MARTIN Lewis has urged households to take steps to protect themselves before energy bills rocket.
The money saving expert has given the advice as the latest forecasts show that the price cap is set to increase to more than £3,000 in October, putting more pressure on family finances.
It comes as over half a million energy customers could get refunds and compensation for "unfair" direct debits.
Regulator Ofgem has ordered firms which increased direct debits by over 100% to urgently review customers' bills.
The current energy price cap is £1,971 a year for someone with typical use – but predictions are that the cap will rise by 65% in October, taking it to £3,240.
Writing in his latest MoneySavingExpert tips email, Martin revealed some steps you can take to protect yourself from energy price hikes.
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Fix your rate
Historically, households have been urged to shop around for a fixed energy deal every year as this was much cheaper than staying on your provider's variable rate or the price cap.
But soaring bills in recent months have meant it's no longer possible to find a fixed deal that is cheaper than the price cap.
However, Martin said it might finally be time for households to consider fixing.
Because prices are set to rise by more than £1,000 in October, it could be possible to lock in a deal that beats the forecast price cap.
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Martin said typically you should only fix if you can find a deal that is a maximum of 57% more than the current price cap.
This is not without risk – as you will technically be paying more than necessary until prices go up again.
But it could be appropriate if you think bills will go up even more than predicted, and you want certainty over what you're going to be paying.
Check for extra help
Millions of households are eligible for extra help with their energy bills as part of a package of measures introduced by the government to help people through the cost of living payment.
At least four millions people on benefits including Universal Credit will get a £650 payment to help cover essentials.
The first half of this £650 cost of living payment will start to hit bank accounts this week.
We've put together a full list of who qualifies so you can check.
Pensioners should also check if they are due an extra £300 winter fuel payment this winter.
You should be eligible if you receive Pension credit, a benefit that tops up your income in retirement.
Claim the £150 council tax rebate
Around 80% of UK households are receiving a £150 council tax rebate – or may have got the cash already.
Those who live in a property in council tax bands A to D should automatically get the money if they pay the bill by direct debit.
But if you don't pay in this way – you'll need to apply to your local council for the cash.
Those who live in properties in different council tax bands can still get help from the Government's £144 million discretionary fund.
This is dishing out £150 payments to those struggling to keep up with the cost of living.
“If you didn't qualify (eg, you're not in bands A-D), there's a £169m discretionary fund for England and Wales,” Martin said in the email.
Almost half of councils have now published how to claim – search on your council's website for energy rebate to see if they have instructions on what to do.
There is also guidance for households from the government on how to claim the rebate.
You can use this tool to check your council tax band.
Thousands of households are still yet to claim the money and three local authorities in England have set deadlines to apply.
Cut your usage
If you're struggling with the cost of energy, one thing you could do is try and reduce your usage.
This is not always easy – after all, there are some devices you can't turn off, like a fridge or freezer.
But Martin said people should use energy saving guides- such as the one published by MSE.
Tips from the guide include turning your thermostat down, fitting a free water-saving shower head and watching how many cups of tea you make.
We've looked at the vampire appliances that are adding the most to your bills.
And while you might think hot weather means lower energy usage – you could be surprised if you're using costly heatwave devices.
We found that many of the appliances people use in warmer weather could actually be costing you a small fortune.
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