By Christabel - posted on September 14, 2016

Switching supplier

Switching energy supplier saves the average consumer £200 per year. Anyone can switch, whether you pay by bills or pre-payment meter, or are a homeowner or tenant.

If you don’t want to switch, it is still worth asking your supplier if you are on their best tariff, checking your bills are based on actual usage and not estimates and considering changing the way you pay. You can also ask your energy company about the ‘Warm Home Discount’ and ‘Priority Services’ scheme which they offer for households who need a little extra help.

The first step

­It is helpful to have your annual gas or electricity summary statement to hand as this will give you a more accurate comparison. This summary will include details of your current supplier, tariff, payment method, unit rate, standing charge and how much you use per year. These sections will be useful for comparison with other energy suppliers and to see how much you could save from switching. If you don’t know who your suppliers are you can call 0870 608 1524 for gas and 0345 026 2554 (Option 4) for electricity.

Tariff Information

Energy tariffs are made up of the unit rate and the standing charge. The unit rate is what you pay for each bit of electricity or gas you use, and the standing charge is a form of ‘rent’ that you pay to have the energy brought to your home. The comparison websites take all of this into consideration to give you an overall price.

Economy 7 or 10 tariffs give cheaper rates overnight and are often the best option for people with electric heating and hot water. However, you need a special meter and wiring to benefit from these tariffs.

A fixed tariff may be more expensive than a variable tariff at first but will protect you against future price increases, for as long as your contract lasts. Paying by direct debit can save you money, as will online accounts, dual fuel payments and avoiding pre-payment meters.

Comparing suppliers and tariffs

The easiest way to compare suppliers and tariffs is to use comparison websites. Below is a list of Ofgem accredited energy comparison sites, which offer an independent, unbiased and accessible way to view the different suppliers (just click on the name to go to their website). These organisations can also offer advice by telephone.

Then, simply use the website to enter your details, and you will get a list of suppliers and tariffs you can switch to and how much you will save by doing that. You can then refine your search to look for extra features, such as paper bills, no exit fees or green energy.

Green tariffs

There are more green tariffs available than ever before and an increasing percentage of the UK’s electricity supply comes from renewables.

Some green tariffs directly fund renewable electricity generation in the UK; others buy “offset” certificates which doesn’t necessarily increase demand for renewables. Read more about this in this Energy Saving Trust article.

The gas we use for heating and hot water is much harder to make renewable, so isn’t usually covered in a green tariff, although some suppliers are investing in greener gas or give you the option to offset.

Final Step

Once you have chosen a supplier you want to switch to, contact them or go through the comparison site and they will sort out the rest of the process for you. You will be asked to give meter readings to the new supplier, so make sure you know where your meters are and how to read them.

Switching may take a couple of weeks, but you will not lose your energy supply during this time. If you have previously received the Warm Home Discount, do check if the new supplier is able to offer the scheme under the same criteria.

If you owe any money to the old supplier you will need to settle this first, or transfer the debt, and if you are in credit you should ask them to return it.

If you require further assistance with switching to a cheaper tariff or supplier, we can offer support and advice, please call our Freephone on 0800 804 8601 (Mon-Fri 9-5).