Disclaimer: The information on this page was correct as of August 20, 2021.
Everyone knows that switching to a different energy provider could save you money on your energy bills, so why don’t people do it more often? “I don’t have time to compare them all”, “I wouldn’t know where to start”, “I don’t pay much, I don’t need to switch”, “it’s too much effort”. But why would you pass up on the opportunity to save hundreds of pounds a year?
We’ve put together a guide to make the process a little easier for you. As always, we’ve got you covered!
- What to do before you switch
- Is it best to switch tariffs or providers?
- Different tariff types explained
- How to switch
- What to look for when you switch
Before you switch…
If you’re thinking of switching, you should start by looking into your current tariff and finding out:
- When your tariff ends
- If there are any early exit fees
- What type of meter you have
- If you have any debt or credit in your account
- How much energy you normally use
- How much you’re currently paying
Should I switch energy supplier or just tariffs?
You don’t have to switch providers if you like the company you’re with already. Most companies have a variety of different tariffs to choose from – something to suit everyone at a range of prices. With most providers, you can normally compare and change tariffs on your online account or by giving them a call.
If you have a credit meter, you’ll probably have a wider range of tariffs to choose from, but that doesn’t mean you’re stuck paying the same price if you have a prepayment meter. While your provider might have one or two tariffs suitable, there’s a huge list of energy suppliers out there for you to choose from.
Which tariff should I choose?
Just like there is a huge list of energy suppliers out there, there’s even more tariff choices. We’ll help you understand the different types of tariff so you can decide which is best for you to look out for.
Fixed Rate Tariffs
With a fixed rate tariff, the price of your energy use per unit will stay the same through your whole contract. If your energy supplier announces price changes, your bill won’t be affected, even if the price is lowered. Contracts normally last a year, but it can last longer. This means that you’re stuck in the contract, however, you might have to pay some hefty exit fees if you want to cut it short. When your contract ends, your supplier will likely put you onto a Standard Variable Tariff, which is usually the most expensive one they have. This is when you want to switch.
Standard Variable Tariffs (SVTs) are the providers’ go-to tariffs for when a contract ends or you’ve just moved home because they are the most expensive ones they have. With a variable tariff, the rate per unit can change regularly, so you could be paying a lot more or a lot less each month. While the price of your gas and electricity can change, they will let you know when it does. However, variable tariffs have no end date, meaning no early exit fees so you’re free to switch whenever you like.
Dual Fuel Energy Tariffs
Some people prefer to use the same energy provider for both their gas and electricity, despite the fact they might pay less if they’re using two different ones. Sometimes it can be more convenient to just deal with one energy supplier, especially when it comes to switching again or moving house. Some providers offer discounts if you sign up for a dual fuel tariff, which can make it cheaper, but you might also find better deals if you’re with two separate providers.
Most providers have at least one prepayment tariff to choose from, but not many. These tariffs are only for those with prepayment meters, where you pay for your energy before you use it. If you have a prepayment meter, you’ll have either a key or a card to top up your meter at either the Post Office or a shop which offers PayPoint or Payzone. If you have a prepayment meter but want access to a wider range of tariffs, it’s usually free to switch to a credit meter. The price per unit is capped, however, prepayment tariffs tend to be a lot more expensive than other tariffs.
Economy 7 Tariffs
With an Economy 7 meter, you’re going to have an even smaller choice of tariffs. An Economy 7 tariff has two unit prices – one for the daytime and one for nighttime. The price is cheaper for 7 hours at night, however, it can end up being a lot more expensive during the day. This kind of tariff is generally associated with people who use storage heaters as it allows them to store the heat overnight and have it released through the day. It suits people who might be using a lot of energy at night, for example, if you have pets which require overnight heating or medical equipment that needs to stay on at night.
How to make the switch
Now you know what you’re looking for, it’s easy to make the switch.
- Find your most accurate bill to provide information on your current tariff and usage
- Compare it with other providers, tariffs and quotes using a comparison site or directly
- Choose your next energy provider and let them know you want to switch
- Your new provider will take care of the rest
Switching takes roughly 3 weeks and you have 14 days to change your mind from the day you sign the contract.
What else to look out for when you switch energy providers
While you might just be looking to switch to save money, there are other things you should look at than just the tariffs available.
- Reviews – Companies can say all they like about themselves to make them sound great, but reviews are where you really see how the company operates and treats their customers. Check out TrustPilot, Which?, and Citizens’ Advice.
- Warm Home Discount – If you’re switching providers after you’ve applied for the Warm Home Discount, this is a big one you should check because you might lose out. See if they work with any other Government-led schemes too, such as ECO or Affordable Warmth schemes.
- Renewable sources and sustainability – Sustainability is a big part of our lives now, and there are a lot of green energy companies emerging. Energy production from wind and solar farms is on the rise, and often green energy companies are some of the cheapest.
- Energy Switch Guarantee – The Energy Switch Guarantee makes sure you receive a reliable, hassle-free switch and reassurance that your new provider will resolve any issues you might have while switching. It’s designed to increase customer confidence when switching, knowing that the process will go smoothly.
- ‘Big Six’ or little known company – Just because the supplier isn’t one of the biggest or well-known companies, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad one. Sometimes the smaller companies are cheaper with better customer service. Now more than ever we’re seeing people move away from the bigger companies in favour of small or medium ones with the same or better deals.