Working from home on a full time basis could lead to higher energy and other utility bills. So now could be the time to start comparing your electricity and gas contracts and potentially find a cheaper energy supplier. If you find you are using your heating more as winter nears leading to higher electricity and gas bills , you’re not alone. It is, of course, a yearly occurrence. However this year is different. This year in lockdown, your winter energy bill may be higher than ever before. So how do you go about reducing your bills to give yourself a little bit of financial relief during the colder months? There are three things to consider when looking into reducing your utility bills. These include: switching providersgetting the rebates and assistance you are entitled to and. reducing energy use at home. Let’s look at each one individually. 1. Switching providers Comparing energy suppliers is easy these days. You just have to log onto websites such as infochoice.com.au, search for utilities and a range of providers is made available for you to evaluate. Websites such as InfoChoice make it easy to compare providers at a time when financial stresses may be putting your focus on other things. The thing is, finding the cheapest utility deal during the COVID-19 pandemic could provide vital financial relief. You may want separate electricity and natural gas providers based on cost, or perhaps it’s worth bundling these utilities into one supplier. The questions you should ask yourself before you start comparing providers are: Am I on my provider’s lowest rate? What is my provider’s lowest rate? Are there any providers offering lower rates? Do any discounts apply if I change provider? Do any discounts apply if I pay on time? Can I get a cheaper rate if I switch both electricity and gas to the one provider? Essentially you want to find the lowest possible energy rate. There’s no harm in comparing. If you find you are on a rate your’re happy with, stick with your provider or maybe give them a call to see if any deductions are possible. 2. Getting the rebates and assistance you are entitled to. If you are struggling financially due to COVID-19, you should give your provider a call and ask about the hardship support they can offer you. The utility companies are understanding of the current situation and willing to help. Payment plans are an option, including paying your bills over a longer period of time or making smaller, but still regular payments. You may also be eligible for government concessions or rebates to help you at home or at work. Also, look out for the tax deductions you can claim on utilities if your primary place of work is currently your home. Looking at specific examples of relief, the Queensland government implemented a COVID-19 economic relief package, whereby Queensland households automatically receive a $200 rebate to help offset household electricity and water costs. The household utility assistance payment is credited to customers’ electricity bills and is made up of the $50 electricity asset ownership dividend for 2020 plus an additional $150 to assist households with their utility bills this year. Energy Australia has implemented a EnergyAssist hardship program, which helps residential customers in financial stress. Energy Australia is offering flexible payment options including payment extensions, payment plans and advice. You’ll find many utility providers doing the same thing. Energy.gov.au advises that if you receive a disconnection notice from your retailer, you should contact them immediately to discuss your options and that some states and territories along with some energy retailers have announced a pause on disconnections during the COVID-19 emergency. 3. Reducing energy use at home. One of the best ways to save money on your utility bills is to reduce energy consumption. There are several ways you can go about this. Here are three: Adjust your behaviour. Turn off lights or appliances when you’re finished with them. Use energy-intensive appliances less, for instance use you washing line, not your dryer and hand wash dishes rather than using your dishwasher. You’d be surprised at how little adjustments can have a big impact on your savings. Interestingly, heating and cooling generally constitutes close to half a household’s utility bills, so turn these appliances off when not in use and reduce frequency of use when you can. Buy energy efficient appliances. EnergySage reports that on average, appliances are responsible for roughly 13% of your total household energy use. Use Australia’s Energy Rating Label to help you choose a new appliance that suits your needs, saves you energy and money. Insulate your home. Insulation can lower your utility bills by retaining heat during the winter and keeping heat out of your home during the summer. You should look to install insulation in your attic, within your walls and floors. Compare Electricity and Gas as well as internet – nbn broadband to see if you could save.