Home energy switching guide

Switching your gas and electricity supplier is quick and easy and the savings can be substantial. Switching your energy supplier is one of the easiest ways of reducing your household expenses. This article explains the reasons why you should switch and how the entire process works.


Ways to reduce your gas and electricity bills

Pay less for your energy

No matter which energy supplier you get your gas and electricity from, it is all the same stuff and comes from the same place. The change you will notice is the company that sends you the bill and the amount that they charge for your gas and electricity. Imagine buying a film on DVD. It doesn't matter where you buy it from, the film is the same. The only difference is the amount you pay for it. The same is true for gas and electricity.

Gas and electricity discounts
The easiest way to find the cheapest gas and electricity tariff is to use a price comparison service like us. Suppliers offer a range of discounts depending on how you pay for your bill and which services you use. For example, if you take both gas and electricity from the same energy supplier, they will usually give you a dual fuel discount.

Cheapest energy payment methods
If you pay by Direct Debit for your gas and electricity, the energy suppliers also offer discounts. Further savings can be made if you opt for online billing, where you receive your gas and electricity bills via email or the web, which saves the energy companies money and is also better for the environment as there are no paper bills.

Every customer is different and it is important to carry out a gas and electricity price comparison, but as a general rule:

Cheapest energy tariff = online billing + Direct Debit + dual fuel

Use less gas and electricity

The other way to save money on your gas and electricity bills is simply to use less of it. There are lots of ways of reducing your energy usage and people are starting to get very inventive. The good thing about being energy efficient is that you're not only saving money, but you are also helping the environment.

There are two main ways that you can reduce your energy usage in your home.

Make your home energy efficient
Making your home more energy efficient means that when you use energy, for example to heat a room, less of that energy is wasted by escaping through the roof, walls and windows. Changes to your home now will have a positive impact on your home energy usage for many years to come. There are also grants available for making your home more energy efficient.

Think more energy efficiently
In order to be as energy efficient as possible, you need to change the way you think about energy. Every time you turn your TV on, it has an impact. Simply by being more 'energy aware' you will see substantial changes in your energy usage. Key ways to reduce energy by changing your behavior include:

  • Switch off lights when not in the room
  • Keep doors closed
  • Turn appliances off at the main, not using standby
  • Turn down your thermostat by 1 degree

Individually, these changes may not appear to have a huge impact, but collectively, these small changes can really add up. When you start thinking with an 'energy efficient' mind, there are all sorts of changes that you can make, such as only filling a kettle with enough water for the number of drinks you are making.

See your energy efficiency working
A great way of seeing how your changes affect your energy usage and also your bills is with a device such as the Owl Energy Monitor. These simple devices are attached to your electricity meter and have a display which shows you how much energy you are using and how much it is costing. They really help to focus the mind and make you more energy efficient.

Energy saving websites

Energy Saving Trust

Warm Front

Energy Assistance Package (Scotland)

Defra


How to switch your energy supplier

An overview of the gas and electricity switching process

Switching your gas and electricity supplier is quick and easy and at no point will you be without gas and electricity in your home. The process is simple. You apply to switch and we and the energy suppliers then organise the entire process for you. Here is an overview of the switching process:

  1. Compare every gas and electricity supplier available
    Use our energy price comparison service to compare every gas and electricity supplier and also see the savings available by switching.
  2. Apply to switch to your chosen supplier
    From the results page, click on the 'Switch' button to apply for your chosen tariff. You will need to enter a few bits of information that the supplier needs, such as your address and if paying by Direct Debit, your bank details.
  3. Wait to hear from your new supplier
    Your chosen new energy supplier will contact you to confirm your request to switch. They will then liaise with your current supplier to action the switching process.
  4. Switch to new supplier complete
    The switching process takes about 4 to 6 weeks, during which time the suppliers may contact you for meter readings.

No disruptions and no work required to your home
When you switch supplier, nothing at your home changes. There are no new cables or pipes that need to be installed. Your electricity comes down the same wires and your gas comes down the same pipes. You will not be disconnected at any time as part of the switching process. The only change is the company that sends you the bill and the amount that you are charged.

Compare all energy suppliers and tariffs

When you compare gas and electricity suppliers, you need to make sure that you compare every energy tariff in order to get the best deal. We show every supplier and every tariff that is available, regardless of whether we can handle the switch for you. This means that you are able to make a fully informed decision when choosing a new energy tariff.

Beware gas and electricity agents who are not whole of market
Generally speaking, people who call at your door to discuss your energy, or the agents that you see in shopping centres and supermarkets are normally agents for a single energy supplier. This means that they can normally only give you prices from that one supplier only. They may be able to save you money compared to your current tariff, but you may find that you can make far greater savings when you compare every gas and electricity tariff available.

If you are approached by an agent, make sure that you check out their claims before you sign anything. It takes just five minutes to do an online gas and electricity price comparison, but it could save you hundreds of pounds a year. Also, if you are called on the telephone by a agent or energy company, be careful what you agree to. Energy companies are able to switch you over to them if you agree on the phone. The don't need a signature, so you need to ensure that you do not agree to anything that you did not mean to.

Apply to switch online for the best deals

The best gas and electricity deals are available online. The rise in popularity of gas and electricity price comparison services means that for suppliers to win business, they need to have the cheapest tariff available. Because we show every tariff available, the suppliers have launched tariffs that are designed to be at the top of the results. These tariffs are often only available to customers who switch online and are not always available to customers who switch by phone or face to face with agents. therefore, make sure you use our online price comparison service to check for the cheapest deal.

How to choose the best energy deal

No matter which supplier you choose, how you decide to pay and how you get your bills, the gas and electricity that comes into your home is the same. However, in order to pay as little as possible for it, there are several steps you can take.

First of all, you need to ensure that you use a site such as this one, which compares every energy supplier and every gas, electricity and dual fuel tariff.

Secondly, you need to select the options that suppliers give discounts for if you choose them. Generally speaking, suppliers will offer discounts for people paying by Direct Debit, taking both gas and electricity (dual fuel) and online billing, which is where you get your bills either by email or via the web:

Cheapest energy tariff = online billing + Direct Debit + dual fuel

The comparison service on this website enables you to compare all of the options available to you so that you can be sure that you are making a fully informed decision about which energy supplier you would like to switch to.

If you have switched before

If you have switched your gas and electricity supplier before, you will know how the process works. However, most people tend to switch their energy supplier and then forget about it for the next couple of years or more, knowing that they have switched to a cheaper deal. The good news is that yes, you probably are paying less than if you had never done anything and when you initially switched, you definitely would have been switching. However there are a couple of reasons why you need to check and possibly switch regularly.

Energy prices can go up and down
Energy suppliers frequently change their prices, so what was a good tariff a year or so ago, is no longer competitive. Also, when prices go down (not that often, but it does happen) suppliers will often issue a new version of their cheapest products to get to the top of the energy price comparison tables, but not pass on as much of the savings to their existing customers.

Regularly compare energy prices
We would recommend that consumers carry out a five minute gas and electricity price comparison every 6 to 9 months, to ensure that they are still on the best tariff for them. A few minutes work a couple of times a year can often be rewarded with significant savings on your gas and electricity bills.

If you have never switched before

If you have never switched your gas and electricity supplier before, you have the most to gain. Most energy suppliers get the majority of their profits from their loyal customers, the ones that have never switched. If you are with your incumbent suppliers (British Gas for gas and the regional electricity company for your electricity) and are on their standard tariff, the savings that can be made are often surprising. If you are paying by cash and cheque, the savings are even greater. You could be saving over £300 a year by switching.

Stop paying too much for your gas and electricity
Just think about how much extra you have been paying each year. You have probably spent thousands of pounds more than you should have. Now is the time to say enough is enough. Spend five minutes doing a price comparison, then switch to a cheaper tariff to stop paying over the odds for your gas and electricity.


Capped and fixed energy tariffs

Capped or fixed energy tariffs work in much the same way as fixed or capped mortgage deals. The energy supplier will guarantee the price of your energy until a specified date. Customers usually pay a premium for fixed rate tariffs, but if prices rise, customers will not see any increase in their bills until the tariff expires. Fixed energy tariffs are good when prices are going up as customers are protected from rising prices.

Avoid fixed tariffs when energy prices are going down
However, when prices come down, as they have done from time to time, customers can often find that they are paying more than they would otherwise. Also, many fixed tariffs have a fee if the customer switches before the tariff expires. This means that the customer is stuck with the current tariff until it expires, unless they decide to pay the early termination fees.


Gas and electricity price rises

Gas and electricity suppliers change their prices, usually a couple of times a year. Gas and electricity prices can go up and down, depending on what has happened in the wholesale markets. In the last couple of years, consumers have seem huge rises and falls, often double digit changes as suppliers increase and reduce their prices. Customers can often find it confusing, with so many suppliers and price rises that seem unjustified when the suppliers report huge profits.

See the impact of price updates for you
The easiest way of seeing how price rises affect you personally is to do a five minute energy price comparison. We also keep a record of each time a supplier changes their prices, which you can see on our energy price updates page.


Pre-payment meter customers

Generally speaking, there are two types of gas and electricity meter, credit meters and pre-payment meters. With credit meters, customers use energy and then the energy suppliers send a bill for the energy used. However, with pre-payment meters, customers 'charge up' their meter by buying credit, either on a card, key or with tokens.

Pre-payment meters allow customers to track very easily how much they are spending on their gas and electricity. They do not run the risk of using gas and electricity, only to receive a shockingly high bill a month later. With pre-payment meters, customers pay up-front, so they know exactly what they are spending.

Pre-payment meter customers pay a premium on their energy bills
As suppliers get the money before the energy is even used, you would think that the energy suppliers would charge less to customers on pre-payment meters. They also don't have to worry about chasing customers for money or changing Direct Debit amounts as prices rise.

However, usually the opposite applies and customers on pre-payment meters often pay more than customers with credit meters. For customers on pre-payment meters, the best way to lower energy bills, is to request that your supplier changes your meter for a credit meter. this means that you will then have all tariffs available to you. Suppliers though, do not have to agree to change your meter. In this case, you would be better to look for an alternative supplier who would be prepared to change your meter. Many will also make a charge for changing your meter to a credit meter, so do your research before you switch.

Fewer energy tariff choices available
Because it can be harder for pre-payment meter customers to switch their gas and electricity suppliers, there is a lack of choice available for alternative energy tariffs. Many energy suppliers only have a standard pre-payment tariff, where there are none of the discounts that are available to credit meter customers such as Direct Debit and online billing discounts. Find out more about prepayment meters.


Managing your energy bills

Managing your gas and electricity bills is an exercise that you should do on a regular basis to ensure that you are on the best deal and are paying enough to cover your energy costs. Getting into debt with your energy supplier not only means that you have to repay the debt on top of your current energy costs, but it also restricts you from switching until the debt is cleared. Getting into debt can be very easy:

  • Prices rise but Direct Debit amounts are not increased
  • Bills are based on estimated readings which are lower than annual consumption

Bills seem too high? If your bills seem higher than you were expecting, read more about why this may be the case and what you can do about it.

Regular meter readings

Giving your supplier regular meter readings ensures that your bills are far more accurate. Many suppliers now make it possible for customers to submit meter readings online throughout the year. This means that bills are based on actual usage and you are not going to receive any surprisingly high bills when an actual reading is taken.

Gas and electricity Smart Meter

UKPower.co.uk has now released a new, free to use 'Smart Meter' tool where you can enter your own meter readings and it will then tell you how much that energy will cost you. The Smart Meter is available at smartmeter.ukpower.co.uk

Gas and Electricity Smart Meter

Regular price comparisons

Energy suppliers frequently change the prices of their tariffs and launch new tariffs to attract customers. This means that in order to ensure you are on the best deal, you need to carry out regular energy price comparisons, which take only a few minutes. We would suggest that you do this every 6 to 9 months to ensure you are on the best deal.

Direct Debit reviews

You need to review the amount that you are paying by Direct Debit on a regular basis. If you are always in credit, or always have a debt, you need to adjust your Direct Debit payments accordingly. The following article explains how to review your Direct Debit payments.


Choosing the best time to switch gas and electricity supplier

Because energy suppliers change their tariffs and prices on a regular basis, we suggest that customers do a price comparison every 6 to 9 months to ensure that they are on the best deal. However, if you have any debts with your current supplier, you need to clear these before you switch. Read more about choosing the best time to switch.


How does UK Power work and how do we make money?

Ukpower.co.uk makes money through commissions paid by the energy suppliers. We do not charge our customers for using our service and the commissions that we get paid do not affect the price you pay. These commissions that we receive help us to offer this service to you for free.


IGT (Independent Gas Transporter) customers

IGTs are independent gas transporters. There is a national network of gas pipes that takes the gas to your house. However, some properties have private gas pipes which go from the public gas pipes on the main road to your property. An example of this could be a private development of houses where the developer owns the gas pipes. These IGTs often charge a slight premium to the energy supplier for using their gas pipes. It is up to the individual supplier how much of this cost that they pass on to you as a customer. However, below is a table which shows information on how much suppliers charge if you have an IGT at your property:

Energy supplier Approximate charge per year
Atlantic £0
British Gas £0
co-operative energy £0
E.ON £42. Some E.ON tariffs do not have an IGT charge. Where this is the case, it is indicated in the tariff details on our website.
EBICo £0
Ecotricity £0
EDF Energy £0
first:utility first:utility does not accept customers supplied by IGTs for tariffs advertised on this site
Good Energy Good Energy does not accept customers supplied by IGTs
M&S Energy £0
npower £10.50
OVO Energy £0
Scottish Hydro £0
Scottish Power £0
Southern Electric £0
Spark Energy Spark Energy does not accept customers supplied by IGTs
SSE £0
SWALEC £0
Utilita £0
Utility Warehouse (Telecom Plus) £34.2
Last updated: 11 April 2012

How much can you save by switching your energy supplier?

How much you can save by switching your energy supplier depends on a number of factors including:

  • Where you live
  • How you currently pay
  • How you would like to pay
  • How much gas and electricity you use
  • What type of meter you have
  • What features you would like (eg online billing)

As a general rule of thumb, this is how to get the cheapest deal:

Cheapest energy tariff = online billing + Direct Debit + dual fuel

Many customers save over £300 a year by switching their gas and electricity supplier.

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Useful energy information sites

Energy Saving Trust

Grant Search (Energy Saving Trust)

Warm Front

Energy Assistance Package (Scotland)

Home Energy Efficiency Scheme (Wales)

Energy Efficiency Commitment


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24 April 2014

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