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 using the Which? Switch calculator.
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, they can be up to 20% more expensive than non-fixed tariffs, 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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
Social energy tariffs
All energy providers have to offer cheap social tariffs to help their most vulnerable customers cope with the cost of gas and electricity. They must be as cheap as the lowest standard tariff offered by a supplier to customers in their area, including online deals. If more than 10% of your household income goes towards energy bills, you may be eligible. Contact your energy supplier for details.
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.
'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. You can search and compare green energy tariffs on Which? Switch. 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. IGT supplements are not currently featured on Which? Switch.
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.
Four out of the big six suppliers, EDF, Eon, Npower and Scottish Power currently apply additional charges for customers on IGT supply networks, between £30 and £50 a year (excluding VAT) for an average user.
Cut your energy bills with Which? Switch
The average saving when switching gas and electricity is £217 - compare gas and electricity tariffs now to find the best deal for you.
This figure is based on the 53,459 households who switched suppliers using Which? Switch and The Big Switch between 1st September 2011 and 31st August 2012.