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Electricity: how to compare prices and get the best deal

·7-min read

When it comes to your electricity bill, you could find that, like millions of UK households, you are paying more than you need to. If this is the case, there may be significant savings up for grabs by moving to a more competitive tariff.

The best way to find a new deal is by comparing electricity prices from a range of providers and switching. Here we show you how.

How do I know if I’m paying over the odds?

If you are on your supplier’s ‘standard variable tariff’ there’s a good chance you’re paying too much for your electricity. A standard or default tariff is one you automatically transfer onto once your fixed deal comes to an end. And, typically, these are the most expensive tariffs on the market.

If you’ve never switched supplier – or last did so more than a year ago – you are probably on a standard tariff. But, when moving from a standard tariff to a fix, there are no exit penalties to pay. (Exit fees, levied for leaving a contract early, come with some fixed-rate deals, but not with standard deals).

Use a comparison service

One of the easiest ways to see how the different electricity deals stack up from different providers is by using an online comparison tool. You’ll be able to see what savings are up for grabs, and arrange a switch.

A full comparison should only take you around 10 minutes, while the whole switching process should take no longer than 21 days. This is thanks to the ‘Energy Switch Guarantee’ which promises a speedy and safe switch from one provider to another.

Related: Switch & Save Using Our Energy Comparison Service

What do I have to do?

Comparing electricity prices is easy. There are just a few simple steps you need to follow:

  • First off, provide some personal details about you, your home, your current electricity supplier, how you pay your bills and your usage. It can be helpful to have a recent bill to hand

  • Look through the list of quotes and can compare prices to see how much you can save by moving. Check out ‘featured deals’ based on your current usage, including the ‘cheapest plan’ and ‘most popular plan’

  • Consider filtering the results based on features such as service rating, green plans, paper billing and ‘no cancellation fee’

  • Don’t immediately opt for a tariff from one of the so-called ‘Big Six.’ There are now a host of smaller ‘challenger’ brands that can often offer cheaper deals – many of which are ‘green’ – plus these suppliers often get higher customer service ratings

  • Once you’ve found the electricity deal you’d like to switch to, go through the Ts and Cs carefully to check you’re happy with everything, including details such as exit fees (if applicable)

  • Confirm you’d like to go ahead. Provide your full address and bank details. Note that the cheapest way to pay your bills is usually monthly direct debit

  • Wait for the switch to happen. This should be within a maximum of 21 days. (This includes a 14-day cooling off period during which you can change your mind and stop the switch without facing a penalty)

Will there be any disruption to my electricity supply?

The good news is, when you switch to a new electricity provider, there won’t be any interruption, as no-one will need to visit your property for work inside or outside, and you’ll still get the same electricity through the same wires.

The only exception is if you need to get a smart meter installed as a condition of signing up to a particular tariff. That said, all UK households are being offered one as a way to ensure they get accurate bills – so this could be a useful way to get one.

Crucially, the onus is on the new provider to organise the switch – meaning you are required to do very little, other than sit back and wait for things to happen.

Compensation if something goes wrong

Under rules from energy regulator, Ofgem, customers will be compensated with a £30 payment if they encounter issues – if, say, they are switched and didn’t request it, or if a switch takes more than 15 working days. This should be paid automatically.

Should I look at dual-fuel tariffs?

While tariffs are available for electricity-only, if you also have a gas supply to your home, it’s worth comparing ‘dual-fuel tariffs.’

With this type, you get both fuels from the same supplier under one contract. Not only can this work out cheaperm it can also mean less paperwork as you are dealing with one single provider.

But while there may be a discount for doubling up, don’t assume this is the case. You may find that greater savings can be made by splitting out the two fuels. Everybody uses electricity and gas in different ways according to their home and who lives there – so you need to find the best deal for you.

What about the energy price cap?

The aim of the price cap, which applies to standard tariffs, is to place a limit on the maximum price a supplier can charge per unit of electricity and gas.

But while the price cap offers some limited price protection against unfair costs, it is not an effective tool for reducing bills. The best way to save money on energy bills is to compare tariffs – and be prepared to switch.

What if I’m on a pre-payment meter?

With a pre-payment meter, you pay for your electricity before you use it.

While it’s still possible to switch tariffs if you find a better deal, prepayment meters are rarely competitive, so you may save more by seeing if you can switch to a credit meter – and paying for your bills by direct debit.

Can I still switch if I’m renting?

As a tenant, you can still switch electricity supplier as long as it’s your name on the bills. That said, before going ahead, it’s advisable to speak to your landlord to let them know you’d like to make the move.

What is the warm home discount?

You could get £140 off your electricity bill for winter 2021 to 2022 under the Government’s Warm Home Discount Scheme which opens on 18 October 2021. The money is not paid to you, but is a one-off discount on your electricity bill between October and the following March. There are two ways to qualify for the benefit. The first is if you receive the Guarantee Credit element of connected with Pension Credit. The second way is if you’re on a low income and meet your energy supplier’s criteria to be on the scheme.

Can I switch supplier if I owe money to my current supplier?

According to Ofgem, the energy regulator, you can still switch if you’ve been in debt to a supplier for less than 28 days. Your old supplier will add any owed amounts to your final bill. However, if you’ve owed money for more than 28 days, you’ll need to repay this first. With a pre-payment meter, you can still switch with debts of up to £500.

Is green energy more expensive?

So-called ‘green’ energy, that is, energy that’s derived from renewable sources such as wind, solar, etc, should no longer mean higher than average monthly bills. Many green tariffs are priced alongside traditional tariffs, so there should be no additional costs to pay. Just like deals from traditional big-name energy providers, variations exist between tariffs from one green supplier and another. Compare deals first before deciding on who to sign up with.

Related: Switch & Save Using Our Energy Comparison Service

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