MILLIONS of Brits are overpaying on their energy bills when they could easily slash the cost by switching providers.
In fact, around 14million households are stuck on expensive Standard Variable Tariffs (SVTs) and default deals that can be more than £300 more expensive than the cheapest deals on the market.
You can save hundreds of pounds a year by switching energy supplier[/caption]
Energy regulator Ofgem has introduced a price cap to limit the amount suppliers can charge customers on their default rate.
But the watchdog says Brits can save more by actually switching supplier.
Households can save up to to £150 a year by switching their tariff once they come to the end of a deal, Ofgem says.
Here is how to find the cheapest energy supplier.
Why should I switch energy supplier?
There are no prizes for loyalty in the energy market.
Once you come to the end of an energy deal, your contract will automatically shift to a default rate known as the standard variable tariff (SVT).
Sticking with your old supplier could mean you are missing out on cheap energy.
Tariffs change all the time and existing customers can access the same rates as new ones but you have to proactively sign up so you avoid moving onto the default SVT
This makes it worth shopping around once your contract ends so you can find the cheapest energy supplier for your needs.
How to switch energy supplier
Your energy company is supposed to tell you if you can save money on your gas and electricity.
Check your bill each month, as it should include a section showing if you could save by moving to a different tariff with the same provider.
You can also shop around yourself.
One of the quickest ways to do this is with a comparison website where you can see cheap electricity or gas deals, based on your usage and where you live, from a range of suppliers.
Price comparison websites can also help you see how good a supplier is when it comes to customer service and its use of renewable energy.
You need to know your usage, which is either the actual kilowatt per hour units of gas or electricity used or the amount you pay each month or year.
Enter these details and where you live into a comparison website and it will show you other available tariffs, how much you will pay each month and how much you could save.
A comparison website may be able to help with the switch, but there may be other providers that come up in search results which you need to arrange the move to directly.
It is worth checking both, as the best energy supplier may not always be available through a comparison website.
Once you have chosen your new supplier you may be asked to setup a new direct debit to pay the agreed amount each month.
Alternative payment methods include prepayment or payment on receipt of bill.
Your new supplier will contact the old one to arrange the switch.
The only thing you have to do is provide a meter reading that is sent to your old supplier so they can create a final bill.
It is also used as the opening meter reading for your new tariff.
Don’t forget to provide regular meter readings to your new supplier each month to ensure your bill is accurate.
If you have a smart meter, the reading will be sent automatically to your supplier.
How long will it take to switch?
A switch can take up to 21 days so it is important to time it correctly so you don’t fall onto the more pricey SVT.
Some providers will have exit fees if you leave too early before a contract ends.
Customers are allowed to start a switch up to 49 days before their contract ends without any exit charges.
How to find the cheapest energy supplier
Your provider will most probably contact you as your deal comes to an end to offer you a new rate.
It may sound convenient to just let them move you onto a new tariff as they already have all your data as long as you have been keeping up with meter readings.
But there is no guarantee that they are offering the cheapest rates, so it is always worth shopping around and checking other suppliers.
The quickest way of doing this is through a comparison website that will let you compare tariffs, from a range of providers in one place based on your usage and location.
Do I need to tell my current energy provider?
There is no requirement to tell your energy provider that you are leaving.
It’s not that type of relationship.
You will have to provide a final meter reading for your new supplier as the opening meter reading that they will share with your old energy company so you can be sent a bill to settle your account.
Your old provider will then calculate how much you owe and you may even get some money back if you have been overpaying.
You should receive regular updates from your new supplier on how the switch is progressing and when it should complete.
There may even be a webpage where you can track the latest developments.
Should I cancel my direct debit?
You don’t need to cancel your direct debit with your old supplier as this will be done once your switch is complete.
Your new supplier will be in contact with your old one to move everything across and your direct debit will usually be cancelled once you have provided a final meter reading and settled any outstanding bills.
How do I choose the right tariff?
The best energy supplier for you depends on a range of factors.
A fixed tariff gives certainty on how much you pay for each unit of electricity and gas. This means the way your bill is calculated won’t change although the amount could if your usage is varies.
There are also variable tariffs that can be cheaper than fixed ones, but there is a risk that they can change and get more expensive.
It gets a bit more complex depending on your meter.
Those with Economy 7 or Economy 10 meters can get cheaper off-peak pricing and use storage heaters and tanks that store energy overnight to use during the day for heating and hot water.
There are also tariffs for smart meters, renewable energy or prepayment.
These will all have different pricing.
It is also worth checking if it is cheaper to combine gas and electricity in a dual fuel deal or to pay for each separately.
Who is the cheapest energy supplier?
Energy deals change all the time.
Pricing varies depending on the type of tariff.
Cost is just one factor and other considerations such as customer service are also important.
It is no good having the cheapest electricity provider if you have a problem that cannot be resolved.
Which is the best and worst energy supplier?
Energy suppliers will market themselves based on the cost of their tariffs but the best way to see how good they really are is to ask their customers.
You can check reviews on websites such as Trustpilot or Google Reviews.
Alternatively, consumer watchdog Which? regularly surveys its members to get an idea of how satisfied they are with their supplier based on their bills, value for money, customer service and complaints handling.
Ofgem also publishes regular data on complaints figures from suppliers, which may provide a sense of their customer service.
Also lookout for updates from Ofgem on fines that it may have given energy companies for how they handle complaints and treat their users.
How do I find out who my energy supplier is?
You should receive bills and letters from your supplier either by email or post.
This will show who is suppling your energy.
You can also enter your address on the Find My Supplier website if you are still unsure.
What if I’ve never heard of an energy provider?
Most people have heard of what used to be called the Big Six energy suppliers.
These are British Gas, Eon, Npower, SSE, Scottish Power and EDF.
Being a big brand doesn’t guarantee the best rate though and often the cheapest energy supplier can be a small brand you have never heard of.
Research from Which? has previously found that customers with smaller and medium-sized firms are happier than those with the major firms.
The biggest risk of choosing a small provider though is that it goes bust.
But remember that if the firm does go under your supply won’t be cut off, and Ofgem will try and get a new supplier in place as quickly as it can.