Energy tariffs explained

Cheapest-energy-tariffs

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.

Standard tariffs

What is it?

This is your supplier's 'default' tariff. It will have variable prices that can go up and down with the market. You may also see it referred to as your supplier's 'evergreen' tariff.

Will I be charged a fee for leaving?

No. Standard tariffs do not have exit fees for leaving and your contract will have no fixed end date.

This tariff is a good option if... you want flexibility and don't want to be tied down to a contract.

You should watch out for... standard prices are not usually the supplier's cheapest and can increase or decrease.

Fixed energy tariffs

What is it?

This is a tariff which offers guaranteed standing charges and unit rates, usually until a defined end date.

Will I be charged a fee for leaving?

Some fixed tariffs will have an exit fee if you leave before your contract end date. However, with many you are free to leave at any time. Under new Ofgem rules, if you switch 42-49 days before the end of your tariff your supplier cannot charge exit fees.

This tariff is a good option if... you want peace of mind. Many suppliers now offer fixed prices which are much cheaper than their Standard variable tariffs.

You should watch out for... you will not benefit from any price cuts whilst you are on a fixed tariff. If you increase the amount of energy you use, the amount you pay will go up; fixed tariffs only guarantee the cost of the standing charge and the pence per kilowatt hour cost of gas or electricity.

Compare prices with Which? Switch to see if you could make a saving and get peace of mind.

Dual fuel tariffs

What is it?

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.

Will I be charged a fee for leaving?

Maybe, it will depend on the terms of your tariff contract. Almost all fixed, online and standard tariffs will offer a dual fuel option.

This tariff is a good option if... you want the convenience of just dealing with one supplier. Many dual fuel tariffs also offer a discount for taking both gas and electricity from the same company.

You should watch out for... the amount of discount dual fuel offers does not always outweigh the potential savings of going with two separate suppliers for gas and electricity.

Which? Switch allows you to see savings for both dual fuel and separate gas and electricity tariffs. Enter your post code to start comparing energy prices now.

Online energy tariffs

What is it?

Online energy tariffs require you to manage your account via the internet, usually in return for a discount to your gas or electricity. You will be asked to send meter readings online and will receive 'paperless' bills. 

Usually this means your bills will be sent as attachments to emails or will be available to download from your personal account area on the supplier's website.

Will I be charged a fee for leaving?

Maybe, it will depend on the terms of your tariff contract.

This tariff is a good option if... you want the cheapest possible tariff and you prefer managing everything via the internet.

Man using the internet

Online tariffs provide cheaper energy to those who manage their energy online

You should watch out for... if you opt for an online tariff, many suppliers will send all important correspondence via email rather than through the post. This includes your welcome pack when you sign up. If you prefer paper bills, an online tariff may not be for you. 

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

What is it?

Economy 7 tariffs (White Meter in Scotland) offer cheaper electricity at night, and are only available to customers with special meters. The '7' represents the seven hours of cheaper electricity available overnight. 

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.

Will I be charged a fee for leaving?

Maybe, it will depend on the terms of your tariff contract. Most fixed, online and standard tariffs will offer an economy 7 option for customers with this type of meter.

This tariff is a good option if... you have night storage heaters or you use lots of electricity at night,

You should watch out for... economy 7 customers pay more expensive rates during the day than customers with standard meters. If you don't already have an economy 7 meter, your supplier may charge you for installing one.

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 with another supplier

Prepayment energy tariffs

What is it?

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.

Will I be charged a fee for leaving?

Maybe, it will depend on the terms of your tariff contract. You can switch suppliers to a new prepayment tariff if you have up to £500 of debt on your meter, although some smaller suppliers may have lower debt limits. 

If you want to pay by any other method, your supplier may charge you for installing a new meter, and may refuse to allow you to leave prepayment if you are in debt.

This tariff is a good option if... some people find prepayment meters an easier way to manage their finances.

You should watch out for... expensive prices. Prepayment is widely accepted to be one of the most expensive ways to pay for gas and electricity. Also, tariff options are more limited for prepayment customers.

Which? Switch displays all the prepayment tariffs currently available on the market.

'Green' energy tariffs

What is it?

A 'green' tariff can be one of two things. Either the supplier will promise to match your usage with generation from renewable sources of energy, or it will contribute towards environmental schemes on your behalf.

Find out more in our green energy tariffs guide.

A wind farm

Some green energy tariffs help fund renewable energy projects

Will I be charged a fee for leaving?

Maybe, it will depend on the terms of your tariff contract.

This tariff is a good option if... you are concerned about the environmental impact of your gas and electricity use. Green tariffs are not always more expensive so you can get a good deal by shopping around.

You should watch out for... many, but not all, green tariffs charge higher than average prices.

The Which? Switch results table allows you to compare green energy prices with all other tariffs on the market. 

Tariffs not available through Which? Switch

  • Feed-in tariffs (FIT) - these are contracts where an energy supplier pays you to generate you own electricity at home using renewable technologies. You will not find these tariffs on energy price comparison sites, but you can find out more in our feed-in tariffs explained guide.
  • Social energy tariffs - social tariffs for customers who had difficulty paying their bills, such as E.ON's Staywarm programme, have now been phased out and replaced by the Warm Home Discount scheme.
  • Economy 10 and other 'Time of Use' tariffs - these tariffs are similar to Economy 7 in that they offer cheaper electricity at times when there is lower demand on the National Grid. Not all energy suppliers offer 'Time of Use' tariffs, and those that do may not offer them to new customers. 
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Cut your energy bills with Which? Switch

The average saving when switching gas and electricity is £204 - 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 1 January 2014 and 31 March 2014.

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