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Heat up your home without burning your money

With Storm Imogen battering parts of the UK this week, and several bitingly cold episodes this year so far, heating your home may be high on your priorities.

Older people are particularly vulnerable at this time of year, but there are schemes out there that can help.

The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) also want you to be aware of what is available. In support of their call to remind people how to stay warm when the temperature drops, here are some schemes you should be aware of.

Some of these are age-dependent, but we’ve also included some practical tips to make sure you’re not overspending when you don’t need to whatever your age.

Three schemes for staying warm this winter

1. Winter Fuel Payment

Winter Fuel Payment is a tax-free payment to help people born on or before 5 January 1953 keep warm during winter. The amount paid depends on your age and who lives in your household.

According to the DWP, in 2014/15, Winter Fuel Payments benefited almost 12.5 million older people in around 9 million UK households.

The good news with this payment is that if you’ve received it in previous years, you should receive it again without having to claim. You should also receive it automatically if you meet the age and residence criteria. has more information on Winter Fuel Payment on their website.

If you need to claim, phone the Winter Fuel Payment helpline on 0845 915 1515.

2. Warm Home Discount

If you get the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit, you’ll qualify for £140 off your electricity bill in winter 2015/16, as long as your electricity supplier is part of the scheme.

Most people don’t need to apply as the amount is automatically deducted from your electricity bill as a one-off discount if you qualify.

Even if you don’t automatically qualify, you may still be able to get it if you’re on a low income. Ask your electricity provider for details.

Be aware the scheme doesn’t apply in Northern Ireland.

Again, is a good place to check for more information on the Warm Home Discount.

3. Cold Weather Payment

Cold Weather Payments are only for the times when it gets truly freezing - your local temperature must be either recorded as, or forecast to be, an average of zero degrees Celsius or below over seven consecutive days between 1 November and 31 March each year.

These payments are for £25 for each seven day period of cold weather. They are automatically given if you already receive Pension Credit or another qualifying benefit and are eligible for a payment.


Three practical ways to spend less on your heating bills

Even if you’re not eligible for these schemes – and it’s worth checking if you are –there are still ways you can cut money off your heating and energy bills.

Turning down your thermostat is a simple way to save money. Just reducing it by 1 degree could cut 10% off your heating bill – it usually saves around £55 per year.

You can also consider how a draught-excluder could help. The Energy Saving Trust suggest DIY draught-proofing of windows, doors and blocking cracks in floors and skirting boards can cost around £200, but can save up to £25 to £35 a year on energy bills.

Being smarter with the time control on your thermostat is also a good idea. If your house is empty during the day, or you can cope with no heating on during the day, turn off your programmer for this time.

The Energy Saving Trust suggest you should set the central heating programme to come on around half an hour before you get up, and go off around half an hour before you go to bed.

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