Energy Switching Guide

Every year, more and more people are changing energy supplier in search of cheaper tariffs and bigger savings.

Figures from Ofgem show that over half choose to leave one of the Big Six for a smaller supplier. When you look at the average annual cost of a Big Six tariff of over £1,100 compared to the cheapest deal with a small supplier of around £800, there’s potential for significant savings. If you’ve never changed energy suppliers or haven’t for a few years there’s a very high chance you’ll find cheaper deal elsewhere.

Here’s our guide to energy switching to help you find a cheaper deal.

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How to Switch Energy Suppliers

There are lots of online energy switching services which make it really quick and simple to find a cheaper energy supplier. To switch energy suppliers you’ll need to supply the following information:

  • Your postcode
  • Your current energy supplier
  • Your current tariff
  • How much you spend on energy annually (you’ll find this information on your bills, but you can usually also submit estimated usage)
  • Your bank details (if you choose the switch and want to pay by direct debit).
  • When you’ve decided which supplier and tariff you want you’ll need to authorise your new supplier to carry out the switch. They’ll need your current meter readings and you’ll need to settle any outstanding bills with your old supplier.

    Remember, there may be an exit fee for cancelling your contract with an energy supplier. There shouldn’t, however, be any charges if you’re leaving up to 49 days before your contract is due to end.

    The Energy Switch Guarantee (ESG)

    Over 90% of the UK’s energy suppliers have signed up to the Energy Switch Guarantee which means they have made certain commitments to UK consumers. Specifically, that it should be easy, quick and hassle-free to switch energy providers. Your switch should be handled by your new supplier and should all be taken care of within 21 days, including 14 days when you can change your mind completely free of charge.

    Small UK Energy Suppliers

    The Big Six energy suppliers in the UK are well known: British Gas, EDF Energy, E.ON UK, npower, Scottish Power and SSE (Southern Electric). But if you’re considering a switch to a smaller supplier these are the companies you’re likely to encounter in your comparisons.

    Energy Supplier About
    Airtricity First new energy supplier to set up in N.Ireland once switching for local customers became possible in 2010. Part of the SSE Group.
    Atlantic Also known as Scottish Hydro. Part of SSE Energy.
    Better Energy UK gas supplier based in Nottingham with customers across England, Scotland & Wales.
    Budget Energy Based in N.Ireland serving consumers in that region.
    Co-operative Energy Part of The MidCounties Co-operative, the largest independent co-operative in the UK covering England, Wales and Scotland.
    Daligas Gas only energy supplier offering a single, monthly direct debit tariff.
    Ebico UK’s only not-for-profit energy company, works in partnership with SSE as its licensed energy supplier.
    Extra Energy Launched in UK early 2014, sister company Extra Energie supplies 1 million German homes and businesses.
    First Utility Largest independent energy supplier, founded in 2008, also supplies phone and broadband services.
    Flow Energy Energy supplier with a range of products including a boiler which generates electricity as it heats a home.
    Good Energy Sources 100% of its electricity from renewables like sunshine, wind and water. Works with National Trust to develop renewable energy projects.
    Green Energy UK Sources electricity from UK-only renewable sources with no fossil fuels or nuclear power. Gives all customers the chance to become shareholders free of charge.
    Greenstar Energy Launched in 2013, and supplies gas and electricity to residential UK customers.
    iSupply Energy This company says they concentrate on offering customers cheap energy prices and so they do not offer a green/renewable energy tariff.
    LoCO2 Offers 3 different electricity tariffs each provided by different renewable sources: hydro, wind or solar.
    M & S Energy This is a partnership between Marks & Spencer and SSE.
    OVO Energy Provides a range of ‘green’ tariffs. Sends all energy bills by email.
    Power NI Formerly NIE Energy, the largest electricity supplier in Northern Ireland.
    Sainsbury’s Energy This is a partnership between Sainsbury’s and British Gas.
    Spark Energy Specialises in serving rental tenants, property management firms and landlords.
    Swalec Part of SSE Group.
    Utilita Gas and electricity provider specialising in prepayment meters.
    Utility Warehouse This discount club offers a range of utility services (home phone, mobile phone, internet, gas and electricity) on one monthly bill plus special offers like a cashback card.
    Woodland Trust Energy Run by OVO Energy, it offers two fixed price, 12 month tariffs with either 15% or 100% renewable electricity.
    Zog Energy Currently offers gas only tariffs.

    Your Energy Bill Explained

    It’s a very good idea to make sure you understand your energy bill before switching so you can work out exactly what you’re paying for now. You’ll need to have the following information:

  • The name of your energy supplier
  • What type of tariff you’re on
  • How many kilowatt hours (kWh) of gas / electricity you’ve used over a 6 month or 12 month period.
  • Your bill should also show unique reference numbers for your meter; this is an MPRN number for gas and an MPAN number for electricity. The bill should also show a letter which indicates how your energy bill is calculated:

  • ‘C’ stands for ‘customer’ and means the bill is calculated based on meter readings provided by you
  • ‘A’ means ‘actual’ the meter has been read by the energy supplier
  • ‘E’ is for ‘estimated’ and is based on estimates by your energy supplier.
  • Providing your own meter readings is the best way to ensure you’re being charged for your actual usage. A good rule of thumb is to do so every 3 months. If you receive bills based on estimated usage you’re completely within your rights to submit the actual readings and have your bill recalculated.

    Types of Energy Tariff

    Standard Tariff

    A standard, evergreen or default tariff is priced to rise and fall with the market. It’s the most flexible arrangement as you’re not tied into a contract and there are no exit fees, but the price of your energy will be unpredictable.

    Fixed Tariff

    A fixed tariff is based on a fixed price per unit of energy for pre-agreed period of time. These tariffs usually involve a contract but can offer cheaper prices than standard tariffs. You’ll have peace of mind that the price won’t change during the contract but if you do want to leave you may need to pay an exit fee. However, under relatively new Ofgem rules, if you switch your energy supplier 42-49 days before the contract is due to end you cannot be charged exit fees.

    Dual Fuel Tariffs

    If you receive both gas and electricity from the same supplier you’re on a dual fuel tariff. A big benefit of this is that you’ll only need to deal with a single supplier and there are often discounts available for dual fuel contracts.

    Online Energy Tariff

    If you manage your own energy account via the internet i.e. submit online meter readings and receive email bills rather than paper bills, you have an online tariff. Suppliers usually offer reduced prices for online tariffs because of the money they save on the administration and management of your account.

    Prepayment Tariff

    People with prepayment meters pay for their energy in advance by topping up with a card, tokens or a key. This is one of the more costly ways to pay for energy as there are limited tariff options. Generally, prepayment customers can switch tariffs if they have up to £500 of debt on their meter but this can vary depending on the supplier.

    ‘Green’ Energy Tariff

    Some suppliers offer a ‘green’ tariff which means either they will match your usage by generating renewable energy or they will contribute towards environmental schemes on your behalf.

    Paying Energy Bills

    Paying your energy bill by direct debit is one of the most popular ways to pay for energy. The energy supplier calculates or estimates how much energy you’re likely to use in a year and divides this into monthly payments. As this arrangement guarantees the supplier will be paid they usually offer a discount for paying in this way. It can be useful for you as the consumer too as you always know what you’ll be paying each month and can budget accordingly.

    Of course, energy use is not equal throughout the year. The direct debit usually means you will overpay in the summer and underpay in the winter. It’s still advisable to submit your own meter readings so that you can check your supplier is charging the right amount.

    If you think your energy supplier is charging you too much you need to firstly question how they’ve calculated your bill and then compare the tariff you’re on against other providers. It’s very possible you’ll be able to save money by switching energy suppliers.

    Get Boiler Quotes

    If it’s time to replace your current boiler, use our free service to get quotes now