Knowing what sort of user you are is also important if you pay by direct debit. You need to avoid paying too much for your energy each month, and you certainly don’t want to store up trouble for the future by underpaying and then having to find the cash to pay off a large bill further down the line.
Here we explain what the different usage bands mean and offer tips on cutting your bills – whatever your level of energy consumption.
What are the different types of energy user?
Ofgem, the industry regulator, sets energy usage figures defining low, medium and high consumption.
They are used in energy company advertisements and media coverage and by consumers looking to save by switching tariffs.
According to Ofgem, a 'low user' consumes 1,650 kWh (kilowatt hours) of electricity and 10,000 kWh of gas a year; a 'medium user' consumes 3,300 kWh of electricity and 16,500 kWh of gas; and a 'high user' consumes 4,950 kWh of electricity and 28,000 kWh of gas.
Scott Byrom, utilities expert at MoneySupermarket, said: “A ‘low user’ is generally a single person, or young couple, living in a one-bedroom flat.
“A ‘medium user’, on the other hand, is more likely to be a couple or small family with a semi-detached house, while a ‘high user’ is usually a larger family living in a detached home with three or more bedrooms.”
How can I find out how much energy I use?
The government is planning to install so-called smart meters in every home in the UK by 2020. These will send information on real-time electricity and gas use directly to utility companies.
In the meantime, you can find out how much energy your household uses by looking at your recent gas and electricity bills (particularly if they are based on meter readings and not estimates).It is a good idea to have these figures to hand if you are planning to switch providers as having your exact usage will help you compare the various tariffs available more accurately.
Ofgem said: “When switching, or using an online comparison site, make sure you have your recent bill or energy statement on hand. It provides valuable information about your own energy use and the type of deal you are currently on.”
If you are moving home and are unsure how much energy you are going to be using in your new house or flat, you should probably describe yourself as a 'medium user.'
Scott Byrom said: “If you are moving into a medium-sized property and are unable to find out how much gas and electricity the previous occupants used, it is probably sensible to start your new energy tariff as a ‘medium user’ to avoid any major discrepancies.
“It is always better to give accurate figures where possible, though, as you could otherwise end up over or underpaying until your next meter reading.”
How can I cut my energy consumption?
Higher utility bills have helped to push the average household’s spending on essential items up by 4.9% year on year, according to figures from Lloyds TSB.
But whatever type of energy user you are, there are lots of simple steps you can take to improve your energy efficiency – and reduce your gas and electricity bills.
For example, installing room thermostats to help you monitor and control the temperature throughout your home more accurately could cut your bills by £70, according to the Energy Saving Trust.
Meanwhile, keeping windows closed whenever possible, closing your curtains at dusk to stop heat escaping and making sure that the whole family turns off the lights when leaving a room are all completely free ways to keep bills down.
How else can I reduce my bills?
MoneySupermarket research reveals that the rising cost of home energy is the main thing keeping cash-strapped British consumers awake at night.
But the average household could slash its annual energy bills by more than a fifth – or about £282 – just by moving to the cheapest available product.
With some 12.3million households still loyal to their incumbent supplier, that’s an incredible collective saving of £3.5billion for cash-strapped families across Britain.
And many households could save even more by hunting down the cheapest deals using MoneySupermarket’s energy channel.
A 'medium user' who has never switched providers living in the east of England, for example, could cut their annual bills by £302 to just £1,005 a year by moving to First Utility’s iSave v9 tariff.
A similar customer in Liverpool, meanwhile, could save £316 – while protecting themselves against any future energy price hikes – by opting for Npower’s Gofix 11 plan at about £1,033 a year.
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.