Storms, snow and plunging temperatures have affected swathes of the country in the past few days.
That will leave many households wondering about the cost of staying warm, as heating systems are switched to ‘constant’ during the day and perhaps left on overnight.
For those with already-stretched budgets, there might be real concern about paying for the extra energy use.
And for those who are really struggling financially, it might come down to keeping the heating off, even in the cold weather, because they can’t afford to switch it on.
Switching makes sense
According to Ofgem, the energy market regulator, over 60%† of UK households are on standard variable tariffs (SVRs). That’s well over 10 million homes.
That matters because SVRs tend to be more expensive than dual fuel (gas and electricity) fixed deals, where the price per unit of energy used is fixed for a specified length of time (12, 24 or even 36 months).
This is especially true of SVRs from the so-called Big Six suppliers (British Gas, EDF, Eon, Npower, Scottish Power, SSE) – and guess what? Over 80% of all energy customers are with one of the Big Six firms.
A quick look at the numbers. For someone on typical energy usage, the average cost of a Big Six SVR is £1,065 a year.
That’s £163 more a year than the iSupplyEnergy 12-month fix, priced at £902, which is available from MoneySuperMarket.
This tariff, like many fixed deals, has exit fees (in this case, £30 per fuel) that are applied if you leave before the end of the fixed term. That said, you’re free to switch without paying an exit fee within six weeks of the end of the term.
Please note: not all energy providers choose to work with sites such as MoneySuperMarket, so the iSupplyEnergy tariff is not the absolute cheapest on the market. It is the cheapest available through us.
In some cases, people who haven’t switched from an SVR for a number of years, or who have never switched at all, could make savings running into hundreds of pounds a year.*
But aren’t energy providers freezing prices?
There have been a number of announcements from providers about freezing certain energy prices for the winter months, as outlined in this article.
But as the article points out, these prices are being frozen at levels higher than the cheapest tariffs on the market.
It’s expected that prices will rise during the spring and summer – at just the point when people start to use less energy, and worry less about this element of their household spending.
That’s why it’s worth switching now to lock in today’s low prices before they go up, and the cheaper tariffs start to get withdrawn from the market.
Remember, a fixed tariff is just that – fixed for the length of the term. So you’re effectively protected from price rises elsewhere.
Switching: simple, swift and straightforward
One reason so many people haven’t switched yet is that it’s seen as a slow and complicated process, fraught with hassle and inconvenience.
If that were ever the case, it isn’t now. You can run a quote in a matter of five minutes or so, and complete the admin side of the switch in about another 10. Having a recent bill and your bank details to hand will get the job done as quickly as possible.
Energy providers have banded together to guarantee that any switch will be completed within 21 days.
There’ll be no disruption to your supply, and no work done at or outside your property, or in the street outside.
Energy efficiency – quick wins
Run a quote, see if there’s a cheaper tariff, and start the switch. You should be on the new deal in 21 days
Plug draughts around doors, windows, keyholes and the letterbox, and draw the curtains at dusk. Cold air in means warm air out
If it turns icy cold, don’t reach for the thermostat – its job is to keep the temperature constant, at your chosen level
Think layers. And slippers. Or at least thick socks. If your feet are cold, then you’re cold
Turn off radiators in any rooms you don’t tend to use much. But bleed all your radiators so the system is working properly
Back to the thermostat - if you’ve gone from ‘timed’ to ‘constant’, turn it off if you’re going out.
†66% of UK consumers are on standard variable tariffs which are on average more expensive than the cheapest deals in the market, Ofgem Retail Energy Market report 2016
*10% of customers could save up to £670. MoneySuperMarket Data, May 2016
Please note: any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Click on a highlighted product and apply direct.