A guide to switching your gas and electricity
With Ofgem estimating that more than half of the population have never switched supplier, it is clear that many consumers will be paying far too much for their gas and electricity. If you are one of those who have never switched it is not too late, and the process is much more simple and quick than you may realise.
If you haven’t switched supplier before, or your fixed deal with your supplier has ended, your current supplier will be charging you standard rates. Typically these are hundreds of pounds more expensive than the cheapest tariffs that are available elsewhere. With government, consumer and regulatory groups urging consumers to switch to get the best deal the onus is completely on you to shop around and get a good deal for your energy needs.
In this guide we look at what you need to accurately compare energy tariffs with our whole of market comparison service.
- Your Address
- Your current supplier and tariff
- Your usage in kWh or how much you spend
(all of which can be found on a current bill)
Comparing energy suppliers is simple, all you will need are a few key bits of information about yourself and your current supplier, tariff and how much you currently use. This information can typically be found on a copy of your most recent energy bill from your current supplier.
Graphic: Remember! Everyone is different, how much energy and where you live will affect what tariff is cheapest for you, that’s why comparing all suppliers is important to get the whole picture
When you first visit our homepage you will see our postcode box, this is where your comparison begins.
Step 1: The postcode box
You need to enter your postcode so that we can provide the tariffs and prices for your region. It is a little-known fact that energy suppliers charge different rates for different parts of the country, claiming supply costs and distribution fluctuate depending on the geographic region. There is nothing you can do about this “postcode lottery” however it does mean that certain suppliers and tariffs are cheaper where you live than in other areas. So to get us started, enter your postcode!
Step 2: Who is your current supplier
The next information you will need to fill out is who currently suppliers your gas and electricity. Don’t know exactly? This is where that bill comes in handy, as it will contain details of your current supplier and gas and electricity tariff. Select the correct tariff and supplier from our drop-down (be sure to specify what you want to compare eg. if you don’t have gas put a tick in the “Don’t compare gas prices” option).
Once you have selected your supplier and tariff, choose your current payment method from the drop-down options.
Now this is where your bill comes in handy too, as the most accurate way to compare suppliers is by entering accurate usage details for your property. If you can obtain it from your bill, enter a tick in the “I use kWh per year” and enter the amounts. If you cannot gather this info, the next best option is to enter your spend per month, quarter or year depending on the information you have available to you. Still struggling? select “I don’t know my gas usage” and our special estimator will calculate how much you are likely to use based on the size of your home.
Step 3: What features you would like
Now it’s time to specify what type of tariffs you’d like displayed on your results, along with the choice of how to pay your bill. We recommend leaving the payment option as Monthly Direct Debit as paying by this method offers the greatest amount of savings (suppliers offer discounts for customers paying in this manner) and we also recommend showing “All tariffs” on the results table to get a full picture of the savings that are possible. In this section it is also possible to sort your results by service rating or price, depending on what is the most important factor for you is.
Step 4: The results
The results table will contain all of the suppliers and tariffs available in your area, along with a predicted annual cost and savings you could make, which is dependent on the information you provided in step 2. Here you can see the available tariffs, check their terms and information such as any fixed end dates or cancellation penalties. When you are happy with a particular tariff, click on its corresponding “I want this tariff” button to continue along the journey to getting a great deal for your energy.
Step 5: Enter your details
This part takes care of all of your personal information that is required to get the switching process up and running.
You will need to fill in all of the requested information. If you have selected to pay your future bills by direct debit this is also where you will enter your bank account and payment details. Once you have supplier all of the information you can proceed to a confirmation page which allows you to check that all the supplied info is correct. You will need to check a tick box confirming that everything is correct before proceeding.
Step 6: Thank you!
Your switch is now in progress, and you can now look forward to getting a better deal on your gas and electricity. All you will need to do is supply your current supplier with an up-to-date meter reading to close out your account and submit a meter reading to your new supplier to get you started. In most cases your old and new suppliers will advise you when to do this.
But how can I save the most on my energy?
This is a question we are often asked by consumers, unfortunately, this really depends on how you use your energy at home. No two households will use their gas and electricity in precisely the same way so there is, unfortunately, no “one size fits all” way to save the most money.
However there are some key elements that affect the price you pay for your energy. In the following sections we explain how you are affected and how you can maximise your savings for your household.
The postcode lottery
It is common to hear of “postcode lotteries” in this day and age, with healthcare and education commonly referenced when people talk of a postcode lottery affecting your quality of service or care. What is not commonly known is that energy is priced differently according to the region in which you live, meaning you will be paying more or less than a household elsewhere in the country depending on the region you live in, even if you are on the same supplier and tariff.
The energy regions
The are 14 geographic energy supply regions in the UK. They are East Midlands, Eastern, London, Manweb (Merseyside & North Wales), Midlands, Northern, Norweb (North West England, Scottish Hydro (Scottish Highlands), Scottish Power (Scottish Lowlands), Seeboard (South East England), Southern, Swalec (South Wales), Sweb (South West England) and Yorkshire.
How does the region I am in affect the amount I pay?
Each supplier will price their tariffs specific to each region they serve. This could be more or less expensive than the national average for the particular tariff. Suppliers cite a number of reasons for the fluctuations, most commonly the cost of transport and delivery is mentioned when explaining the disparity in prices.
Here at energyhelpline, we have been researching the energy postcode lottery for a number of years, and regularly keep tabs on the different average rates customers are spending from region to region. Our latest postcode lottery infographic is below for reference:
How can I get the best deal for my area?
The only way you can see what would work best for you is to run a comparison on your postcode and your usage. We regularly list the top ten current tariffs on our blog, however, in some regions these may be different for where you live as we utilise a national average cost for our tables. Also some tariffs will work out cheaper than others if you are a high user, or a low user for that matter.
Is dual fuel or single fuel better for me?
In many instances suppliers offer dual fuel discounts and the management of a dual-fuel account with a single supplier is certainly simpler than taking your gas and electricity from separate providers. However in individual cases you may be able to save more taking your gas from one supplier and electricity from another. If you want to you could quickly compare single fuels in just a few minutes, to see how they stack up when compared to your dual fuel options for your area.
What about payment options?
Monthly Direct Debit for the win!
In almost all cases you will save money by choosing to pay for your gas and electricity deal via monthly direct debit. Most suppliers offer discounts for customers who pay this way, and some of the cheapest deals can only be switched to if you are prepared to pay by monthly direct debit. Managing your account
I have a prepayment meter
This should not stop you from getting a better deal than you currently are for your energy. Although prepayment tariffs are typically more expensive than traditional direct debit deals, there is still no excuse for staying on a suppliers standard offering. Many suppliers such as Ovo are also offering technological advancements in prepayment, with apps replacing the typical key that you recharge at a local shop.
I am a tenant and don’t own my property, can I switch my gas or electricity?
Yes, there has been a big push recently to educate tenants on their right to switch their energy provider. Ofgem, the energy regulator, has been particularly vocal trying to get those in rented properties into the switching market. In many ways, this makes complete sense, as those who rent are often more vulnerable to high-utility bills than those who own their own property. In any case there should be no impediment to you comparing and switching to a cheap energy deal as a tenant.
What about green energy?
Climate change is a concern for many across the country, so how do we reduce the impact our day to day activities have on the climate? One way in which households could reduce their impact is by switching to a green gas and electricity energy deal, but how can you determine which is the best for you?
Green energy explained
Many suppliers offer “green” tariffs, however what constitutes a green tariff can vary from one supplier to the next. Essentially a green tariff is one that aims to help you make a positive difference to the environment. Some do this by simply offering carbon offsetting or donating to environmental schemes, however most will be looking for a tariff that generates its energy from renewable sources.
How can I determine if the tariff I am choosing is “green”?
Using a price comparison service you can look at key features of the tariff you wish to select. Including the mix of fuel and its percentage sourced from green sources. The companies offering green tariffs include Ovo, Woodland Trust Energy, Ecotricity, Green Energy, Good Energy, and LoCO2. Although not all of these suppliers offer dual-fuel options, some offer electricity only plans.
How can I only see green energy deals when I compare suppliers?
Using our partner energyhelpline you can limit the tariffs displayed on your personal results table by selecting to see only tariffs you are interested in. As you proceed through the screens you will arrive at a preferences page, where you set how you prefer to pay your bill and you select the tariff types that interest you. Simply select green and environmental tariffs from the options and then proceed through to your personal results table. All of the tariffs displayed will be green tariffs.
Are green tariffs more expensive?
Green tariffs tend to be more expensive than traditionally sourced energy, especially when the percentage of green-sourced fuel is increased. Whether or not you want to pay to be more environmentally friendly is really the consideration that you will need to make when choosing to go green with your energy.
Great, I have switched to a cheap fixed deal, now I can forget about my energy tariff right?
In some ways yes, if you are on a fixed tariff you can be happy with the knowledge that you are getting a good rate for a set period of time. However, complacency is rarely rewarded, the tariff will expire at some point. So set yourself a calendar reminder for six weeks before your current deal ends. During this period you will be within the six-week switching and can switch without being hit by any cancellation penalties by your current supplier.
This six-week period is the perfect time to compare and secure your new deal, as your supplier cannot raise your rates after you initiate a switch and you cannot be charged the cancellation penalties that your supplier may levy against you if you switch outside of this window. Of course, if your tariff doesn’t have cancellation penalties you can switch away whenever you like to a new deal, but you still need to set a reminder for the fixed end date to avoid paying higher prices.
Staying on a cheap deal permanently
Fortunately, we have listened to customers here at energyhelpline and created a price monitoring service that we call Price Watch. When you compare and switch your energy via energyhelpline you will be asked whether or not you want to be enrolled in Price Watch, once you are we will constantly monitor your prices against the whole of the market and will notify you as soon as you can save more than £50 again.
About Price Watch
Once you reach the Price Watch savings threshold we will send an email to you to notify you that you could save more. The email will include a savings table with your actual savings figures and the specific suppliers and tariff names which can save you money. It will be whole of market so you see everything whether you can switch to it through us or not. By clicking on the table you will come straight back to your results table on the site with all your energy supply details loaded in like spend and supplier from this time so all you’ll need to do is click apply and fill out a new sign up form – just a few minutes normally.
Later this year, we will create a log in for all our users so that they can change the savings level trigger from £50 to whatever they want eg. £0 or £100 and also change other things like the frequency of the email alerts. Initially we set users up on a maximum of 1 per week.
If you ever want to stop getting a price watch email alert you can just click ‘Stop this Alert’ at the bottom of a price watch email and in one click that alert will be stopped for ever.