The winter price hikes may be over - but this doesn't mean it's too late to do anything about your bill. With prices likely to continue to rise, you need to act now to protect yourself from future hikes.
This guide reveals the top energy fixes, how you can find the cheapest deal and how to bag yourself cashback on top.
Get the cheapest bills
The winter price hikes across the big six energy firms - SSE, British Gas, Scottish Power, Npower, EDF and E.on - have all taken place. But don't let this fool you into thinking there's no point in doing something about your bill.
For years energy suppliers have increased their prices as soon as summer's come to an end - a trend that is likely to continue, so act NOW to stop your bills rising yet again next winter.
You can prevent future hikes with a fix, which promises to freeze the price charged per unit of energy for an agreed period - sometimes up to FOUR years.
Fixed deals used to be more expensive than variable deals (where prices can rise at any time), but this is no longer the case. In fact, some of the cheapest deals available are now fixed ones.
Some fixed-price tariffs have exit penalties that hit customers who want to leave before the fix ends, so always look for one without. This gives you two advantages - you protect yourself from any future price hikes within the agreed period, and you can leave the deal whenever you want if prices drop and you find a cheaper deal elsewhere.
So you get the cheapest deal, protection against any future price rises and you can leave at any time - it's a no brainer!
ALWAYS compare to find YOUR cheapest (and get cashback)
Our MSE Cheap Energy Club also has a Top Fixed Picks comparison to see if you'll save by fixing with our top picks below. These are based on length, lack of penalties and average price. Plus if Cheap Energy Club can switch you, you usually get £30 dual fuel cashback, or £15 for a single fuel switch. See the Fixing FAQs below for help.
|CHEAPEST NO EXIT-FEE FIXED DEALS Based on typical usage, not available for prepay|
|Fixed for/until||Supplier||Exit fee||Cost/yr|
|Avg standard tariff POST-hike cost (1)||-||-||-||£1,200|
|Longest cheap fix:||31 Mar 2018||Npower*||None||£1,250|
|Long & cheaper fix:||31 Mar 2017||EDF*||None||£1,200|
|Cheap short fix:||30 Jun 2015||Npower*||None||£1,087|
|REMEMBER! These are average prices. Always do a cheap fixes comparison to find your cheapest|
|All tariffs assume monthly direct debit. Varies by region. As comparison sites do not yet factor in all suppliers' green levy cuts, prices above don't factor them in. (1) Estimated average across big six.|
All price rises are now in our Cheap Energy Club comparison, so compare now. See full info on energy hikes and how suppliers are passing on green cuts.
Here's the lowdown on how suppliers have hiked and subsequently trimmed prices during winter. Ofgem figures show typical bills have risen 26% (£275) during the past five years.
Latest price changes
Price rises by provider
The table below shows the most recent average changes for each major supplier and where they've passed on the green cuts. Price changes vary not just by company, but by region, so there can be huge variations.
The 'price hike' and 'overall rise' columns below apply only to customers on variable tariffs. Those on fixed deals won't see bills rise, as the rates they pay are locked in.
The 'price cut' column applies in the same way to customers on variable and fixed tariffs, except where differences are stated for those on fixes. Sadly, not all customers on fixed deals will get the max £50 off their bill - some will get just a £12 cut.
Only British Gas made the whole £53 price cut at once, on 1 Jan. Customers with other suppliers have received, or will receive, a chunk of the cut on the dates below, then the rest in the Autumn.
||Price cut on typical bill||Overall rise|
|Npower||10% (1 Dec 2013)||c.£50 (28 Feb 2014) (1)||7.4%|
|British Gas||9% (23 Nov 2013)||£53 (1 Jan 2014)||6%|
|Scottish Power||9% (6 Dec 2013)||£42 (31 Jan 2014) (2)||5.7%|
|SSE||8% (15 Nov 2013)||c.£50 (24 Mar 2014)||4%|
|EDF Energy||3.9% (3 Jan 2013)||£12 only (Autumn 2014)||3.9%|
|E.on||3.7% (18 Jan 2013)||£12 only (Autumn 2014)||3.7%|
|British Gas and SSE fixed tariff customers will get 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 get a £12 cut. (2) Scottish Power fixed customers get a £12 cut.
When you compare energy prices, remember that if price rises have been announced but are yet to come into force, you'll get the 'after-rise' cost. This is because comparison services incorporate new costs as soon as they get the info from suppliers, not when they happen.
Only a few smaller firms are yet to announce what they're doing with prices this year. The vast majority of UK consumers' bills have already risen.
The suppliers below have also hiked prices. Some subsequently announced small price cuts. Again, this will just mean a trim to the original rises, so bills will still be up overall.
- Ebico. 10% gas hike, 9% elec hike on average (from 15 Nov 2013). Then a 3.5% avg price cut on gas and elec (£38 off a typical dual fuel bill) from 24 Mar 2014.
- M&S Energy. 8.2% gas hike, 8.2% elec hike on average (from 15 Nov 2013). It'll cut prices by 4% on average from 24 Mar 2014.
- Sainsbury's Energy. 10.4% elec hike, 8.4% gas hike (from 23 Nov 2013), followed by a 4.2% average price cut on 1 Jan 2014.
- Co-operative Energy. 2.5% elec and gas hike (from 8 Jan 2014). Green levy cuts were already incorporated into the price rise.
|ENERGY PRICE CHANGES OVER FIVE YEARS|
|Typical bills (1)||£1,145||£1,105||£1,315||£ 1,310||£1,420||£275|
(1) Typical bills for dual fuel at medium usage: (Ofgem average). Bills paid quarterly.
Energy fixing Q&A:
Help whether you're planning to fix, or already have
We've been collating your questions from the forums and social media about fixed tariffs. We've answered the most common below. Click the links to read all the questions in detail.
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 fix my energy tariff?
Yes, but only with British Gas, and the limited competition means it's far from cheap. Its longest fix, which lasts three winters (to March 2016) may turn out to be a good deal if prices rise hard. But it's a tough call, as you'll find yourself paying a lot more now.
To see how it stacks up, compare prepay tariffs and click the 'fixes' tab. If you're considering non-fixes, you've now a level playing field to compare.
It's also worth considering 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, you'll keep on top of this and disloyally switch at the end of each deal.
If yes, then it's better to go for a shorter fix (our Cheap Energy Club will alert you when to switch again). The less likely you are to tart, the more you should hedge towards a long fix which'll stay relatively cheap, even if you're inactive.
Read the remaining questions, including 'can I fix elec-only? and 'Is it a big hassle?'
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: 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, even if your bills go up. If you're saving 10% when all energy prices have increased by 20%, you'll still pay more than you were, but you'll be paying less than if you hadn't switched.
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: 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. Put it aside - winter's here so usage is higher.
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 have a seven-day cooling-off period (14 days if you're switching to Npower). 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'm not with the big six, have smaller providers hiked prices?
A: Probably, as we're in a price rise environment. Yet they're not part of the herd like the big six, so don't rigidly follow the timetable. Some may just increase prices in March or April.
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 of around £80 for dual fuel. While it's tempting to try to wipe that, 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).
Q: I'm only going to save £10. Is it worth switching?
A: Remember, with 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 it will take two months to switch across. Switching is pretty simple, but, of course, for some there can be hassles.
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 landlords 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 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 6% cheaper. Your bill is then estimated, so make sure you do regular meter readings.
Q: My mum's on E.on's Help the Aged tariff but it's finished, what should she do?
A: She should do a comparison via Cheap Energy Club to find her cheapest, as normal. Then see if she's eligible for Warm Home Discount, an £135 rebate given by suppliers, mainly aimed at those who get pension credit.
The money isn't paid to you, it's a one-off discount on your electricity bill, usually between October and March.
Our unique Cheap Energy Club is designed to keep you permanently 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.
Alerts 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:
"Watched the video on the website, saved £160. #boom #evenlazyblokescansavemoney".
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.
I could not be more pleased. Thank you for creating a clear & easy-to-use comparison. Looking forward to receiving emails if/when I can save more!
Try it, and let us know what you think at email@example.com.
More help with switching energy & picking tariffs
You may be able to get extra cashback using alternative comparisons
Sometimes it's possible to get more than the £30 cashback Cheap Energy Club usually gives for switching your energy tariff. But remember that via these comparisons, you won't get free monitoring of your energy tariff to ensure you're permanently on the cheapest deal.
Cashback boost for hot tariff* when you switch with Energyhelpline
Switch via this specific Energyhelpline* link and you can get £15 cashback. You get £15 for a duel fuel switch, or single gas or electricity switch.
If you switch gas to one supplier and your electricity to another supplier, you get £30. Though if you do two single switches to the same supplier, you'll only get £15.
Energyhelpline pays the cashback 60-120 days after your new supply goes live. The offer is ongoing.
Case of wine*Get a case of wine when you switch
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 cashback* for any Dual fuel switch
Do a comparison via this UK Power* link and you get £30 cashback for a dual fuel switch with UK Power. You'll get £15 cashback if you switch just one fuel via the same link.
£30 cashback* for any dual fuel switch
Go via this MoneySupermarket* link and if it can switch you, it will put £30 in your account. Expect it 6-12 weeks after your supply has gone live, though it can take as long as six months in some cases.
£40 cashback* for any dual fuel switch
Go via this SimplySwitch* link and if you switch both gas and electricity, it will put £40 in your bank account. Expect it 6-12 weeks after switching.
However, we've had reports that the cashback hasn't been paid. SimplySwitch says it's fixed, but please let us know how you get on.
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, plus the official watchdog Consumer Futures 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, 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 up to 6% 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. Any overpayments should be refunded at the end of the year.
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. Note - the Government will revise these efficiency savings by the end of February 2014. We'll update the guide as soon they're announced.
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 comparisons 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.
8 Renters can switch too
If you rent your home, you could save around £185 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 new 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 at 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:
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.
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.
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 - these refunds won't come automatically.
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 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 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.
13 Use heating oil? See how to save
If you use a heating oil tank to warm your home, our guide can help you slash your bill.
There are 1.5million UK households who rely on heating oil tanks. But many over pay due to an under-regulated market that gets too little political attention.
Our guide includes five simple steps to help cut costs. 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.
14 What to do if things go wrong - complain
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. 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.