As a method of tightening those shoestrings as your purse or wallet feels the pinch, switching your energy supplier or simply switching to a cheaper energy tariff with your current provider is one of the best. With a mind boggling number of different rates and plans from a multitude of energy companies there can sometimes be £100’s of savings to be had by making the switch to the best tariff for your usage and region.
Before the advent of the internet it would have been impossible to compare energy prices from all of the available suppliers and so consumers were often forced to stay with the one they had without even knowing what other deals lay out there. Nowadays though that has all changed with comparison services such as uSwitch who provide an all of market overview of gas and electricity tariffs using just a few bits of information you provide. Your role in the switch can be over in less than half an hour but the savings on your energy bills can go on for months or years.
Is Now The Right Time To Switch?
If you are reading this then it probably means that you have been hit by price hikes with your current energy supplier and want to know whether you should switch straight away. The short answer is that there are always deals to be had and it is quite unlikely that you are on the best gas and electricity tariff.
There are two sides to the coin here – firstly, if not all of the energy companies have hiked there prices then there are likely to be some very attractive deals to be had but the flip side is that unless that new tariff is a fixed one, you may end up paying more than you do now when the supplier you switch to ups their rates to follow suit with the others. So you may think that you are beating the price hikes but in reality you could just be putting them off with no certainty if, when they do happen, that you are on the best deal.
The tariffs to look out for are the ones that guarantee no price hikes for a certain period of time. At least with these you can have some degree of certainty about your gas and electricity bills. Furthermore, since you can switch energy supplier every 28 days if you wish, when the fixed price comes to an end you just perform another search with one of the comparison sites like uSwitch.
The Switch Process In Detail
Step 1 – Pull together the following information:
- your full postcode
- a recent gas and/or electricity bill statement
- or, if you can lay your hands on one, an annual usage statement (these were rolled out by Ofgem from December 2010 so there is a good chance you might have one lying around the house in a drawer or cupboard somewhere)
Step 2 – Using a comparison service such as uSwitch, enter your postcode in it’s entirety and details of your current energy supplier including the plan or tariff you are on, the method of payment (e.g. monthly direct debit, on receipt of bills etc) and whether you have Economy 7 if you are an electricity customer – this information allows you to see the savings you could make when you compare deals later on in the process.
Step 3 – Enter your gas and electricity consumption – usually in annual form. You can either use your annual energy statement if you have it, add up all your bills over the course of a year (assuming they are actual measurements and not estimated readings) or make an estimate based on one quarters usage. The figure you need to be looking for is the number of kilowatt hours (kWh)of both gas and electricity you used.
Step 4 – Enter details about your home such as the type of property (flat, house, detached, terraced, etc), the number of occupants and the number of bedrooms – this should allow the comparison site to give you better estimates of new bills with other suppliers.
Step 5 – Choose how you would like to pay your bill. Paying a fixed monthly Direct Debit can mean discounts on your bill while signing up for an online only tariff can also provide cheaper gas and electricity.
Step 6 – Choose your new supplier from the list of suppliers and their quoted annual prices. Many comparison sites show you the saving on your current bill. Remember that these prices are estimated and do not take into consideration any future price hikes or drops that any of the energy companies might make. Here you might also get the option to filter by things such as fixed introductory periods or the energy makeup of a supplier (e.g. green tariffs versus non-green tariffs – some sites even show you the CO2 you could save when switching).
Step 7 – Enter your details including name, address to be supplied, contact number, Direct Debit details for the new supplier. The comparison service such as uSwitch will finalise your application to the new energy supplier who will then contact your current (or now your old) supplier informing them you are switching.
Step 8 – Tie up loose ends by:
- finding your meter and taking a final meter reading to give to both your old and new suppliers
- paying the final bill from your old supplier based on the final reading
- cancelling any Direct Debits you may have for your old supplier (once the final bill is paid)
This completes your part in the switching process.
FAQs When Switching Energy Provider
Will there be any interruption to my supply?
No. The old and new energy companies will ensure a smooth transition with no blackouts or cuts to your power.
How long does it take for the switch to come into effect after I completed the online forms?
From confirming the switch to the actual switch taking place it can be 4 to 6 weeks and if you’ve switched both gas and electricity then the exact switch dates might differ somewhat.
Will I end up paying twice for some or all of the time between confirmation and the actual switch?
No. Your new and old supplier will arrange a switch over date between them so you should not be billed twice.
Can I change my mind?
If you decide you don’t want or need to switch your supplier after all then contact your new supplier and let them know within the 7 to 14 day cooling off period.
How often can I switch my energy supplier?
You are allowed to switch every 28 days if you wish but some tariffs include a penalty if you cancel before a certain time so be sure to check the outline of the agreement.
If you would like other tips on reducing your energy bill then check out the Energy Saving Trust for advice on lowering your usage, renewable home energy and more.