Switching your gas and electricity tariff is without a doubt the number one way to save on your utility expenditure. Month on month big six energy prices get more and more ridiculous, whilst in the meantime, smaller, independent companies are lagging behind in market share even though they the sell the same product at the same price. At any one time, switching your tariff from the most expensive to the cheapest, given an average household consumption, you will generally save in the region of £350 per year. Whether you have switched in the past or not, read through this article and you’ll be rushing to the nearest comparison site to get yourself back on the good side!
How much will I save?
There is no hard and fast answer to this question. There is a huge number of variables that will affect the amount that you save. As such, you should take the apparent ‘guaranteed savings’ advertised by energy providers with a pinch of salt. The likeliness is that it won’t even be similar. However, that doesn’t mean you’ll save less, you may actually save more! Here are some of the things that will determine your savings:
- The last time you switched
- Your current tariff
- The amount of energy you consume
- Your meter type
- Your payment method
- Your location
How do I switch?
The two most popular methods of switching are: directly through a supplier’s online switching portal; or by using a comparison engine. The latter is by far the most popular method and provides the most comprehensive and accurate market overview. The problem with switching directly through a supplier, of which I’m sure you’d head straight for a big six supplier, is that you’ll only see tariffs available through them. It is unlikely that by luck you’ve headed straight to the cheapest tariff on the market. As such, the best method is to carry out a market comparison which will give you an overview of tariffs available to you in order of price.
Before you jump into the cheapest tariff you should first consider a few things. The most important is to choose whether you would like a standard variable or fixed tariff. This means that your unit rate (the amount you pay per unit of energy) will be either fixed or variable. Variable tariffs are, as it would appear, much more flexible and allow their prices to go up and down (mostly up) with the wholesale global markets, whereas fixed tariffs will lock a unit rate in for a predetermined amount of time. The only thing is, that this means you will have a contract for this amount of time too, which will generally incur exit fees for being broken.
What details do I need?
Most suppliers can now switch you over with as little as your name, address and bank details for the direct debit. Most people assume that you need a whole bunch of documentation like you do in some other countries, but in the UK, it’s extremely simple. It is, however, extremely useful to have a few other bits of information at your disposal for when you’re actually carrying out the comparison. The following bits of information will help make your quotation much more accurate:
- Your current tariff name
- The amount of energy you consume per year
- Your meter type
Many fixed tariffs will quote you a monthly fixed amount that you will pay every single month, based on your inputted usage, regardless of your future usage, so it’s important that you get it as accurate as possible. Don’t worry, if you start using much more or less energy than you first expected, you will be informed via email that your fixed amount is going to be amended to prevent too much debt or credit accumulating on your account at the end of the year. The aim for each supplier is have a zero balance on each customer account at the end of the year.
How long does the switch take?
The comparison and the initial handing over of details will take minutes. The only thing that you need to do is provide the switching service that you’re using all the information required to make the switch and afterwards, you’ll be free to sit back and relax: the rest of the work is done by the switching service.
With relation to the actually switch of supplier, you will generally be waiting around 17 days until it is finalised. Due to OFGEM regulations, the switching process can now no longer take more than 21 days, so you can rest assured that after three weeks you will have your new deal in place, ready to go. After this point, you will also have a 14 day cooling off period, which is your right as a consumer to change your mind about your contract. Within this time you are within your rights to cancel or amend your contract free of charge. After this point, however, you will most likely be subject to exit fees via your supplier. Some providers, however, like EDF Energy have a zero exit fee policy on all of their tariffs, so this may also be something to consider.