Best energy deals and suppliers: Electricity and gas comparison
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Energy jargon explainedTariff. A tariff is a pricing plan that energy providers use to charge customers for their electricity and gas use. The price you pay for your energy use will depend on the tariff you sign up for, like a mobile phone plan.
Kilowatt hour (kWh). A Kilowatt Hour is the unit of energy that suppliers use to bill households for their energy use. Each energy tariff will charge customers an amount per kWh used.
Standing charge. Energy suppliers also typically charge a fixed daily fee for providing you with energy, no matter how much you use. Customers who pay by monthly direct debit will usually receive a bill listing two amounts; the cost of energy used and the total standing charge for that period.
What types of electricity and gas tariffs are there?
Tariffs can be confusing, and the names don’t always help, so here’s what you need to know.
This type of energy tariff, sometimes called a standard variable rate (SVR) or “default” tariff, is one where the unit price you pay for your energy can go up and down with the energy market. You’re not locked into a contract, so if you find a cheaper tariff elsewhere you can switch without any exit fees. But these tariffs are rarely the cheapest deal.
This locks in the unit price of your energy for a period of time: 2, 3 or even 5 years. This can be a way to guard against future price increases caused by fluctuations in the energy market. However, you’ll typically be hit with a penalty fee if you want to switch before your fixed contract period is up.
Dual fuel tariffs
This just means you’re getting electricity and gas from the same supplier. Sometimes referred to as “bundling”, dual fuel energy tariffs can be cheaper, as suppliers have even more reason to want you to stay.
Designed to encourage you to use energy at times when supply is cheaper, these charge different unit rates depending on the time of day you use energy. Economy 7 is an example. These plans charge less for energy consumed at off-peak periods, usually a 7-hour period from late at night to the early hours of the morning, hence the “7” in the name.
These tariffs are for those who have a pre-payment meter and pay in advance for gas and electricity by topping up their meter using prepay tokens, cards or a key. This is typically one of the most expensive ways to power your home.
“Green” energy tariffs
A “green” tariff can be one of two things: either the supplier will promise to match your usage with generation from renewable sources of energy, or it will contribute towards environmental schemes on your behalf.
This is where you’ve installed solar panels or wind turbines at your property, and the energy suppliers pay you for the energy produce. There are no longer any new feed-in tariffs available on the market, but existing customers with feed-in tariffs can switch suppliers without losing the payments they receive from selling energy back to the grid.
How to choose the best energy deal
- Shop around every year. Many households have no idea how much they can save by switching energy provider. Keeping an eye on the latest tariffs can help you save potentially hundreds a year.
- Make a note of when your current tariff ends. If you’re on a fixed tariff, it’s a great idea to check what deals are available with other suppliers via comparison sites shortly before your current fix ends. This way you can switch over quickly and start saving sooner.
- Get your details right. When using comparison sites, it’s helpful to get your household details as accurate as possible. Some sites have helpful options to estimate how much energy you’re likely to use based on the type of building you live in and how many people are in your household. But calculating your actual energy use based on past meter readings can give you a more accurate forecast of how much a particular tariff will cost you.
- Find the right tariff for your usage. If you’re usually out of the house at work during the day, it might make sense to shop for time-of-use tariffs that mean you pay less f0r energy use at night. Electric vehicle owners who want to charge their vehicles from home can also benefit from these types of tariffs, particularly if they can plug their cars in overnight.
- Could you save money with a dual fuel tariff? If your household uses gas and electricity, you may find it cheaper to go with one supplier for both fuel sources. This is because suppliers can offer deals designed to stop you from wanting to switch.
How to switch your energy supplier: step by step
- Collect the information you’ll need to identify a new supplier. You’ll need: Your postcode, the name of your current supplier, the name of your current energy tariff and your annual energy usage or costs.
- Use a comparison site to identify a new suitable tariff. A comparison site can save you time in your search. It may also be worth contacting your current supplier to ask if they’ll match a better offer elsewhere.
- Consider your options. While a key factor affecting your choice is likely to be price, it’s worth considering a provider’s customer service reputation, how easy the new tariff would be to switch away from if required later, and whether the tariff markets itself as being environmentally friendly.
- Look for the switching guarantee. Some suppliers offer the Energy Switching Guarantee, designed by energy market watchdog Ofgem, which gives customers confidence that their switch will be handled correctly. Providers who have signed up to the guarantee promise to pay customers £30 compensation if their switch takes longer than 30 days.
- Confirm your contract and payment method. You will usually be offered several payment methods. A paying by monthly direct debit can usually save you money.
- You have time to change your mind. You have a 14-day “cooling off” period from the time you sign your contract to back out penalty free if you change your ming.
- Wait for your new supplier to get in touch. Your new supplier will contact you with a switching date. This usually takes around 2 weeks.
- Settle up with your current supplier. You’ll need to a submit a closing meter reading to your current supplier before they close your account. You should then receive a final bill within 6 weeks. If your account is in credit, you should receive a refund within that time.
4 in 5 Brits (81%) make sure they don’t fully fill the kettle up when using it for 1 hot drink.”
Best energy companies
Although price is a huge decider when it comes to picking your energy provider, it shouldn’t be the only factor at play. You’ll want to choose the provider that’s trusted, and holds a good reputation for the way it treats its customers.
While picking from this ever-changing list can be daunting, shopping around and doing your research can help you to find the perfect option, whether you’re looking for the cheapest deal on the market, renewable energy, great online service, smart meters or a local firm.
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