Do you find that you’re constantly avoiding sorting out your energy bills? Think it’ll be too much hassle?
Well, it’s actually pretty easy, and could save you hundreds of pounds on your gas and electricity bill for minimal effort.
If you’ve never switched supplier, or had a fix that’s ended, you’re most likely on what’s called a “Standard Variable” – AKA the most expensive – tariff with your utility company. If you think you don’t have the time to look into your bills, or that it’s too complicated to work out, you’re mistaken.
It’ll take you no time at all to find a cheaper deal. Seriously. It’s quick. I’ve literally just done it using the tips below and it took me five minutes. Just five minutes. Ok, I’m a pro at this, but even if you take your time you should be able to sort it in no more than 20 minutes.
And the money you’ll save for this minimal effort? It could easily be hundreds of pounds. I’m paying almost third less than if I’d let my last fix lapse and move onto the variable tariff. That should work out over a year at more than £400 less!
Ok, so I’ve got a large house with high ceilings, and since I’ve gone freelance I’m at home more (and using more energy), so you might not save as much, but it will be close. If you aren’t fixed or you have a fixed tariff that ends soon, I’m confident you’ll be able to save money.
To help you switch with the least pain, I’ve come up with this step-by-step guide. So, stop what you’re doing and make the easiest money of your life!
Find your bills
This is probably the hardest bit! Once you’ve found the unopened post or recovered your long-forgotten log-in details, you’ll be able to see what tariff you’re on and what you’ve been paying.
Go to a comparison site
I like Cheap Energy Club, part of the Martin Lewis empire, as it gives the best results. Some of the others can be a little misleading if you’re half-way through a fix (read my Cheap energy comparison con blogpost for more on this).
All the info you’ll need will be on your bills. To get the most accurate comparison, enter the number of units you’ve used in the last year, rather than the amount you spent.
If this feels like too much hassle (it really shouldn’t) then you could consider an automated switching service at this stage. You put in the details from your bill and you’ll be automatically switched when you can make a saving – though you won’t necessarily be moved to the cheapest option across the whole market. More on these services here.
Take a look at all the options
After the comparison site has finished chugging away, you’ll be presented with quite a few different choices which at first can appear a little confusing.
Check the site is showing you all the deals and in price order (some are paid to put certain companies at the top of the list), then take a look at what’s on offer. Again, I’d really recommend Martin Lewis’s Cheap Energy Club as you don’t have to worry about missing the best deals.
Here’s what you need to consider:
Should you stay or should you go?
Unlike other bills such as broadband and mobile, you won’t be able to haggle yourself a discount, and loyalty doesn’t make the slightest bit of difference.
However, it might not be best to switch. Your current provider might be offering a good price, and you can get yourself moved onto that tariff by giving them a call.
Strangely you might even be able to get paid to fix again with the same company. I’ve done this twice with EDF over the last four years, and once with British Gas, whilst I was under contract, to move to a cheaper deal – and earn cashback on top.
To fix or not to fix
A fix is when you agree a set price per unit for your energy for a fixed period of time. This will normally be cheaper than a variable rate, but not always.
Take a look to see if the fixes have any exit penalties, which are charges if you leave the contract early. If prices do drop significantly (I wish…), you might not be able to move to a cheaper deal. However some suppliers will take on your switching costs, and you can move penalty free 50 days before your fix ends.
And then there’s the question of how long to fix for… I tend to go for 12 months, though if a company offers a longer fix you will likely pay more per unit.
Smart meter or not?
You might also be required to have a smart meter for some of the cheapest deals. This is something which many people hate the idea of, and it certainly doesn’t do much for you other than automatically send through meter readings. If you do want to go for it, make sure any meter that’s installed is a SMETS2 (i.e. second generation) meter, as this means it should still work when you next switch.
Which company is best?
Who supplies your energy doesn’t affect the quality of your gas and electricity, it’s all the same stuff running through your pipes/wires. Even so, apart from what they charge, there are a few other differences.
Decent customer service can sometimes be worth paying a little extra for. I had a nightmare with NPower and I’d never use them again, even if they were the cheapest available.
Then there’s the problem of small companies going bust. Though you won’t be without power if this happens, it’s a hassle you can do without.
And if you want to be ethical, green energy will usually cost a little more.
Check for extra savings
You’ll normally get the cheapest price with “dual fuel”, where you get both gas and electricity from the same supplier.
Paying by Direct Debit will normally give a discount, and there could be more savings if you go paperless or opt for a smart meter.
Some comparison sites offer cashback to switch, giving you another £30 or so.
If you have the 123 or 123 Lite account with Santander, you can get cashback on your bill payments too, though there are fees with both accounts. See my article on the best current account for cashback on bills for more information.
Make your decision and wait
Once you’ve decided which one to go for, enter your bank details – you’ll be credit checked – then just wait for it to go through. It will take up to 17 days for the connection to be moved and the savings to start.
You don’t need to let your old company know as the new supplier will do it all for you, though you will need to give a new meter reading.
You might actually pay more or less than the comparison site says as it all depends on how much you use. A cold year will be more expensive, a warm one cheaper. But you’ll still be paying far less than you do right now.
Don’t make one of the common energy switching mistakes
Last year I wrote about some common mistakes people make when they switch energy. It’s all stuff that’s very easy to avoid. Some of it’s been mentioned above, but do take a read of that article too to make sure you’re getting the best possible deal.