Fuel bills are rising and set to rise again this winter. Heating our homes is becoming more expensive, and it is becoming more important that we stay up to date with deals and offers to keep our costs down.
Whoever your current electricity supplier is, you can almost certainly save money by switching if you haven’t already done so. Switching suppliers sounds complicated but it really isn’t – I’ve just done it and it was very easy to set up (although I’ve yet to receive my first bill from my new supplier or the final bill from the old one so I’ll keep you posted.) If all goes according to plan, by switching supplier and signing up to online billing with a monthly fixed payment, I’ll save a whopping 29% on next year’s electricity.
The easiest way to switch is by using a price comparison website – there are several of these, USwitch being the best known. I also found Energy Choices very user friendly, but for those who do not have access to the internet , Simply Switch offers an excellent telephone switching helpline – 0800 011 1395. Whichever method you use, all you need is your postcode and an idea of your monthly or annual electricity spend. It’s worth looking out your last few bills to get a reasonably accurate figure for this as the tariff you pay will depend on your usage. Before you call or go online, you should also think about how you’d like to pay and whether you’d like to receive paper bills or are happy to be billed online. The cheapest deals available are for online billing and fixed monthly direct debit payment, as these cost less for suppliers to administer. If you want to continue to pay a quarterly paper bill then that will cost slightly more, but if you don’t have internet access at home you can still make a reduction by signing up to monthly payments.
Once you’ve decided to make the change and supplied your details, your new supplier will take over without any further action from you. You don’t need to contact your old supplier as that will be done for you, and they will send you a final bill –it’s worth checking your meter reading on the date the switch is to happen just so you can check this is accurate.
Many people are entitled to cheaper electricity without realising it – all energy providers must by law offer a social tariff to what are termed ‘vulnerable’ customers, and this must be equal to or cheaper than the provider’s cheapest deal. To qualify, customers generally need to be in receipt of either means tested benefits, Disability Living Allowance or pension credits but this varies from supplier to supplier. Those living in fuel poverty (defined as spending 10% or more of household income on fuel) also qualify. If you fall into one of these categories it’s well worth calling your supplier to ask if you qualify for their social tariff. Information on these tariffs is hard to find on suppliers’ websites, but the helplines do seem to be manned by helpful and well-informed staff. Scottish and Southern appear to offer most, with a 20% discount on costs, regardless of payment methods.
Many people opt to use prepayment meters, but you should think carefully before making this choice. Suppliers need to recover the cost of administering this system and you will typically pay up to a third more for your electricity than if you have a normal account. The exception to this is Scottish Power, which is the only firm to set its prepayment meters at a lower cost than standard. If you are with another supplier, on a low income and a prepayment meter is your only option, think about switching.