Switch and save on energy bills
Are your energy bills going up? If your provider has announced a price rise, it's time you thought about a switch.
A lot of people are put off shopping around because they're worried about the hassle. But changing your supplier has never been simpler.
And a few minutes' work can save you hundreds of pounds every year.1. Check your paperwork
Before you start to compare prices, gather some recent bills together to get some information about your energy use.
You'll need details such as the name of your supplier, the type of tariff you're on and the amount of gas or electricity you consume (described as kilowatt hour or kWh).
Cheaper energy bills
Advice from the Energy Saving Trust:
- Insulate your hot water cylinder. Could save up to £60 a year
- Get an eco-shower head. Some water companies are giving them away free; could save you up to £75 a year
- Swap halogen spot lights with new LED bulbs. Replacing all traditional bulbs with energy saving versions can save £60 a year
BBC Skillswise has some advice to help you to read your meter.
Alternatively, you could download the energy bills table from the Rip Off Britain Guide to Getting a Good Deal.
If you can work out how much you spend a year, you'll have a more accurate picture than by just looking at a single month.
The best deal is likely to depend on how much energy you use. You can ask your supplier for your energy usage. Most deals charge more for energy used up to a given low amount and then a cheaper rate for additional usage.2. Find the best deal
Comparison websites will help you find the best deals. Many also offer a telephone service if you want to speak to someone about it.
The way comparison sites work is they take commission from the suppliers when you switch.
Ofgem has a list of accredited sites which will show you all deals you're eligible for, whether or not they receive commission from them.
They should all have the same deals, but it might be worth trying out more than one to see what they can offer.3. Choosing the best tariff
You'll have to make some decisions about the sort of tariff you'd like.
You can choose a fixed tariff which means the cost of your fuel will stay the same for the duration of your deal, even if the company puts its prices up.
It makes it easier to manage your money. However, you won't benefit if prices go down.
You also need to check whether you'll have to pay a penalty if you want to end the tariff before the end of the contract.
A variable tariff means that the cost of every unit of energy can go up or down.4. Dual-fuel deals
- Check you won't have to pay a penalty for cancelling your current contract
- Cost isn't the only factor to consider. It's worth looking into customer service too
- Find out whether the company offer any incentives or discounts if you switch to them, although make sure you're getting the best deal long term
- Prepayment meters can help with budgeting but are often a more expensive option
- If you move to a new supplier you have a 14 day cooling off period after the switch when you can change your mind
- If the switch goes smoothly, the only thing you should notice is a change in the company name on the bills
- If you're behind with payments, contact your fuel supplier straight away. They must offer you an arrangement to pay off the arrears at a rate you can afford
If you have gas and electricity, you can choose to buy both from the same supplier.
It means you're only dealing with one company which makes it easier to complain if you have any problems.
Some companies will offer a discount if you do this - but be careful because these tariffs don't always give you a better price.5. Making the switch happen
If you switch via a comparison site, they'll contact the new supplier for you.
Your new supplier will then contact you for a meter reading. They'll pass it on to your old supplier so you can be billed for the correct sum.6. Easy ways to save more
You might be able to save significantly simply by paying by monthly direct debit.
Your annual usage will be estimated and your payments will be averaged out over the year.
Any over-payments will be refunded - but it's a good idea to keep an eye on your meter to check your estimated bills aren't much too high or low.
Usually you will also receive a discount if you choose paperless billing. This means you access your bills online.7. Do you qualify for help?
There are government schemes which can help older people or those on low incomes with energy payments or to improve the energy efficiency of their home.
You can check what you're entitled to on the UK Government website.