Energy Switching FAQ: What you need to know to get cheaper energy

Energy

What’s in this guide?

Introduction

Dealing with your energy can sometimes seem irritating, complicated and stressful, but usually, this is because you can’t get the information you need right away.

Luckily, this EnergySeek guide will tell you everything you need to know about your energy, with all your frequently asked questions, answered.

Let’s take a closer look and find out what we need to know.

Energy tariffs

In a sea of different tariff options, which one should you choose?

There are so many different types to decide between, so which one is right for you?

Read on and find out more.

Fixed tariff

Fixed rate tariffs mean that the cost of your energy is set for every kWh that you use.

So, while your monthly energy costs might increase or decrease as you use more or less power, your unit costs will remain the same.

This is usually for a specific term, usually for a year or two depending on your supplier.

After that, you might be switched onto your energy supplier’s more expensive variable tariff, so keep an eye on when your contract is going to end.

Variable tariff

There is also the option to have a variable tariff, which is also sometimes known as your energy suppliers default tariff, as it will be the one you will be automatically transferred to after your fixed tariff ends.

This can be more expensive than fixed-rate tariffs, so you should compare all of your options.

These tariffs have prices that are dictated by the open market, which are affected by anything from politics to the time of the year.

Online tariff

Online-only tariffs mean that you get your bills via your online portal or email, which also means that you can manage your entire account online or digitally with an app.

Although you access your information online, you can still ring up your supplier in case of any questions or problems you have.

Green tariff

These kinds of tariffs are the best option today regarding being environmentally friendly. Often, your energy supplier will either take the majority of your energy from renewable sources such as solar panels or wind farms, or they will be entirely green.

Green energy

This usually costs the most to produce, but with modern developments, you can still often find a great deal using green energy that won’t cost the earth. Literally.

No standing charges

Often, your energy bill will contain something known as standing charges. This is when you’re charged for energy even if you haven’t used any.

This can range from 15p to 30p a day.

Even if you went away for the weekend, it would still potentially cost you around 60p for your energy.

There are tariffs that don’t have standing charges, but they might end up being more expensive per unit of energy.

Switching questions

Why should I switch energy supplier?

Here are a few reasons why you should switch, to start with:

✔ Save yourself a massive amount of money, sometimes up to £400
✔ Choose a supplier that has the best qualities for you
✔ Find a supplier with excellent customer service
✔ Help save the environment with a green tariff

If I switch, will I lose power?

No!

You will always have power as long as you’re paying your bills.

Even if your energy supplier goes out of business, Ofgem will still make sure that you have energy until your new supplier takes over.

What is the most critical factor to consider when deciding to switch?

It depends on your specific situation.

However, these are the main points that customers take into consideration when switching:

  • Price: Did you know that you could save £400 a year by switching from one of the big six? Yes, really.
  • Customer service: Some customers claim that they are happy paying a bit extra for their energy when there’s excellent customer service. Some of the cheapest deals might not be from a supplier that fits your personal needs.
  • Type of tariff: Sometimes, the types of tariffs on offer could affect whether a deal is the best one for you. For instance, the Bulb Vari-fair deal is one of the cheapest on the market. However, because it is variable, costs could increase or decrease with the open market. Some customers would prefer the reliability of a fixed rate even if it cost a little bit more.

What will my payment options be?

You can choose from a multitude of payment options, which include:

Fixed monthly direct debit

With fixed monthly direct debit, you pay for your bills automatically which can help you to ensure that you pay on time every month.

According to many reports, 8/10 people think that paying by direct debit worked best for them, which is why it’s one of the most popular forms of payment.

How does it work?

You will have a payment set up on a monthly basis between your bank and your energy supplier.

In doing so, you give your supplier permission to take a specific amount out of your account whenever you need to pay for your power.

Your bank will be sent this information, so they know that this is an authorised payment.

Fixed monthly payment means that it’s the same each month, which can help with budgeting.

Variable monthly direct debit

Variable monthly direct debits means that your prices can increase or decrease. Usually, your costs will rise during the winter when energy is more expensive, but it might lower in the summer when you don’t need to use as much energy.

Quarterly direct debit

Quarterly direct debit is a payment for the last three months of your power, so this will be three times your typical monthly amount, so much more expensive, but you have three months to save up for it as well.

You have to keep an eye on your costs, so you aren’t hit with a large unexpected bill.

Payment on receipt of your bill

Similarly to the monthly direct debit, paying on receipt of your statement will also happen every three months.

You can pay by either debit card, cash, credit card or perhaps even cheque, so it is more flexible than other payment methods.

  • Cash payments can usually be made at the bank or Post Office.
  • Cheque payments can be paid at the bank, Post Office or by post.
  • Card payments by phone or online.

You may be eligible for a discount depending on your energy supplier, but it probably won’t be as much of a discount as you would get if you paid via direct debit.

Benefits and discounts

There are usually different benefits and discounts on offer, depending on who your supplier is and the tariff you’re on.

For instance, if you manage your account online, you will usually have a discount.

Or, if you decide to get both of your energy needs supplied by the same company they will usually give you another discount.

It’s important to make sure that you consider every detail when you’re deciding whether or not to switch energy suppliers.

Do I need to call my energy supplier if I switch?

There are no awkward phone calls between you and your current supplier to announce that you are switching supplier as your new energy supplier will take care of everything on your behalf.

So you can change suppliers stress-free and still benefit from exceptional prices.

Can my current supplier stop me from switching?

The only reason that your supplier could stop you from switching is if you have debt.

Though, it is essential to keep in mind that you can switch supplier with debt as long as your new supplier agrees to take it on.

Dual fuel

What is dual fuel?

Dual fuel refers to when you have both your electricity and gas from the same energy supplier, like British Gas for example.

What are the benefits of a dual fuel contract?

The main benefit of a dual fuel contract is that you only have one point of contact, which means that whenever you have a question or a problem you don’t need to worry about different numbers and companies.

You can also sometimes have a dual fuel discount which can be around £30 per year per fuel.

Can I have different payment methods for the different fuels in a dual fuel contract?

Yes. If you want to pay by a different method for each fuel, you can do that.

Is this the cheapest option?

Sometimes, having a dual fuel tariff can be the cheapest option, but sometimes it’s not. It depends purely on your situation, where you live and what you need from an energy supplier.

For instance, some customers value customer service, so having a supplier with a 5-star rating on Trustpilot might be worth spending a bit extra on your energy.

Energy contracts

Fixed term contract

Typically, a fixed term contract will last between a year or five years. It means that while you can make significant savings by having fixed rates that keep your bills generally similar, you will have to pay exit fees.

Variable term contract

On the other hand, a variable term contract means that your prices will increase and decrease with the open market.

Unlike fixed terms, you should be able to switch supplier at any time without incurring substantial exit fees.

Can I switch before my energy contract ends?

Yes, but you may have to pay an exit fee, which might be between £20 – £60 per fuel and comes into effect when you try and switch energy suppliers before your contract ends.

You can also use your ‘switching window’, which is often between 42 and 49 days before your contract ends, which means that you can avoid paying penalties for switching energy supplier.

Is there a cooling off period where I can cancel my contract?

For domestic properties, you can indeed cancel your switch within 14 days, which allows you to cancel without incurring any fees.

Unfortunately, for business energy contracts this isn’t the case, but you should always check as there are sometimes suppliers who might be the exception to that rule.

Moving home

I’ve just moved house – who is my energy supplier?

There are a few ways to find out who your energy supplier is when you move home.

The quickest and easiest way to find out is to look for documentation from the previous owners or ask your real estate agent.

If this doesn’t give you the answers you need for whatever reason, luckily there’s still something else you can try.

Call the number associated with your region to find out who your electricity supplier is.

Region

Call

North Scotland 0345 026 2554
Central and South Scotland 0330 1010 300
North East England 0845 6013 268
North West England 0870 7510 093
Eastern England 0845 6015 467
Southern England 0845 0262 554
South West England, South Wales, Midlands 0845 6015 972
South East England 0845 6015 467
London 0845 601 5467
Yorkshire 0845 070 7172
Merseyside, Cheshire, North Shropshire & North Wales 033 0101 0300

For gas, you can call 0870 608 1524.

What do I need to do before I move?

✔ Tell your supplier that you are moving
✔ Read your electricity and gas meters the day you move
✔ Give your supplier your new address
✔ See if your tariff has an early exit fee
✔ You may need to decide if you want to have the same supplier when you move
✔ Let the new owners of your house know who their supplier is

What do I need to do after I move?

✔ Let your supplier know you have moved in
✔ Read the meters to make sure you are getting an accurate bill
✔ Pay your final bill
✔ Run a comparison to get the best deal

Prepayment meter

While with a credit meter you pay for your energy after you have used it, a prepayment meter as the name suggests means that you pay for your power before you use it.

This can range from paying for a week in advance or a month depending on your preferences, and if you are using a prepayment meter to pay off debt, an agreed upon amount will be removed to help pay that debt off.

To do this, you can usually purchase a card or a key fob from your local Paypoint, Payzone or Post Office®, which you would then insert into your prepayment meter.

Prepayment meters are usually used in low-income households that might fail to pass a credit check needed to be able to pay for your energy monthly.

Unfortunately, prepayment meters are often actually more expensive when it comes to the cost of your energy per unit, and the cheapest prepayment tariff is far more costly than the cheapest fixed rate tariff.

Smart meters

A smart meter is a meter that will track your energy usage in real time, which you can view thanks to the in-home display monitor that attaches to one of your walls.

As well as telling you which appliances are costing you the most and when you use your energy, it sends this information to your energy supplier so they can bill you accurately, meaning an end to estimated billing.

With a smart meter, you won’t need to read your meter, as it sends this information to your supplier automatically.

✔ Get billed only for the energy you use
✔ Track your energy use, saving you money
✔ Be able to budget better, thanks to knowing what you’re paying
✔ As smart meters develop, they will make it easier to switch suppliers

Conclusion

Are you ready to compare or switch energy suppliers?

Did you know that you could be saving over £200 annually on your energy bills every year?

Take a look at the EnergySeek guides to find out more about your energy, or see reviews of the top 7 energy switching sites to compare gas & electricity.