FAMILIES face winter misery as energy bills soar to more than £3,500, leaving close to nine million households in fuel poverty.

Here is my Squeeze Team dos and don’ts guide on how to survive:

DO: Ask your energy supplier for a variable direct debit.

While these aren’t openly advertised you can ask if they would consider moving you.

You’ll pay for the energy you use, as you use it. But only choose this plan if you’re organised.

For many the usual direct debits help build up credit over the summer to offset winter bills.

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DON’T: Skip a meter reading. Get into the habit of taking monthly readings.

And definitely take a smart reading on September 30 before the price increases — like we did in April.

DO: Check your meter is working properly. If you are worried you seem to be using far too much energy, the meter could be faulty.

Your supplier is responsible for making sure it works properly.

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Contact them to arrange for the meter to be assessed.

If your meter is found not to be faulty you may incur a fee, so check this first.

DON’T: Cancel your direct debits. If you don’t agree a payment plan with your supplier, they might try to force you to install a pre-payment meter.

Not paying bills could also damage your credit rating and make it harder to borrow.

DO: Download energy saving apps. In my home, we use the app Plugwise which monitors the energy consumption of a whole range of devices.

You can connect it to your meter to get live readings and measure energy consumption.

DON’T: Leave “vampire” devices on. You could save around £147 a year by turning off appliances which drain power when not in use.

Laptops, broadband routers and smart speakers all use energy in this way.

One of the worst offenders is your TV, up to £25 a year on standby.

DO: Service your boiler. The small cost of between £60 to £80 is well worth it.

A boiler that’s working at its best will be more efficient.

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DON’T: Suffer in silence. Ask your supplier for help if you are struggling.

Many have their own customer support funds. There are also energy support schemes and grants to consider.

  • Jane Hawkes is the founder of the money-saving website ladyjaney.co.uk

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