Compare Energy Prices
When you compare energy prices online you are generally looking for the best deal, and most people will think that this is always going to be by using a dual fuel tariff, where both gas and electricity are bundled together. But this is not always the case.
But never assume this is the case, and always also check the price of an electricity comparison and a gas comparison to see if buying the two separately would save you more money with the cheapest deals on the market.
You need to think about paying by monthly direct debit for your energy, as this will usually give you a discount against the other payment methods, such as quarterly direct debit, cheque or pre-payment meter.
What is important to you?
Getting the cheapest deal you can to save the maximum, amount of money is likely to be at the top of your list of priorities, but customer service is also important, particularly if you have a problem at any time.
So you should also check the forums to find out which companies have a better or worse reputation when it comes to customer service, in case you need to sort something out at a later point.
Also, do you need to be sure of the price you are paying for your energy? Then look at fixed tariffs, where the price is guaranteed, or capped tariffs, where it will not go above a certain level, but you could benefit from any falls in energy prices.
What factors should I consider when switching my electricity supplier?
There are a large number of things you need to consider when you are looking at different energy suppliers, and finding the cheapest deal is, of course, the primary concern.
However, there are other factors to be taken into consideration:
How you pay
Monthly direct debit will be the cheapest option as gas and electricity providers offer discounts to customers who pay in this way. However, millions of people still pay for their energy quarterly, which can cost them between 6% and 10% a year more.
If you are on a pre-payment meter, monthly direct debit won't be an option.
Look at the small print of what you are signing up for.
Fixed and capped deals will give you comfort that you are not paying above a set amount for a period of time, but the sting in the tail is that if you want to leave before the end of the deal, you will have to pay a cancellation fee. This could wipe out much of the saving you stand to make by switching to another deal.
Some contracts also have tie-in periods, where even though your deal might have come to an end, you are contracted to stay with the same energy supplier on their standard tariff, and again you will pay a penalty if you leave it.
Fixed or variable rate tariffs
Gas prices soared by an average of 17.4% in 2011, while electricity costs jumped by an average of 10.8%. As a result fixed rate deals are proving hugely popular as they guarantee that you will be protected from further price increases for a set period of time.
If you think energy prices are likely to go down, then a variable rate tariff will allow you to benefit, but if you are wrong and prices rise, then you will be hit with higher bills.
Some energy suppliers will have additional benefits to just being a cheaper deal, such as Tesco Clubcard or Nectar points, for example. In some cases, you may also get free Home Cover to help you if your boiler or your heating goes wrong, which is a godsend mid-winter when you have someone come round to fix things the same day.
It sounds unimportant, but there are plenty of people who are prepared to pay a little extra to get better customer service. While everything is working fine and you have no problem with your energy supplier, it is largely irrelevant.
But when something goes wrong and you need some help to resolve an issue, good customer service is key. You can ask friends or check forums to find out which energy suppliers have the best customer service.
Online energy services are those run over the internet, so you will be expected to manage your account online and won't receive bills through the post.
Because the costs of running customer accounts are lower, online tariffs are cheaper than standard tariffs so if you are comfortable using the internet, this type of deal is well worth taking advantage of.
What's more you can submit meter readings at any time making it simple to keep track of your usage and ensure you are being accurately billed.
There should be no difficulty in transferring away from your energy supplier to a new one, and more people than ever are making the switch. The MoneySupermarket energy comparison tool saw a whopping 1,264% rise in the number of people swapping tariffs in a single day in June 2011.
Once the application has been made online for the cheapest energy supplier, you will have to wait just four to six weeks for the switch to be completed. You do not even need to speak to your existing supplier.
Your energy supply will not be interrupted, and you will simply see a new name on your bill, and lower costs.
How to find the right energy supplier for you
The best way to find the right energy supplier, whether you are looking at gas, electricity or dual fuel, is by using an online comparison service to get quotes on your energy prices.
You need to know how much energy you use each year, which you can work out from your bills - or you can use an estimate which is built into the comparison service. Then you need your postcode so we can find the best deal for you where you live.
You also need to decide how you want to pay for your energy, remembering that a monthly direct debit can save you extra money on your tariff in most cases.
Once you have done the comparison, found the tariff you want, you can click the icon to sign up, and you will just fill in the application form.
You do not need to contact your existing supplier, and your supply will not be interrupted when the switch takes place - usually within four to six weeks. Then you can just enjoy paying reduced bills to your new energy supplier.
How to save money on my energy bills
There are a variety of ways to save money on energy bills, including:Make sure your loft is properly insulated
- Stop any draughts around windows to prevent heat being lost
- Turn your heating down slightly, and wear another jumper if necessary
- Use an energy meter to find out how much electricity you use on everyday items
- Unplug mobile phones and laptops when they are charged
- Turn TVs off rather than leaving them on standby
- Use computers in their energy saving mode if you can