The energy supply market was deregulated in 1999 and since then millions of people across the UK have benefited from cheaper energy bills by changing the company that supplies their gas or electricity.
There are lots of different deals available to fit your energy needs, so you can pick and choose the package that offers you the best value for money with sites like uSwitch. People living alone – may find it cheaper to opt for a package with no standing charge. Money can often be saved by taking both gas and electricity from the same supplier (‘dual fuel’). Alternatively, some companies offer deals such as fixed or capped rates for a certain length of time.
As the energy market is prone to price fluctuations, this could end up saving you money. A fixed rate is one that stays the same even if the wholesale prices increase for suppliers, so if there is a price rise above your agreed fixed rate you’ll save money. A capped rate is one that may rise or fall but will not go above a certain price level. If you’ve never changed supplier, you’re likely to benefit from a significant saving on your first switch.
However, don’t just stick to the same supplier once you’ve made the move. All suppliers change their deals frequently so by shopping around after a year or so you can ensure that you’re always getting the best deal. It’s so easy to switch that saving money on energy is really no hassle.
To switch, simply look around on the internet for a better deal, sites like uSwitch allow you to compare the latest deals from a variety of suppliers and can take care of the switch to your new supplier on your behalf, this is almost always free to change. If you arrange the switch directly yourself without the help of uSwitch or Simply Switch, just contact your new supplier and your current supplier to inform them and give them your meter readings, and you’ll receive your final bill from your current supplier. If you have a direct debit with your current supplier, remember to cancel it after you have settled the final bill. Most suppliers require you to give at least 28 days’ notice of cancellation, but very few will charge a cancellation fee (unless, for example, you have signed up for a fixed or capped rate package and are pulling out before the end of the specified period).
Changing to a new energy supplier is seamless – there is no interruption to your supply as the same pipes and wires are used. You’ll simply receive a final bill from your current supplier, followed in the next bill period by a bill from your new supplier.
Many people change supplier to get better customer service, or for more environmentally friendly tariffs. Energy suppliers are making increaing use of renewable sources of energy such as wind turbines or hydroelectric power, and some have tariffs where your bill contributes towards the funding of environmental projects such as the planting of trees. Energy generated from renewable sources isn’t currently available in all parts of the UK, so you may not be able to go completely green with your energy supply.
Getting the cheapest deal isn’t the only way to save money on your bills though. You can cut your energy use and do your bit for the environment at the same time by making your house more energy efficient. Insufficient insulation is where most houses lose energy. Ensure that your loft is well insulated, to a depth of at least 25 cm. If you have cavity walls, have them insulated too, as well as your pipes and hot water tank.
Small changes in your routine can also make a big difference. Keeping doors and windows closed to keep in the heat. Switch off lights when you leave a room. Don’t leave electrical equipment such as TVs or hi-fis on standby when not in use – turn them off at the plug to be sure. Boil only the amount of water you need in the kettle.