4 Tips to Save Money on Your Energy Bills (even if you don't switch)

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While switching energy providers is often touted as the best way to save money on energy bills, are ways to save on energy bills without switching? Yes. Here are a few ideas.

How You Can Save Money without Switching Energy Suppliers

There are many ways to lower your energy bill—other than running a full load (vs. a half load) in the washer, turning down the thermostat or upgrading to an energy-efficient boiler (all valid energy-saving tips, by the way). The focus of this article is tweaks that don’t require a big change in your day-to-day living or require calling the builder, but can still save you money.

1. Call and ask your current provider if they can offer you a better tariff

Calling your current energy provider and merely asking if you are on the cheapest tariff can yield surprising results. First, check prices on a price comparison site. Then ask if your current provider can match or at least get closer to the cheapest tariff you find. No one likes to lose a customer. Ask about paying by direct debit and fixed tariffs, as these can save money, too—more on those below.

2. Change your payment method to direct debit

In 2019, about 67% of households paid their gas bills by direct debit. Those on prepayment meters don’t have the option to pay by direct debit unless they are able to switch from a prepayment meter to a credit meter (which would generally save money). Those using standard credit as a payment method, however, could save around £150 on average by moving to direct debit. You can see the annual savings from direct debit payments in the following chart.

chart showing differences in gas & electric bills according to how you pay, by prepayment, direct debit or standard credit
How Gas & Electric Bills Vary by Payment Type

3. Install a Smart Meter

Will a smart meter really save you money? The jury is still out, but will probably vary across households. Households that stick the countertop usage display in the back of a cupboard and forget about it probably won't see an impact on their energy bills; other households who treat the meter as a challenge or even a game—actively tracking usage and experimenting with how turning off lights, for instance, lowers usage—may see their energy bills go down with a smart meter.

All households are meant to have a smart meter installed by 2024 (this target date was pushed back after the 2020 deadline was not met). If you think one might help raise your family’s awareness of energy usage and lower your bills, you can call your energy supplier and ask when you can get one installed.

4. Move from a Standard Variable Tariff to a Fixed Tariff

Standard variable tariffs are usually the most expensive. Variable tariffs are the default tariffs—staying on a variable tariff is a bit like buying something at a boot sale without negotiating the price. Those who price shop will inevitably find a fixed tariff to be cheaper unless prices fall significantly.

According to Ofgem’s Bills, Prices and Profits report, the average annual variable tariff is £1,177, which is 44% higher than the average cheapest available (fixed) tariff of £816. (However, if energy prices start trending down, and those savings are passed through to consumers, then customers on variable tariffs may start to pay less than those on fixed tariffs.) The chart below shows the average tariffs available in the market as of April 2017, for both variable and fixed.

chart showing dual fuel variable tariffs are higher than the cheapest available fixed tariffs
Variable Tariffs are Generally More Expensive

Switching

If you are open to switching, you could save up to £200 a year, or more. You should find accurate pricing data on any one of the Ofgem-approved switching sites, listed here. When switching, keep in mind that moving from a variable to a fixed tariff and from individual tariffs to a dual tariff will probably result in lower bills—although not if prices fall.

Consider Switching

While 5.9 million electricity and 4.8 million gas switches took place in 2019, many households remain on tariffs that are more expensive than other options in the market. So price checking and switching, if you find a cheaper tariff, is clearly a good idea.

Switching is pretty straightforward and your energy supply won’t be cut off in the process. Your home still receives the exact same gas and electric from the national grid, regardless of energy supplier. Any of the 11 Ofgem-accredited energy price comparison sites in the market can help you find the cheapest tariff possible. You can read more about the switching process in our article on energy switching when you move.

Move to a Dual Tariff

Roughly 75% of consumers are on a dual tariff already. Dual tariffs may offer a discount for getting your gas and electric from one company; also dual tariffs can be simpler in that you deal with only one supplier for billing or any customer service issues that arise. The other 25% of households (those on individual tariffs) are likely to find further savings by moving from separate gas and electric tariffs, although this is not always the case. It’s worth checking with your current supplier and/or a price comparison site.

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