We’re receiving a lot of queries lately about rising costs, particularly when it comes to lighting and heating your home – electricity, gas and oil. In preparation for the winter months ahead, we want to help you plan to manage your utility bills as best as possible. Here are the top queries we’ve received so far:
- What is a utility bill?
- I’ve just gotten a utility bill and can’t afford to pay for it. What do I do?
- My home heating runs on oil, and I’m worried I won’t be able to fill the tank – are there any options available?
- I’m on social welfare/low income, are there any supports available to help with my energy bills?
- I’ve been told that I’m going to have my gas/electricity disconnected, can I stop this from happening?
- I’ve a pre-pay meter, but I’m always in the red. What can I do?
- How can I contact my energy provider?
What is a Utility Bill? What is referred to as a utility?
So, let’s start at the beginning, a utility is a service that you use in your home, including electricity, gas, oil and waste. Electricity and gas bills are often referred to as energy bills as they relate only to light and heat. Landline phone/broadband bills are often considered a utility.
Although not necessarily considered a bill, ordering heating oil is an important utility for households that you need to be prepared for.
I’ve just got my utility bill. I can’t afford to pay for it. What do I do?
I know I can’t afford the bill when it comes
If you’re having trouble paying your gas or electricity bill, the best thing to do is talk to your energy provider. Check a recent copy of your bill, the number to call will be on this bill with your account number. Your provider may facilitate a long-term payment plan. The energy provider should be able to give you your average usage, and it’s important to include this in your repayment.
If you agree to a payment plan going forward, make sure you agree on a date that will suit you to pay to ensure you have the money available. If your bill is on direct debit and you have entered into a payment plan, make sure that the energy provider cancels or adjusts the request from their side, and you should also contact your bank to cancel the direct debit.
You can check with your provider that you are on the best tariff for your needs. It is possible to switch providers to get a better tariff. Before you switch and if you move to a new provider, make sure you check your contract as there are often penalties if you break your contract, i.e. switch providers before your contract is due to end. You can read more on early exit fees from Bonkers.ie. Switching providers may still make sense even if you incur these fees.
Check out the following websites to compare tariffs on gas and electricity:
Aside from the current price increases, are there other reasons your bills are so high? Bills based on estimated readings may be inaccurate and higher than your actual usage. If you can, take your own gas and electricity meter readings and send the current readings to your supplier. The contact details will be on your bill, or you might be able to upload them to your online account. Doing this will make your bill more accurate.
Disclaimer: If your readings are higher than your supplier’s estimated readings, you may end up with a bigger bill.
If you are already in arrears with a utility provider
If you are in arrears with your current supplier, you may still be able to switch though it depends on how much you owe. If you do switch, you’ll need to pay the balance when your old supplier sends you your closing bill. The Commission for the Regulation of Utilities (CRU) outline what you need to know on their website.
MABS can help you to deal with your bills and arrears. We will work with you to address your current situation and, if necessary, help you to put a payment plan in place.
My home heating runs on oil, and I’m worried I won’t be able to fill the tank – are there any options available?
Many oil providers provide level pay or budgeting options to spread the cost of filling your oil tank.
When ordering from an oil company, the bigger the quantity you buy, the cheaper it will cost per litre.
Have you checked if there is a local community heating club? This is where you team up with your neighbours or community members to get cheaper oil rates as the oil company will deliver to the same area and a larger quantity than just your house.
Do you receive fuel allowance? You can apply to have it paid in two lump sums rather than weekly, which can help you fill your tank.
Check comparison sites like Cheapest Oil to compare prices from suppliers in your area.
Top Tip – Ensure oil tanks are stored securely with a good lock. Oil is an expensive commodity and can be a target for theft.
I’m on social welfare/low income, are there any supports available to help with my energy bills?
If you are in receipt of a social welfare payment, you may be able to avail of the Household Budget Scheme.
The Household Budget Scheme (HHB) is a scheme that helps people receiving certain social welfare payments to spread the cost of some household bills over the year. Under this scheme deducts a fixed amount from your social welfare payment each week. The HHB Scheme is free, find out more about HHB scheme on An Post’s website here.
Make sure you are receiving all your entitlements to help with utility bills. If you are aged 70 or over, the Household Benefits Package (HBP) helps with the cost of the TV licence, and your electricity and gas bills. Only one person in a household can get the package. You do not need to be getting a State pension, and the package is not means-tested. You can find out more information about this on the Citizen Information’s page on the Household Benefits Package.
The Fuel Allowance is a payment to help with the cost of heating your home during winter. It is paid to people who are dependent on long-term social welfare payments. As well as those who cannot pay for their own heating needs. Only one Fuel Allowance is paid to a household. More information is available on the Citizens Information page on Fuel Allowance.
I’ve been told that I’m going to have my gas/electricity disconnected, can I stop this from happening?
If you are concerned about being disconnected, talk to your energy supplier. If you don’t feel you can talk to your supplier, talk to MABS. MABS may be able to put a stay (pause) on the disconnection while we work with you to put a payment plan in place.
MABS advises you to pay what you can, no matter how small. In this case, you should consider a short-term budget to account for the unusual things that have affected your situation.
You can find out if you’re deemed a vulnerable customer on the CRU page about Vulnerable Customers. If you are eligible and not already on the vulnerable customers register, register now. Each provider has a registration process and MABS can help you to find out how to register with your provider.
I’ve a pre-pay meter but I’m always in the red, what can I do?
If you are using a pre-pay meter, you pay in advance for the fuel you will use. You can also set up prepayment meters to collect the debt from the money that you put in. You may be paying off arrears and standing charges on your meter. If this is the case, it means only a portion of your top-up is going towards usage. It is important to check this with your provider.
It is important to work out your usage to see if you need to adjust your budget to cover your usage costs. If you find that you don’t have enough money to keep the meter topped up, talk to MABS. We may be able to help you work with your provider to put a better plan in place.
How can I contact my energy provider?
There are many ways you can contact your energy supplier, many offer chat functions on their website, you can email them, or we’ve gathered all their contact numbers here so you can give them a call.
If you feel you can’t talk to your energy supplier, talk to MABS about your situation. We’ll work with you to create a budget for your energy bills or help you work with your energy provider.
||0818 812 220
||0818 405 405
|Bord Gais Energy
||01 611 0101
||0818 363 749
||1800 911 977
||1800 372 372
||056 7750 140
||Gas Customers – 041 214 9500
Electricity Customers – 041 214 9500
LPG Customers – 041 214 9600
|| 1800 940 151
|| 029 50568
||01 554 6255
Have you got a money or debt advice question that you’d like answered? Get in touch, and we’ll give you a clear and accurate answer to your money and debt advice questions.
If you are concerned about your current or future personal financial situation or would like to speak to a member of MABS, call our National Helpline on 0818 07 2000 Monday to Friday, from 9am to 8pm, WhatsApp 086 035 3141 or request a callback if you want to talk confidentially about budgeting, problem debt or general financial matters.
This blog does not represent financial advice and is intended for guidance only; we encourage you to do your own research.
References to third parties in this blog are not endorsements. They may have commercially driven interests and are provided as potentially helpful resources.