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Energy bills explained How to use them to save £100s

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Choose your supplier

Click your supplier's logo, then hover over the highlighted areas on the bill for explanations.

Can't see your supplier? More coming soon - try using British Gas's

British Gas

Npower

EDF

EDF hasn't given us a sample bill, so we're using a British Gas one instead.

SSE (includes Swalec, Southern Electric, Scottish Hydro and Atlantic)

E.on

What's included on your bill?

All regular (eg, monthly or quarterly) bills should include the following:

The name of the current tariff

MSE's explanation: While suppliers must offer just four core tariffs, the market remains saturated with tariffs, all with identical-sounding names. Unless you can pinpoint exactly which one's your tariff, you won't be able to see how much you can save by switching.

The cost of energy in THE last 12 months

MSE's explanation: Bills must provide the cost of your energy from the last 12 months. If you haven't been with the supplier for this long, it will be based on a shorter time period.

This is a useful tool for quickly seeing how much you're overspending by. The cheapest tariffs cost about £1,000/year for the average household. If you're well over this, switch!

An estimate of the next 12 months' cost

MSE's explanation: This predicts the cost of your energy for the next year based on what you've used in the last year. It assumes you stay on the same tariff and use the same amount of energy.

All customers should get one. This must include:

Conditions of contract, including exit feEs & end dates

MSE's explanation: Suppliers should outline the terms of your contract. This should include exit fees and tariff end dates.

Information about discounts

MSE's explanation: Suppliers must include full details of discounts or premiums that may apply to your tariff compared to standard tariffs where payment is by direct debit.

Switching info

MSE's explanation: Suppliers must include a reminder that customers can switch, along with advice on how to do it. Obviously energy providers aren't going to push this, and the likelihood is it will only tell you about its own cheaper tariffs. Never rely on that - always do a full comparison. See below for full info on switching.

What bills DON'T explain

What does 'kWh' mean?

MSE's explanation: A kilowatt hour (kWh) is the measure used to explain how much energy you use. One kilowatt hour is equal to 1,000 watt hours. Use an appliance rated at 1,000 watts for one hour and you'll be billed for 1kWh.

This is unlike phone bills, where you can clearly see the price per minute and relate it to how much you're using.

Confusing terms, such as'debit' AND 'credit'

MSE's explanation: While you'd usually associate "credit" with something you owe, in this case credit means when you've paid extra on your energy bill. "Debit" means when you owe the supplier extra.

No explanation of Independent Gas Transporters

MSE's explanation: Independent gas transporters (IGTs) are often used by constructors instead of National Grid in new-build properties as they charge less to fit pipes. About 870,000 people are supplied by them instead of National Grid.

If that's the case, you may have to pay £40-£70 more on top of any comparison quote, as the gas provider uses both pipes, so needs to pay both National Grid and the IGT to supply gas to your house. This charge is passed directly on to you.

If the MPRN (the meter point reference number, unique to your house) on your bill is 10 digits long and starts with 74 or 75, this means you're supplied by an independent gas transporter. If you're not sure, Energylinx has a useful tool you can use to check.

Crucial tips to save £100s on energy bills

Here are our top tips to save:

  • Switch energy

    Switching energy is easy: nothing changes other than who bills you. If you've never switched before you can save £180+/year. While the cheapest deals for typical users are around £1,000 a year, those on a standard tariff typically pay around £1,180.

    For full info on the top comparison sites and how to get extra cashback, or a crate of wine, see the full Cheap Gas & Elec guide. Economy 7 users can also compare tariffs, though switching's a bit more complicated. See our Is Economy 7 Right for You? guide for full info.

  • Pay by monthly direct debit

    Set up a monthly direct debit to pay your bill and you'll usually save around £70-£90/year extra. Yet it's crucial to make sure the energy company doesn't set it too low or too high. Either the supplier keeps hold of your cash unnecessarily or you end up with a big bill at the end of the year. Full details in the Energy Direct Debits guide.

    Your previous supplier(s) will owe you money if you were in credit when you switched, and you didn't get that money back automatically. If that happened, you have to ask for it back.

    We've created a guide for you to check if you're owed any of the £200 million that the big six providers are still sitting on. Plus, if you are owed, the guide will tell you how to claim. See how to get your previous supplier to cough up in Reclaim Energy Bill Refunds.

  • Do a meter reading regularly

    Every time you receive a bill, do a meter reading. Don't rely on your energy provider's estimate; these are often way out. If they're under-billing, you'll have a big whack to pay at the end of the year. If they're over-billing, then they've unfairly got your cash.

    If your direct debit is way off kilter, call up and request it's changed. You have a range of rights to ensure it's correct. See the full Energy Direct Debits guide for template letters to help.

  • Switch to your company's internet tariff

    Switch to your company's internet billing. It will usually save you up to 10% over the standard tariff, and all it really means is you get your bills emailed.

  • Grab £1,000s of grants

    There's a vast range of grants available for improving home heating and insulation. The best place to start is the Government's Energy Saving Trust (EST). It has an advice and information helpline, call 0300 123 1234 (0800 512 012 in Scotland and Wales).

    For more grants available for all types of home improvement, see the full Grant Grabbing guide.

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