Switching your energy supplier could save your household as much as £337 per year according to figures by uSwitch. Imagine being able to save over £28 a month in just 20 minutes! It’s very easy to do, and I’ll take you through the steps below.
Changing Energy Supplier
I’m not that old (well…) and when I moved into my first house in 2004, Gas and Electricity prices weren’t really a consideration. We just stuck with the energy supplier that was already there and paid the standard price. But times have changed and it’s becoming more important that we keep an eye on how much we spend. And according to uSwitch, the last 15 years have seen energy prices rocket by as much as 151%.
Is it worth switching?
It certainly is and for 2 main reasons.
- It saves you money. Even just £10 per month is equal to £120 per year. Often, you can save far more.
- It tells companies that you’re not happy for them to just keep increasing their prices and you won’t let them walk all over you.
Can I switch energy suppliers at any time?
You can change at any time… although there are possible penalties. If you’re not on a fixed contract, you can leave at any time, which is good as you’re probably paying more anyway.
If you are in a contract, usually between 1 and 2 years, you will need to pay a fee if leaving early. On average, this is around £30 per fuel (electricity and gas). Whether this is worth doing depends on how much you can save.
If you’re unsure if you are tied in or not, just take a look at your most recent bill. The tariff and contract will be explained clearly.
Can my current supplier stop me from switching?
Not usually. However, if you have an outstanding debt with them that has gone on for longer than 28 days, they may block any switch. They may also install a prepayment meter to help you pay off what you owe.
If you already have a prepayment meter, you can switch as long as you don’t owe more than £500 on either gas or electricity. If your debt is under the amount, it can be transferred to your new supplier.
What if my supplier owes me money?
Figures show that 50% of households are actually owed money by their supplier. That means you could be due a refund when you change suppliers.
But, some suppliers are more efficient than others when giving you your money back.
Once your switch is complete, your old supplier should automatically return the money owed straight to the bank account where your direct debit is set-up. If you haven’t received your refund within 7 days, it’s time to chase them up.
What is the cheapest way to pay?
When switching to a new supplier, you’ll be offered various ways to pay. The choice is yours, but you will find that to get the better-priced tariffs, you will need to pay by direct debit.
Monthly direct debit – Based on your expected usage, you will pay a set amount each month. This is great for people who like to keep an eye on their budget as you always know how much you need to pay. However, you do need to review every 6 months or so. You don’t want to build up a massive credit balance or end up owing your supplier money.
Quarterly direct debit – Works in exactly the same way as the monthly option, except you will need to pay every 3 months.
Paying upon receipt – Your bill with arrive quarterly (either by post or email), you will need to make payment manually – either at the Post Office (cash or cheque), by post or at bank (again with a cheque) or using a payment card online.
Prepayment meter – This involves you paying for your energy before you use it. You can top up by:
- Adding money on to a top-up card at the Post Office
- Topping up at a shop with a PayPoint or PayZone machine
- Going online and making a payment on your provider’s app or website
Can you have different suppliers for electricity and gas?
You can… but you’ll find that having the same supplier for gas and electricity will generally get you a better deal (known as a dual fuel discount). So, although on paper it might look better to have separate suppliers, in practice it probably isn’t.
Ok, so who is the cheapest supplier?
If only it was that easy. The fact is, price depends on several factors and unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all. For a start, it depends on how much gas and how much electricity you use. We all have different habits and so some will use far more gas, whilst others, more electricity. And you’ll find some suppliers have better rates for one or the other.
And if that’s not difficult enough, you will find that companies charge different rates in different regions. So just because your mate Rita uses exactly the same energy as you do, you might not get such a good deal with her supplier because you live in the next county.
How do I switch energy suppliers?
It may seem daunting at first, but it’s quite simple once you’ve got started.
First, find a copy of your most recent bill. On this, you should find the tariff that you’re currently on. If it’s a standard tariff, it will be easy to save money. Even if it’s not, there is a good chance that there’s a cheaper energy supplier out there.
Next, to get a more accurate picture, you need to see if you can find your annual usage. Don’t be too concerned about understanding the meaning of kWh, it’s basically a unit of measurement. All we’re after is your figure. In my case, I use 1,982 for electricity and 12,110 for gas per year. And if you’re wondering why my electricity usage is so low, it’s because I have solar panels installed.
Don’t worry if you can’t find these figures, it is possible to compare prices using just your monthly payment. And if you get really stuck, you could always give your energy provider a call or send them an email asking for the figures.
Here is a copy of my tariff information from Octopus Energy:
Tariff name – This is the name Octopus has decided to give the tariff. It’s only particularly useful when it comes to comparison sites as they will often ask the name of the tariff to compare deals.
Product type – Whether the contract is fixed or variable.
Payment method – How I pay (direct debit, payment on bill etc)
Unit rate – How much I pay to actually use gas or electricity.
Standing charge – The amount I have to pay each day, no matter if I use energy or not.
Price guaranteed until – This means that the price I pay won’t change until this date.
Early exit fee – How much I am charged if I leave early. As you can see, Octopus doesn’t charge exit fees.
Estimated annual usage – The amount of energy I may use during the year.
Ready to switch?
If so, head over to uSwitch or/and Confused. You’ll need to enter your postcode (prices do vary across the UK) and email address. Then you just enter as many details as you can and see the results. They will show you a host of energy providers and the cost to you. Then, it’s just a case of choosing a new supplier via a link and entering your details. Everything else is done for you.
You can’t always complete a switch through the comparison site. Some of the smaller companies will only let you swap if you go directly through them. The comparison site will tell you this though.
If you find that Octopus is one of the cheapest suppliers, use my referral code and you’ll earn £50 credit to your account.
How long does changing energy supplier take?
Ideally, a switch should take no more than 17 days but normally takes about three weeks. And you have 14 days to cancel if you change your mind.
And don’t forget to check out cashback sites too. They sometimes offer you money back if you start a switch through them. Find out more about cashback sites.
You can start a switch up to 49 days before your contract finishes without having to pay a charge.
And for those privileged British Gas customers, take a look at my step-by-step guide to switching away from them.
Would like to know more about cutting energy bills?