Ofgem and the Citizens Advice launched the Energy Best Deal online last month, offering practical advice to consumers about how to save money on household bills by switching energy providers.  Here Lydia Sharples of energy saving advice website Thinkinsulation.com discusses why initiatives such as the Energy Best Deal, which offers advice on everything from how to deal with doorstep sales people to tips for those struggling to pay their bills, are an essential part of consumer education.

Just one in five people compare the market to find the best value energy supplier according to Ofgem.  This is likely to be a result of lack of time and limited awareness about the benefits of shopping around, so it is essential that initiatives such as the Energy Best Deal exist so that consumers can be sure that they’re not paying over the odds for fuel.  Ofgem’s announcement last month that switching energy suppliers can save those that have never switched before around £170 a year on their energy bills, issued a wake-up call to many.  However, even when you’re on the best energy deal possible, you could save hundreds of pounds off your gas and electricity bills.

With the cost of fuel continuing to rise, savvy homeowners are retrofitting their homes with sustainable measures to make them more energy efficient.

One of the easiest ways to lower your energy bills is to install insulation. The average home loses 25% of heat through the roof and a loft insulated to the recommended government standards of 270mm can reduce energy bills by as much as £145 per year*, whilst instantly boosting a property’s green credentials.

Installing loft insulation is a DIY job that can easily be completed in a day and, depending on the existing levels of insulation and the size of the loft space, can cost from just £50. This video shows how easy it can be:

To keep the chills away, look out for natural (brown) coloured glass mineral wool insulation and encapsulated mineral wool products – not only are they good for the environment but they are easy to install, odourless and free from bleach and dyes.

Although the majority of UK homes are suitable for cavity wall insulation there are still 7.9 million homes across the UK that are yet to benefit.

Cavity wall insulation can potentially save the average homeowner a whopping 15 per cent – around £110 – a year on their annual energy bills.

Before beginning any work it is important to ensure that your property is assessed for suitability by a qualified assessor.

Solid wall properties are one of the most inefficient property types and around 45% of heat escapes through un-insulated external solid walls.  As a result installing external wall insulation, such as insulated render, can save around £385 a year on energy bills.  This means that although it requires a significant investment to install, it begins to pay for itself immediately.  Alternatively, internal wall insulation, like Knauf Insulation’s Internal Wall Insulation (IWI) System can save around £365 a year on energy bills and an impressive 1.8 tonnes of CO annually.

But how do you find the capital to make these changes?  The good news is that you don’t have to struggle on your own.  As part of the UK government’s plans to cut carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 and meet its carbon reduction targets it proposes to support homeowners, tenants and businesses by lending them money to make homes or businesses more energy efficient.  But don’t fear – this doesn’t mean yet more debt. From autumn 2012, under the Green Deal, loan repayments on energy efficiency measures should be less than the savings you recuperate as a result of your new greener property, so it makes both financial and environmental sense to get your home insulated.

*Based on an un-insulated loft being insulated to a depth of 270mm