Cheap Gas & Electricity
Compare now to save £100s
As we've warned before, the cheapest energy deals are disappearing fast. Plus, we've seen four of the big six hike their prices TWICE this year, leaving millions facing higher bills. This is why we've shouted about switching for years as the cheapest deals are for those who act. So do a five-minute energy comparison – most could save £270/year.
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Now's a great time to switch energy tariff – prices are up this year
All of the big suppliers have hiked prices this year, including four which have hit customers twice...
- British Gas increased its standard variable tariff for the second time on 1 October. Prices rose by 4%, adding £44/yr to a typical dual-fuel bill, to take it to £1,205/yr. It follows a 5.5% rise in May.
- EDF raised its standard prices for the second time on Friday 31 August. Prices went up up by 6% – adding an average £70/yr to take its typical standard dual-fuel bill to £1,228/yr. This follows a 1.4% hike on Thursday 7 June.
- E.on hiked its standard prices by 4.8% on Thursday 16 August. Typical dual-fuel bills have risen by £55/yr, from £1,153/yr to £1,208/yr. E.on also scrapped a £20/yr dual-fuel discount and £5/yr per fuel paperless billing discount on Thursday 19 April.
- Npower hiked its standard variable tariff by 5.5% on Sunday 17 June. Typical dual-fuel bills have risen by £64 from £1,166/yr to £1,230/yr.
- Scottish Power hiked its standard tariff for the second time on 8 October. The 3.7% average rise added £46/yr to a typical dual-fuel bill, increasing the price from £1,211/yr to £1,257/yr. It last increased prices in June by £64.
- SSE raised its prices by 7.8% – including a 6.7% hike to its rates plus the removal of a £6 per fuel annual discount – on Wednesday 11 July. Its standard tariff saw a rise from £1,109/yr to £1,196/yr based on typical use – an £87/yr increase.
If you're on a standard tariff with any of these companies it's likely you're massively overpaying.
What about Ofgem's Price Cap?
Energy regulator Ofgem is introducing a price on 1 January 2019 on all standard and default tariffs - see what does the price cap mean for our full analysis.
This means a typical user on a standard variable or default fixed tariff would pay a maximum of £1,137/yr on average, paying by monthly direct debit, or £1,221/yr for non-direct debit households – though your maximum will vary depending on where you live and how much energy you use.
There are still much cheaper deals available to switches, and with the level of the cap set to rise when Ofgem next review it in April, don't be fooled. You could save £100s/year by switching – see our Cheap Energy Club to find the best deal for you.
The winner depends on where you live and your usage, so use our Cheap Energy Club top picks comparison to find YOUR exact winner (plus £25 switchers dual-fuel cashback) – it only take five minutes. Here's an example of savings...
Typical big six standard tariff - £1,221 - - Cheapest deal (fixed for 12 months) Utility Point £903 £30 / fuel None Cheapest long fix (34 months) Engie
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.
Yes, you can do both, so don't assume you're stuck. However, from 1 April, prepayment tariffs have been capped by regulator Ofgem, limiting what suppliers can charge for gas and electricity – so switching may not save as much.
The cheapest UK-wide tariff around at the moment is Ecotricity's prepay tariff which is variable and, for someone with typical bills, costs £1,029/yr – around £110/yr cheaper than a standard prepay tariff.
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.
First, look at how much you'd save with each fix. Then ask yourself: "Am I the type of person who'll switch regularly?" 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 switch, 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.
All big six suppliers hiked their standard prices last year. Here's what each did....
British Gas 7.3% (15 Sep 2017) £76 EDF (1) 7.2% (21 Jun 2017) £78 E.on 8.8% (26 Apr 2017) £97 Npower 9.8% (16 Mar 2017) £110 Scottish Power 7.8% (31 Mar 2017) £86 SSE 6.9% (28 Apr 2017) £61 (1) EDF also increased standard dual-fuel prices by 1.2% on 1 March 2017.
And with prices rising again, if you're on a standard tariff with any of these suppliers it's likely you're massively overpaying – so act fast and lock in to a cheap deal now.
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. It typically takes around three weeks to switch - though it can take as long as two months.
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: 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. 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 cheapest tariff pays on average £946/year. But the same user on a pricey tariff will pay £1,221/year.
Q: How long does it take to switch?
A: Energy suppliers have a cooling-off period of 14 days, which starts from the date you submit your switch, so no action is taken until this period is over. The switching process can take up to four to six weeks to complete, depending on the supplier, although most should now switch you in three weeks.
But don't worry, you won't lose your supply during this time. It should be a seamless handover from one provider to the other. All that's really changing is the billing, not the actual gas and electricity that you're being supplied.
Energy suppliers are supposed to keep you updated on your switch (via letter/telephone/email – please keep an eye on your junk/spam folder). If you ever have any queries about your switch, you can always contact your energy supplier for an update.
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 hadn't switched during the price hikes, your bills would've gone up even more on your OLD tariff. So, while you're paying a bit more, it'll still be less than if you hadn't switched.
Q: I am moving home, can I take my fix with me?
A: If you're moving, some 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 in your rate 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 the 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: 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 them 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 the cheapest electricity prices for your area. 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 around £90 cheaper/year. Your bill is then estimated, so make sure you do regular meter readings.
Q: What happens if my energy company goes bust?
A: Most importantly, you won't lose continuity of supply. Under energy regulator Ofgem's safety net rules, a new supplier will be appointed to take over your supply, and you'll likely be moved across to a standard tariff. However, you're free to switch away without exit fees if the price isn't good enough, so make sure you do a comparison.
If your account is in credit when the supplier goes bust, you'll get this back too - the new supplier will pay back any credit balances or add it to your new account to pay for future energy use once it takes over your supply.
- British Gas increased its standard variable tariff for the second time on 1 October. Prices rose by 4%, adding £44/yr to a typical dual-fuel bill, to take it to £1,205/yr. It follows a 5.5% rise in May.
Get CONSTANTLY cheap energy with MSE's free Cheap Energy Club
Our Cheap Energy Club is designed to keep you constantly on the cheapest tariff – fighting the fact most cheap deals only last one to two 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 £25 cashback on top for a dual-fuel switch or £12.50 cashback for switching just gas or electricity.
Then monitoring your tariff constantly. 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. I'll 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!)
Consider myself money-savvy, but just done your energy supplier swap and saved £548 a year.
@MartinSLewis saved me £552/year + £30 cashback – my first switch in 15 years!
We've also added some improvements to Cheap Energy Club, including filters that let you search for tariffs from your current supplier or by big-name suppliers only, among others.
Cheap Energy Club also let you filter which tariffs will be eligible for the Warm Home Discount. This is a Government discount of £140 you can get during winter – if you qualify. It also shows which tariffs are made of 100% renewable electricity.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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:
Six-bottle case of wine to switch
USWITCH* – ONLY APPLIES TO DUAL-FUEL SWITCHES
We've blagged MoneySavers six bottles of wine from Naked Wines 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 for a case of wine containing six bottles worth at least £60. Please be Drinkaware.
It can take up to four months from the date you switched to get the voucher – you must use the voucher within six months of the date it was sent.
£17 cashback per fuel switched
ENERGYHELPLINE* – GET £34 FOR DUAL FUEL
Switch via this specific Energyhelpline* link. 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.
It may be possible to INCREASE the cashback
Occasionally, some energy companies pay even more if you switch directly via their websites or through 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 £20 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.
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.
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 renewable energy?
Renewable energy tariffs are now commonplace, and most suppliers offer them. Cheap Energy Club has a filter which shows all renewable tariffs.
This is one area where going green and saving money diverge. The cheapest renewable 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 renewable, then it's a help to the environment, and all the main comparison services allow you to compare renewable tariffs.
What about automatic switching?
There are a number of auto-switching companies – such as Flipper, Labrador, Lookaftermybills and Weflip – which promise to continuously switch you to cheap deals, without you having to do anything.
These services use computer algorithms to constantly track and identify potential savings based on your energy use, meter type and current tariff.
When you can save a certain amount – usually factoring in any exit fees on your current deal – they will automatically switch you.
Most are free to use, though Flipper charges an annual subscription – which you only pay if you can save by switching.
Automatic switching is something we've been looking at and lobbying regulators about for a couple of years now, and we hope to offer it ourselves some point soon.
The idea of automatic switching is that it constantly keeps you on a cheap tariff. One of the main problems of energy switching is that you usually have to do it every year to avoid being rolled onto your provider's standard tariff once the fix ends.
These tariffs are usually much more expensive, and can rapidly wipe out any original savings you made from switching in the first place if you let yourself roll.
So if you're the kind of person that's likely to switch and then forget about it, it could be a good option.
There's a few things to watch out for when using automatic switching firms.
For example, these services usually can't offer all deals on the market – only those which they can switch you to. If they don't have a relationship with a supplier, they won't be able to move you to one of that supplier's tariffs, so you could miss out on certain cheaper deals.
They also tend to be limited in the preferences you can set, meaning you can't adjust the minimum savings that you'll switch for, or choose only to move to providers with decent service.
Most also base any savings on your projected costs for the next 12 months. This method assumes you'll roll onto your provider's standard tariff if the deal you're currently on ends in the next year.
For example, if you've six months left on a fix, your projected costs for the next 12 months will include the remaining six months on your current deal, and six months on your provider's standard tariff, which is usually much more expensive.
Comparing this way, rather than just against the rates you're currently paying, means auto switching could actually switch you from a cheaper fix to a more expensive deal.
What does the incoming price cap mean for my bill – and should I still think about switching?
Under the incoming rules, those on standard variable and default tariffs will see prices capped from 1 January 2019. Energy regulator Ofgem has set the cap at £1,137/year for someone on typical use.
That means the average big six standard variable tariff (SVT) price will drop from a typical £1,221/year to £1,137/year (for clarity, this doesn't mean £1,137/year is the most anyone pays – use more and your cap's higher).
Ofgem calls this a 'fair' tariff, but that doesn't make it a 'good' tariff – the cheapest deals are still far less.
And be aware, this cap will be updated every April and October. Since Ofgem first announced the proposed cap level in the summer, wholesale rates (what energy firms pay) have exploded, so some analysts and those within the energy industry predict it could be £110+ higher by next April.
Ofgem itself has warned an increase is likely, due to higher wholesale costs over the last year.
However, the real savings are still to be made from switching, and to encourage more people to change energy providers Ofgem has also been trialling other initiatives. These include targeting those that have been on standard tariffs for more than three years to highlight the savings they could make by moving suppliers, and organising a collective switch.
Ofgem has also announced plans for a one-day switch, which will eventually allow customers to switch by the end of the next working day.
What's behind the price cap move?
According to Ofgem, around 54% of customers – that's about 11 million households – are still on expensive standard tariffs, often paying £100s/year more for the same gas and electricity than the cheapest tariffs on the market.
To try to prevent these customers from being further ripped off, the Government has ordered Ofgem to set a level that suppliers can charge on their standard and default tariffs until 2020. This cap will come into force from 1 January 2019. This is in addition to the current price cap for prepayment customers.
Price cap mythbusting
We've seen lots of confusion over how the price cap will work – so here we answer some of the key questions we've seen and take you through some of the quirks of the new rules below.
No, unfortunately it's not that simple, as the price cap varies with your usage and where you live.
The £1,137/year figure is based on a particular level of usage – what Ofgem deems a 'typical' user – for gas and electricity, averaged across all regions.
The price cap simply sets a maximum charge for each unit of gas and electricity you use – so you if you use more, you pay more – and a maximum daily standing charge (what you pay simply to have your home connected to the grid).
The price cap also varies by region. With typical use, the cap varies by around £60/year – ranging between £1,111/year in Yorkshire and £1,173/year in the South West.
The level of the cap also depends on how you pay. On typical use, the cap for someone paying by monthly direct debit is £1,137/year.
If you pay by any other method – such as quarterly direct debit, cash or cheque – it's higher at a typical £1,221/year. According to Ofgem, this is down to the higher costs to suppliers for providing energy to these customers.
No. Only 'default tariffs' are covered by the cap – so any tariff that you don't make an active choice to be on. This includes SVTs and 'default' fixed-term deals.
Fixed deals that you have chosen to switch to, rather than being rolled on to automatically, are NOT covered by the cap – so suppliers can still technically offer tariffs that charge more than the cap.
Prepayment customers are also excluded, as they are covered by a separate cap.
The price cap is set to be updated at the beginning of April and October each year – the same time as the prepayment price cap.
So once it comes into effect – 1 January 2019 – the cap is set to change just 3 months later.
Be warned, most industry analysts are predicting increases in April, with some saying it could rise by over £110, owing largely to rising wholesale costs in recent months.
The price cap is only temporary. It's expected to be removed in 2020, although the Government has the option to extend it on an annual basis until 2023 at the latest.
Come 2020, Ofgem will consult on whether the cap has worked and if there are conditions for what it calls effective competition. It will then report to the Government, which will decide whether to extend the cap.
If you prepay for your energy, your prices are already capped – that won't change, the default price cap is separate to the prepayment price cap.
However, if you're on the Warm Home Discount and on a standard tariff, you would have been moved on to a 'safeguard' tariff – meaning your prices were capped at the same level as the prepayment price cap.
This will change – once it comes in, you'll be moved on to the default price cap. However, if you get the Warm Home Discount, your prices will be capped at the lowest level – it won't change by payment method, regardless of how you pay.
Switch to monthly direct debit to save £90
Paying by monthly direct debit can cut bills by up to £90 each 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.
Yet direct debits are usually based on an estimate of your usage. If that's wrong, you can end up over (or under) paying each month. Remember, even if you're on a fixed tariff, your direct debit can go up if your supplier thinks you'll use more energy.
To make sure you're paying a fair amount, see Energy Direct Debits Help.
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Want to pay a fixed amount each month?
Prices are based on what you used the year before, but they're not cheap. If you use the same, you'd be better with a cheap deal. Where they're good is if you are likely to use much more and are worried about the bill - for example, you've retired and are now at home all day.
But remember, these are one-year deals and the price depends on what you've used in the past. If your consumption does increase during your first year, your direct debit is likely to be higher if you go for the same deal again.
The cheapest tariff is around £280/yr less than the cheapest unlimited tariff on typical use. The best thing for you to do is use our free Cheap Energy Club comparison to see how much you would pay with the cheapest provider on the market first.
The table below shows how unlimited tariffs compare:
Cheapest deal Pure Planet £921 Unlimited Gas & Elec Nov 19 v2 British Gas £1,200 Secure Bill E.on £1,224 Unlimited Tariff (1) Green Star Energy
Average big six standard tariff - £1,221 Tariffs correct as of November 2018. Based on calculations from regulator Ofgem for medium usage. All tariffs assume monthly direct debit. Varies by region. (1) Only available to existing customers.
So it's similar to standard tariffs, but it does give peace of mind over usage increases. Yet compared with the cheapest tariffs on the market, it's only close to being competitive for the few people at the very top end of the tariff's usage band.
FREE insulation & boilers
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. Heating accounts for around 60% 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 £320/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 £150/year. We've heard of certain cases where damp has formed after having cavity wall insulation installed, so make sure it's appropriate for your home.
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 £130/year.
Got electricity only? You can still save
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 to compare electricity prices.
How to save if you're on a key/card meter
While new regulatory caps on how much prepay customers can be charged mean prices are generally lower, those on key or card meters are still pretty hard done to, certainly compared to those on billed meters. If possible, switch to one of these. 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 billed meter, or if you can't, how to save on prepay, see the full Cheap Prepaid Gas & Elec guide.
Want green energy? Most can still save – though not as much
If you want to do your bit for the environment, there are plenty of 'green' tariffs available. You'll sometimes pay a premium on the very cheapest fixes for green energy, but you can still save £100s/year over big six standard rates.
These tariffs come in 'different shades of green'. Some suppliers promise to match your usage with energy generated from renewable sources – such as solar, wind or hydroelectric – while others will put money into renewable energy developments to boost the amount of green energy in the UK's national network.
Typically, it's only the electricity that's fully renewable. A few suppliers have started to offer 100% renewable gas, but it's rare.
Save £185/year without switching supplier
If you think switching is too much hassle (it isn't, but hey ho), just move to your current provider's cheapest deal. Yes, that's right. Bizarrely, even though it's the same gas, the same electricity, each energy firm charges a range of rates for using it. And no surprise, Sherlock, it's the 'standard tariffs' that most people are on which are by far the most costly, as this table shows:
British Gas £1,205 Energy Plus Protection Jan 2020 – £1,052 (1)
Sainsbury's Price Freeze Jan 20 – £1,199
Co-operative Energy £1,219 Fixed Jan 20 v2 – £1,098 No E.on £1,208 Fix Online v4 – £1,117 Yes EDF £1,227 Easy Online Exclusive Dec19 – £1,093 (1)
Yes First Utility £1,199 Smart First Feb 20 v2* – £1,011(2) No Npower £1,230
Broker Exclusive Fix Dec 19 – £1,054 (1)
Yes Ovo Energy £1,225 Better Energy (All Online) – £1,082 No Scottish Power £1,257 Smart Energy April 19 – £1,094 Yes SSE £1,196 SSE 1 Year Fixed v15 – £1,136 Yes Last updated on 30 November 2018. Assumes you pay by monthly direct debit. Costs vary by region. Assumes average usage of 12,000 kWh gas and 3,100 kWh elec per year. (1) Only available via price comparison websites. (2) You can only get this tariff if you don't already have smart meters AND agree to have them installed before 31 August 2019 by First Utility. If you don't, the supplier says it will move you onto a pricier variable tariff, and will likely charge you the exit fees.
There are two routes to do this. With both, one boon is even if your tariff has exit penalties they're not usually charged if you move internally (First Utility, Ovo and SSE do sometimes).
1) Go via Cheap Energy Club for £25 cashback. Use the 'My Current Supplier' filter in our Cheap Energy Club to see all your supplier's deals and find the EXACT cheapest one for you. For many (not all) of those above, you can get £25 dual-fuel cashback.
2) Scan through our suppliers' cheapest tariffs list. Use the info above, then call your supplier and ask to switch. Be warned though, the table above is based on average usage, and there can be regional variations. Plus, some deals are only available via price comparison websites.
Switched energy? Get your direct debit right
Energy complexity is frustrating. Switching at a time when price hikes aren't looming 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.
On a fix? You can switch again penalty-free in the last 49 days of your deal
In 2013, Ofgem introduced new rules to protect people on fixed tariff deals. This included banning suppliers from charging exit fees in the last seven weeks of fixed-term deals.
If you're near the end of a fix, you can't be charged exit fees for moving to a new deal – provided your switch completes within 49 days of your current deal ending – despite what some suppliers say.
Renters can switch too
If you rent your home, you could save around £270/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.
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. In our poll, 52% told us they switched with no problems and didn't consult their landlord.
If you're a renter, here's some more info on your switching rights.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 £16,010 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.
Check if you're one of three million owed refunds
If you switched energy firms before 2014, if you were in credit, you should've been given that money back. Yet for years, many energy firms pocketed the cash. Sometimes they claimed they couldn't contact you as you'd moved house, otherwise they just kept schtum.
In 2014 it was revealed that about three million people were owed a refund by an old supplier. Energy regulator Ofgem now "expects suppliers to do more" to return the cash when people switch away from them, so it should now be automatic.
Energy UK has set up the website My Energy Credit which aims to help people claim money back from their old energy companies, though it's mainly focused on the big six. Our quick questions should also help...
This is easy – basically, if you know you're owed, call your old supplier and ask for the cash back – it needs to refund you. The supplier will go through the process on the phone or will tell you to write in. Every big six supplier says past customers can go through the process on the phone.
There may be rare cases where you'll have to write, for example when you've given your name, address and other information, but the supplier can't trace your old account. Here you may need to include proof of ID such as a copy of a passport or driving licence.
Once you've gone through the process of either writing or calling, you should get the full overpaid amount. How long it'll take varies by supplier. You should get it within eight weeks, but some have had to wait months. Refunds will be paid by cheque or straight into your account.
Ofgem only looked into refunds owed by the big six. Yet it may be worth calling your previous supplier even if it's one of the smaller firms, so we've included contact details for those too.
Many get vexed at being put on hold for an age, so avoid calling at the busiest times. These are usually any time Monday, lunchtimes, month ends and starts, 8.30am-9am weekdays and when people get home from work.
British Gas 0333 202 9802
Mon-Fri 8am-8pm, Sat 8am-6pm, Sun 10am-4pm
EDF energy 0800 056 7777
Mon-Fri, 8am-8pm, Sat 8am-2pm
E.ON UK 0345 052 0000
Mon-Fri 8am-8pm, Sat 8am-6pm
Npower 0800 073 3000
Mon-Fri 8am-8pm, Sat 8am-6pm
ScottishPower 0800 027 0072
Mon-Fri 8am-10pm, Sat 8.30am-6pm
SSE 0345 071 9710
Mon-Fri 8am-8pm, Sat 8am-2pm
Also includes Atlantic, Southern Electric, Scottish Hydro, Swalec, M&S Energy.
The Co-operative Energy 0800 954 0693
Mon-Fri 8am-8pm, Sat 9am-4pm
Ebico 0800 028 6699
First Utility 0192 632 0700
Mon-Fri 8am-8pm, Sat 9am-4pm
Good Energy 0800 254 0000
Mon-Fri 8am-8pm, Sat 8am-1pm
OVO Energy 0330 303 5063
Mon-Thu 8am-8pm, Fri 8am-7pm, Sat 9am-2pm
The Utility Warehouse 0333 777 0777
Mon-Fri 9am-5:30pm, Sat 9am-4.30pm
If your provider doesn't resolve your refund query within eight weeks of your first request for it (although SSE has six weeks to resolve it), you can complain to the free, independent Energy Ombudsman.
Once you've contacted the ombudsman, if it agrees to take on your case it will send a response within six to eight weeks. If it rules in your favour, it will send a letter to your provider (and you) detailing what the provider needs to do. If the provider needs to pay you a refund it has 28 days.
Use less energy
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 light bulbs, 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.
Smart thermostats can also help some save on their energy bills. These gadgets give you greater control over your home's heating, letting you adjust it on the move via a mobile app or online, and set more complicated heating schedules than your traditional thermostat.
They can be pricey though, so see the Smart Thermostats guide to check if they're right for you.
Some suppliers run credit checks
Some firms do a credit check when you apply to switch, as if you pay by direct debit, bills are estimated – if they under-assess you, you could owe them cash, so they want to know you're good for it. There are two types of credit check done…
- Soft search – this is the best type, as you can see it on your file, but lenders can't so it DOESN'T have any impact on your ability to get future credit products (like mortgages).
- Hard search – this DOES leave a mark on credit files lenders can see and can have a minor negative impact on future credit applications. This isn't a big deal usually, but if you're planning to apply for a mortgage within the next couple of months you may want to miss it.
If you don't pass the credit check, suppliers may ask you to pay a security deposit or suggest a prepayment meter in order to take on your supply. You can stop the switch if this happens though.
British Gas Hard check EDF No check E.on Hard check Npower Hard check Scottish Power No check SSE Hard check First Utility Hard check Flow Energy No check OVO Energy Hard check Utilita No check Last updated: December 2017
- Soft search – this is the best type, as you can see it on your file, but lenders can't so it DOESN'T have any impact on your ability to get future credit products (like mortgages).
Do a meter reading every time you get a bill
Don't rely on your energy provider's estimate; these are often way out. If they're underbilling, you'll have a big whack to pay when your supplier receives your actual meter reading. If they're overbilling, 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.
Smart meters can help stop this as they send meter readings automatically to your supplier, so you only pay for what you use. Yet if you get them, then switch supplier, most meters will lose this functionality – though don't let this put you off switching. See the Smart Meters guide for more.
Economy 7 users, you can save too
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 tariffs in the Top Picks 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.
Some 1.3 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.
Prices have fallen recently and the average annual cost is now around £675 – but you could still save on your bills. The guide's only for those using home heating oil (not LPG or renewable energy). See Cheap Heating Oil.
How to complain about your energy provider
The energy industry isn't known for having great customer service across the board, and while a provider may be good for some, it can be hell for others. Common problems include incorrect bills, switching issues, direct debits being too high, refund delays and more. It's always worth trying to call your provider first, but if not then…
Free tool if you're having a problem
This tool helps you draft your complaint and manage it too. It's totally free, and offered by a firm called Resolver which we like so much we work with to help people get complaints justice.
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