Why are your energy bills so high?

Have you recently had an energy bill that made your eyes water? There could any number of reasons why your gas bill is way too high or your electricity bill is through the roof, but here are some of the most likely high gas bill and high electric bill causes.

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Are you using more energy?

It may sound obvious, but your energy bills might be high simply because you’re using more energy.

This could be due to a change in the weather – your energy bills will naturally be higher in winter than summer, because you’ll use more energy to light and heat your home when the days get darker and colder – or maybe because you’ve started using more energy-sapping devices. If, for instance, you’ve started using an electric heater to help keep the house warm, you could quickly find your electric bill is way too high, simply because this one device is using so much power.

So, if you’re wondering ‘Why has my energy bill doubled?’ or ‘Why is my energy usage so high?’ have a think about how, when and what is using energy in your house, and see if you can make any changes.

To get an idea of who much your appliances should be using, check out our electricity running costs calculator, and try our smart meter calculator to calculate how much gas or electricity you have used by entering two meter readings.

Are you on an expensive energy tariff?

Not being on a competitively-priced energy tariff is another reason your energy bills are so high. And if you’ve never switched energy supplier before, you’ll definitely be paying more for your energy than you need to be. Even if you’ve switched fairly recently, but let your fixed rate deal expire without arranging a new one, you’ll also be overpaying for gas and electricity.

The good news is, comparing energy suppliers and switching to a better deal couldn’t be simpler – just enter your postcode in the box at the top of the page to get started, and we’ll be able to find a cheaper tariff within a matter of minutes.

If you’d prefer to stay with the same company, you can still run an energy price comparison switch to a different tariff to make sure you're not languishing on a standard variable tariff.

If sure whether you’re on a standard variable tariff, take a look at the questions below - if you answer ‘no’ to either of them, then it's highly likely you're on a standard tariff:

Have you ever switched energy supplier since living in your current home?

When you move house, your energy supply contract is with the previous occupiers’ energy supplier. But, once you move in, the supplier will automatically put you on their standard variable tariff, which is their most expensive rate.

If you have switched, have you switched in the past 12 months?

When you switch, it's now common for tariffs to be offered for 12 month periods, although some suppliers are now offering fixed rate deals that last up to two years. However long you lock your prices in for, once this fixed rate period ends, you’ll automatically roll over on to your supplier's standard variable tariff, unless you switch again. You’ll also know you’re on a standard variable tariff if, when you check a recent bill, the tariff name has ‘standard’ in the title.

The difference in price between a supplier's standard variable tariff and their cheapest tariff can be hundreds of pounds per year. If you’re on a standard variable tariff, then you can almost certainly save money by switching to a different energy provider, or by switching to a cheaper tariff with your existing provider. Again, just enter your postcode in the box at the top of the page to start running a price comparison.

Have you moved from estimated to accurate billing?

Your energy supplier will work out the cost of your bills in one of the following two ways:

  • Estimated billing – This is when your energy supplier estimates how much gas and electricity you've used, based on assumptions such typical energy usage as well as the size and age of your house, and bills you for that amount.
  • Accurate billing – This is when you provide regular meter readings to your energy supplier, so you only pay for the exact amount of energy you’ve used. This way, you avoid building up debt which can prevent you from switching in the future.

If you've recently moved from estimated billing to accurate billing, and you tend to use a lot of gas and electricity, then you may have been paying less than you should whilst you were on estimated billing. As a result, your new, accurate bill may seem very expensive by comparison.

If you’ve recently switched to a smart meter, you’ll automatically be placed on accurate billing, without having to supply any further meter readings. This is because smart meters automatically send accurate usage data directly to your supplier.

Is your home energy efficient?

It goes without saying that the more energy you use the higher your bill will be. To gauge whether you’re using a lot of energy, compare the energy consumption on your bill against the averages for each property size below.

House Size Average Monthly Energy Consumption Average Annual Energy Consumption
Electricity Gas Electricity Gas
Flat or Small House 166kWh 666kWh 2,000kWh 8,000kWh
Medium House 258kWh 1,041kWh 3,100kWh 12,500kWh
Large House 383kWh 1,500kWh 4,600kWh 18,000kWh

If you’re using a lot of energy, it may be a sign that your home isn’t very energy efficient. There are lots of ways to improve the energy efficiency of your home, such as:

  • Improve the insulation of your house with cavity wall insulation and loft insulation. You should also turn the heating down or off in rooms you don't use often.
  • Use energy efficient lightbulbs throughout your house – lighting typically accounts for around 15% of the cost of an electricity bill, and each energy efficient lightbulb is estimated to save you £3 per year compared to traditional lightbulbs. You should also turn off lights when you don’t need them.
  • Turn your appliances when you’re not using them. Don’t just put them on standby, as this still uses between 10% - 50% of the energy they’d use when switched on and running normally. Use energy efficient settings on larger appliances such as washing machines or dishwashers.

You can find lots more energy saving ideas in our Energy Efficiency section, and on our Energy Saving Advice page.

Is your heating system programmed properly?

If you’ve not got the money to spend on making your home more energy efficient, or you live in a rental property, you might not be able to do much about your home’s insulation standards or heating system - landlords do have to make sure their properties meets certain energy efficient standards though, to find out more, check out Is your landlord A-rated for energy efficiency?

If you can’t make the necessary changes, but want to cut your high energy bills, you’ll need to get a grip of your heating controls.

So, take a look at how high you set the thermostat and consider lowering it down a bit – figures from the Energy Saving Trust show that turning down the thermostat by just 1°C can save the typical home around £90 a year. How far down should you turn it? But bear in mind that going below 18°C can be uncomfortable, while dropping below 16°C is can lead to health problems.

And if you can programme your heating to come on at certain times of the day, set it so it is only on for to heat your house when you are there, and set it to turn off an hour before you go to bed, as the residual heat will be enough to keep you warm.

Just implementing these simple steps will really help if your heating and gas bills are too high.

Is your meter working correctly?

This is very rare, but your energy meter may not be accurately be recording the amount of gas and electricity you’re using, meaning you could be hit with a high energy bill. You can ask your energy supplier to come out to check your meter to make sure it’s working properly, but if they don’t find any fault with the meter you may be charged for the call out.

Before calling your energy supplier, it’s worth checking your usage over the last three months to see how it has changed. If it has increased significantly ask yourself if there’s a reason for this. Perhaps you've bought a new appliance that's consuming a lot of energy, or if winter is setting in you may be using your heating and lighting more frequently.

How to make your home more energy efficient

If you’re using more energy than normal, you may need to improve the energy efficiency of your home. There are measures you can take to help with this:

  • Install cavity wall insulation and loft insulation.
  • Install double glazing for all windows.
  • Service your boiler regularly.
  • Install draft excluders on all doors and windows, including your letterbox.
  • Turn thermostats down at least one degree lower than usual.
  • Turn heating down or off in rooms you don’t use often.
  • Use energy efficient light bulbs throughout your home.
  • Turn off and unplug appliances when not in use, instead of leaving them on standby.
  • Use energy efficient settings on appliances such as washing machines and dishwashers.

How to resolve an issue with a high energy bill

Call your supplier to explain the situation - have your bill to hand as you may need to give dates, reference numbers and readings. Make a note of the time and date of your call and who you spoke to, so it’s easier to follow up on the issue. Your supplier should work with you resolve the issue, but if you’re having trouble you can make a complaint. If the problem isn’t resolved within eight weeks, you can take your complaint to the Energy Ombudsman Service.

If your supplier isn’t at fault, you’ll be liable to pay the full bill. In this case, your supplier can help by arranging a repayment plan and you could switch to cheaper tariff.