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How to switch energy supplier

By Marc Shoffman | Thursday, June 10th 2021

If you are feeling the heat from your energy bills, then it's time to switch. According to government data, UK households spend over £1000 on energy every year.

The Department for Energy and Climate Change says households could save up to £300 or more by switching provider. If you have fallen onto your provider's standard variable tariff, you could make substantial savings by switching. Here's how to do it.

Have all the figures at your fingertips

Before you switch, there are a few key bits of information you will need so that you can accurately compare what you pay with other offers on the market. Most of this information will be on your monthly bill or annual statement. If you can't locate the paperwork, you can either find the information on your provider’s website or you can call up and request it. First you will need to know which tariff you are on. This is the name of the energy deal you signed up to and will give other providers an indication of how long your current deal is for so they have something to compare.

Know how much energy you are using now

Providers also need to know how much energy you have used in the past 12 months. This is known as the kilowatt hour (or kWh) and is a unit that measures the level of energy and gas usage in your home. It will be displayed on your annual statement from your energy provider. Your annual statement will also show the estimated cost, which can then be used to work out how much you could owe each month and save.

If you're unsure, you can often just provide the number of rooms and people living in your house, as well as some lifestyle details and an estimate will be worked out for you. But you are more likely to save money if you know exactly what you are paying and have provided regular meter readings so you have a better indication of how much energy you use and the savings that can be made.

Time to go energy shopping

Before going straight to a new provider, check first whether you can save money with your current supplier. Your energy provider must tell you if you can save money on other tariffs they offer. This will be displayed on your latest energy bill, which will name the tariff and show the cost saving. But just because your provider can save you money, that doesn’t mean others can’t, so it is important to still shop around.

Comparison websites can help you choose

You could visit each energy company’s website or phone them for a quote individually, or there is the easier option of letting a comparison website – such as uSwitch – do the legwork for you. Comparison websites will take the details of your current deal and will show options from other suppliers that could save you money. You will need to provide your postcode first (suppliers like to price the energy they provide differently from one area to another), and then the tariff you are on, along with how much energy you use and what you pay annually.

Comparison websites and suppliers will also let you filter results to compare joint gas and electricity tariffs – known as dual fuel – or separately. It is worth checking both as you may find one provider is cheaper for gas in your area but more expensive for electricity. You will be able to search for fixed tariffs, which lock in the rate at which your energy is worked out, or variable rates that move based on energy market prices. There may also be options to search just for providers that offer cashback or green energy from renewable sources.

Once your details are entered, you will be shown search results displaying a list of providers, the name of their deal, how long they last and how much you can save. The monthly cost is an important factor but it isn’t the only one. You should also think about how long you want a deal to last.

Look for the Energy Switch Guarantee

Established by Energy UK, this is a voluntary agreement to which UK energy suppliers can sign up to, offering customers who are looking to switch peace of mind that everything will go smoothly. It guarantees that you won’t be without power during your switch, that any mistakes in billing will be rectified rapidly, that your new supplier will inform your old supplier that you are leaving, and that the whole switch should take no more than 21 days.

Plan ahead for future price changes

There are plenty of factors that can influence energy prices, such as the cost of oil, exchange rates and economic factors, so it can be hard to predict how tariffs will behave. If you think prices may fall, it could be worth looking at shorter term or variable tariffs, but if you think prices will rise, then now may be the time to lock in a lower rate.

Also consider when a particular deal is going to end, as you may want to avoid shopping around again just as winter hits, since that is when a lot of providers start hiking their prices. Customer service is also important, as you want to be treated well regardless of how much you are paying. Energy regulator Ofgem provides data on customer satisfaction and complaints, as well as how well complaints are handled. Also check whether there are any exit fees to pay on your current deal or on future tariffs as this could outweigh the benefit of switching.

Once you have chosen the deal you want, you just enter your address and bank details and the comparison website can usually manage the whole process for you. There are no forms to print, sign or post, but you should check the deal terms so you understand how much you will be paying and what the cost will be.

A warning on comparison websites

Comparison websites are a really useful and efficient way to switch, as you can compare deals in one place and the switching process is arranged for you. But be aware that these websites will often automatically only display companies from whom they will receive a commission for referrals.

Look for an option in the search results to show all providers (including those you would need to arrange the switch with directly), so that you can get an accurate view of the market. If you choose one of these providers, you will be sent to their website directly and may need to enter the details of your tariff again to complete the switch.

Cooling-off period

Ofgem has told energy suppliers that they must complete switches within seventeen days. This includes a 14-day cooling-off period to change your mind and three days to complete the move. Most of the bigger suppliers comply with this, but it may take smaller players slightly longer.

You don’t have to inform your old supplier or change any of your existing equipment, but you will need to provide a meter reading. Your new provider will send you a welcome pack and will inform you of the date of the switchover. Don’t forget to cancel your old Direct Debit once you move.

How to save energy without switching

It is always worth checking if you can save money by switching, but there are also steps you can take to reduce your own bill.

  • Provide regular meter readings each month so your bill is an accurate reflection of what you have used.
  • Suppliers tend to provide discounts to those managing their account online and by direct debit, so consider going paperless.
  • It may be worth asking your energy supplier for a smart meter, which gives a real-time view of how much gas or electricity you are using, and can send automatic readings.
  • Look at energy-saving devices such as Nest or Hive that let you monitor how much energy you are using, and allow you to control your heating using an app, even when you are not at home.
  • Incorporate energy-saving measures such as heating controls, loft insulation and double glazing.
  • Trade body Energy UK claims turning the thermostat down by one degree could cut heating bills by up to 10 per cent.
  • Everyone has different levels of hot and cold though so it is always worth seeing if you could save money by switching even if it just avoids household disputes over the thermostat.

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