How to avoid paying a standing charge on your energy billsCheap energy deals for second home and low users

14 May 2015

second home near the sea

Owners of second homes could be paying too much for gas and electricity

If you are a very low user of energy or have a second home which is not used all year round, you could be paying too much for energy because of your tariff's standing charge. 

Thankfully, you can get away with paying a low standing charge or even no standing charge at all, provided you know what tariffs to look for. 

Our energy experts have analysed the market to uncover these tariffs - read on to find out which energy deals could be the cheapest for you.

Not a second home owner or a low energy user? You can still save money on your energy bills. The average annual saving by people using our independent switching site, Which? Switch, is £301. This is an average saving (from 1 January to 30 April), so some people save even more. 

If you'd like to see how much you could save on your gas and electricity bills, go to Which? Switch.

Pay no standing charge

Under new rules from the regulator Ofgem, energy suppliers have to offer energy tariffs that show:

  • a standing charge which is the fixed part of your bill that you have to pay no matter how much energy you use. It is often expressed in pence per day (p/day)
  • a unit rate which is a price for each unit of gas or electricity you consume. It is expressed in pence per kilowatt hours (p/kWh).

So while you only pay the unit rate for each unit of energy you use, you also get charged the daily standing charge independently of whether you are using any energy or not. 

Depending on the cost of the standing charge, this can penalise very low users. For example, if you have a second home which is vacant for most of the year you are still paying a standing charge every day.

But we have found some energy deals which could save you money as they either charge a 'zero' standing charge or a very low standing charge, making these tariffs ideal for very low users or second home owners.

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The Equigas and Equipower tariff, from a small company called Ebico, has no standing charge. Ebico is a not-for-profit supplier and doesn't have an exit fee on its tariffs. 

Ebico scores very well in our satisfaction survey of energy providers. To find out more about what its customers think of it, click Ebico.

Sainsbury's Energy and Npower

We also found that the Price Freeze May 2016 from Sainsbury’s Energy has low standing charges: 10.5p/day. This makes it one of the cheapest deal on the market for very low users.  However, the tariff comes with a £30 exit fee per fuel.

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Some of Npower's tariffs have a zero standing charge, others have a low standing charge - but not always for both fuels. So for dual fuel, a combination of two different tariffs might work out cheaper for very low users. For example, the Npower standard tariff has a standing charge of 14.385p/day for gas, but zero for electricity. 

Npower doesn't charge exit fees but it scores badly in our satisfaction survey - see Npower.

Cheapest energy deals

Here are the the top five cheapest dual fuel energy deals for a very low user. The prices quoted are the annual prices:

1. £262 Sainsbury's Energy - Price Freeze May 2016 

2. £270 Ebico - Equidual  

3. £284 Gnergy - Fixed June 2016 v1 paperless 

4. £294 Npower - Feel Good Fix May 2017  

5. £294 Npower - Standard  

This compares with £383 a year if you were on British Gas standard tariff.

(The annual prices above are for a very low dual fuel user [using 800 kWh of electricity and 2,500 kWh of gas a year], on a standard credit meter, paying by direct debit and averaged across the UK. Data from Energylinx and correct as of 8 May 2015.)

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