Energy tariffs explained
Don't know where to start when it comes to energy tariffs? We've explained some of the popular ones below - when you're ready, you can start comparing energy tariffs with us.
Dual fuel tariffs
A dual fuel energy tariff provides gas and electricity from the same energy supplier. Not only can dealing with just one energy company make life easier, but often cheaper plans are only open to dual fuel customers.
Many energy companies also apply a discount on your bill if you choose to have both gas and electricity supplied by them.
Capped energy tariffs
A capped energy tariff guarantees that the unit price you pay for electricity or gas (often called the kilowatt hour price - kWh) won't rise beyond a certain level for a fixed period, protecting you from energy price rises.
The unit price for capped energy is usually higher than a supplier's standard tariff, but it can go down if your energy supplier cuts its standard energy prices during the period you're fixed for. There may be an exit fee if you switch before a capped period expires - check the terms and conditions of your plan before signing up to a different offer.
Fixed energy tariffs
Fixed energy tariffs guarantee a certain unit price for gas or electricity for a set period of time, offering peace of mind if you're worried about energy price rises.
However, some fixed tariffs can be more expensive than variable deals, and because you're locked into a particular price, you won't benefit from any price cuts your energy supplier makes during the fixed period. Also look out for exit fees for leaving the deal before the fixed period expires.
Although historically fixed deals were more expensive, suppliers have recently offered some of their most competitive tariffs with fixed rates. Compare prices with Which? Switch to see if you could make a saving and get peace of mind.
Online energy tariffs
Online energy tariffs enable you to manage your energy account online in return for cheaper gas or electricity. The cheapest energy deals around tend to be online.
You won't usually receive energy bills through the post but you will be able to view your account and recent statements online at any time, as well as entering your own meter readings. If you switch to an online deal then your welcome pack from the new supplier will also be sent by email. Your energy company will set up access when you switch.
Online account management doesn't prevent you from speaking to your energy supplier over the phone, or require you to pay your bills online. You could make a significant saving by changing to an online deal- enter your post code and check how much you could save.
Economy 7 energy tariffs
Economy 7 tariffs (White Meter in Scotland) offer cheaper electricity at night. It's particularly suitable for households with night storage heaters or if you use lots of electricity at night.
The '7' represents the seven hours of cheaper electricity available - usually between 1am and 8am, or midnight and 7am. It is estimated you ought to use about 55% of your electricity at night to make a saving on Economy 7, but this can vary widely depending on your tariff, region and usage.
Economy 7 households need a special type of electricity meter that displays separate readings for energy units used in the day and at night. If you want to switch to Economy 7, your current energy supplier should be able to arrange installation of a meter, but you may have to pay a fee.
This is the most widely used 'time of use' tariff, so if you have this kind of meter you can easily switch to a cheaper deal another supplier.
Economy 10 energy tariffs
Economy 10 provides discounted prices for electricity used during ten off-peak hours per day. Unlike Economy 7, discounted rates are available in the daytime - typically three hours in the afternoon, two in the evening and five overnight. Off-peak electricity costs can be half of peak prices, but many tariffs have an increased standing daily charge.
Like Economy 7 tariffs, you'll need an electricity meter that displays separate readings for energy units used at different times of the day. If you're switching to Economy 10, you energy supplier should be able to arrange installation of the meter, but you may have to pay a fee.
Not all energy suppliers offer Economy 10, and those that do may not offer the energy tariff to new customers.
Prepayment energy tariffs
These tariffs are for people with prepayment meters and enable customers to pay in advance for gas and electricity by 'topping-up' their meter using prepay tokens, cards or a key. Prepayment meters charge for energy on the basis of a fixed standing charge, plus a charge for each unit of gas or electricity.
Some people find prepayment meters an easier way to manage their finances. However, it's widely accepted that prepayment is one of the most expensive ways to pay for energy. You'll need a new meter if you want a tariff that allows you to pay by cheque or direct debit - contact your energy supplier to discuss your options.
If you're happy to keep paying by topping up your meter but would like a cheaper deal, then you can switch to another supplier so long as you do not have a debt of more than £500 with your current supplier. Which? Switch displays all the prepayment tariffs currently available on the market.
'Green' energy tariffs
Most gas and electricity companies in the UK offer 'green' energy tariffs. Green suppliers or tariffs make a contribution to environmental schemes but don't necessarily guarantee the energy you are supplied with comes directly from renewable sources.
Other energy companies, such as Good Energy and Green Energy UK, specialise in providing up to 100% of energy directly from renewable sources. Use the results page filters on Which? Switch to order tariffs by percentage of renewable energy. Find out more in our green energy tariffs guide.
The feed-in tariff (FIT) scheme offers guaranteed cash payments to households who produce their own electricity at home using renewable technologies such as solar photovoltaic (PV) panels or wind turbines.
You can find out more in our feed-in tariffs explained guide - including how to apply. You cannot switch to a feed-in tariff scheme using an energy comparison service like Which? Switch.
Independent Gas Transporter (IGT) tariffs
An IGT tariff is one where your gas supply is delivered to your home by an Independent Gas Transporter, rather than the National Grid - around a million gas customers are connected in this way. Although all of the large energy companies (E.ON, EDF, Scottish Power, British Gas, SSE and nPower) accept IGT customers with no extra charge, some smaller companies may charge a supplement to your bill or will not supply IGT customers at all.
You can find out if your gas is supplied by an IGT by checking your 10-digit Meter Point Reference Number (MPRN), shown on your gas meter and gas bills. If this number starts with 74, 75, 76 or 77, you are being supplied by an IGT.
Social energy tariffs
Until recently, all larger energy companies offered social tariffs for customers who were likely to have difficulty paying their bills. However, these are now closed to new customers and are being gradually phased out.
Social tariffs have been replaced by the Warm Home Discount, which is paid as an annual credit to your energy account by the supplier. Take a look at the Which? guide to the Warm Home Discount scheme for more information about eligibility.
Cut your energy bills with Which? Switch
The average saving when switching gas and electricity is £141 - compare gas and electricity tariffs now to find the best deal for you.
This figure is the average estimated annual saving for customers who applied to switch suppliers through Which? Switch between 1st February 2013 and 31st July 2013.