Understanding your energy bills

When you receive your energy bills, it’s natural that the first thing you’ll look for is how much you need to pay. You’ll see lots of letters and numbers as part of the calculation, but it can be difficult to understand what these mean and how your supplier has worked out the total cost. Here, we give a brief explanation of how energy is measured.

Your supplier will charge you for each kWh of gas and electricity that you use as well as, in most cases, a daily charge to be connected to the grid. These unit rates and standing charges can fluctuate if you don’t have a fixed tariff, and your supplier will notify you if they plan to go up or down.

Regardless of your tariff, the more gas and electricity you use, the more you’ll pay. You can opt to pay on receipt of bill where you pay for exactly what you use, or you can opt for a monthly direct debit that can smooth out seasonal fluctuations over the year and be cheaper in the long run. If you overpay on a fixed direct debit, the retailer will refund you or use it towards future payments. If you underpay on a fixed direct debit, you can go into debt. You may not immediately know about it if you don’t provide regular meter readings.

Your water bill will tell you if you’re on a water meter or if you’re an unmetered customer. If you have a water meter, you’ll be charged for the amount of water you use. If you don’t have a water meter, your bill will be based on the rateable value of your home, the number of bedrooms/occupants in your home, or a fixed annual fee. Your water meter is likely to be on public property outside your home and you will not normally need to access it. Most households are on a meter but it’s worth checking with your supplier if you’re not sure.

If you’re a metered customer, you can keep your costs down by reducing the amount of water you use. Taking shorter showers, turning the tap off when cleaning your teeth and fixing leaks quickly are easy ways to save water every day.

If you’d like help with understanding your energy bills or you think you’ve been charged incorrectly, you might be eligible for support via Southampton Healthy Homes or Hitting the Cold Spots (Hampshire).