With winter here and a price war on switchers' deals, now's the perfect time to switch gas and electricity. Even though all of the big six have announced cuts to their standard tariff gas prices, those deals are still £200+/yr more than the cheapest.
Many people can save £100s and guarantee no price hikes. This guide shows you how to find your cheapest deal, cut energy costs, reclaim any cash you're owed and bag cashback on top.
We're in the depths of winter and competition is red hot in the energy market with a raft of cheap, short fixes launched in the past few weeks.
Even though E.on, British Gas, Scottish Power, Npower, SSE and EDF have announced they have or soon will shave 1.3% to 5.1% off their gas prices following huge political pressure linked to a 20%-30% fall in wholesale prices, the best deals are still for switchers.
Take E.on's £1,135 typical annual dual fuel standard price. Even after its price shave, that's still £217 a year more than the cheapest deals.
Fixed tariffs freeze the price of each unit of energy you use for a set time. Always watch out for exit fees though - they're what you'll be charged if you leave before the tariff ends.
Compare to find your cheapest price (plus possible cashback)
Prices always depend on your region and usage, which is why itís important to do a comparison. Our MSE Cheap Energy Club has a Top Fixed Picks comparison which will show you bespoke prices for the deals below (if you switch, you usually get £30 dual fuel cashback, or £15 for a single fuel). Hereís how the top tariffs compareÖ
CHEAP FIXED DEALS Based on typical usage, not available for prepay
|Fixed until||Supplier||Exit fee||Cost/yr||Supplier's service rating (1)|
|Avg standard tariff (2)||
Costly standard deal (4)
|Cheapest short fix BUT terrible cust serv (5):||
31 Mar 16
|Scottish Power*||None||£918||17% great
|Cheap tariff with great feedback:||
|Longer fix, with good feedback:||
31 May 16
|Co-op Energy*||£30/fuel||£944||63% great
|Two-year no-exit fee fix:||
|Green Star Energy||£30/fuel||£993||New provider, limited feedback|
|REMEMBER! These are average prices. Always do a cheap fixes comparison to find your cheapest|
Source: Moneysupermarket.com. Tariffs correct as of 27 Feb 2015. All tariffs assume monthly direct debit. Varies by region. (1) For each provider, not tariff, based on MSE poll of 7,782 people in Nov 2014. (2) Estimated average across big six. (3) This is the average standard tariff for the big six firms after price cuts take effect. Average tariff currently is £1,166. (4) SSE. (5) WARNING. In our recent customer service poll, a huge 58% voted Scottish Power 'poor'. It is the cheapest fix tariff, so we've included it but as an overall top short fix, Ovo is a better option.
There's also a collective switch currently running with The Big Deal which may be cheaper for some. For full details see Is the Big Deal's collective switch worth it?
Latest price changesLast winter suppliers hiked prices, then subsequently trimmed them, and this year providers are further cutting prices.
See full info on recent energy hikes and cuts.
Historic price changes Price rises by provider
Energy prices have changed a lot over the last two years - here's a quick recap.
2015 price cuts
With the wholesale price of gas falling by up to 30% in 2014, energy firms have found themselves under political pressure - especially in the run up to the general election - to pass on savings to customers.
Recently several of the big providers have announced gas price cuts. However these are only on their standard variable tariffs - which means those benefiting from price cuts can still actually save £200+/yr by switching to the market's cheapest deals.
We've detailed the big six standard gas tariff price cuts below.
|Supplier||Gas price cut (effective date)||Reduction on typical gas bill|
|British Gas||5% (27 Feb 2015)||£37|
|EDF||1.3% (11 Feb 2015)||£9|
|E.on||3.5% (13 Jan 2015)||£24|
|Npower||5.1% (16 Feb 2015)||£35|
|Scottish Power||4.8% (20 Feb 2015)||£33|
|SSE||4.1% (30 April 2015)||£28|
2014 price rises
A host of providers announced price hikes in the winter of 2013/14, blaming the Government's green levy charges. The green levy - paid by energy firms as a contribution to certain schemes, eg, the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) - was introduced to make homes more energy-efficient.
In a bid to lower bills, the Government reduced the amount suppliers had to pay (see the Government shakes up energy bills MSE news story). Suppliers have since passed on some of these cuts to consumers, reducing bills slightly, but due to the high increases in bills initially, overall prices rose significantly over the year.
The table below shows the net effect of price changes to the average gas and electricity cost over 2013/14 for each major supplier, including where they passed on green cuts. It also shows the overall increase, taking into account all hikes and cuts from 2013/14.
Please note, prices always depend on both the company you're with and the region you live in, so there can be huge variations. The 'price hike' and 'overall rise' columns below applied only to customers on variable tariffs.
||Price cut on typical bill||Overall rise|
|Npower (1)||10% (1 Dec 2013)||c.£50 (28 Feb 2014)||7.4%|
|British Gas||9% (23 Nov 2013)||£53 (1 Jan 2014)||6%|
|Scottish Power (2)||9% (6 Dec 2013)||£42 (31 Jan 2014)||5.7%|
|SSE||8% (15 Nov 2013)||c.£38 (24 Mar 2014)||4%|
|EDF||3.9% (3 Jan 2014)||£12 only (Autumn 2014)||3.9%|
|E.on||3.7% (18 Jan 2014)||£12 only (Autumn 2014)||3.7%|
|British Gas and SSE fixed tariff customers got the max £50 off their bill, even though their bills didn't rise initially. As their price hikes were lower, EDF and E.on already factored in the green levy cuts.
(1) Npower fixed customers got a £12 cut. (2) Scottish Power fixed customers got a £12 cut.
Energy switch and fixing Q&A
We've been collating your questions from our own survey, the forums and social media about switching and fixed tariffs. We've answered the most common below. Click the links to read the answer to each question.
Comparing shows a fix'll cost me more - should I still do it?
If the comparison shows a fix costs more, then this is all about how much you need certainty. If you're an energy tart who regularly switches (the MSE Cheap Energy Club will give you alerts), you could just ride it out. If not, a fix is more likely to be worth it.
I have a prepay meter. Can I switch or fix my energy tariff?
Yes, you can do both, so don't assume you're stuck. There used to be few cheap fixes for prepay users, but now options are opening up.
The good news is that the cheapest tariff on average, for a typical user, happens to be fixed until 2017. Scottish Power's Help Beat Cancer tariff locks in prices until May 2017. For someone with typical bills it's £1,205/year, which is roughly £40/year cheaper than a standard prepay tariff. BUT Scottish Power was voted 'poor' in our Nov 2014 customer service poll by a huge 58%. Ofgem has imposed targets for it to improve, but it's too soon to tell if they've worked.
Alternatively, a E.on has a cheap non-fixed option, differing in price to Scottish Power by a tiny 2p margin. Plus you'll get Tesco points, worth up to £60 in rewards. However, you won't be protected from price hikes, so be prepared to compare and switch if things do change.
Another option is EDF's Blue+Fix Prepay Mar 2017. This locks in the rate you pay per unit of energy until Mar 2017. It's £22/year more on average than Scottish Power's fix but it scored far better on customer service with only 12% rating it 'poor' and a good 55% rating it 'great'.
Prepay users should also consider shifting to a billed meter, if your credit score allows. For how to do this cheaply, see the Cheap Prepay guide.
Should I take a short, cheaper fix, or fix long? I can't decide
First, look at how much you'd save with each fix. Then ask yourself: "Am I the type of person who'll be an energy tart?" In other words, will you keep on top of this and remember to switch at the end of each deal?
If yes, then a shorter fix - which will generally be cheaper - is worth considering (our Cheap Energy Club will alert you when to switch again). Be aware though that if energy prices rise over the next few years, you could end up switching to a pricier deal when your short fix ends.
The less likely you are to tart, the more you should consider a long fix. You may not get quite such a good rate, but it'll stay relatively cheap, even if you're inactive.
Other questions, including 'I'm in debt, can I switch? and 'Is it a big hassle?'
Q: I'm in debt to my supplier, can I switch?
A: If you're on prepay, you can if the debt's £500 per fuel or less. If you're on a credit meter, it varies by supplier and payment type. British Gas and Scottish Power tell us you need to pay off your debt before switching away. The other top six firms may let you switch, then pay it off.
If you're in credit when you switch, your old provider needs to give you the cash.
Q: Suppliers are all the same, so isn't switching pointless?
A: You're right - in many ways they are the same, even though some new smaller suppliers have launched. Yet switching isn't actually about suppliers. Just like one mobile phone firm has many different tariffs, so do energy suppliers.
One supplier can have both the UK's cheapest and most expensive tariff. So the aim's to find your cheapest tariff, regardless of the firm. To show you the impact, and potential waste, someone with typical usage on the UK's cheapest tariff pays £920/year. But the same user on a pricey tariff pays £1,200/year.
Q: How long does it take to get confirmation after switching?
A: You usually get a confirmation email from the comparison site within 24 hours (definitely via Cheap Energy Club). After that, you're due a welcome pack. It could take weeks (sometimes they even deny you've done it).
Q: I've switched before. It said I'd save, but my bills weren't lower?
A: While it sounds strange, you may save money by switching, even if your bills go up during a round of price hikes. For example, during price hikes by suppliers, you might switch to a new deal to pay less, but then see the price of your NEW tariff increase slightly.
But if you hadnít switched during the price hikes, your bills wouldíve gone up even more on your OLD tariff. So, while youíre paying a bit more, it'll still be less than if you hadnít switched.
Q: Is a fixed discount the same as a fix?
A: Annoyingly, some firms offer 'fixed discount' price promises. They may say "you'll always pay 6% less than our standard tariff", but in other words, it's a variable deal subject to price rises. Our list only contains real fixes, of course.
Q: I am moving home, can I take my fix with me?
A: If you're moving, most providers will allow you to take the fixed tariff to the new house. You usually have to pay the new region's prices, which may be different. But because you've locked into a price before prices go up generally, the savings should still outweigh this.
Therefore if you're fixing right now, it's best to compare based on your new postcode (if you know it) as you'll be there longer - and, of course, check the fix is portable.
Q: Should I call my existing provider to fix?
A: No, no, no. This isn't about grabbing any fix. That could leave you locking in at a high cost - it's about locking in on the cheapest fix, which may be with another provider.
Q: Will prices keep rising in the long run?
A: With energy firms' efficiency, green energy and investment obligations, prices are predicted to go up at least 30-40% over the next five years, unless there's huge political change.
Q: Must energy providers give notice of price rises?
A: Yes, 30 days' notice, so you'll know when it's coming.
Q: Does switching affect my credit rating?
A: Suppliers often carry out credit checks when you apply that show on your credit file. Lenders can see these. Each application can have a minor effect on a future credit score. It's usually not an issue unless you're applying for lots of other credit cards and loans around the same time.
Q: I've just moved house, how can we compare?
A: If you can get an idea of usage figures from the previous homeowners, brilliant. These figures will give you the most accurate comparison.
If not, some comparisons offer a movers' service. Simply answer some basic questions about the house, such as size and appliance use, and it'll tell you the likely cheapest provider.
Until you switch, the energy supplied to the house will come from the supplier the previous owners used.
Q: I'm in the process of switching to a new supplier, but haven't fixed. Is it too late?
A: When you switch supplier, you've got a 14-day cooling-off period. So if you're within this time, do a new comparison looking for a fixed deal and if it's with a different supplier, you can switch again without a problem.
If it's with the same provider or if you've missed the cooling-off period, call the supplier you're due to move to and ask it to switch you to its cheapest fixed tariff (use a comparison to check). Otherwise you'll have to wait until the supply is live before switching again.
Q: I fixed, now prices are up, will I get it?
A: The point of a fix is you're not affected by energy price rises.
If you fixed to cheap fixes that have now been pulled, you should be fine - you'll normally get the prices advertised at the point you applied (whether directly or via a comparison site).
Things can go wrong, though. You could fail a credit check, or maybe you're heavily indebted to your supplier and it tries to block you. If so, you should be told within about two weeks.
Q: I'm already tied in, is it worth asking my current supplier if I can switch to a fixed deal?
A: The only way it can lock you in is with an exit penalty that wipes out any savings you'd make by switching. So first ensure your provider's fix is competitive. If you'd save more than the exit penalty by switching elsewhere, there's no point anyway.
If not, while we've never heard of this happening, it's certainly worth seeing if your current company will waive your exit fee and switch you to its fix - you can always push hard by threatening to go elsewhere if not.
Q: My friend says Utility Warehouse promises to be cheapest?
A: Utility Warehouse/Telecom Plus is a network marketing firm, so its users can be very keen to sell it on. Its 'price promise' excludes online tariffs, which tend to be the cheapest.
As its prices are covered by comparison sites, just like others, to see its price for you, do a comparison (scroll for it, as it usually isn't near top). However, some do like it for getting multi-utility discounts (ie, energy and phone together). The problem is you're normally locked into the energy and phone elements to get the full benefit.
Q: I'm only going to save £10. Is it worth switching?
A: Remember, by fixing you're not just saving now, the aim is to get a guarantee against prices rising. You could also get cashback on top of the tariff saving via the cashback site links.
Q: Isn't switching a big hassle?
A: No. Switch, and you keep the same gas, electricity and pipes. Only service and, crucially, cost changes. Yet admittedly it can take up to two months to switch across.
All you need to do is take five minutes to do a comparison, find your cheapest deal and fill in your details. There can be hitches but switching should be simple for most.
Q: How do I switch - will the new company contact the old?
A: Yes. There's no need to contact your old provider (unless, perhaps, you are in debt with it and want to discuss how you pay it off).
Q: I've heard some people switch to a cheaper price but have a bigger direct debit?
A: Direct debits are based on an estimate of your usage. Some find they switch to a cheaper tariff, but their direct debit rises.
This is usually because the new firm over-estimates, or the old one under-estimates. If it's too high and means you overpay, you'll get the money back later. If it's a problem, you've a right to ask them to lower it. See Energy Direct Debits.
Q: I'm renting, can landlords dictate which electricity provider I use?
A: If you pay the gas and electricity bill directly (not via the landlord), you can and should compare and switch. Don't stick with the previous tenants' supplier as often it's costly. Always do a meter reading as soon as you move in.
You have a right to do this without your landlord's permission, though it is worth checking your tenancy agreement just in case it's a breach. If it is, communicate with the landlord - nothing changes for it if you switch, so it shouldn't be an issue.
Even if your tenancy agreement says you can't switch, challenge it. Preventing a tenant from changing energy suppliers may be viewed as an unfair term in a tenancy agreement, so talk to Citizens Advice to see if it can help. If you pay your landlord for energy, it's their choice.
Q: I only use electricity - can I switch and fix?
A: Yes, use Cheap Energy Club to find your cheapest. Just select 'electricity only' and it will show your top fixes.
Q: Is it true that paying by direct debit is cheapest?
A: Yes, but specifically for monthly direct debits, which can be £90 cheaper/year. Your bill is then estimated, so make sure you do regular meter readings.
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Our Cheap Energy Club is designed to keep you constantly on the cheapest tariff - fighting the fact most cheap deals only last 1-2 years before their rates rise. It does this by...
Finding you the cheapest deal. If you're already on it, great. If not, it'll help you switch. You usually get £30 cashback on top for a dual fuel switch or £15 cashback for switching just gas or electricity.
Then constantly monitoring your tariff. Each month, without you doing anything, we do a background comparison to check yours is still cheapest.
Alerting you when it's time to switch (again). If you can save money switching either because your rate's changed, or others have, we'll tell you.
We've been swamped with positive feedback, such as:
Got to say thanks. Iíll be saving a whopping £800 per year on my dual fuel bill after using your Cheap Energy Club. Was hoping for £300 so this is amazing (a tad annoyed with myself that I didn't do it sooner!
I just switched via Energy Club and will save about £120/year! Thanks! Don't know why I didn't look into this ages ago.
Registered & used your Cheap Energy Club. Managed to switch to a fixed until 2014 deal and saved £85/yr! On top, the deal promises £70 cashback after three months, making my fixed deal less than the cheapest variable deal.
We've also added some improvements to Cheap Energy Club. One is a filter that lets you search for tariffs with no standing charge. Let us explain....
Energy bills work a bit like phones, you have the standing charge (like line rental, you pay it regardless) and the usage charge (like calls). Many who go away for decent chunks of the year want to avoid a standing charge and have asked us about it. So Cheap Energy Club now lets you compare all 'no standing charge' tariffs.
Cheap Energy Club's results also show which tariffs will and which won't be eligible for the Warm Home discount. This is a Government discount of £140 you can get during winter - if you qualify. See Warm Home Switching.
And finally, in the past our alert emails went just to the person who registered, but lots of you said you wanted somebody else copied in, so we've added that function too. Do it when you register, or add them to the account details page if you're already a member.
Try it, and let us know what you think at email@example.com.
Comparison sites don't always show all tariffs by default
It's also possible to get cashback for switching from comparison sites. Bear in mind though that some comparison sites by default only show you tariffs you can switch to via them (ie, where they're paid commission). This filters out some results - Cheap Energy Club shows you ALL those available by default.
If you do use a comparison site always make sure you've selected the option to show all available tariffs to get the full picture before making a decision.
Here's a summary of how you can switch via the major comparison sites:
£17 cashback per fuel switched
Energy helpline* - get £34 for dual fuel
Switch via this specific Energyhelpline*. You can get £34 for a dual fuel switch, or £17 for a single gas or electricity switch.
If you switch gas to one supplier and your electricity to another supplier, you get £34. Though if you do two single switches to the same supplier, you'll only get £17.
Energyhelpline pays the cashback 60-120 days after your new supply goes live. The offer is ongoing.
Six-bottle case of wine to switch
uSwitch* - only applies to dual fuel switches
We've blagged MoneySavers six bottles of wine if you switch both gas and electricity via uSwitch. Use this uSwitch* link and, after your new supply goes live, you'll be emailed a voucher code with instructions to redeem the wine.
It can take up to four months from the date you switched for the code to be sent. Nakedwines.com supplies the wine. You can't get the offer if you're switching only gas or electricity.
£30 dual fuel cashback or £15/fuel
UK Power* - you must go via our link to get it
Do a comparison via this UK Power* link and you get £30 cashback for a dual fuel switch with it. You'll get £15 cashback if you switch just one fuel via the same link.
£30 cashback or £15 per fuel
Moneysupermarket* - cashback can take up to six months
Go via this MoneySupermarket* link and if it can switch you, it will put £30 in your account. Expect it 8-12 weeks after your supply has gone live, though it can take as long as six months in some cases.
High £40 cashback on dual fuel switches
SimplySwitch* - be warned, some haven't received their cashback
It may be possible to INCREASE the cashback even more
Occasionally, some energy companies pay even more if you switch directly via their websites or via cashback websites. Therefore, for the ultimate finesse, first use the comparison services to find the cheapest, then check the winner's website direct to see if it offers more cashback.
When is the cashback paid?
Cashback's usually paid automatically 45 to 90 days after you sign up, but remember it's only paid when the comparison service actually administers the switch for you. In some cases it can take as long as six months, and some comparison sites make you put in a claim.
Otherwise it doesn't earn anything, so it can't cut you in. Things can and do sometimes go wrong, so don't count the cash as yours until it's in your pocket.
How do comparison sites work?
The cheapest supplier for you is calculated by a complicated algorithm. It depends on where you live, how much energy you use, and the type of energy you use. Web and phone-based comparison services do this for you.
Just plug in your address and usage (use the kilowatt hours on the bill rather than the cost to improve accuracy) and they tell you which supplier is cheapest. If you don't have a bill or have just moved in, most comparison services can still estimate for you.
How do they earn their money?
Comparison services are paid between £30 and £70 per switch by the energy companies. In other words, they're referral businesses. In itself this isn't actually a problem, as it doesn't add costs to the consumer. Watchdog Citizens' Advice has an accreditation system for website (not phone) services, setting minimum standards.
Yet these are commercial beasts, and thus there are differences between them - in functionality, inclusion of niche players and the treatment of initial discounts. There have also been some concerns that one or two tweak results at the edges for their gain.
Overall, it's better to use them than to listen to the energy companies when they shout "we're cheapest".
Why do they only pay cashback via this site?
In the early days of the site, way back in 2004, a comparison service boss asked Martin: "How can we be your top pick?" Flippantly, he replied: "Pay customers some of your cut!" Surprisingly it agreed to a trial, but only for users of this site, so as not to cannibalise its existing custom.
That was the start, and as this site's grown, now with many millions of users a month, they all want a piece of the pie. Hence many now offer cashback.
In the main, it's still only links from this site, or for those who use phone services and quote the deals here. If you go direct, you get exactly the same service but without the cashback. You may be able to get cashback for specific energy providers via cashback websites.
Why do I get different results from comparisons?
It's common to use different comparison sites and get different results. While it can be annoying, not much can be done to standardise it. The main reasons it happens are:
These sites make a number of assumptions If you haven't entered kilowatt hours, which is the most accurate way, then just giving a past bill can't actually tell the comparison sites your exact usage, so they each make some assumptions to work it out. Slight differences in those assumptions can affect the overall recommendations.
Even if you do put kilowatt hours in, other assumptions are made, as some sites add in seasonal usage weightings and more slight variances due to how the calculations are done. Of course it's very frustrating, but ultimately it's likely the actual difference in what you pay will be small.
Check you've selected exactly the same current tariff Annoyingly, when asking which tariff you're currently on, comparison sites often list almost identically named products for each provider - something that should be cracked down on - so make sure when you're picking your current tariff, you get it exactly right.
Was the difference just in the amount saved? If the tariff you should switch to is identical, but the saving isn't, this is less of a worry - it's far more likely to be about assumptions.
What about when there are genuinely different answers? That's very annoying and really it shouldn't happen, but occasionally it does. The only way to get PERFECT accuracy is to get a spreadsheet out and do your own comparisons. But unless you're a maths whizz with a lot of time, that's virtually impossible.
The actual answer here is to remember the differences are only at the margins, so overall if you're making a saving it's still a good move.
Why do we suggest comparison sites if this can happen? The alternative is listening to the guy in the supermarket or ringing you trying to flog you a new tariff, and they're just salespeople. While the comparison sites aren't perfect, they are accredited by Ofgem and those standards mean the differences are small.
In 2005, we took the decision (having made a big fuss about it), that, ultimately it was more important to encourage people to save big money by getting the best tariff easily and switching at the right moment, than to berate comparison sites for small differences.
We accepted comparison sites were the 'least worst' way to do it. Overall, they provide a good service and tell you roughly the cheapest provider. We hope they'll improve, but they're much better than sticking with an expensive supplier and watching prices rise.
Help! I'm supplied by an independent gas transporter
Independent gas transporters (IGTs) are often used by homebuilders instead of National Grid in new-build properties as they charge less to fit pipes. One in 20 people are supplied by them instead of National Grid.
Previously you had to pay £30-£70 more on top of any comparison quote as the gas provider uses both sets of pipes, so it needs to pay both National Grid and the IGT to supply gas to your house. This charge was passed directly on to you. Now, only Npower charges - it's £10 per annum per customer, for both pre-paid and credit customers.
Occasionally, it may mean you can't switch to certain suppliers - usually the smaller ones.
How to tell if you have an independent gas transporter
If the MPRN (meter point reference number unique to your house) on your bill is 10 digits long, and starts with 74 or 75, this means you are supplied by an independent gas transporter. If you're not sure, Energylinx has a useful tool you can use to check.
Is Utility Warehouse any good?
This is a commonly-asked question. Unlike most energy companies and resellers, Utility Warehouse operates by network marketing, which means its customers are encouraged to sell the product to their friends and they get commission for it.
This tends to mean it does well on feedback charts, as customers have a vested interest, and many of them are evangelical about the firm. That in itself doesn't make the product bad, but in our view it's no better or worse than any other energy provider.
Utility Warehouse's prices are included in all the main comparison services we list. So if the company turns out to be cheapest for you, it should be listed by them, and then it's worth going for.
The main pitch of Utility Warehouse is that you can also get cheap mobile, broadband and home phones with it and that reduces the fee. In general, we find using the cheapest individual providers undercuts this, so always compare with those before signing up to it. See the Cheap Home Phones, Cheap Broadband and Cheap Mobiles guides for more.
Can I compare green energy?
Luckily, green tariffs are now commonplace, and most suppliers offer them. Green tariffs are either ecologically-produced, or a proportion of the money is put towards ecological sources.
This is one area where going green and saving money diverge. The cheapest green tariffs tend to cost more than the cheapest standard tariffs, so it really is a question of your personal politics. However if you can afford to go green, then it's a help to the environment, and all the main comparison services allow you to compare green tariffs.
What counts as green?
This has been disputed for a long time, and some companies made some relatively shoddy claims to being environmentally-friendly.
In 2010 a scheme launched to provide proper certification for green tariffs. To be certified, suppliers have to demonstrate their schemes are green to an independent panel of experts. You can see a full list of certified tariffs on the Green Energy Scheme website.
Fixed monthly direct debit payments, where you pay a fixed estimate each month, can usually save you £70-£90 a year as companies are sure you won't default and they earn interest on any overpayments. So if you can do this, go for it. Depending on your supplier, any overpayments are refunded automatically or on request.
Plus don't assume dual fuel (getting gas & electricity from one supplier) is cheapest. When comparing, check the cheapest separate suppliers too.
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Energy efficiency can seriously cut bills. There are wads of freebies on offer from energy providers, from new boilers to loft and cavity wall insulation.
It's all part of their efficiency obligations to people in certain groups. The full Free Insulation & Boilers guide has more, but below's a taster of what you can get and what it'll save you.
Boiler replacement or repair. Boilers account for around 55% of what you spend in a year on energy bills. The more efficient your boiler, the more heat it produces from each gas unit.
Depending on your boiler's age, a shiny new efficient one could save you up to £310/year. New boilers typically cost £2,300 - a fabulous freebie.
Cavity wall insulation. Most homes built since 1920 have a gap between internal and external walls. Filling the cavity with insulating mineral wool and foam means cold air's kept out, and warm air stays in. It can save an average three-bedroom home up to £140/year.
Loft insulation. Up to a quarter of your home's heat escapes via the roof, but you can solve this by laying mineral wool under the rafters, saving up to £180/yr.
If you don't have a gas supply, don't think the rules are different. If you only have electricity you can still save serious cash using the comparisons. Use Cheap Energy Club or the other comparison sites listed above.
While a push from the Government means it's getting better, those on prepayment (key/card) meters are still pretty hard done by, certainly compared to those who pay by direct debit. If possible, switch to a billed meter. You may have to pay, but the savings are usually worth it.
Often they won't let you though, due to credit score or income difficulties. For full info on how to ditch a prepayment meter for a credit meter, or if you can't, how to save on a prepay meter, see the full Cheap Prepaid Gas & Elec guide. If you can't get a normal meter, you can switch and save (compare prepay tariffs).
Energy complexity is frustrating. Switching at a time when price hikes AREN'T looming (as they ARE now), can save people big money. But it can feel the opposite if the direct debit goes up.
Direct debits are based on an estimate of your usage. So some find they've switched to a cheaper tariff, but their direct debit rises. This can be the new firm over-estimating or the old one under-estimating. If it means you overpay, you'll get the money back later.
Since we've been lobbying on direct debits, rules have changed. Suppliers' licences now say they must ensure direct debits are reasonable. If yours isn't, see the full help guide Energy Direct Debits.
If you rent your home, you could save around £190+ a year by switching. You don't need to own the property to do it, so don't just stick with the previous tenant's gas or electricity firm.
Tenants can print out our factsheet to give to landlords. It explains the rights that renters have to switch energy supplier. It also helps landlords understand that allowing tenants to switch won't cause them any problems. Let us know if the factsheet helped you in the Energy factsheet forum thread.
When renting, you're free to switch, providing you pay the energy supplier directly (rather than paying your landlord).
You should also check your tenancy agreement - but even if your contract bans switching, Ofgem's guidance on this states that if you pay the energy bill, you're still entitled to change supplier any time. You can still compare on Cheap Energy Club if you don't have the former occupants' bills, just hit the "don't know" button when you enter your usage.
We'd love to hear your experiences of switching as a renter on the Switching when renting forum discussion, especially if you've successfully challenged your landlord.
If you're a renter, here's some more info on your switching rights.
Pay the energy company directly? You CAN switch supplier
This is because you have a contract directly with the energy supplier. You don't need to get permission from your landlord to do this, but it's a good idea to let them know in writing so they're aware. It is worth checking your tenancy agreement just in case it is a breach. If it is, talk to your landlord.
My tenancy agreement says I can't switch, help!
Even if you pay energy bills to the supplier, but your tenancy agreement says you can't switch, challenge it. Preventing a tenant from changing energy suppliers may be viewed as an unfair term in a tenancy agreement. Talk to Citizens Advice to see if it can help.
If there's a default supplier clause in the tenancy agreement - where a landlord has a tie-in with a particular supplier - Ofgem says you can still switch.
Ofgem's guidance states: "If a tenant is directly responsible for paying the gas and/or electricity bills, they have the right to choose their own energy supplier and the landlord or letting agent should not unreasonably prevent this." See the Ofgem website for more.
Even if you pay your landlord for energy, you may still be able to switch
It's still worth talking to your landlord to see if they'll switch to a cheaper supplier - after all, they'll get to pay less on energy bills too. However, your options are limited to just asking, because the landlord is the account holder. Put simply, the account holder is the only person with the right to switch.
Landlord says you can't ditch supplier? Try a cheaper tariff
If your landlord won't budge, ask if you can be switched to a cheaper tariff with the same energy supplier. If the landlord allows this (here's hoping they will), you'll start paying the cheaper prices the same day you switch.
You may be able to switch from a prepay to a normal meter
If you've got a prepay meter and you're renting, you can still switch your energy supplier, providing you pay the company directly (check your tenancy agreement too - though if it says you can't switch, challenge it).
If you want to change the meter itself (perhaps you're changing a prepaid to a standard meter), then it's best to get written permission from your landlord first.
This is because it could be seen as a changing the property from its original condition, unless you arrange to change the meter back at the end of the tenancy. The supplier may charge to do this, so check first. See the Cheap Prepaid Gas & Elec guide.
You may be eligible for free insulation or a free boiler
Tenants can also get free insulation and boilers, as long as they meet suppliers' eligibility criteria and have permission from their landlord.
You may be able to qualify if:
- You get tax credits and have a household income of less than £15,860 OR
- You receive income-based benefits, such as pension credit or income support, and you've either, children, a disabled person in the household or are over 60. Full help in the Free Insulation and Boilers guide.
Tell us whether your landlord allowed you to switch in our switching while renting poll - 52% told us they did it with no problems:
Renters - have you ever tried to switch energy?This week's MoneySaving poll
If you've tried to change your energy tariff, how did your landlord react?
Please vote and also feedback on specific experiences.
Check if you're one of 3.5 million owed refunds
Around 3.5 million people are owed a refund by an old supplier. Energy regulator Ofgem "expects suppliers to do more" to return the cash, taken from customers who overpaid on bills before switching elsewhere.
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 a refund.
We've created a guide for you to check if you're owed any of the £200 million that providers are still sitting on. Plus, if you are owed, the guide will tell you how to claim. It's down you to get your money back.
See how to get your previous supplier to cough up in Reclaim Energy Bill Refunds.
It's not just which energy supplier you pay, but how much you use. Cutting energy is a mix of big and little things.
Turn down the thermostat and wear jumpers, turn lights off when you leave a room, use energy saving lightbulbs, defrost the fridge and check it's not on too high and don't leave electrical goods on standby. For more info, read the forum's Energy Saving Hunt and see the Energy Saving Trust website.
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 when your supplier receives your actual meter reading. If they're over-billing, then they've unfairly got your cash.
If your direct debit is way off kilter, call up and ask for it to be changed. You have a range of rights to ensure it's correct. See the full Energy Direct Debits guide for template letters.
If you pay different rates depending on what time you use your energy, you can still save. Economy 7 users can compare in exactly the same way as everyone else. See our full Is Economy 7 Right for You? guide for full info.
Economy 7 users can switch to cheap fixes too. In most cases Economy 7 users can also get the top fix tariffs in the Cheapest Fixed Deals table above.
If you've Economy 10, it's slightly more effort. However we've worked out a way to compare - see how to do it in our Economy 7 guide. Economy 7 and 10 tariffs are only worth considering if you've storage heaters, work shifts or can use appliances on timers.
Use heating oil? See how to save
If you use a heating oil tank to warm your home, our guide can help slash your bills.
1.5 million UK households rely on heating oil tanks. But many overpay due to an under-regulated market that gets too little political attention.
Our guide includes five simple steps to help cut costs, including how to haggle down the price, when to time your purchase, buying in bulk for big discounts and pay in the cheapest possible way.
Some could save £50-£100 on an average annual bill of £1,400. The guide's only for those using home heating oil (not LPG or renewable energy). See Cheap Heating Oil.
Contact your energy supplier. Keep a note of all the dates, times and people you speak to. If calling doesn't work, write a letter. One way to do this is to use a free service from a company called Resolver which will manage your complaint and take care of the administration, including escalting it, if necessary.
Then if you've escalated it as far as you can and you still don't have an adequate response, contact the Energy Ombudsman.
It will try to resolve complaints about billing, transfers, service and sales issues and can ask providers to award compensation of up to £10,000 (though much less is usual).
Ombudsman complaints are a no-risk system, so if you've got an issue, go for it. You can ring, write or complain to it online. All energy suppliers have to be a member of the ombudsman's redress scheme, so it's open to all energy customers.