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Preventing new year energy bill hikes

As 2014 comes to a close, many will reflect on the previous year with a sense of nostalgia - while also looking to the future with optimism. For many energy customers, however, 2015 could bring a steep increase in the cost of heating.

Several fixed-rate tariffs are due to expire before the end of December, including ten from the UK's big-six suppliers, according to price comparison site GoCompare. If customers don't act quickly, they could find themselves moved to a standard energy plan - and this could result in as much as an eight per cent rise in their fuel bill.

The fastest way to avoid the higher costs is for customers to research their options and switch to a new deal, explains Jeremy Cryer from GoCompare. "This is especially important now as people will be using more energy to heat their homes," he says.

Switching tariffs also comes with a warning, however, as you may be faced with early exit fees depending on the terms of your account - and when your contract comes to an end.

However, changing suppliers or tariffs is only a short-term solution, reports the Express. Energy users also need to look for ways to improve their building's efficiency if they want to enjoy sustained reductions in fuel costs.

Improving the building's insulation is one way to make big savings - loft insulation can save a household up to £150 per year and cavity wall insulation can bring a home's energy bills down by £145 a year.

Other measures to consider include upgrading to a high-efficiency boiler, opting for low-energy light bulbs and draught proofing the home. 

It's also important to remember to turn off televisions, games consoles and other electronic devices at the outlet when they are not in use - as they can use energy in standby mode. Turning down the thermostat by just one degree Celsius could also cut costs by around £75 per year for the average home, according to the Building & Engineer Services Association.