Britain may be bracing for a four-day heatwave, but now is the time to start thinking about your winter energy bills, with discounts up for grabs when you apply now.

The Warm Home Discount is an annual scheme offered to thousands of households who may struggle to pay their gas and electricity bills over winter.

It's a one-off £140 discount offered to those on certain state benefits and others who may be classed as vulnerable, such as pensioners.

But the good news is, even if you don't automatically qualify, you can still apply for the discount based on your circumstances.

It's offered on a first come, first served basis, and is offered by almost all of the major energy firms.

You'll have to be quick but if your claim is a success, it could make a significant difference over winter.

Here's what you need to know.

What is the Warm Home Discount?

It's never too early to start thinking about ways to save money

The Warm Home Discount is a support scheme aimed at households who may struggle to pay their energy bills.

The scheme was introduced by Government on 1st April 2011 and will run until 2021.

It's a one-off £140 discount on your energy bill over winter - but instead of being paid directly to you, it's automatically deducted from your bill over the winter months (between September and March).

You may also receive it as an energy rebate - all payments for last winter were paid by 31 March 2020. It's usually paid by Spring the following year, ie April 2011 for this coming winter.

It's important to note that this discount won’t affect your Cold Weather Payment or Winter Fuel Payment.

When is the Warm Home Discount paid?

Anyone that applied last year will have received their payment by March this year. For next year, applications have now opened with payments to be made as rebates or refunds by April 2020.

Can I claim it?

You may qualify for the discount if you:

Core Group

If you're in the Core group you'll have already received a letter from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) starting your eligibility.

It'll tell you whether you'll need to provide further information to the Warm Home Discount Scheme helpline or will confirm that you've been successfully matched and can receive the discount without needing to take any further action.

You're in the Core Group if on 9 July 2017, you or your partner received either of the following:

If you have any problems, or think you may qualify for this, the DWP should be your main port of call - contact the DWP here.

Broader Group

If you don't qualify for the Core group you may qualify for the Broader group. This applies if you're the account holder (or their partner) and you or another member in your home meets the set criteria (this may vary by provider).

This usually covers you if you are:

It's worth noting that may providers will have a very limited first-come, first-served window for Broader group applicants - so the sooner you apply, the better.

For this winter, you can start applying now. See more on this below.

How to apply for the discount

You can go online and register your interest for the discount

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How you apply for the Warm Home Discount Scheme depends on how you qualify for the discount. If you do not receive a letter from the DWP by the 7 December (2020), you may not qualify as a Core customer.

Instead, you can apply for the Broader group discount through your provider directly (see how below).

Unlike the Winter Fuel Payment, you will need to apply for the scheme each year in order to be considered for payment.

How will I receive the Warm Home Discount?

It will be shown on your electricity bill as a Warm Home Discount of £133.33. With VAT this will mean an overall £140 towards your electricity costs. This will happen by 31 March 2021.

If you think you qualify but haven's heard from anyone about it, you can call the DWP's Warm Home Discount helpline on 0800 731 0214 from 8.30am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday.

What about pre-pay or pay-as-you-go meters?

You can still qualify for the discount if you use a pre-pay or pay-as-you-go electricity meter.

Your electricity supplier can tell you how you’ll get the discount if you’re eligible, for example a voucher you can use to top up your meter.

Word of warning

For the most competitive deals on your energy usage, experts say it's best to compare suppliers every six months to ensure you're on the lowest tariff for your household.

However, while this has never been so important, if you do qualify for the Warm Home Discount, make sure your new supplier is offering it first - or that the new tariff is at least £140 cheaper than it would be with your newer supplier.

What energy companies offer the Warm Home Discount?