Switching energy suppliers – an easy way to save money

Switching energy suppliers doesn’t have to be a lot of work and it can be an easy way to save up to hundreds of pounds a year. We asked our money adviser Eva Van Der Spek to explain how the process works.

How can I find out if I can save money on suppliers? Is it just a case of shopping around?

There are many free comparison websites available for you to use. You can find a list of Ofgem approved websites here. All these websites comply with a code of practice which requires them to:

  • find the best deal in your local area
  • provide a free and easy to use switching service
  • give you detailed information about each tariff
  • clearly list any available discounts.

If you struggle using the internet, some of the services recommended by Ofgem also have a phone number that you can ring. The ones with telephone numbers are:

  • Energy Helpline: 0800 074 0745
  • Money Supermarket: 0800 177 7019
  • My Utility Genius: 020 3468 0461
  • Simply Switch: 0800 011 1395
  • Switch Gas and Electric: 03333 700 600
  • USwitch: 0800 6888 557

Because these comparison websites also provide a switching service, it is very simple to switch suppliers and they will lead you through the process step by step online. You will also need to give a meter reading to your new supplier on the day they start supplying you, unless you have a smart meter. They will share your meter reading with your old supplier.

Aren’t there financial penalties for changing suppliers?

This depends on the agreement you have with your current supplier. Sometimes, you will have to pay an early exit fee if you leave before a certain date. If you’re not sure whether this is the case, you should ring your supplier to check or look in the contract they have sent you (by post or by email). If you have an online account, you might be able to find this information there.

Do I need to keep anything else in mind when switching?

If you are on a low income and you might be entitled to the warm home discount, you will have to check if the new supplier offers this too. This is a yearly discount of £140 on your electricity bills. If you receive Pension Credit Guaranteed Credit, you will receive this discount from the government automatically.

Some suppliers offer this discount to a broader group of people on a low income. You should check with the new supplier if they provide this, what their criteria are, and whether or not you would be eligible for this discount.

You should also decide if you value a good customer service as this varies widely among suppliers. The comparison websites will often show you a rating for the supplier’s customer service too. If you want a high customer service, you might have to pay a little extra for this.

Do I need to let my bank know?

If you have a standing order set up for your old supplier, you will have to cancel this. If you paid through direct debit, this will be stopped automatically once you have paid your final bill.

How will I know if I still have to pay something to the old supplier?

Once you have switched to a new supplier, you will receive a final bill from your old supplier. If your previous bills were based on estimates, or you were paying a fixed amount every month, you might have an amount outstanding or actually be in credit. Make sure you check this bill and see if there is anything you need to pay or anything you need to do to get the refund from them if you were in credit.

Once I’ve changed suppliers, can I just forget about it for a while?

You should check and see if you can switch to a cheaper supplier about once a year. Often, you will get a welcome discount for switching to a new supplier. This is why it pays to switch regularly.

What if I don’t know who my supplier is?

You can find out who your supplier is online:

If you’re unable to use the internet, you can ring who you think might be your supplier as they can sometimes check this for you.

Alternatively, to find out who your gas supplier is, you can also call 0870 608 1524. But this call will cost 7p per minute plus your phone company’s access charge.

I am behind on my current bill; will I still be able to switch supplier?

If you have a credit meter and you are more than 28 days behind on your bill, you will not be able to switch until you have paid off the complete bill.

If you have a prepayment meter and you are paying off the debt through the meter, you will not be able to switch if this debt is over £500. If the debt is below £500, you can see if you can switch, but your new supplier would take over the remaining of the debt and you will have to pay them back through the meter.

Is it just energy suppliers you can switch?

You cannot switch your water supplier. But if you are on a low income, have three or more children under the age of 18 or someone in your household with health issues that cause them to use a lot of water, your water supplier might have a discounted rate available for you. You should contact them to discuss this.

If you don’t have a water meter and are paying a standard rate for your water, it might be cheaper to switch to a water meter instead. Your water supplier can install this meter for free. The general rule is that a household with more bedrooms than people or with the same amount of people as bedrooms, will be better off on a water meter. But there are exceptions to this rule depending on whether you use more or less water than an average household your size. You can do a more accurate check to see if you will be cheaper off on a water meter by filling in the Water Meter Calculator. Before you have a meter installed, please check with your landlord if they are happy for you to do this.

There are many other household bills that you can see if you can save money on, such as TV and broadband, mobile phones, and insurances. For more information, you can join one of our regular webinars on ‘Switching and Saving’.

If you are interested in personal finances and seeing if you can save more money in general, you can do a free online course. This course has six different modules ranging from budgeting & taxation to saving & investing.

If you are struggling to pay your bills, please contact us on debt@swllc.org or complete our advice checker.