption. If anything changes, it may mean you're suited to a different deal. Make sure you do regular meter readings - put a reminder in your calendar - and check every time you receive a bill rather than relying on an estimate.

6. You may be able to save money by signing up for an online energy tariff, meaning you agree to manage your gas and electricity bills online rather than receiving bills in the post. But you may be charged a fee for leaving an online deal so be sure to check with your supplier first.

7. From turning off your oven a few minutes early - the residual heat will continue to cook your food - to turning off lights in empty rooms, small changes can reduce your energy bills to help bring costs down.

8. Thousands of households are caught out by moving to a standard variable rate tariff (the default price plan offered by energy suppliers, and usually the most expensive) when they are out of contract. To avoid overpaying, make a note of when your tariff is up and start looking at the switching process again.

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