SIX million households now owe money to their energy supplier, with energy debt having doubled in the past year.
Families in energy debt now owe their supplier an average of £188, Uswitch warns.
The number of households in debt to their supplier has increased by half compared to a year ago, and the average amount owed is now £58 higher.
Octopus Energy has the highest proportion of indebted customers, with one in three owing money to the supplier.
A quarter of Scottish Power and E.ON customers have an energy debt.
It comes as energy bills soared for thousands of people this month after the price cap was raised to £1,971 a year for an average household.
Experts have predicted the cap could rise another £600 in October, taking the average bill to £2,571.
While 11million households have credit balances with their supplier, the total of £1.4billion they are holding is £500million lower than last year.
Justina Miltienyte, energy policy expert at Uswitch, said: “Rising prices over the winter mean we are seeing a lot more people in energy debt at a time when they should be rebuilding their credit again.
“This means that households across the country are likely to see their direct debits increase so they can start paying back what is owed to them, making it difficult to prepare for future increases.”
The energy expert says it’s important for families to take control of their energy use ahead of the next price hike in October.
She recommends taking meter readings regularly to ensure they are accurate and giving credit to energy providers to prepare for the winter months.
“If you don’t have a smart meter, record your meter readings regularly and submit them to your supplier so your bills are as accurate as possible,” she added.
“If you’re in credit, it’s probably best to leave the money with your supplier to act as a buffer in the fall and winter.”
For the millions of households struggling to meet their bills, it’s crucial to use all the help available.
What support is available?
Energy suppliers can offer you a subsidy if you are in debt to your supplier and are having trouble paying your bill.
For example, British Gas has earmarked £6 billion to help customers.
Other energy companies also offer hardship grants, but the amounts offered and eligibility vary, so it’s best to check with your supplier.
The government is also trying to help people with rising energy bills as part of a broader program to tackle the cost of living crisis.
From October 2022, all Home Energy customers will get a £200 rebate on their gas and electricity bill.
However, he will have to be repaid from April 2023 with an additional £40 a year added to bills for five years.
Households can also get help with the Winter Fuel Payment, which gives people over 65 between £100 and £300 to cover the cost of keeping their homes warm during the colder months.
Older people on pension credit or other benefits may be eligible for a £140 payment for heating costs under the Warm Homes Rebate Scheme.
Additionally, homeowners who want to switch to heat pumps can apply for a grant of up to £5,000 from this month.
The £450million Boiler Upgrade Scheme will allow people in England and Wales to get up to £5,000 off the cost of installing a heat pump or heater. a biomass boiler.
It’s also worth checking with your local council for household support grants for low-income people or contacting charities such as StepChange, Citizens Advice and Turn2Us.
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